Gathered valances are a classic way to dress a window, but they do require a certain amount of fullness.
So, how wide should a gathered valance be and how do you measure for it? A gathered valance should end up gathered to about 2 to 4 inches wider than the window, including the window frame. For lined valances that use home decor fabric, a 2 to 2-1/2 times fullness is ideal. For unlined valances or valances made with light-weight fabrics, you’ll need to go up to 3- to 3-1/2 times fullness.
Let’s look at an example and apply this calculation. Our example window is 40 inches wide, including the window frame. That means that the valance should cover a total width of about 42 to 44 inches once gathered. Using a 2- to 2-1/2 times fullness calculation, that means that the valance (when laid flat) needs to be between 84 and 106 inches wide. This is for a lined valance that uses home decor fabrics.
For unlined, light-weight valances, the 3- to 3-1/2 times fullness calculation will require the valance to be between 126 to 154 inches wide.
Once you use these calculations, your valance should end up gathering similar to the pictures below:
What About Less Gathered Valances?
The above calculation only applies to valances that have a straight bottom hem or a soft wave bottom hem. Other types of valances will require less gathering, otherwise the fabric will “cave in on itself” and the valance will lose its shape. These are usually balloon and London valances, as well as some swags. Again, you’ll want to consult with your designer on this, but these are general guidelines:
Rod Pocket Swags
There can be quite a bit of variation when it comes to rod pocket swags. But the example above was 108 inches flat and ended up fitting a 38-inch wide window.
Gathered balloon valances require less rod pocket gather since the valance will have plenty of fabric that can be gathered from the bottom. The style seen above follows these guidelines in our workroom:
- 50 to 51 inches flat: gathers to 37 to 44 inches (2 scallops);
- 75 to 77 inches flat: gathers to 51 to 61 inches (3 scallops);
- 100 to 103 inches flat: gathers to 68 to 83 inches (4 scallops);
- 125 to 129 inches flat: gathers to 95 to 101 inches (5 scallops);
- 150 to 155 inches flat: gathers to 102 to 127 inches (6 scallops);
- 175 to 181 inches flat: gathers to 119 to 149 inches (7 scallops).
Remember, the gathered width will have to be about 2 to 4 inches wider than your window. So, a 95-inch gathered width means that the window would be about 91 to 93 inches wide, including the window frame. This is assuming no draperies are used with the valance. There are also some balloon valances that have that scrunchy, cloud-like appearance. These valances tend to use lightweight fabrics to achieve the look. Don’t forget to account for more fullness for those styles.
They are not the same as the two gold colored valances seen above! Here are a few pictures of those kinds of balloon valances. Don’t be afraid to double up on the width to achieve the proper fullness.
Casual, Slightly Gathered Valances
Some valances just casually flow across a curtain rod. These are gathered just slightly to break up the flatness of the fabric and create a wave-like shape on the valance. With these kinds of valances, an inch goes a long way! You’ll often find that just pushing the valance closer by about 2 to 3 inches on a single wide window will be more than enough.
And As a Final Note – Remember the Return on a Valance
Don’t forget to account for any brackets on the side of the curtain rod when doing your measurements. Side brackets create what is known as the “clearance” or “return” on a valance. These are also part of the width when it comes to calculating the desired fullness.