Important tips for picking window dressing fabrics

July 27, 2015

Choosing between the seemingly endless supply of window dressing fabrics can be overwhelming. But with these tips, the choice can be a little easier.

Important tips for picking window dressing fabrics

The important factors

  • When choosing a window treatment fabric, try to balance your needs. Do you need insulation and/or light? Should they be washable or have other features besides being decorative?
  • If the fabric you fall in love with is lighter than you need for heat or sun control, you can interline it with cotton flannel.
  • If you're making your own, handle the decorative fabric and interlining layers as one.
  • Typically, lining fabric is white or off-white cotton sateen or muslin, available with a laminated black-out surface that adds insulation.
  • Valance linings can also be decorative fabrics when they're designed to show.
  • Most of the fabrics used for window treatments are 137 centimetres wide. Sheers and laces, however, come in much greater widths that range up to 457 centimetres.

Weighing in on fabrics

  • Light to medium weight fabrics are generally used for unlined curtains and soft valances. They hang gracefully and will fold well for valance treatments.
  • Heavy upholstery-weight fabric, or one with a laminated back, is only best for a cornice. It'll be too stiff to fall nicely for other dressing styles.
  • Make sure that any velvets, cut velvets or velveteens you use are soft enough to drape the way you want.
  • Curtains or draperies look best when they're full and generous.
  • When you're buying panels that you want to close, be sure that they're wide enough to overlap each other in the middle of the window.
  • If you're making your own pleated curtains or draperies, buy enough material to cover the window width one and a half times. Buy enough sheer fabric to cover the window width three times.

Types of fabrics

Like many things in your home, your window coverings are a hybrid of fashion and function. Choose fabrics that meet your practical needs, and suit your tastes.

  • Brocades: These rich-looking woven fabrics come in many weights and a variety of fibres, from cotton to wool. The raised design motifs are interwoven into the fabric.
  • Muslins and linings: Use only preshrunk muslin, in white or natural colour for facings or linings. Sateens for lining are white or off-white. Higher-quality, coloured sateens are for any use.
  • Velveteens and velvets: Velveteens are cotton napped fabrics in plain, ribbed or sculptured cuts. Velvets are woven from shiny fibres such as rayon and nylon and can be plain or fancy.
  • Cottons: Gingham, broadcloth, chintz, sateen and plissé are all popular fabric choices that are available in easy-care cotton fibres.
  • Sheers: Solids, laces, burn-outs, open-weave casement and linen are a few of the sheer fabric choices.

Washing your window fabrics

  • If a window treatment is made of decorator fabrics and has a lining and intricate swags or folds, it'll need to be dry cleaned. Some dry cleaners will provide a take-down and re-installation service for an additional fee.
  • Few decorator fabrics are washable. But if your curtains are made out of gingham, broadcloth or muslin, they should be able to go through the washing machine. Damp dry, then iron them.
  • When you make your own curtains from gingham, broadcloth or muslin, prewash the fabric before cutting them out.
  • Prewash ribbons and other washable trims.

There are literally thousands of options when it comes to window dressing fabrics. But if you consider the room and what you want from the fabric, the choice can get a lot easier.

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