Easy To Make Cafe Curtains on a French Rod

Cafe Curtains on a French Rod
In an effort to provide us with the privacy we needed without cutting out light I made these café style curtains and hung them on a French rod in the front windows of our house.  I installed the French Rod level with the mutton bar on the casement window so as not to create another visual line within the window frame.  I bought the French Rod and 100% sheer linen fabric at Calico Corners.  These provide ‘just enough’ privacy, but still lets in light, and gives an airy feeling.  Opened or closed, these are so versatile, purposeful, and pretty!

My fabric is 55″ wide.  I used the full width of fabric for each panel, and there are two panels per rod.  The rod has a total measurement of 42″.  This made the fullness a little bit over 2 1/2 times the width of the window.  You can reduce this fullness by trimming down the width of your fabric.  I wanted them to be ‘billowy’ because the fabric is so light.


1.  Measure from the bottom of the ring to the window sill to determine the finished length of your panels.
2.  Cut your fabric the length that you need for your window, using the measurement your got in step #1, and add 8″ for the hem, and 4″ for the top header.  See ‘How to Cut Fabric Lengths‘ under Sewing.
3.  Trim away the selvage on both sides of your fabric evenly.



1.  Turn in the 3″ wide side hem allowance so the wrong sides are together and press.  Turn the raw edge in to meet the pressed fold and press again.  This will make a 1 1/2″ wide side hem.  Pin.  Repeat on the second side.

2.  Do a blind hem stitch if your sewing machine has one.  If not then top-stitch 1 1/4″ from the finished edge.




1.  On the lower edge, turn up the 8″ hem allowance, wrong sides together, and press.  Turn the raw edge in to meet the pressed fold and press again.  This will create a 4″ wide double hem.  Pin.  Top stitch the hem, using the folded edge as a guide, 3 3/4″ from the bottom edge.  A blind hem would also work if you prefer.



1.  On the top edge, turn under the 4″ top header allowance*, wrong sides together, and press.  Turn the raw edge in to meet the pressed fold and press again.  Top stitch the header, using the folded edge as a guide, 1 3/4″ from the top edge.  There is no reason to use buckram in the header for stiffness in a cafe curtain.


*NOTE:   Using your finished curtain length measurement, and before folding under the 4″ allowance, measure the finished length needed from the bottom hem.  Repeat every few inches along the full width of the panel and mark this measurement with pins or a removable mark. Fold over the remaining fabric, which should mean you are folding over a remaining 4″ that you have allowed to make the header, wrong sides together, and press.  If your fabric is not squared properly or your measurements are ‘off’ there will be a slight variance on the 4″ allowance.  I recommend you measure from the bottom edge so that you are sure to get the full finished measurement needed.  You can ‘cheat’ on the 2″ folded hem at the top.  This will ensure that your curtains are completely level and even when finished.


1.  Determine the ‘finished pleated width’ of your panel by measuring the width of your French Café Rod.  The following assumes you have two panels per rod.  You will need to use a soft measuring tape to measure the curves (instead of a metal carpenter’s tape measure) and measure along the outside of the rod.  Divide that measurement in half and add an inch for some ease and slight overlap in the center to come up with the ‘finished pleated width’ measurement of each pleated panel.  For example:  My rod is 42″ wide.  Half of that measurement would be 21″ + 1″ for ease, which means I want my ‘finished pleated panel’ to be 22″ wide.

2.  Each leading edge* and each return* will measure 2″ and each requires one ring.  On my rod there are 7 rings per panel (14 rings total per rod).  With 7 rings for each panel, this means there will be 5 rings left for the pleats or 5 pleats per panel.  There are four spaces total between the pleats.  Determine the measurement between the pleats by taking the ‘finished pleated width’ determined in Step #1, subtract 4″ (2″ on each side for the ‘leading edge and return’ of each panel) and divide by the number of spaces (which is 4 in my case).  This means there will be 4 1/2″ between each pleat.  So to check the math; there is 2″ on either side of each panel for the leading edge and return (22-4=18″), and 4 1/2 ” between each of the pleats (18″/4 spaces=4.5″).   *You can also refer to ‘Window Treatment Measuring under Sewing.

3.  Measure the flat finished width of your panel that you have just sewn.  Mine measures 48″ on the flat.  Subtract the ‘finished pleated panel’ width that you determined in Step #1 from the total flat width of your panel.  (48″-22″=26″).   Divide this measurement by the number of pleats.  (26″/5 pleats=5.20″ fabric per pleat).  We work in fractions in sewing, therefore you will have to do a little bit of math to come up with a fraction that best represents this measurement.   I made 3 of my pleats 5.25″ or 5 1/4″ and 2 of them 5.125 or 5 1/8″.  You will not notice the 1/8″ difference when they are up.  You just have to make sure that all of your measurements for the pleats adds up to 26″.



1.  Take these measurements and mark them on the flat panel at the edge of the header using pins or a removable marker.  I personally prefer using pins, pining perpendicular to the edge.  Starting at the leading edge, measure in 2″ to indicate the start of the first pleat, and place a pin.  From this pin measure the amount of space for the first pleat (5 1/4″) and place another pin.  Next measure for the space between the first and second pleat (4 1/2″) and place another pin.  Measure for the second pleat, pin, the second space, pin, and so on until you have 4 spaces and 5 pleats, ending with the return edge of 2″.  If you need to adjust the spaces within the pleat to make sure your finished panel will be 22″ then do so.  Again, in my case, I made the last two pleats 5 1/8″ rather than 5 1/4″ to make sure my finished measurement would end up being 22″.

2.  To sew the pleats, bring together pins to create the first pleat, lightly finger pressing the fold that you just created.  Stitch pleats from top of header to the bottom, running parallel to the header, and back stitching at each end.

3.  To create the pleat, push down on each of the creases to form two more folds, making sure they are even.  Hand stitch the top of this pleat to create the look of a soft unstructured pleat.

4.  Hand stitch the finished pleated panel to the rings at the placement of each pleat and being careful that the stitching does not show through to the right side of the window treatment.  I ‘trained’ the folds in the fabric by making paper rings and wrapping them around the fabric and steaming the fabric lightly.  This keeps the fabric from ‘winging’ out and makes everything fall nicely.  I let them hang with the paper rings on them for a few days until the fabric is eased into soft folds and naturally hangs in this fashion.  VOILA!



Leave a Comment