How wide should curtains be? How long? Would shades be better? Will this fabric even work? What’s a return? I need to add what to what? Huh? WHY IS THERE SO MUCH MATH?!
Editor’s note: Y’all, this took so long to put together! I promise follow up posts will be A) shorter, and B) more frequent. Really. Pinky swear.
K, so, I think this whole “coming up with ideas to write about” thing is going to be nearly paralyzing. As a freshly born blog, there’s just so much to write about! I think today though (and unbeknownst to me at the time of starting three weeks ago), I’m going to go with a topic that I am currently DROWNING in: window treatments! Pro tip: SIZE MATTERS.
Headline gave it away, right? But seriously, for the love of kittens, y’all, there is SO MUCH MATH here! Math and physics and just … knowledge. Pretty sure there could be a college degree in just window treatments, easy. I’ve been seriously rethinking some of my curriculum choices back in the day (WAR EAGLE!).
So, yeah, I’ve just recently begun offering window treatments as part of my services, because quite honestly, I previously was not comfortable enough with my knowledge bank to properly serve my clients. And they’re important! Not like chilling-out-on-the-trade-war important, but a nearly foolproof way to take a ho-hum room from zero to rock star awesome in no time. So, I started reading … and reading … and googling a TON and asking a lot of (probably daft) questions, and finding people who are the absolutely BOSS at various aspects of window treatment-ing to be my Obi-Wans. … Now, I’m happy to say, I feel comfortable enough in this world to do right by folks. Because, at the end of the day, custom window treatments are a real investment, and getting your money’s worth is a big deal to me.
All that said, I thought I’d write up a little primer on Things I’ve Learned About Window Treatments. This will be a multi-part series, because there’s just too much to cram into one post, and if I tried, I’d never finish! (And as I mentioned above, this one alone took me WAYYYYYYY longer than i ever expected. Oy.)
First part = the fun part: The Glossary (ok, maybe not everybody’s cup o’ tea, but I love a good glossary, and you have to know what you’re talking about to know what you’re talking about, so here we start!). Spoiler alert: the terms are pretty literal. Also, this turned out to be really long.
Apron: The part of a window’s moulding just below the sill.
Back Tab Curtains: A simple design with tabs sewn onto the back of the panel to hang the drapes. If you’re an IKEA fan, a lot of their curtains are back-tab style.
Bias: This refers to the fabric’s grain. The bias runs at a 45 degree angle to the straight grain.
Box Pleats: These can come as regular and inverted. You see regular box pleats all the time in skirts — think cheerleading skirts and you’ve more or less got the picture (at least that’s what mine looked like). Box pleats are deep, equal folds of fabric that are folded away from each other in opposite directions on the front of a length of fabric creating a clean, flat front. An inverted box pleat is, well, what a regular box pleat looks like from behind.
Bracket: The hardware that supports your curtain rod(s). For 4’ rods and under, you only need two brackets; for longer lengths, you’ll need three or more to avoiding bowing in your rod.
Cafe Curtains: Literally the cute little curtains that one might see hanging in a Parisian café. They’re hung typically at sash level and cover the bottom half of the window.
Color Blocking: The super cool style of sewing horizontal contrasting bands of fabric together on a single curtain panel.
Edge Banding/Decorative Tape: Probably so literal it doesn’t even require a definition, but here it is: Edge banding is basically the vertical manifestation of color blocking; decorative tape is a strip of flair sewn or iron-on-taped to a panel. It can be embroidered, beaded or otherwise jazzed up to add some drama to your drapery. Both detail options can be applied to the leading edge, stationary edge, bottom, top or any combination thereof.
Cornice: Like an interior awning, a cornice is a decorative wooden, fabric, or foam header placed above a window to conceal drapery hardware. It reminds me of my grandmother’s no-go formal living room, but they can actually be much, much more stylish — or, rather, modern.
Drapery Pins: Little pin hooks that are sewn or hooked into the top of drapery to attach the panel to rings.
Finial: The doo-dads that dress up the ends of your curtain rods. You know what they are.
Fullness: Fullness refers to literally the visual fullness of your drapes. You know when you buy those off-the-rack curtain panels from, say Anthropologie or IKEA, and they just don’t look as billowy and graceful as those fancy curtains in Elle Decor? Yeah, that’s because you need two or three more at least per window to get that sumptuous look you see in magazines. A good rule of thumb is to take the width of your window (or rod) and double or triple it to get the flat width your curtains should be.
Goblet Pleats: A very formal type of pleating best used as stationary panels in master bedrooms and formal living or dining rooms. They look like little wine glasses trimming the top of your curtains!
Header: The little ruffly piece that sticks up on top of rod-pocket curtains. Rod-pocket panels can be made with or without the header.
Interlining: This is usually thicker, almost quilting-looking fabric that is sewn into a curtain panel between the face and the liner. One might use this to line curtains at a drafty window.
Jabot: Piece of fabric, long or short, which drapes down on either side of a swag or valance, often pleated and tapered. Think theatre curtains.
Leading Edge: The edge of the panel that is the opening/closing end.
Lining: Literally, the lining of your curtain. Lining can provide body and fullness, light control, and privacy. Lining can also be decorative as a fun contrast to the drapery fabric. Blackout lining is a must for those who like to sleep! :)
Mounting (Inside & Outside): Refers to where you mount your shades or curtains. Curtains are typically only inside mounted when they’re cafe curtains. Roman shades can be inside or outside mounted, depending on space available and various other style considerations.
Mounting Board: A board installed either inside or outside the window frame used to mount some types of window treatments.
Nap: A fabric with a texture or design that runs on one direction like corduroy or velvet. Fabrics with nap can look different when viewed from different directions. Captain Obvious notes that if you’re using a fabric with a nap, pieces need to be sewn together so that the nap matches up.
Overlap: On the leading edge of your curtains, this is the area that overlaps where they meet to seal off light. About 98% of hotel room drapery needs WAY MORE OVERLAP. I mean, really. PEOPLE LIKE TO SLEEP WITHOUT LASER BEAMS OF SUNLIGHT BLINDING THEM.
Pin Setting: The spacing between drapery pins and top of drapery. The standard is 1 3/4”. Higher or lower settings will show less of more of your rings.
Pinch pleats: Treatment applied to the top of panels. These come in standard or Euro (tailored), two- or three-finger pleating. The pleats not only elevate the appearance of your drapery, but they also affect how they hang. For example, on super long drapes, a longer pleat can help the fabric hang better.
Projection: The refers to the distance from the front of the curtain rod to the mounting wall.
Puddling: A super casual/romantic look for drapery, allowing the fabric to drape and puddle on the floor.
Ripple Fold: A more casual, modern alternative to pinch pleats where the panels are hung on traverse rods to create soft, wavy look. They come as butting or overlapping, which refers to how the leading edges meet (remember? we covered that above!).
Railroading: This is when a fabric is used horizontally rather than vertically as a way to avoid seams. You might do this in a dust ruffle, for example. Fabrics with a nap or a pattern where direction is important are not usually railroaded.
Repeat: This refers to the repetition of a pattern. For example a 13” repeat means that the pattern is duplicated every 13”.
Return: The portion of the stationary edge of the drapery panel that turns around the end to cover the bracket. The standard return is ~3 1/2”, but it can be much more depending on the projection of the brackets.
Right side: Basically, the correct side. The side with the pattern and color.
Rings: Pretty self-explanatory: they’re round things that your drapes hang from. The only unexpected part is that there are two types: ring rings and C rings, which are, obviously, shaped like a C. You need C rings if you have additional support brackets for your rod so your curtains can slide past them.
Rod-Pocket Curtains: This is the most basic and easiest curtain to make. Take your fabric, fold it over, and sew it closed: Boom! Rod pocket curtain. OK, there’s a bit more to it to make it actually look professional, but basically that’s it. The fabric is folded over to create a ~3” pocket at the top of the panel into which you thread the rod. Also, while we’re busy educating here, rod-pocket curtains are best used as stationary panels. Those scrunched up panels don’t slide to and fro very easily, so if you’ll need to open and close your drapes often, a different style would be advised.
Roller Shades: Shades. On rollers. Boom! … They’re mounted inside the window casing or frame.
Roman Shades: Window coverings that are drawn up or down to cover the window. They can be mounted inside or outside the window and are operated via cord lock (standard dangling strings that always lose the little end caps), clutch (rope & pulley), and cordless (the best!). There are several styles, including flat, hobbled, relaxed, knife pleat and ribbed pleat.
Ruching: Where the fabric is gathered tightly. Ruching makes me think of the ‘80s. I feel like everything, including hair, was ruched in some manner in the ‘80s … It can be used as a decorative top to a drapery panel, but really you probably shouldn’t ....
Sash: The portion of the window that frames the glass.
Side Panel: A stationary drapery panel. A side panel may be used to frame a window where there is no need or room for a full set of curtains.
Sill: The ledge at the bottom of the window.
Smocking Tape: A tape sewn onto fabric with strings that when pulled, creates ruching or shirring.
Selvage: The edges of a bolt of fabric. This is the part that has usually some fabric identifiers and maybe some registration/color dots.
Sheers: Drapery panels that are, wait for it … sheer.
Shirring: Two or more rows of gathers. Curtains may have shirring at the top and/or bottom. … You know the sheer-ish curtains that cover a glass front door or sidelights you might see in a traditional-styled home? In your grandma’s home they probably had dust from 1972 on them? Those were shirred.
Stacking: This refers to the resting width of the curtains when drawn fully open.
Stationary Edge: Literally the side of the curtain panel that is stationary.
Swag: Not just a grab bag of promotional crap! One or more swaths of fabric draped over a rod for some extra fancy at the top of a window treatment. Not so much a thing for anyone under 100. Like its friend the jabot, let’s leave it to the Fabulous Fox, shall we?
Tab Top Curtains: Fabric bands attached to the top of curtain panels to hang from a rod. Tab top and rod pocket are the easiest curtains to DIY.
Tiebacks: Some sort of material like fabric bands, cords, ropes, etc. used to tie back curtain panels. … Bet you never could’ve guessed that one!
Traverse Rod: Adjustable drapery rods that open and close the window treatment by pulling a cord. Think hotel room curtains, and you’ve got it.
Trim: Decorative bits like cording, braids, or fringe sewn onto the edge or bottom of drapery panels. Basically, flair. The right flair can take a plain Jane pair of curtains from nice to super awesome pretty quickly! It can also turn your drapery into a fortune teller’s boudoir just as fast. Less is more, people. Less is more.
Valance: A decorative treatment for the top of a window that can be used alone or with drapery panels. The sky’s the limit for styles here. They can be super simple and flat, or maybe a box pleat, or all drapey or ruffly … you can add decorative trim or beads … There are just so many possibilities ...
Wand: A pole attached to the leading edge that is used to open and close curtains so you don’t get them all grubby or yank them out of their hanging mechanism.
Weighting: Sewing little weights into the hem of drapery to help panels hang better. These can be little round weights sewn into the corners or string weights that run the length. They’re pretty much always a good thing, but for lightweight material or super long drapes, they’re mandatory!
OK! Whew … that was way more work than I anticipated. Seriously. If you made it down here to the bottom, I’m flattered, and I hope you found some useful information or a little humor you therein! Either way, it will be here for all eternity if you find yourself desperately needing to immediately know what a jabot is or whether I think ruched drapery is a good idea (I do not!).
I’m done writing now.