Sewing Curtains • Window Curtains • Sewing Silk Curtains
Selecting Fabric for Curtains
Selecting Fabric for Sewing Curtains
The weave pattern, fiber content, and weight of the fabric selected for sewing curtains will have an impact on the finished appearance, durability, and ability to control light. Lightweight weaves can be used whenever you want curtains that let in light.
Width and Print Orientation
Most fabrics for sewing curtains are either 54 in. wide, or extra wide, at 110 in. or 118 in. Extra-wide fabrics are usually intended for unlined sheer curtains, and are meant to be "railroaded," or run sideways with the selvage at the top and bottom of the curtains, allowing the curtains to be made without seams. Many narrower fabrics are also meant to be railroaded to avoid seams. If these fabrics have a pattern, it will be oriented so that it's upright when the selvages are at top and bottom, as shown in the drawings above. Hence, if you use the narrower, patterned fabric for sewing curtains, your motif will be sideways.
Weight and Texture
Just like blouse - weight and pants-weight garment fabrics, fabrics used for sewing curtains come in a variety of weights according to their intended uses (mainly upholstery, bedding, curtains, and sheers), but there are lots of variations within these broad categories, so you have to judge each fabric individually. Hold up one corner and see how it drapes on the bias. If there is no drape, don't use it for curtains. Also, hold prospective woven curtain fabric up against a window to check for floats that might distort the look of your fabric when back-lit (the fabric will look striped.
Printed or woven patterns may repeat both vertically and horizontally. The exact length and width of each repeat is important information when sewing curtains.
Vertical should typically be aligned on adjacent panels in a curtain. When sewing curtain hems it should start at the same place on the fabric for every cut, so that a repeated motif isn’t jumping randomly around your windows - unless you place them that way intentionally.
Watch out for half-drop repeats: They look less repetitive, but can require more fabric and careful matching at the edges.
Beware the half-drop repeat. Normally, a horizontal repeat allows you to match the pattern straight across the piece of fabric to the next piece at the same place, because the pattern is positioned at the same place at each selvage. The half-drop pattern is half of a vertical repeat up or down from one selvage to the other, as shown in the drawing at right, to make the repeats more interesting. This means buying extra fabric and cutting very carefully, because every other cut will start at the half-repeat. There are many beautiful fabrics made with the half-drop repeat, so do try them, but be forewarned! For any patterned fabrics, check both selvages at the same point to be sure the patterns will match easily and economically across the full width. This investigation will also reveal a half-drop repeat.
Lightweight and loosely woven fabrics do best at the window where light filtering through them can be very beautiful. Avoid hanging quilted or matelass?-type fabrics vertically in a window, as they can alternately stretch and shrink over time.
Ask yourself if your project will be practical and easy to use. A curtain that needs to be opened and closed each morning functions better if it just clears the floor in length. Though visually appealing, curtains that “puddle” on the floor from extra length tend to pick up more dust and debris and need cleaning more often — especially since the puddles of fabric can make nice beds for your pets!
Some fibers hold up better in sun than others (cotton, linen, and especially polyesters and microfibers are all pretty safe), and all are subject to fading. Never put silk or silk blends, for example, in direct sunlight because the fibers will rot very quickly, as well as fade. Silk is fine for sewing curtains if you interline it with flannel and line it with a good cotton lining, but silk sheers in your window will last about six months.
Don’t forget lining and interlining. Always line curtains unless they’re sheers. They’ll last longer, and you won’t see the wrong side of a print from the outside. Use a good-quality cotton or cotton/poly blend for durability. Most curtains last longer if they are also interlined with flannel, which protects from sun damage and adds insulation. And always test a sample piece of fabric to make sure you will get the desired result - some rules never change, no matter what you’re sewing!