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Curtains & Drapes

April 28, 2015

Curtains and drapes are both forms of window treatments. Curtains are window treatments that can be opened and closed by hand, while drapes are window treatment that can be opened by cords or draw rods. Both are typically used to keep a room warm during winter, reduce the amount of reverberated noise in a room and keep out bright sunshine – preventing upholstered furniture from fading. They also make a room appear ‘finished’ in the same way that accessories do on an outfit.

Cafe style curtains only cover half of a window and are typically used in kitchens.

Tip: Cords can be very dangerous for young children and so need to be fitted with chain / cord guide.

The following table is a guide for estimating fabric quantities for curtains.

Type of fabric Width of window
Sheer Fabric 2.5 – 3
Medium Weight Fabric 2.5
Heavy Fabric 2
Swag 3

Linings enhance the colour and pattern of curtains, protect the decorative fabric from strong sunlight and improve the thermal properties of the curtains. All curtains hang better if they are lined and a good quality lining can make an inexpensive fabric look a million dollars. Curtains can have a second lining added – called interlining – for extra body and thermal insulation. Also removable linings make cleaning easier.

If you’re not using a pelmet or valance you will need to choose a heading style for your curtains. Headings not only affect the look of the curtains but also the amount of fabric required to make up the curtains. There are many styles of curtain headings, including pencil pleat, box pleat, unstructured / cased, goblet, triple and double pinch pleat, loop / tab top, eyelet, ripple fold and smocked pleat.

Although the best insulation is gained by hanging curtains close to the window pane, care should be taken to make sure the curtains don’t actually come in contact with the glass. Otherwise the lining could rot from being regularly exposed to condensation. If you need to avoid a radiator under a window you can use extension brackets to bring the curtains further out from the wall.

Tip: Newly-hung velvet curtains will often show crease and pressure marks but these will disappear over time.

Tip: It is advisable to operate velvet curtains with a cord or draw rods to avoid marking the fabric through handling.

Tip: Pale curtains can be trimmed with a darker fabric on the leading edge in order to mask hand marks.

Tip: Narrow windows can be made to appear wider by extending the track or pole either size of the window opening.

Finishing Touches
Finishing touches to curtains and drapes include valances, pelmets, jabots , swags and tiebacks.

A valance is a short drapery mounted especially across the top of a window to conceal curtain rails.

A pelmet is an ornamental board fixed above a window to conceal the curtain rail. It can be upholstered for increase decorative effect.

A swag is section of fabric draped between two points in a ‘u’ shape.

Jabots curtains are pleated side draperies that flow down the edges of a window. Jabot curtains are typically paired with an accompanying swag in the middle of the window. The swag is the centered part and the jabots frame each side.

Tiebacks can be made from cord, metal, wood or fabric. Cord or fabric tiebacks can be a strangle hazard for small children and should be used with care.

Tip: Typically you need about 3 metres of fabric for a swag and 3m for a tail

Poles and Tracks
Curtains and drapes are either hung on poles or tracks.

Tracks can be made from PVC, aluminium or steel. PVC is inexpensive, flexible and suitable for light and medium weight curtains. This type of track is generally only available as an un-corded option.  Aluminium is more expensive but stronger and more durable than PVC making it smoother to operate. It is bendable. and suitable for light and medium weight fabric. Corded and un-corded options are available with this type of track. Heavy duty aluminum can be made to exact lengths and can be ordered ready bent. Steel is suitable for heavy weight curtains. It is not bendable and is always corded. Most tracks come with universal brackets that can be fixed either to the wall or ceiling. Traditionally a track was disguised with pelmets or valances but in recent years it has become popular to use a decorative track in full view. Curtain tracks can be motorised and controled by a switch, remote control or light sensor, although curved or motorized tracks typically can’t take heavy curtains.

Tip: If voile is being fitted inside of curtains or a valance a double pole will be required.

Tip: The gentler the bend on tracks for bay curtains, the smoother your curtains will run.

Tip: A silicone based spray will help curtains to run more smoothly, prolonging the life of corded curtain tracks

Corded and Un-corded Curtain Tracks
Un-corded curtain tracks have nylon gliders which slot into the bottom of the track and these nylon gliders hold the curtain hooks. The lack of a cord means that you must manually pull the curtains open and close but to avoid touching the curtains directly you can use draw rods. These are usually available in a range of lengths to suit the window height. Corded curtain tracks are threaded with nylon cord which connects to a system of gliders and pulleys. You open and close the curtains by using a pull-cord and so don’t have to handle the curtain, which is ideal for more delicate fabrics. Corded tracks are useful for heavy curtains and for tall windows, where manually operation might be difficult.

Poles can be made from wood, bamboo, brass, stainless steel or wrought iron. You can either buy curtain poles in a complete kit or as separate components. Off-the-shelf poles are typically 1200mm, 1500mm or 1800mm long although they can be cut shorter or joined together with a connector. Poles over 1800mm long and jointed poles will need a bracket in the centre or junction to support the pole. Poles designed for bay windows come with flexible bay corners and intermediate brackets. Poles can be plain, reeded, ribboned or with acapanthas decoration . Poles are terminated with finials and can be as decorative or a simple as you like. Finials can be wooden, metal or glass and come in a vast array of styles. The most comprehensive image directory is available on Edward Harpley’s website .

Tip: A curtain pole needs to be long enough to let the curtain stack clear of the window when open

Tip: Aim to have 1 curtain ring for every 10cm of pole. The following table is a guide for estimating pole lengths

Tip: Poles for bay windows also require open ended passing rings to allow the rings bypass the brackets.

Type of fabric Extension of Pole
Sheer Fabric 15-19mm
Medium Weight Fabric 45-50mm
Heavy Fabric 65mm

Fitting Curtain Poles or Tracks
A wall-mounted curtain track or pole should either be fixed to a wooden batten above the window frame, or fix to brickwork using long screws and rawl plugs. A ceiling-mounted curtain track or pole should either be fixed directly to ceiling joists or to a wooden batten. Standard size PVC or slim aluminum tracks can be cut to fit using a hacksaw.

Glossary of Terms
A very good glossary of terms relating to blinds is available on www.englishblinds.co.uk

Also ….. Technical Information on Blinds and Shutters

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One comment

  1. […] Also ….. Technical Information on Curtains and Drapes […]



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