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Also know as a Throw Swag, the Scarf Swag is a relatively simple treatment. It is basically one long piece of fabric which is folded and draped to form a swag and tails. Standard instructions for mounting this treatment will have you accordian fold the fabric, drape it over the holdbacks and pull on the center folds to form the swag shape. This method is time consuming, frustrating, rarely results in a neat swag and cannot be touched for cleaning.

This article will teach you the components of a scarf swag. Once understood, you will be able to fold a scarf swag into perfect pleats in one step, pattern a treatment with multiple swags on one continuous piece of fabric, plan for specific drop lengths on the tails - including asymmetrical applications, and fold a ready-made scarf swag perfectly.



Note: The pictures used in the article were taken when I hung ready-made scarves for a client. They are unlined, and each window has its own full scarf. This was done on-site so I could not do any formal stitching.


Determining Pattern Dimensions:

Before building your pattern or cutting the fabric, you must determine the finished dimensions of the treatment:

A - Finished face width of the swag. Measure from the center of each holdback.

B - Cutout drop on the swag. This is the measure from the  top of the treatment to the bottom of the swag cutout. If  the swag is to be designed with a straight  top, your cutout measure would be zero.

C - Finished drop length of the swag. This is the measure  from the top of the treatment to the bottom of the swag.

D - Finished drop length of the tails. This is the measure  from the top of the treatment to the bottom of the tails.

E - Slant depth of the tails. This is the measure of the drop  from the inside line of the tail to the bottom of the tail.

F - Leading edge of tails.

Fullness. Because the swag is pleated from one long scarf of fabric, it defies some of the basic rules of fabricating soft swags. The swag portion of this treatment is hung on the straight of grain and has no curve cut into the bottom line. As a result, the folds do not hang well and tend to kink. Therefore, you would be wise to plan on 1.5 - 2 times fullness for most fabrics.

Later, under Scarfswag Options & Variables, we will discuss how to manipulate fullness, the dimensions of the slant dept, asymmetrical variations, multiple swags on one treatment and contrast lining in the tails.


Fabricating the finished scarf:


Cutting dimensions:

The scarf swag is simply one long piece of fabric finished to specific dimensions, then pleated into a swag shape.

Cut length of the fabric: Sum of both tails 2(D) + Finished width of treatment (A) + Cutout depth (B) + 2 inches ( seams & ease).

Note: Computing the finished width (A) + Cutout depth (B) is a simplistic method for determining the cut length of the swag top. If the fabric you are working with is stiff or stretchy it could affect the cutout depth by making it too high or too low. If you wish to obtain an exact measure, use the fabric itself. Pin the selvage edge of the fabric to your board in the exact cutout and finished width you desire. Measure the selvage edge between your pins for a perfect measure. Use this method to determine the bottom curve width of the swag also.

Cut width of the fabric: Can be one of three options:

1. Full width of fabric seamed with full width of lining or finished on four sides with a scant rolled hem. A standard 54" width of fabric will provide a finished width of 50+", giving 2.5 - 3 times fullness to a swag 16 - 18" in depth. Even with very soft fabric, the folds will be crowded and will kink.

2. Full width of fabric, folded in half lengthwise and seamed on three sides. Folded edge would be the bottom line of the finished swag. A standard 54" width of fabric will provide 25+", giving a 1.5 - 2 times fullness to a swag 12 - 14" in depth.

3. Full width of fabric, trimmed to desired fullness, depending on finished drop length of swag. Two widths of fabric can be seamed together lengthwise to increase the fullness of a longer swag, but care must be taken to make sure the swag is full enough to hide the shadow of a horizontal seam and the seam is pleated towards the back of the swag. If trimmed or seamed to a specific width/fullness, the scarf can then be finished either with a matched lining or a scant rolled hem on all four sides.


Finishing the scarf:

The scarf can be finished in one of several ways:

If using a full width of fabric and the selvage edges are neat and clean, they can be used as finished edges. Simply sew a scant rolled hem on each of the two ends.

Sew a scant rolled hem on all four sides. Please note that the tails will show some of the back of the fabric along the slant edge. If the back of the fabric is as nice as the front, this will be a satisfactory finish. Otherwise, you should line the treatment.

Line the entire treatment with plain lining or a contrast fabric. Simply cut the lining 1/4" smaller than the face fabric all around to prevent the lining from rolling to the front of the finished treatment. Sew around on all four sides, leaving a 6" opening on the top edge. Clip corners, turn and press flat. Later, under Scarfswag Options & Variables, we will discuss how to put standard lining in the body of the swag and contrast lining in the tails.

Trim can be added to the swag during the finishing process. If unlined, the trim can be topstiched on the face of the fabric. If lined, the trim can either be encased in the seam or topstitched on the face of the scarf after it has been sewn, turned and pressed. Attach trim at the top corner, down the side, across the bottom and up the other side. You can cut a gentle curve into the bottom corner for a softer look.


Marking and Pleating The Swag:

The secret to an easy scarf swag is drawing the swag shape and pleating it in a perfectly symmetrical shape.

Find the center of your scarf. At the top of the scarf, mark the points, balanced off the center, for the top width of the swag. This measure is either the sum of A+B or the result of pinning the fabric to the board as noted under "Cutting Dimensions."

At the bottom of the scarf, mark the points, balanced off the center, for the bottom curve width of the swag. This measure is either the sum of A+C or the result of pinning the fabric to the board as noted under "Cutting Dimensions."

Using tailor's chalk or non-permanent ink, draw two pleating lines, connecting the top of the swag to the bottom. These will be your pleating lines.

This is a rough picture. But it shows a scarf folded in half lengthwise on the floor. The bottom edge looks curved, but it is actually straight.

The ruler shows the slant line. It points to the measure at the top for the top width of the swag and the measure at the bottom for the bottom curve of the swag.

In most cases, your pleat line will not be a drastic slant, with a difference of less than six inches between the top and bottom.


Optional step: For lined swags and/or those which need to be pleated very carefully, I would recommend laying the scarf flat, pinning through all layers of both pleating lines very securely and sewing a straight line along the pleating line. This serves two purposes:

-- It creates a line on the front and back of the fabric to follow when pleating, thereby ensuring that all the pleats are perfectly aligned.

-- It helps to secure the lining in the tails and helps to prevent the lining/contrast from rolling forward toward the front.

To mark the pleats, measure the pleating lines. Most swags work best with 6 - 7 inches in each pleat. Divide the pleating lines by 6 and/or 7. The answer will be the number of pleats in your finished swag. Choose the one which most closely fits your pleating line. Starting from the bottom of the each pleating line, divide the line into 3 - 3.5" spaces. Make slight adjustments to each pleat to accomodate the actual measure. You can have up to 1/2" more in the bottom fold and 1/2" less in the top fold than the others if necessary. Both pleating lines should be marked exactly the same. You must have an even number of spaces on each pleating line.

Start with the bottom and fold the first pleat towards the back. Accordian fold the pleats, following your marks and aligning the stitching lines on top and back of fabric. The top fold should fold towards the back. Turn the stack over and use an appropriate sized safety pin to pin the back of the folds together. Do no catch the top fold in this pin. It should be allowed to float free. Do the same with the other pleating line.

In this treatment, I marked the top and bottom edges with t-pins and the pleats with straight pins. I pleat along the slant edge. Once done, the t-pins lined up perfectly at the back of the treatment. The straight pins - which cannot be seen - lined up perfectly on the front of the folds.

After pleating, I used a safety pin to catch the folds of the pleats at the back of the treatment. The bottom fold is shown here at the top. The top fold is not caught in the safety pin.



Lay the scarf over the holdbacks. The safety pins should lay to the back of the treatment on top of the holdbacks, but can be pushed up to an inch to the left or right to increase or decrease the center drop length. The swag should fall into shape immediately with only minimal dressing. The tails will also fall into shape easily. The tails will probably have one less fold than the swag. That fold will disappear as you are dressing them. Do not fight the folds on the tails, but let them dictate how they will fall.


Once you have studied and understand the components of the scarf swag, you will be able to design and fabricate scarf swags with ease. Take for example the two following pictures

These are four separate throw swags. They were ready-made scarves the client had purchased but was unable to hang herself. She had mounted the two rods. In just a little over two hours I met the new client, unloaded my tools and ladder, examined the scarves and windows for the first time (the windows were different sizes between the two rooms), measured, pleated and hung the scarves with the same drop lengths - taking pictures at different steps along the way, packed up my supplies, and collected payment.

The scarves were hung so that the swag was pleated in the center for full panels on both sides. They are laid over a pole instead of through holdbacks. Double-sided sticky tape helps to stablize the edges on the poles. Otherwise they would slip around. Also, the placement of the brackets at the corner of the window and center of the window helped to stabilize the treatments. Safety pins secured the treatment to the bracket.

The burgundy scarves came to just floor length. Because the windows in the other room were narrower, the scarves puddled on the floor. The client later tied them up as bishop sleeves. The pleats in the scarves are secured with safety pins. Because these are draped over a pole and over each other, rehanging them after cleaning will present a small challenge. However, as long as the safety pins are left in the pleats, the scarves will retain their swag shape.


You have mastered the basic scarf swag. But now the design calls for more than one swag, asymmetrical tails or some other variation. Scarf Swags - Options & Variables will show you how to adapt the basic design to many different variations.


This article was written to assist you in marking and pleating a scarf swag for a smooth installation.

For more detailed information on how to manipulate a scarf swag, consider ordering The Professional Workroom Handbook of Swags, Volume 1. The chapter on scarf swags gives more detail than is contained in this article. It contains information on mounting options as well as pictures and diagrams to aid your understanding. This book is a valuable resource for new and veteran workrooms alike. It takes the guesswork out of scarfswags.


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