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Sometimes the only way to get exactly what you want is to make it yourself. The fireplace swag is a perfect case in point. I wanted a simple but elegant decoration to accent my fireplace. I loved the look of English-style canopy beds, ones that had "tongues" of rich tapestry overhanging the top frame, and I thought the basic design was one that could be adapted to a fireplace swag.

In consultation with Michio Ryan, a New York artist and designer, the featured fireplace swag was born. The joy of the collaboration was that I could customize the English-style swag to fit my fireplace and coordinate it to the room's colorway. The soft green of my painted mantel and the pink mats in the framed prints that hung on the wall were echoed in the choice of fabrics in the swag: pink velvet and light green rayon acetate.

The construction of the swag is easy but quite time-consuming. Individual "tongues" of lined velvet are distributed evenly across a band of ribbon that is secured to the front of a fireplace mantel. Each tongue is made in two sections. First a hemmed section of velvet is glued to an acetate background and decorated with cord and an accent button. Then the decorated acetate tongue is lined with cotton and attached to a ribbon.

To make your swag, you will need to make a complete pattern from paper to make sure the swag fits across your fireplace. The measurements for the tongue piece given below are designed so that they can easily be distributed across the span of most standard fireplaces. begin with the measurements below, making the pattern piece for Tongue A first. Cut out seven paper tongues and tape them directly to the front of your fireplace, placing them at even intervals. If necessary, you can trim the width of the paper tongue to make it more narrow or you can broaden the width measurement according to your needs. Estimated working time: approximately one afternoon, or five hours

Estimated cost: $24.90 -- 7 buttons, 5/8 -inch diameter, $2.10; thread, $1.10; hand-sewing needle, 15 cents; fabric glue, 89 cents; masking tape, 69 cents; thumb tacks, 49 cents; pencil, 10 cents, and the following fabric: 1/4 yard cotton velvet, 45 inches wide, $8; 1/4 yard rayon acetate, $2.89; 1/4 yard cotton, $1; 1 1/3 yards ribbon, 2 inches wide, $3.50; 4 yards decorative cord, 1/8 inch wide, $4.


To make one 44-inch-wide fireplace swag with seven tongue pieces, each approximately 5 1/4 inches wide, you will need:

1/4 yard cotton velvet, 45 inches wide, in color as desired

1/4 yard rayon acetate, 45 inches wide, in color as desired

1/4 yard cotton lining, 45 inches wide, in color as desired

1 1/3 yards gros-grain ribbon, 2 to 3 inches wide (or equal in length to width measurement of fireplace plus 4 inches)

4 yards decorative cord, 1/8 inch wide, in color as desired

7 buttons, as desired

Sewing thread and hand-sewing needle

Fabric glue

Thumb tacks



For pattern: roll kraft paper, masking tape, drinking glass with 3 1/2 -inch diameter

Sewing machine



1. To make paper pattern (A) for background acetate and cotton sections for each tongue: a) Measure and mark rectangle 5 3/4 inches wide by 4 1/2 inches long on kraft paper; b) for bottom scallop, center inverted drinking glass on bottom line and trace bottom arc, using pencil (see photograph for shape); c) cut out pattern along marked lines, and use to make 6 more pattern pieces from kraft paper.

2. Position and tape tongue pattern pieces across front of fireplace, distributing pieces evenly, as desired.

3. If necessary, mark and cut additional pattern pieces to fill span of fireplace; or reduce width of each tongue to accommodate more narrow fireplace.

4. When satisfied, use tongue pattern (A) to mark and cut seven sections from rayon acetate; repeat to make seven sections from cotton lining fabric; set aside.

5. To make paper pattern (B) for velvet "tongue" section, repeat Step 1, reducing width measurements by 1 inch and length measurement by 1/2 inch, reducing scallop by 1/2 inch.

6. Use tongue pattern (B) to mark and cut seven sections from velvet.

7. Place one velvet tongue wrong side up on flat work surface.

8. Use ruler to measure a scant 1/4 -inch hem on two straight sides and bottom scallop, folding over hems and pressing in place. (Do not hem top.)

9. To ease hem at bottom scallop, use scissors to snip into curve at 1/4 -inch intervals.

10. Repeat Steps 7 through 9 for remaining velvet sections.

11. To make one tongue section, lay acetate tongue on flat work surface, right side up.

12. Turn velvet tongue to wrong side, and carefully and neatly apply narrow line of glue to hem, smoothing glue flat with finger. (Note: Do not overapply glue.)

13. Center velvet tongue over acetate section, raw top sides even, and glue side down.

14. Gently press velvet tongue in place; let glue dry.

15. Repeat Steps 11 through 14 for remaining velvet tongues.

16. To decorate velvet section with cord, position and glue length of cord around contour of velvet section, beginning at top left, going around scallop and up to top right; do not decorate top raw edge; let glue dry.

17. Repeat Step 16 for remaining tongue sections.

18. To decorate each tongue with button accent, hand-sew button to center of scallop in position shown in photograph.

19. To assemble one tongue, lay cotton lining tongue section on flat work surface right side up.

20. Lay velvet/acetate tongue section wrong side up over cotton section, all edges even.

21. Machine-stitch two sides and bottom, 1/4 inch from edge, leaving top unstitched.

22. Clip curves and corners, and turn to right side.

23. Neatly whip-stitch top opening closed, using hand-sewing needle.

24. Repeat Steps 19 through 23 for remaining tongues.

25. To attach tongues to band of ribbon, distribute and pin tongues evenly across ribbon center 44 inches of ribbon, folding under 2 inches of ribbon at each end.

26. Machine-stitch tongues to ribbon, a scant 1/4 inch from top edge.

27. Turn ribbon to back of tongues and press seam flat.

28. To decorate swag, position and glue decorative cord along full length of ribbon at top edge.

29. To secure swag to fireplace, push thumb tacks into ribbon at sides and under tongues, making certain to conceal tacks.

Caution: Keep swag away from fire, removing swag if necessary.

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