The Big Curtain Fabrics Glossary

The Big Curtain Fabrics Glossary

When you think about curtains, odds are you picture light, fashionable material. Specifically, the type of fabric that dances as a gentle breeze makes its way inside an open window. However, if asked to imagine curtains and drapes, you might generate the same picture in your mind.

Unfortunately, this belief is a common misconception. Although they appear to be the same, curtains and drapes are actually different. In this glossary, we discuss what those differences are and review a plethora of other curtain fabric words you need to know as an interior designer.

Differences Between Curtains and Drapes

Before checking for curtain patterns at your favourite fabric store, a major decision needs to be made. Does your interior design project call for curtains or drapes? As we mentioned above curtains and drapes are not the same. Let’s review.

Typically, curtains are made with either one layer of fabric or a combination of super lightweight materials. Furthermore, those curtain fabrics are designed purely for fashion and style. As in, other than aesthetic appeal, curtains may not have any other purpose in an interior design.

Due to this lack of use, window adornments made from light materials are mainly opened by pulling on the fabric directly. Which means the overall look is going to be more casual in nature than formal. The same cannot be said for drapes.

Although used interchangeably, drapes are actually much heavier than curtains. This can be due to multiple layers, an extra layer of lining, or a thicker material used, such as velvet. The girth accumulated when designing drapes typically demands the strong support of a runner. As in, a magnetic curtain rod is likely to not work.

The reason drapes are so much heavier than curtains is they are designed with a purpose in mind. This can be to block out sunlight or outdoor sounds completely, or even insulation. To further supplement these types of functions, drapes tend to go from the floor all the way to the top of the window.

As an extra bonus, the runner used with drapes doubles as a sunlight blocker at the top. With a huge focus on function, one might assume fashion is sacrificed. That is not the case. Drapes tend to be lavish, supremely stylish, and formal in most cases.

Curtain Fabric Thickness

Once you’ve decided you want double window curtains rather than navy blue drapes, the next step is to choose a thickness. Here are the main three.

  • Sheer: thin, semi-transparent fabric, such as those used to make tab top sheer curtains

  • Semi-opaque: also known as semi-sheer fabric, this material balances between sheer and blackout curtains, blocking out about half of all incoming light

  • Regular: common fabric thickness that can be used in a variety of different interior design styles

  • Blackout: due to thickness and function, considered to be different than curtains. As in, those navy blue drapes we mentioned earlier.

That said, if you find a particular curtain fabric you want to use but are hesitant to do so due to thinness, consider using lining.

Lining: added layer of material typically solid white, off-white, or light grey. Can be between two pieces of fabric or as a backing. This can be used to better insulate fabric or increase resistance to damage.

8 Ways to Display Curtain Fabrics

Now that you have decided to use a fashionable curtain fabric, it’s time to pick a style. Any of the following methods will add that touch of class needed to bring out the stylish planner in you.

Pannel Pair
  • Single Panel: one piece of fabric going across the window

  • Panel Pair: the classic and popular design features two separate curtains on either side of the window

  • Window Treatment Set: includes a panel pair, a valance, and your choice of tie-backs or tassels

  • Window Scarf: typically sheer, semi-sheer, or regular curtain fabric loosely hanging on a rod. This is typically draped over a rod from behind on both sides with the centre hanging down slightly.

  • Cafe: also known as tier curtains, this interior design idea only covers the bottom half of the window and is usually found in the kitchen.

  • Cape Cod: ruffled up sides and bottoms

  • Valance: curtains designed to only cover the top of a window

  • Country Curtains: combination of cafe and valance

Although country curtains aren’t listed in the interior design trends of 2019, valances are always major. Let’s discuss the main four variations.

  • Ascot: bottom of valance is in a V or W shape. The sharp point in the middle of these waves are often decorated with tassels, beads, or other fashionable material

  • Bell: features U shaped edge with pleats showcased between them

  • Draped: also known as swag valance, curtain fabric is positioned to droop down in waves

  • Shaped: showcases gentle waves at the bottom of the valance

Beyond Window Valance Patterns

There are a few tech words you need to know before crafting one curtain panel per window or outlining your bay window curtain ideas. Bear in mind, you may already know a few of them.

  • Selvage: two thread lines stitched in parallel on edge of fabric. Done to prevent fraying and other damage.

  • Pelmet: placed above window to hide curtain rod or runner. Used to make interior design look a bit more formal.

  • Rod: item used to hold up fabric, such as tab top sheer curtains. Can be made out of any strong material. Typically mounted to a wall via brackets, such as a no drill curtain rod.

  • Finial: ends of a curtain rod. Stylish and fashionable versions are available to aptly complement all curtain rods without nails or otherwise.

  • Brackets: basic or designer mounts that attach to a wall with the purpose of holding the following

    • Curtain rods for corner windows

    • No drill curtain rods

    • Thick curtain rods

    • Curtain rods without nails

    • Magnetic curtain rods

    • Screw-less curtain rods

    • Any other unique type of rod you fancy

With or Without a Window Valance Pattern

Of course, you do not have to use a valance at all. Professional interior designers can forego a valance all together in favour of a fashionable curtain design. This concept involves bunching up the top of a curtain in any of the following delightful ways listed below. If done correctly, the result works well with or without a valance.

Bear in mind, all of the methods below attach hooks for the curtain rod on the back in the folded up portion, except the eyelet. Unlike pleats, the eyelet curtain method puts holes directly into the fabric. And if you’re pondering the pleat meaning, no worries. It’s down below along with the name of the different interior design styles for them.

  • Regular Box Pleat: gives a folded in look at the top that instantly cascades into a wavy pattern. Box pleats are made when the fabric folds are only secured at the top and left side of each flattened fold. Excess slack in curtain fabric generated in this design method is somewhat tucked away.

  • Knife Box Pleat: unlike the regular version, this method folds the material on opposite sides, then secures each one to the curtain back. By doing so, excess fabric is hidden toward the bottom.

  • Double Pleat: “fan” starts at the top and is secured about 6-inches down generating a unique pattern further down the curtain fabric. To spruce things up, interior designers use up to five folds. Each one is attached together and to the back. However, the bunched material is displayed in the front.

  • Single Pleat: one box pleat that is about the width of a finger

  • Tailored Pleat: also known as the Euro pleat, this design is similar to the pinch version in regards to number of folds. However, tailored differs in that the “fan” starts pinched at the top and flows down.

  • Eyelet: aka grommet curtains, this interior design style involves putting holes in curtains at the top in even intervals. These circular cuts are backed by rings to prevent fraying and attached to curtain rod accordingly.

  • Pencil Pleat: bunches up curtain top to generate a fuller look overall

  • Ripple Fold: also known as the S fold, hooks are attached in a wide pattern on curtain fabric too wide for its rod. As a result, a slight bounce is generated. Similar to an eyelet curtain without the holes.

  • Rod Pocket: curtain fabric is folded over at the top to make a tunnel for a rod that is shorter than the material’s length. Doing so gives the curtain top a bunched up look.

  • Goblet: interweaving folds that push outward into a circular shape that tapers off about 8-inches from the top. Method generates a goblet shape, perfect for any bay window curtain idea, the dining room, or any other festive area.

  • Tab Top: rectangle or square shapes cut out of and folded over curtain fabric. These looped areas create a space to insert a rod into.

  • Hidden Tab: evolved form of tab top. Interior designer creates tabs separately and attaches them to the back of the fabric.

Design Within Reach

With the curtain tops addressed, let’s move on to the middle of the fabric. In addition to wavy patterns, interior designers can further supplement the look of their curtain’s middle with the following.

  • Tie-backs: strips of fabric used to pull curtains open in a fashionable way. Can be fabric from the same cloth or any complimentary material.

  • Tassel: comprised of multiple threads and used to pull back curtains. Ideal for any zen interior design project.

  • Jabot: two step process involving pleated tops and arched curtains that grow shorter toward the middle of the fabric

  • Bishop Sleeves: bunches curtain middle together to create a pouf.

Curtain Bottom Interior Design Ideas

Let’s face it, developing new bay window curtain ideas over and over again is challenging. Especially when it comes to choosing a bottom. There are quite a few lengths to choose from. Which means a bit of mixing and matching may be in order before the perfect solution is found.

The best way to go about this process is to start with the longest length and work your way up. To accomplish this without committing to any particular design up front, be sure to use the hemming technique.

Hemming: folding and fastening the bottom of a curtain fabric in order to make it shorter

That said, most of the interior design trends of 2019 include at least one of the following curtain fabric styles.

  • Sill: curtains end at bottom of window or slightly above it

  • Apron: fabric starts about 4-inches from window top to midpoint between sill and floor. Design method tends to make window appear larger. Commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms.

  • Floor: curtain fabric starts above the window and flows all the way down to the floor, barely touching it

  • Puddle: akin to floor method except a “puddle” of curtain fabric pools at the bottom

Naturally, the longer the fabric length you use, the heavier the curtain. So, if you find yourself in need of a floor curtain, try to use light weight fabrics. If this is not possible, go all in and create gorgeous drapes for your interior design project.

To determine which one to use, weigh your puddle fabric design. Then, compare that weight to the support rod you have in mind. Most curtain rods can handle between 5 and 10 lbs of weight. Due to this, any fabric design that weighs more is likely a drape and should be treated as such.

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