Rich Curtain & Drapery Fabric
Drapes drape. They flow, hang and swing like a gorgeous gown or a full-blown sail in the wind. No other décor element shows off fabric like window dressings. The most scrumptious fabrics are only “to the trade.” This means they must be purchased through an industry professional such as Befitting Fabric Studio or an interior designer. But this is the fun part. Colors! Textures! Prints! Oh, my. It’s like going hungry to a bakery. Rows and rows of yummy fabric….
How to choose? Early decisions in the design process will help narrow your hunt for that “just right” fabric. Style choices such as casual or formal, quiet or “ooh-la-la” are not the only factors, however. Fabric should be practical and useful in filtering light. Some fabrics are better at insulating the room from heat and cold than others (Although, interlining is just as important. See “Interlining” in Useful Terms).
So let’s take a look at some of the most common types of material and their uses. But don’t think of these as rules– and I can’t stress this enough–let your personality be your ultimate guide in choosing fabric.
Acetate It’s less likely to fade or deteriorate because it’s made from artificial fibers. Often used as a substitute for silk.
Brocade A substantial, usually formal fabric. Has a woven, textured design (see Jacquard on this page). It’s used for the main part of a drape as well as top treatments. Can be made of silk, wool, cotton, or a blend. Pattern is one-sided, meaning the reverse looks like the underside of an embroidered piece.
Broderie Anglaise Cotton fabric with cutout eyelets and embroidery. Think, café curtains.
Cambric Tightly woven cotton or linen, looks “polished” on one side. Has many uses.
Canvas A coarse cotton, linen, or cotton & linen blend. Comes in several weights so it can be stiff or airy. For casual settings, but has a high-brow heritage from its nautical past. Sailcloth and duck are types of canvas. Terrific fabric for shades or patio curtains.
Chintz Often printed with flowers or birds. Sometimes it is glazed with resin to repel stains and to give it sheen. Unglazed chintz is called cretonne. Envision “cottage” style.
Cotton Made of natural fibers from the cotton plant. Comes in many weights and finishes.
Damask Woven fabric in jacquard style that may be cotton, linen, rayon, silk, or any blend. Typically for formal styling. Good top treatment fabric. It’s different from brocade in that it is reversible.
Dotted Swiss Translucent with raised, solid dots. Sometimes used for sheers, or under main curtain panels. Looks sweet & cozy in a girl’s bedroom.
Dupioni A textured, silk-substitute made from viscose and acetate.
Eco-friendly A class of fabrics and other materials that consider environmental impact in their manufacture and use.
Gingham Traditional, checkered pattern. Single color on white. Cotton. For rooms with a relaxed mood, mixes well with other patterned fabrics.
Holland Cotton or linen often stiffened with a finishing chemical, medium-weight. Excellent for sunny kitchen windows because it does not fade or fray. Often used for roller shades and valences. Crisp, clean look.
Lace Open-work fabric. The best quality is crocheted by hand of linen threads. Terrific for sheers, panel shades, or trim. Beyond the traditional use, consider a color other than white or a geometric pattern instead of floral. Lace-work can be a stunning texture in the right place. Man-made substitutes are more affordable and come in a wider variety of patterns.
Linen Made from natural fibers of the flax plant. Great for Roman shades.
Moire Recognizable for its wavy, single-color pattern. Originally a weavers’ design for silk. Has a high-brow heritage from its use as a lining in leather bound books. Aside from its usual formal use, it can also lend an edgy, modern feel in some settings. Acetate substitutes are widely available.
Organdy Strong, sheer cotton treated with a chemical to stiffen it.
Organza Embroidered silk, not common in home décor.
Polyester Artificial fabric often used in blends to reduce creasing.
Sateen Cotton fabric treated to give it a shiny finish. May be cotton or a cotton blend.
Satin Romantic heritage is from its heyday in Empire and Regency historic periods of European history. Once the ultimate “luxe” silk, it’s now usually cotton.
Silk Made from silkworm cocoons. Soft and strong, but is best used for windows not exposed to all-day sunlight. Lovely for shades if backed by a lining to strengthen it.
Taffeta Smooth and shiny on both sides. A heavier silk-substitute.
Ticking Durable cotton fabric of a double-striped pattern, usually blue on a white background. Old-fashioned use was for bed pillows and mattresses. Very nostalgic, mixes well with other patterns to create a relaxed style.
Velvet Thick fabric with a “pile” on one side. Usually a solid color. The best is silk or cotton.