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How to select Fabric for curtains

Hemp Fabrics ideal for Drapery

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Before you sit down to sew up new shades, curtains or drapes for your home you need to pick the right fabric. There is a lot to consider when selecting a fabric for window treatments. You want to think about the style of curtain, the décor of the room, and the function of the window treatment. Since the color, pattern and style of your fabric is a personal choice, we’re going to focus on the more objective side of selecting fabric—the function of the window treatment. We hope this guide will help you think through the selection process and feel confident in your decision.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the considerations you’ll want to think through when selecting curtain fabric.

Natural light - In or out?

One of the first considerations for curtain fabric should be the amount of light the room gets and do you want to let the light in or block it out? If you want to block out light, try a heavy fabric with a tight weave or a blackout curtain fabric. You can even back a lighter fabric with a blackout fabric if light blocking is your top priority. If you enjoy natural light in your room and want to filter it, try an open weave or a sheer fabric. 

keep out the cold

It’s also common to want your window treatments to provide some insulation against the cold. A heavier weight fabric with a tighter weave will be better at keeping the cold out than a sheer or open weave fabric. Blackout fabrics often features insulating properties as well. You can up the insulation factor of any fabric by adding a flannel interlining to the back of the curtains. The interlining will also protect the fabric from UV rays of the sun and add more body.

UV Rays & colourfastness

The sun’s rays can be really harsh on fabric. You don’t generally think about interior fabrics needing to be UV resistant, but curtains can see a lot of sunlight streaming through the windows. That’s why we recommend thinking about the colorfastness of the fabric you choose for curtains.

This isn’t an issue in every window, so you’ll want to think about your home, which direction the windows face and how much natural light they let in, and decide if this is a concern for you. In general, south-facing windows will see the most sunlight during the day.

If UV exposure is a concern, look for curtain fabrics with UV protective qualities. You can always add a drapery lining to the back of the fabric to protect the decorative fabric itself from UV rays. Curtain lining is also great for making fabrics a little more opaque and for adding more body for fuller looking drapes.

fabric width & repeat

Especially when on a budget, it’s important to consider how many yards of a given fabric your curtain project will require. Fabrics with a thinner width or large repeats could mean you’ll need to do more seaming in drapery panels and order extra fabric to pattern match.

Typically, you want to use the length of the fabric as the length of the curtain so you might need to seam two or more panels together to get the appropriate width for your window. If your fabric has a pattern, note the pattern repeat. For the best looking shades you’ll want the patterns to match at the seam point, and a large pattern repeat can mean you’ll need to order extra fabric to get a good pattern match.

how to measure windows

Before you even start measuring the window, you need to make some design decisions about what type of window treatment you’d like for your window. Do you want short curtains or long drapes? Will they hang from a rod mounted inside the window frame, or above the window frame? Once you have a good mental image or maybe a sketch of what you want your curtains to look like you are ready to start.

Measure the Width

Using a metal retractable tape measure (not a fabric measuring tape) measure the width of your window. For an inside mount, measure across the glass. With an outside mount setup measure from one outer edge of the window molding to the other. Write down your total measurement.

To add fullness to the drapes or curtains when they are closed, you’ll need to account for extra fabric. To do this, you’ll need to multiply the total width by a fullness factor of anywhere between 1.5-3. If you want a flatter curtain, you would multiply the total width by 1.5 or if you want a generous fullness, opt for the higher multiplier of 3.

Measure the Height


Measure the height of the window from where you want the curtains to start at the top and where you want them to fall at the bottom. Curtains generally stop at one of a few points: at the windowsill, at the bottom of the trim, 3cm above the floor, or they will puddle on the floor. Drapes that puddle give a dramatic effect and have a very formal feel. Add an extra 15-30cm to the measurement at the floor for this look.

A window treatment starts at its rod. Curtain rods typically sit about 10cm above the window. However, you can hang them closer to the window as long as you leave enough space for the brackets. A popular choice is to hang curtains high and close to the ceiling. This trick helps to elongate the look of your walls and make the room feel taller and more spacious.

When you have your total height measured, add 20-25cm total for hems. If you are using clips or rings to attach your curtain, you’ll want to measure that hardware. Then subtract the length of the hardware from the curtain height. This ensures that your curtains fall at exactly your desired location.

With measurements all calculated all you have to do is order your fabric and get sewing! The Fabric Calculator below makes it easy to figure out how much fabric to order. Enter in your measurements in mm and it will calculate the needed fabric yardage. (Yes we know the calculator isn't perfect, we have a new one on the way!)