Draperies need to be distinguished from plain curtains. Draperies are made with home decor fabric and can be quite heavy. They must be lined at minimum, and interlining is ideal.
There are a few more features that make a drapery a high quality drapery, but a good home decor fabric and lining are a good starting point. Let’s take a look at the features you’ll want your next draperies to check off before you buy them.
Lining and Interlining
Lining is a white or ivory fabric that’s sewn to the back of a drapery. It can either be 100% cotton or mix of cotton and polyester. Lining has some structure to it.
If the lining on a drapery feels like your inexpensive bedsheets at the store when touched, it will do little to give the proper structure to a drapery. The fibers on lining are tightly woven together, giving it a smooth, strong feel. The bottom hem of the lining and drapery must be sewn separately so that the drapery can fall to the floor naturally, without wrinkling.
Interlining floats as an additional layer between the main fabric and lining. It’s a white material that’s similar to felt. Its main purpose is to provide volume to a window treatment and to make it look more luxurious and heavy. Interlining is a good alternative to blackout lining. It does an excellent job at blocking the heat and cold from the outside, and it isn’t as stiff as blackout lining is. A great choice when your window treatment needs some extra thickness but still needs to “flow.”
The Right Length
Draperies frame the window on each side and fall to the floor. Some draperies are left a few inches longer, creating an excess of fabric on the floor that’s known as a “puddle.” Even if you’re not a big fan of a puddle, your draperies need to “flirt” with the floor. Take a look at the drapery below in this formal dining room.
The designer did everything right for the client, except – the drapery is too short.
Stopping a drapery up to a quarter of an inch short from the floor is fine, but this gap is just too large. Now, with ready-made draperies, you may be tempted to lower the curtain rod and lower the drapery. Which brings us to the next feature of a high-quality drapery…
The Illusion of a Tall Ceiling
When my clients ask me nowadays how high they need to install their custom draperies, my answer is…
At least 12 inches above the window. And if you don’t have 12 inches, then install it right under the crown molding or ceiling, whichever is lower.
Sure, there are exceptions, but why install a drapery too low? Who wouldn’t want their ceiling to look taller than it really is? When looking for your next drapery, if you have an 8-foot ceiling, guess what the best way to install it will be? Yes, right under the ceiling. Here are a few examples of draperies installed correctly.
Framing a Window (Not Covering It)
A good drapery is supposed to frame a window, not cover it. If you cover your window, you should do it by choice, not because your drapery is too small and you have no other choice. In order to pull off this feat, a drapery manufacturer has to use quite a bit of fabric. That’s why sadly 84-inch, single width draperies are so common.
They’re cheaper to make. If your window is 40 inches wide, don’t think that a curtain rod that’s only 42 inches wide is the right fit. Think 55 to 70 inches wide instead, then order draperies that are the proper width for the curtain rod. Yes, the curtain rod may be almost double of what your actual window width is. But which of these options would you rather choose for your home?
The top of a drapery is known as the header. The most common (and basic) is a rod pocket. This simply means that there’s a small pocket on top of the drapery that a curtain rod can slide through. You may have also seen grommet headers, tab top headers, back tab headers, among many others.
Some headers are pleated.
There are many types of pleats like pinch pleats, euro pleats, pencil pleats, among many others. Draperies with pleated headers are usually installed on visible curtain rings, although you could choose a traverse curtain rod if you’d like to hide those rings. When making pleated headers, the easy thing to do is to use pleater tape that can simply be sewn into the header.
While the stiffness of pleater tape does give the header some structure, it doesn’t always work. We like to handform some of our pleats instead of using pleater tape. This makes the pleats more pronounced and gives them more depth, not to mention a more natural look. Every project is different – some custom draperies work great with pleater tape, others not so much.
Deep, Large Pleats
If your drapery has a pleated header, check for the size of each pleat. Pleats require a lot of fabric to be formed properly. It’s better to have fewer pleats on a drapery that stand out than to have small and shallow pleats. So how many pleats should a drapery have? Take the pinch pleat drapery as an example.
You want it to have about 4 to 5 pleats for every 50 inches of drapery fabric width. Once it starts having 6 pleats or more, the pleats become too small and look out of proportion compared to a heavy, long drapery. Small pleats can also get lost if the drapery fabric is busy or if the drapery is hung at least 9 feet from the floor.
The Proper Fullness
A good drapery has the right volume. Here’s how a pair of draperies with a generous amount of fabric looks.
The window is a standard 70-inch double wide window often found in living rooms. However, each drapery has a double width. In the world of custom window treatments, each single width is about 50 inches when spanned out. Adding up all the numbers, these two draperies would be 200 inches wide if you were to lay them flat on the floor.
With this kind of volume, the Euro pleats stack up quite nicely at the top header. A relaxed faux shade was layered under the draperies.
The Weighted, Floating Bottom Hem
A high quality drapery has the main fabric, lining (and interlining if selected) sewn together on the sides and the top header. The bottom hem is different. In fact, each individual layer floats on its own. The reason why workrooms don’t sew the bottom hem shut is to allow the drapery to float freely.
This prevents bunching up and wrinkling at the bottom. If this weren’t done, your drapery would flare out into a sagging piece of fabric with an unpleasant stitch right under it at the bottom. Each side of the bottom hem has a hidden piece of metal weight, which is another sign of a high quality drapery.
If each drapery is more than 50 inches wide, you’ll more than likely have a drapery with multiple widths. For example, a drapery that’s “a width and a half” is roughly 75 inches wide, while a drapery that’s “double wide” is roughly 100 inches wide. This requires a workroom to sew several pieces together.
If your fabric has a pattern, it needs to look nicely across the seams. This is a skill known as pattern-matching. Make sure to ask for it if you hire a workroom to create custom draperies for you.
Besides pattern-matching across the seams of each drapery, you’ll want the draperies to be identical to each other. You don’t want to look at two draperies that frame a window and realize that the patterns are all over the place.