If you’ve hired a workroom for a window treatment project, you’re probably in the fun phase of your project now – picking the fabric.
Once you go out and start shopping at fabric stores, you’ll notice that home decor fabrics usually come in medium-weight and heavy-weight forms. Often people refer to the heavier fabrics as upholstery fabrics.
But can you use those upholstery fabrics for a valance project, or should they be left for furniture upholstery projects only?
If you’re commissioning work for a cornice, then the answer is always a yes. But if you’re looking for a valance, keep reading because the answer is that it depends.
You’ll have to answer the questions below to give you a better understanding of whether your chosen fabric will work or not.
Question #1: How Heavy Is the Fabric?
Fabric is generally rated by how many ounces it weighs per each yard.
For window treatments, fabricators usually work with fabrics that are at least 7 ounces in weight. These fabrics are usually strong enough to work for window treatments, but not too flimsy to not be workable.
The 7- to 9-ounce weight fabrics are usually referred to as medium-weight fabrics. Once you get to 10 ounces and above, home decor fabrics are often referred to as heavyweight. These are typically your heavier-weight duck cottons, denims, cotton and linen blends, or polyester tapestries and chenilles.
Having said that, anything over 12 ounces will be more difficult to work with when it comes to window treatments and you’ll have to be more realistic with your expectations. In other words, you’ll be limited more in what kind of window treatments are possible. We’ll have more on that later in the post.
Question #2: How Flat and Simple Is Your Window Treatment?
Some window treatment styles feature flat sections and straight lines. Others are what we call smiley-face valances.
Flat and Simple Valances
Examples include the following:
- straight valances,
- flat faux Roman shade valances,
- flat swags, like our Emily or Bellamy valances,
- shaped and scalloped valances.
These valances will often do well even with 12-oz fabrics and heavier.
One caveat to that, however, is with scalloped valances. If the valance has a pattern with sharply scalloped sections, then it may or may not work. In other words, the more simple the valance pattern, the more likely a heavyweight fabric will work with it.
Heavyweight fabrics are best for flat valances like our faux Roman shade valances.
On the other end of the spectrum are valances that are NOT flat or simple.
We often like to refer to those as “smiley-face valances.”
(PLEASE NOTE: This is an endearing term us ladies use for this style in our workroom. Using that term elsewhere may get you blank stares.)
Smiley-face valances are valances that are heavier not because the fabric itself is necessarily heavy, but because they require a lot more fabric yardage than flat valances do. For this reason, it’s especially important to not let them get too heavy, or else they lose their form and shape.
Examples include the following:
- traditional swags, like Empire or Kingston valances.
- traditional balloon valances (both gathered/shirred and inverted box pleat),
- relaxed Roman balloon valances,
- tailed balloon valances (also known as London valances).
12-oz weight fabrics and heavier fabrics rarely work on these styles. It’s not impossible, but it’s just not common. 4 times out of 5, you’ll probably be disappointed and the workroom you hired will probably reject your fabric and make you buy another one.
The reason is because these valances use swags as their basis. Swags droop down in the middle and require pliable fabrics to form their folds. This is simply impossible with heavyweight fabrics as the swag simply cannot be formed.
This is especially true if:
- You use heavy linings as well.
- Swags are easier to form with lightweight (sheet-like) cottons as linings and less likely with heavier cotton linings.
- They’ll even be more difficult to form if you have a triple-layer valance. For example, a 12-ounce weight main fabric, followed by flannel interlining, followed by white cotton lining.
- Blackout linings are usually unsuitable for swag-based valances anyway, regardless of how heavy the main fabric is is.
- The swags are narrow.
- It’s easier to form a swag with a heavy-weight fabric that has 30-inch wide swag sections than it is to do so where your fabricator only has 24-inch swag sections to work with.
Some Possible Solutions and Workarounds
If you absolutely must work with heavyweight fabrics, here are some solutions that may increase your chances of getting a valance that works.
Form Fewer Folds on the Swag and Use Less Fabric
The idea is to get the weight down.
Take a look at our tie-up balloon valances below.
This example uses an 8-ounce duck cotton and as you can tell from the number of folds (there are 6 in total), plenty of fabric was used to form the swag.
In the next example, a heavier woven matelassé paisley, you’ll notice the valance has a total of 4 folds and uses less fabric. This is an absolute must. Had we done 6 folds here as well, the valance would’ve lost its form and the swag would’ve collapsed on itself.
Even heavier than the ivory and navy paisley above, this chenille has quite the weight, and then some. Notice here too we did 4 total folds on the swag.
Use Lightweight Linings
As much as we love the richness of sateen cotton linings, you’ll have better chances if you go with the cheaper polyester/cotton blend linings. Of course, stay away from napped backs or adding flannel interlining.
Your valance may let more light filter through with these lighter linings, but at least you’ll have a heavyweight main fabric to offset some of that.
Use Fewer Swags on Wider Valances
The wider the valance, the more options you’ll have to decide how many swags you’ll have.
For example, a 40-inch window typically has 2 swags on it and there’s little you can do about that if that’s what the pattern requires. But once you get to double wide and triple wide windows, there is some more flexibility.
For example, the pattern for a valance that spans 96 inches may call for 4 swags at 24-inches wide each. But altering the pattern slightly so that you have 3 swags that are 32 inches wide each will give you more room to form a swag with a heavyweight fabric. Make sure you’re consulting with your fabricator on this as each pattern and fabric is different.