How to Iron Pinch Pleat Drapes
Whether fresh from their packaging or newly cleaned, pinch-pleat draperies need special care to look their best. Pinch-pleat drapery panels have headings made up of cotton backing tape, a layer of buckram stiffener and sewn-in triple or double pleats, making ironing a challenge. Smooth, wrinkle-free fabric is the goal when you iron your draperies, with no ironed-in creases -- the folds of the heading should create the signature soft pleats of these draperies, not your iron.
Check the care label on your drapery panels to determine their fiber content, including any lining. Generally, cotton and linen require high heat; silk and rayon need medium heat; and synthetics like polyester, nylon and acetate can handle only low heat.
Remove any drapery pins from the backs of the pleats and set them aside. You don't want to catch your hand or the fabric of your drapes with these sharp, hooked pins -- blood or a snag are much harder to get out of drapes than a crease.
Set your iron to the appropriate setting for the fabric of your drapes, and let it warm up.
Lay the head of the drapery panel over the ironing board with the pleats arranged so you can slide the iron between them from the top edge of the curtain down.
Place a pressing cloth -- any clean cloth about the same weight and texture as your drapery material, if you don't have an extra piece of the drapery fabric -- between the first two pleats on the panel if the fabric is a delicate synthetic or has a finish, like flocking, that you need to protect, or if the panel has a blackout or thermal lining that's sensitive to heat.
Glide the iron between the two pleats, snugging the edge of the iron against the sides of both pleats as you work. Don't place the iron on top of the pleats to flatten them. Press the fabric down only as far as the bottom edge of the header where the fabric flares out from the bottom of the pleats. Repeat across the entire header.
Pull the pressed header toward you until it falls over the edge of the ironing board and you can smooth the rest of the drapery fabric out flat across the length of the ironing board.
Iron the rest of the panel as you would any flat fabric, pulling the panel toward you and smoothing it as you finish each section.
Repeat the steps for each panel.
Replace the pins and rehang the pinch-pleat drapery panels.
- Once you've ironed between the panels, you may be able to separate and fold back any lining from the rest of the panel to make the fabric easier to iron.
- If the pleats and folds don't hold their shape well when hanging, pull the panels all the way open and run a length of cotton twine so it's tied around the pleats, stacking them together. Arrange the folds of the drapes the way you like them, and tie them loosely about halfway up the panels -- don't tie tight enough to crease the fabric. Carefully apply steam, either from a steamer or an iron on a steam setting, and let them cool, leaving them in place for several days to set the shape before closing them.
- Test your iron setting on the back of the drapery hem, or on another area that isn't visible, before ironing the front of the fabric.
- Keep your iron moving to avoid scorching the fabric.
- Never leave a hot iron unattended.
Patricia Hamilton Reed has written professionally since 1987. Reed was editor of the "Grand Ledge Independent" weekly newspaper and a Capitol Hill reporter for the national newsletter "Corporate & Foundation Grants Alert." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University, is an avid gardener and volunteers at her local botanical garden.
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