Curtains 101

Become an expert in all things curtains & drapes

Cotton (curtain fabric type)

Of any natural fabric, cotton is the easiest to care for, and is easily dyed and patterned. Relatively lightweight, it tends to allow quite a bit of light into a room, so if it’s being used in a bedroom a lining might be in order.

Linen (curtain fabric type)

A bit heavier than cotton, but prone to wrinkling if it’s pressed, leaned against, or just humid out, which means that most people prefer linen blends, which are easier to care for. Still allows a fair amount of light into a room, so should be lined for insulation or blackout effect.

Synthetics (curtain fabric type)

Synthetics are economical and easy to care for, and can be made to mimic a wide variety of fabrics, especially more expensive ones like silk, so they see wide use in drapery. Patterns and colors in synthetic fabrics are less prone to fading in sunlight, as well.

Velvet (curtain fabric type)

Velvets give curtains a classic, traditional look, are heavy enough on their own to hang perfectly, and block a lot of light, though not enough to black out a bedroom.

Sheers (curtain fabric type)

Made of thin, lightweight fabrics, sheers are relatively easy to see out of and allow a lot of light in, but appear more substantial from the outside, providing privacy. Unless they’re only being used as a privacy liner or decoration, they’re usually layered inside something more substantial.

Heading

The top of a curtain where it hangs from a curtain rod, can come in many styles.

Rod Pocket Heading

Rod pocket drapes have the fabric folded and sewn along the top to create a pocket which is threaded over a curtain rod. They tend to look more casual, or even a bit messy, which suits medium-heavy fabrics such as cottons or linens. Beware, they’re not easy to open and close, and are best used in a decorative role, but the heading will stay fixed when the drapes are tied back.

Flat Panel Heading

Sleek and modern, perfect for large floor-to-ceiling windows and covering sliding doors in a discreet, simple style.

Grommeted Heading

Drapes with grommets to accommodate the curtain rod; they give a clean, modern look, and are a good alternative to flat panel drapery in modern settings. They open easily but can slide “outward” when the drapes are tied back.

Pinch Pleat Heading

A classic pleated drape, with the pleat further down the curtain than a tailored pleat. All of our pleated curtains are double-pleated, not triple.

Tailored Pleat Heading

A modern version of a pleated drape, in which the pleats are sewn together at the top, they have a simpler look than pinched pleats. All of our pleated curtains are double-pleated, not triple.

Tabbed Heading

Tabbed drapes have loops of fabric, or “tabs” at the top which hang from a curtain rod. Simple, clean, and timeless, they work well when they’re not supposed to steal the show from the rest of a room. They’re relatively easy to open but also don’t slide when tied back.

Hardware

The equipment used to attach curtains and accessories to a wall.

Brackets

These are mounted to the wall or window frame and hold up the curtain rod; they vary in length to allow for different depths when curtains are opened. See “clearance depth”.

Curtain Rod

There are dozens of styles of rods to hang curtains from, from the most basic to the most ornate.

Finials

Decorative end pieces at the ends of a curtain rod.

Tension Rod

An inexpensive curtain rod placed inside the faces of a window frame and extended until friction holds the ends in place. Usually only used to install cafe curtains, if at all.

Tieback Hooks

See “Tiebacks”.

Track

An alternative to a curtain rod, with a pre-made set of runners in a grooved metal track. Just hook curtains to the runners to hang.

Sill (curtain panel length)

Reaches to just above the window sill.

Apron (curtain panel length)

Falls several inches below the sill (usually 3-5″)

Floor (curtain panel length)

As the name suggests, just brushes the floor, usually ¼” short. Requires very accurate measurements.

Puddled (curtain panel length)

Like the name, the extra length (6-12″) puddles on the floor below the window.

Cafe (curtain panel length)

Refers to half-length curtains usually placed to cover the bottom half of a window (called “sash level”), providing privacy while allowing light in. Can be placed alone or with a valance covering the top fourth or fifth of a window.

Valance

A short curtain, sometimes basically a strip of fabric, used to cover the top of a door or window. Normally designed to be hung in a way that covers the curtain hardware used to hang it and any main curtains hung beneath it. Usually around ¼ the height of the window or door over which it hangs, which is our default option.

Flat Valance

A flat, hemmed valance, looks more or less like a panel of fabric.

Pinch Pleat Valance

A valance with the same pinch pleating as our curtains.

Tailored Pleat Valance

A valance with the same tailored pleating as our curtains.

Box Pleat Valance

A valance with fabric folded inward and flattened to create breaks in an otherwise flat surface. It’s a common style in skirts and can be used to give valances a very square look, hence the name.

Clearance Depth

The depth required to smoothly open drapes on a curtain rod. When drapes are opened they occupy much more depth (perpendicular to the wall) than when open. This can be as much as 6 inches, and must be considered when hanging them.

Fullness

Usually called double or triple fullness, this refers to the fact that the drapery is made using fabric 2-3 times the width of the window; a higher fullness will provide a fuller appearance. Off-the-shelf drapery panels usually have a fullness between 1 and 2, while 2 to 2.5 is a reasonable range for heavy fabrics.

Layering

Placing multiple drapes over a window as part of a single window treatment. Traditionally, a sheer, a light-blocking curtain, and a decorative cover were all common, but modern treatments generally ignore the last in favor of a decorative curtain with a lining.

Lining

Linings can be used to increase the heft of a fabric as well as to bulk up their insulating or sun-blocking value. We offer the option to add a combined insulating/blackout lining in a variety of colors closely matched to the fabric of your choice.

Panel

One rectangular “pane” of drapery.

Single

Not divided in the middle of the window and opens from one side towards the other. They can also be tied at the center to allow light in the edges of a window. Commonly used when windows are in a corner or heavily off-center on a wall.

Double

Divided in the middle of the window and open from the center outward.

Railroading

Fabric is oriented so that the width of the roll is the length of the curtain. This eliminates seams in patterned fabrics or for functional curtains that are meant to be closed much of the time. Many “custom curtains”are made by sewing several standard panels together and trimming to fit, but our fabrics were printed or woven specifically to be railroaded for seamless curtains.

Stacking Space

The width occupied by fully opened drapes on a curtain rod. Generally, curtain rods should be long enough to hold this full width outside the window frame.

Tieback

Used to hold curtains back for a more classic look. Comes in two flavors: large, stand-alone metal hooks, or fabric loops paired with smaller hooks. The former are affixed to a wall with the hook facing outward, while the latter use upright hooks to hold them in place. They’re usually placed around two-fifths of the way up from the bottom of a curtain, though this is a matter of personal taste.

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