Language Barrier.

Hi All Elsie here.

O.K. So there is a whole other language in soft furnishing.

One of the main areas of confusion surrounds the decorative item above a curtain. The following post aims to help you with the difference between them.



Soft gathered or flat item to decorate the top of a window.

This item is normally frilled with tape at the top or hand formed  pleats.

The item is not solid. (You can also have a valance on a bed to cover the base).



The first image is a pencil pleat valance with an upstand but you can get other headings (as with curtains).

You can keep them simple or make them complicated. Whatever suits.


Hard decorative item across top of window.

Stiffener is used such as ply or bucrum.

I personally prefer ply as it holds its shape better, is easier to shape and gives you neater returns. You can also make the pelmet quite big if needed with ply but not so good with bucrum.

Ply is dearer but the finish is far superior.

Pelmets are also attached to a pelmet board (plank of wood) after curtains have been hung underneath the board). Tape, velcro or both can be used to make them stay put.

The returns on the pelmet can vary but the basic two are 3 / 4 inch over a roman blind or 6 inch over a curtain. Things can effect the return size such a casement window, rails and other obstacles.

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These are all ply pelmets.

The following is a bucrum, look at the return (the fold going to the wall). Not very neat is it? Also note the ripples on the face. These are inherent on most bucrum pelmets.



These are a bit more complicated. Similar to pelmets they are ply.

The board however is an integral part of the pelmet so the construction is similar to that of upholstery.

Everything is covered with lining, interlining and the fabric. Because of this the main fabric finishes at the bottom of the board and does not wrap under and around the back of the board (unlike a pelmet), therefore a trim needs to be added to the bottom to hide the end of the fabric and the subsequent staples that are used to hold the cloth in place.                                                                   As you can imagine this item becomes very time-consuming and therefore expensive.

Due to the board being part of the lambrequin face the curtains have to be hung onto the rail under the board, then the whole thing is lifted onto brackets. Lambrequins tend to be heavy so two people are generally needed for fitting them, adding to the cost again.

Lambrequins tend to be a lot more elaborate and can be quite architectural due to how they are constructed. You can layer them up aswell these are then called double layered.

I liked to put an additional visible pelmet board on top that was wider than the lambrequin underneath. I often covered it with a contrast fabric to give an additional feature with a cord nestled underneath. This is called a top hat.



I hope this helps clear up any confusion.

Thanks for reading. E.D.Wolfe

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All Boxed Up (Box Pleats)

Hi Elsie here.

Box Pleats
Box Pleats are one of the most popular types of pleats for Italian Renaissance and 16th century costume. They are, basically, two knife pleats “back to back”. They are seen nowadays on some skirts.

Box pleating still used  by many for skirts and petticoats which will be worn over bumrolls. You see them in valances and on curtains as well t. Box pleats are often wider than knife pleats, but the bahese days. sic 3:1 ratio remains the same–3 inches of unpleated fabric makes one inch of pleated fabric. Box-pleats tend to puff out .

Distance of board x by 3 and add returns. Make sure your pleats fit into the distance of the board fully, no half pleats. Meaning the face of the valance ends at the end of a pleat. Always use a board, never a valance rail.


Returns are normally bigger than this especially with curtains underneath.

If you’re short fabric, you can get the effect of box pleats by pleating as shown to the right–very shallow box pleats. Naturally, you won’t have the fullness that whole box pleats would give.

Because they tend to puff out the longer the pleat the better, the weight tends to help. Also be very careful what fabric you choose otherwise they will not lay / hang properly.


See what can happen if the fabric is thick or stiff. It causes skirting on the valance. Tack stitching the corners down can help but not ideal.

You can get differently spaced pleats and pleats that are designed to fit into a pattern, this requires a different calculation .

Lovely Bay Window

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See what I mean about the longer pleats hanging better, I feel they look more elegant.

I also like it when a contrast is used on the inverted pleat.


Small bands across the top can be used, and trims along the bottom can look great.

Just watch the bulk you are creating it all effects the end result.

I have also seen them as a feature for underneath swags.

351a2a0b34ff53d9df2c70e38cf49727 (1) I find they give added depth and a softness.

You can put box pleats on curtains. Again be very careful with your fabric choice. Nothing too thick or stiff. Go with something that “drapes” well.

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Most of the time you will see them as “Static” or “none functional” curtains. I personally feel they are better as this. You will occasionally see them as working curtains but not often because it can ruin the hang and function of the curtain.

93abd6660ee2eabd758842e2451be0d5 This one is the best example I could find of a good result.

This is a lovely style valance / heading that I feel has stood the test of time from the 16th century and still looks wonderful and stylish today. Especially on tall windows.

Thank you for reading


THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.