My roof before headliner installation.
A few years back, headliners were really quite a mystery to me. They hang there, looking all perfect, never flexing or bending as the car moves. After a little investigation, however, their mysteries are revealed and you discover that it's really quite simple. The mystery (and beauty) relies on something called listing tape. This tape is about 1-1/2" wide. It is folded in half and sewn to the back of the headliner, resulting in a tube. Flexible metal rods (approximately 1/8" diameter), called listing rods, are inserted through the tube. On the underside of the roof, my car has a few dozen sharp tabs and points. It's on these tabs that you press the listing wire onto. When the tab punctures the cloth, you simply bend the tab up toward the roof and the wire and headliner are fixed into position.
A close-up of one of the forward listing wire tabs. Tabs in the rear of the car were longer.
Headliner installation. I used clothes pins to keep the headliner from dragging on the floor.
I started at the first row of tabs closest to the rear window. I found my center mark and mounted the first tab. Then I worked my way left and right from center, PULLING SNUGLY toward the side of my car. This is absolutely critical for a tight headliner and my major mistake the first time I tried installing a headliner five years ago. That time I simply held the listing wires up and installed them. Since the tabs go through the listing tape, there's no way to make the headliner tighter after you mount the tab.
After the first row, I worked my way forward toward the windshield. The style of tabs changed as I worked forward but the principle remained the same. While the metal tabs handle the headliner in the center of the car, you need to tack or staple the sides of the headliner to tack strips mounted on the sides of the body. Here again you must pull the headliner snugly. I started in the front and worked my way rearward on each side. I used a pneumatic stapler instead of hammer-driven tacks and it allowed me to work quickly.
Almost finished, no more listing wire tabs. The forward portion is tacked into strips above the windshield and concealed by the windshield trim.
At this point I was tacking the edges of the headliner to the tack strips. Note that the rearward portion of the headliner is loose and wrinkled. After tacking, the extra material is cut off and concealed by windlace AND wire-on.