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The Basic Swag Pattern

Swags come in many different shapes and sizes. Yet the basic shape of the pattern and the method of pleating varies little between swags.

This article takes you step by step through the process of making a simple swag pattern, 40 inches wide by 18 inches long. It includes diagrams and pictures. It is important to learn the basic swag shape and how it is pleated. For the purpose of this article, I use standard defaults for designing a swag pattern.

Symbol Guide

 + Add - Subtract x Multiply / Divide = Equals

Identifying the different parts of a finished swag:

The center of a finished swag is the 'picture.' It showcases a motif on the fabric. The first fold on the swag acts as the picture frame. The frame can be adjusted to maximize the picture in the swag.

The sides of the swag pattern are pleated into folds which are secured to the top of the board or pole. The pleats each form a fold on the front of the swag. Optimally, the folds should be equally spaced down the front of the swag. Always check the folds on the back of the swag - they should also be equally spaced to present a quality product from the street side of the window.

Drawing the swag pattern:

 Finished Dimensions: You must know the dimensions of the finished swag before attempting to draw the pattern. A = Finished width is the full width of the swag when mounted at the board or pole line. B = Finished length is the longest point of the swag, measured from the center of the board or pole line to the bottom of the swag.
 C = Bottom curve length is the catenary curve of the swag from the board line, down to the longest point and up to the board line. To obtain this measure: Drape a length of weight chain from one end of the finished treatment to the other. Hold the chain on top of the board at each end at the point where the fabric will end. This will give you a finished curve length which includes the board allowance. Measure the length of the weight chain and that will be your bottom curve length. D = Top width of the swag picture. This is also the top width of the swag pattern. For our sample swag, the finished width will be 40", the finished length will be 18" and the bottom curve length will be 60". Pattern Dimensions: D = Width of top of pattern. For most swags, you will draw the pattern width at 1/2 the finished width. Our sample swag is 40" wide finished, therefore the pattern will be drawn with a 20" wide top width. E = Length of pattern. For most swags, you will draw the pattern length at two times the finished drop length. Always add 4" to your length. Our finished sample swag wil be 18" long. Therefore, the pattern must be drawn 40" long {(18 x 2) + 4}. C = Bottom curve length of pattern. Our sample swag of 40" wide by 18" long will have a curve length of 60". Rise = The distance the curve line rises above the bottom edge of the pattern. Swags which are 1/2 circles (length is 1/2 width), the rise is 1/2 the finished length. For our sample swag, the rise will be 9". Cutting the Pattern: Fold the lining diagonally as shown. Measure out 1/2 of the pattern from the fold line of the fabric. Mark the straight of grain. Cut Marking the Pattern: Open flat and mark the center of the top edge. Mark the pleats as follows: 5" from the top for first pleat. This will determine your picture size. 4" up from the bottom. Divide the space between the first and last pleat into equal pleats of 4-6". All of the pleats between the first and last must be equal in size.
 Pleating The Swag Pattern: Use a covered board, preferably the one on which it will be mounted. Mark the center of the board. Pin the top edge of the pattern 2" up on the top of the board, aligning the center marks. Pleat the first fold, right side and left side. Align point of the pleat along the edge of the top of the pattern. This first fold sets the 'picture' on your swag. Continue pleating all but the last fold. The distances between the pleats and the angle at which they fall off the board should be equal for all pleats. Pleat the left side exactly the same as the right. Pleat the last fold. You will also have to take the end of it and pull it up onto the board to secure. This will cause the bottom edge of the swag to tuck neatly up. This last pleat can be wider than the finished width by 1/2" on each side. This is your seam allowance for the finished swag.

This article gives you only the bare bones of drawing a swag pattern for a board mounted swag. The dimensions it gives are for a very specific size of swag. The swag pattern is a marvel of engineering whereby the flat cut of the pattern can be transformed into a three-dimensional curved swag.

 The top of pattern sets the picture area width and general shape of the swag. The length of the pattern and the pleated sides combine to give the swag its character. The length of the pattern determines the fullness of the swag. The sides are pleated into folds which distribute the fullness and give the swag visual interest. The bottom curve, center point and rise combine to define the shape of the lower edge of the swag and the distribution of the folds.

This article also only touched on the board mounted swag. The Cutout Swag (aka Pole Swag) and Point-to-Point (aka Drapery) Swags are variations of the basic board mount swag. These three styles of swags are the basic building blocks for all other swags - Arched, Turban, Kingstons, Empires, Turban, Boxed, Swagged panels and so on. Once you have mastered these three and understand the relationship of pattern components to the finished swag, you will be able to adjust and troubleshoot most any swagged treatment with more ease.

If you wish to learn more about the engineering properties of the swag pattern, consider ordering the book "The Professional Workroom Handbook of Swags, Volume 1."