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Easy, high-impact update: Make your tab-top curtains look like custom back-tab panels

I had the BEST week last week. Some friends and I collaborated on a flash mob surprise room makeover for a friend and yep: it rocked. Can’t wait to show you the befores-and-afters, but first! A quick little update I made to these old curtains we pulled in for the makeover.

One of my friends donated these simple white tab-top curtains she’s had for YEARS, and I thought it’d be fun to see how hard it is to hack the tab tops to make them into back-tab panels.
Turn tab-top curtains into hidden-tab curtains. Quick and easy!
(Spoiler alert: not hard. Totally easy. Totally worth doing.)

Tab tops have been around for a while and they’re not horrid or offensive or anything, but I much prefer the clean look of back tabs, like the curtains I made for Mila’s room
DIY curtains in a baby girl's nursery
And the DIY Greek key curtains I put in the breakfast nook.
DIY Greek Key Curtain panels
Back-tab panels just have these… uh, tabs… on the back… (Bet you can’t guess how they got their name!) They just look so much cleaner and more custom (in my opinion).
Back-tab curtain panels

So I dragged these four panels to my antiquated sewing machine and got to work! You guys. It was ridiculous how easy this was. I actually thought I’d have a few extra steps but didn’t even need them.

I just folded the tabs down toward the back side of the curtain…
Folding down curtain tabs to sew
And sewed a quick little straight stitch right on top of the existing seam. I used a simple straight stitch because that’s the best stitch the only stitch I even know how to do.
I actually thought I would need to sew down the bottom of the tab too, and insert the rod through that pocket, like so:
Unnecessary Step
But I didn’t even need to do it! I just inserted the rod through the new little pocket I’d just made. It took me something like 30 minutes to sew down all the tabs on four different panels, and they just hung so much more beautifully.
Turn tab top curtains into hidden tab curtains

Isn’t that about a million miles better than the tab tops? So much more clean and custom? If you have some old tab top curtains laying around, this is a quick and SUPER easy way to make them look a little more fancy. Only thing is, if you plan to hang them high and wide around your windows – and you SHOULD. You really, REALLY should

…taking in the tab tops is going to make your curtains a little shorter than they were. But you can just pull the trusty old sew-more-fabric-to-the-bottom-of-the-panels trick, like we did. I managed to not get any great pictures of this, but you can kinda see the extra fabric on the bottom of our curtain panels here:
Sew fabric to the bottom of curtain panels to make them longer
Easy peasy lemon squeezy. And you KNOW if something takes me 30 minutes to sew, it will take an actual competent human being only about five minutes. Back home, they call me “the Sewing Machine Jammer” because all I do is jam sewing machines.

No one really calls me that.

To my face.

Have you ever transformed curtains? Do you dig the back-tab look like I do?

Easy, high-impact update: make your tab-top curtains look custom! So quick and simple!

Let's connect


  1. they look great! you are so smart! 🙂

  2. Julia @cuckoo4design says:

    Love the back-tab panels so much better than the tab-top. Great idea!

  3. What a difference! Such a clever idea and great improvement!

  4. So smart! Makes me wish I didn’t get rid of my tab top curtains from 1999! xo Kristin

  5. Agree, I like the back tab look so much better than tab top. Great idea to just flip ’em over!

  6. I love that you posted this! And can’t believe how slow I can be sometimes. I never even thought about doing something like this, and i have a set of really nice tab top curtains that I was just going to donate or throw away because although I loved the curtains, the tab top part makes my skin crawl! Now I don’t have to! So I will fix them, and Love them, and hang them up and tell all my friends!! Thank you 😀

  7. Kelly, Kelly, Kelly! Stop. You’re the smartest ever. I am simultaneously AMAZED and saying “DUH”. Because… Why didn’t I think of this?

    And because you are the QUEEN of curtains, I have an important question for you.

    At our house, we have a window and a door(exterior, with window) next to each other on 1 wall. I want to have curtains for both of them, hoping to make it look a little bigger, you know. Tiny House. BUT I can’t figure out the best way to deal with the door and the curtains. Help??

  8. This is a genius idea…. So simple! Thank you for the inspiration!

  9. lol! So, I hate to admit that I was the dummy that cut the tabs off of my curtains so I could use the little rod clips to hang mine…why in the world did I not think of this!? Super easy and smart! 😉 Jesse @ Scout & Nimble

  10. I have to admit that I really hate tab top curtains. This is actually brilliant and like you said, super easy. Love that you did this for a friend too!

  11. This is pretty genius Kelly! The curtains look a million times better and such a cleaner look too. Now we can buy tab top curtains on clearance and make them look good!

  12. Yes, that looks much better! Great job!

  13. nice! I don’t think I have any tab top curtains at the moment. This is probably good, because I was going to feel really bad when it took me three times as long as you to do this and therefore SIXTY times as long as a competent human being ;). But, yes–so much better! you’re a smarty pants!

  14. Kelly Palmer says:

    So smart and so easy!!!! Thank you for sharing this! I do not like tab top curtains and in the past I have been so disappointed when I find curtains that I love but they are tab top 🙁 Now I will have a larger variety of curtains to choose from since I can just apply this quick fix to them if needed 🙂

  15. I totally prefer the back tabs too! And we can be sewing machine jammers together because I was trying to sew blackout lining into some curtains yesterday — with a straight stitch because like you said, clearly the #1 stitch 😉 annnnnd I somehow jammed the machine, messed up the bobbin tension (I don’t even know what that means but I googled my issues and this was what I got), AND then broke the needle!

    SO I hung those bad boys up with the blackout lining pinned to the back. MUAHAHA

    Shannon 1, Curtains 0

    BOOYAH! 🙂

  16. You had me at “flash mob surprise room makeover”. Reminds me of the old TLC show “While you were out”.

    Also, so smart making the top tab into back tab. I think I would have passed by top tab curtains in the store even if the fabric was killer. Not any more!

  17. LOVE it. Personally, not a fan of the old tab tops. We’ve got the kind which you hook onto curtain rings. If I ever needed to make some cheapo curtains look non-cheapo…this would be a great way to do it!

  18. great an easy tip – thanks for sharing

  19. Yes, they look TONS better!! Let’s hear it for easy-peasy stuff!
    xo Heidi

  20. I love how you make it look so easy, I really believe even I (who can’t sew at all) could totally do this! Thanks for the inspiration!

  21. They look great! Yay for figuring out a solution instead of just tossing the curtains!

  22. I literally just did this yesterday with the curtains for my daughter’s room after having been inspired by your previous back-tabbed curtains post. It was so easy and looks great! One question for you: I completely agree with your suggestion to hang them high and wide. However, if we are using sheers underneath (basic ones for privacy,) should they also be hung so high or more even with the window frame?

  23. L.O.V.E.

    I have mad kitchen curtains out of a shower curtain, a valance from a scrap, a shower curtain from a regular curtain, made a crib canopy from a curtain lol…I’m a curtain hacker. I’m by no means at all a sewer. In fact one of those project was totally no sew. Here’s a link if you want to giggle at my curtain hijinx:

    Yours are better lol!

  24. You may be the smartest person I know ; ) Great idea! I can’t stand those curtains usually and they tend to be the cheapest. Love it!

  25. I love that trick! I have done this in the past too (on these grey curtains;, but I was a bad blogger and didn’t take pics and explain it 😉 Glad you did, especially as the top tab ones are often cheaper for some reason I don’t understand…

  26. Genius! This is helpful for our projects coming up 🙂

  27. Will totally try to add fabric to my curtains.. thanks!

  28. You are a genius. I prefer the back tabs, too. But I never thought of just sewing down the top tabs. Duh. So smart – you may jam sewing machines, but you had your way with those curtains.

  29. I’ve done this to a couple of my IKEA curtains before too! They look so much better!

  30. Very timely idea as I am just getting ready to hang some new panels in my guest room and they have the tabs that I really don’t like but I thought that since they are only on the sheers they won’t show THAT much so I was going to settle. Now I don’t have to!! Happy, happy, Joy, Joy!! 🙂 Thank you so much!!

  31. those curtains in milas room are just gorg. gorg gorg.

  32. What a big difference it makes! 🙂 You are a great writer and I always enjoy reading your entertaining posts!

  33. I hate tabs on curtains, your idea is so smart!!! I cut off the tabs on the Ikea curtains and then use ring clips, but I like the hidden tabs so much better! Smarty pants.

  34. Gotta love an easy fix! Excuse me now, while I go take down my bedroom curtains . . .

  35. Great idea. I need to do this with my bedroom curtains. The back tabs look so much better. I’ve just pinned this so I don’t forget. Can’t believe how easy it was. Thanks for sharing.

  36. Great idea! I have a few pairs of curtains I need to try this on.

  37. Love them, Kelly!!!! Such a great and simple solution!!! Thanks for sharing with us all!!!!

  38. Looks great Kelly! I’m not a fan of tab-top panels much, but I am a sucker for nice ring clips. 😉 Can’t wait to see the project!

  39. i agree with you! i prefer the back tab so much more…so much cleaner and more custom looking! I have some cheapy drapes from ikea in my daughter’s room with this little tabby thingy…and now you’ve just given me a new DIY project for my list! will let ya know how it turns out (unlike you i don’t own a sewing maching so I stitch witchery everything…will let you know how the “no sew” route goes! haha. If I’ve gotta whip out the safety pins then i will…don’t say i won’t! cheers!

  40. Loving those curtains you made for your daughters room! So vibrant and eye catching. I had not seen those before 🙂 Great way to use what you had on the tap top curtains!

  41. I like easy fixes. (And I do consider tap tops to be somewhat offensive and a bit horrid.)

    Love, love, love the fabric you used for the drapes in your daughter’s room! Do you mind giving me the details on the fabric name, etc. so I can copy you? (I think that pattern would look great in my office.)

  42. Wow, I think I could actually do this and I’ve only ever used my sewing machine to make wax circle chains for a capiz chandelier! I wonder if you could use that iron-on fusing stuff for total non-sewers.

    You daughter’s room is gorgeous! I need to check out more of your room makeovers 🙂

  43. Nice! A flash mob makeover sounds like a ton of fun. Can’t wait to see the before and afters!

  44. Beautiful! I would love to have the curtain in your breakfast nook! And that nursery is adorable as well! 🙂 Nice work!

  45. Clever idea! I did the lazy/ non-sew version of this for my son’s closet curtains. I took cute, but too long tab tops from IKEA, cut the tabs off, then used the enclosed hem tape to create rod pockets at the top. Easy peasy…

  46. Wow, you just gave me a reason to keep a couple of pairs of old tab tops! This is brilliant; thank you!

  47. I love the fact that you don’t pretend to know how to sew–just like me 😉 I’m now not as scared of trying a curtain project–thanks! I would LOVE it if you’d link this up to my blog hop–our readers would love this! Thanks and have a great day!

  48. I’m so curtain-illiterate, I didn’t even know the terms tab-top and back-tab. I blame my husband who doesn’t allow me to hang “real” curtains in our house (anything that will block the precious light). I can hang fabric above and on the sides…so I do a “scarf” curtain look, but nothing that looks this professional. I think next time he’s sleeping, I’m going to pull up this post and place it by his bedside table, and let the idea of these amazing back-tab curtains start to sink into his mind. That’s how it works, isn’t it? 😉

  49. Kelly, these are awesome! Can you tell me if you think I can sew tabs on the back of a store bought rod pocket curtain? Do I have to get out my seam ripper or could I just stitch them right on the back? Thanks for all the inspiration you provide!

    • I bet you could! My only thought would be that you’d want to make sure to match the thread to the curtain color so you can’t see the stitching on the front. But that’s a great idea!

  50. Yup! I’ve done this too…although I only had to sew one valance. But I get points cuz I didn’t have a sewing machine at the job so I had to sew it all by hand 😉 Hee hee!

    • By hand?! That’s intense! Good for you! 🙂

      • I had some tab curtains and also some sheers with just a pocket. I turned the tabs over and made the same pocket with my glue gun! Then used some ribbon I had lying around and made back-tabs for the sheers, also using my glue gun. Much better looking in both cases.

  51. I’m staging our son’s house for sale, and this will be perfect, given my sewing skills and budget deficits. I can jam a machine with the best of them. I’ll be checking the thrift stores, and I will be sure to give you the credits when I post the results.

  52. What a great…and simple idea! I have some of these tab tops sitting in a drawer and think I’ll pull them out and try it!

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  54. I’m soooo glad I found this! I just bought tab-top curtains from IKEA. I needed 6 panels, and these were the best deal I could find. I was just going to deal with the tabs, but not now! Thank you!!!

  55. R Achille says:

    This my favorite style window treatment. I made them for my living and dining rooms.

  56. I have a random question. What kind of hook is used for the center of the long rod that these curtains are hung on?

  57. I have the exact same curtains and I did the exact same thing to them when we moved into our house three years ago 🙂 Great minds think alike!

  58. Fantastic! I had been wondering if this would work!!!

  59. I came across your blog via Pinterest and have been reading about all your little projects for about an hour now. Great blog btw, but more importantly I had to comment to tell you how incredibly hilarious you are. Your writing is so well done and entertaining.

  60. Can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this simple fix for those curtains I’ve been storing. I knew they had potential! Thanks!

  61. Good idea! Your sewing machine won’t jam if you always remember to pull both top and bottom threads to the back before inserting your needle and ALWAYS make sure your needle is in its highest position when removing fabric after stitching. Only took me 50 years to figure this out!

  62. What a great idea! I love the fabric of the Ikea “Lenda” curtain panels, but don’t care for the tabs. I was planning to cut off the tabs, sew on pleater tape and add pleating hooks and rings. You just saved me money and time. Thanks!
    I like the simplicity of the dark, slim rods you use with these curtains. Where did you find them? Thanks.


  1. […] Make your tab-top curtains look like custom back-tab panels This is so easy it’s ridiculous. Did you know in the space of just a few minutes, you can […]

  2. […] panels which I turned into back-tab curtains to make them look a little more custom. (So easy! See how I did that here.) Carrie already had the little blue dresser, so we designed the color scheme around it, making […]

  3. […] Once we started planning and budgeting for the nursery, we decided DIY stamped curtains would give us the biggest impact for the cost especially since we needed 118″ curtains. We picked up some LENDA curtains from IKEA. They are tabbed at the top, but I sewed the tabs down to get a cleaner look. See how Kelly did that here. […]

  4. […] Ursula: Your nursery curtains have this absolutely perfect billow at the bottom *drool*, what factors create that elegant feel and how can we recreate it? Kelly: Thanks! I’m always preachin’ the gospel of hanging your curtains high and wide. Hang them all the way up to the ceiling! I think it makes SUCH a difference in how elegant they feel and how it makes your windows feel larger and your ceilings higher. (Basically, if we could get everyone to do it, we could change the WORLD!)  Ursula:*giggle* You’re as passionate and dramatic as I am! Maybe I’m plumb crazy to use these tab curtains as shower curtains, but they really open and close so smoothly! I had no need for the traditional shower curtain hooks! I even used these DIY back tabs for the shower liner…have you found other hanging methods that open and close more smoothly than these? Kelly: Heck no. I don’t know why every single curtain is not hung this way. Rod pocket curtains don’t open or close easily, and I’m not crazy about that bunchy look. And don’t even get me started on the choppy look of tab top curtains! (I dislike them so much I invented this easy trick for making them look like custom back-tab drapes!) […]

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