Valances should be seen as an aesthetic investment in your home. The average window treatment in the United States graces a window for seven years, so you should take great care to pick a quality product when making your decision. But what should you be looking for when shopping for window valances to ensure a good quality window treatment that will last for years? Here are a few tips, straight from the workroom.
The fabric care guide says “dry clean only.”
A quality valance is just like a quality piece of clothing. You wouldn’t throw an expensive, tailored wool suit into the washing machine, but you may do that with your everyday clothes. If you’re looking for a high-quality valance, you’ll have to think along those lines, too.
There are many types of fabrics that can be used for window treatments. To get a product that will last for years, your valance must be made of the same kinds of fabrics that designers buy at local home decor stores. You want your valance to be made from 54-inch wide home decor fabrics like these…
…not washable 45-inch fabrics like these:
And chances are, a greater percentage of the right home decor fabrics will fall in the “dry clean” category than the “washable” category.
A good quality valance absolutely has to be lined. Even better, it should also be interlined if it’s in your budget or it’s made of 100% silk. But not all linings are created equally. Sometimes, lining is used as a selling gimmick to price a valance higher, so you’ll have to be careful here. Lining should either be a cotton or a cotton and polyester blend.
The composition itself doesn’t necessarily reveal the quality or lack of it. What matters is how tightly packed the threads are in the lining. If you happen to be at your local home goods store, try this experiment. Look at the lining on a valance up close. Does it look like paper, smooth and white, somewhat sheet-like and sturdy when you touch it? Is it one even surface, without any specks of light being able to penetrate through?
If yes, it’s a good quality lining. If, on the other hand, you can see the crosshatch pattern of the fibers and the lining is hard to grasp like satin would be, then it’s a bad quality lining.
The lining is hidden from view.
The most expensive lining in the world won’t be able to save a poorly constructed window valance, so it’s important to make sure that the workroom knows what it’s doing. When looking at the valance from the direct front, the white lining shouldn’t be visible. At all. Not even one sixteenth of an inch should be peeking from behind. Now, a valance doesn’t necessarily need double side hems like a drapery does, but it could be as simple as cutting the lining slightly shorter than the main fabric so that it’s hidden from view.
The lining was cut just half an inch shorter on this valance to ensure that it won’t show from behind the valance. If you happen to buy a flat valance and bring it home, use a ruler to push the fabric from one side to the other. You can also iron it flat to check this. If the lining bunches up on the other end, while the main fabric stays taught, it means that there’s excess lining and the workroom didn’t sew the valance properly.
This method is a way to hide the lining from the front, but still keep a valance lightweight. Workrooms also typically extend a 1-inch double hem towards the back to give a valance some weight.
One size does not fit all.
Precision is a sign of a high quality valance. But at the same time, gathered valances are popular nowadays and can fit almost any size of window. They’re easy to sew and easy to sell since all you have to do is gather them on a curtain rod. So, does that mean that all gathered valances are poor quality window treatments? Not at all. The kitchen valance you see below is quite rich.
But, you have to start with the goal in mind. You have to know what’s necessary to create a look like this. This kitchen window is roughly 50 inches wide, but it took at least 100 inches of fabric to make it look generously gathered like this. And that’s with a medium-weight home decor fabric with the proper lining. Pay special attention to the size of the window that the manufacturer recommends for their valance.
If the range is within 5 to 10 inches, then it will probably work as long as you’re able to adjust the brackets on the curtain rod or vary the amount of gathering slightly. But if the recommendation is for a wide range of sizes, you have to wonder if it’s realistic. It may very well be that you need to buy one extra valance to achieve the necessary fullness. Here’s my advice for extra wide windows.
Length of 17 inches, or more.
Look on the box the valance comes in at the store, or look up the online version of the product. What does the main photo of the valance look like? How is it pictured on the window? If the photo shows the valance installed on the actual window frame, you should be weary. All manufacturers want to present their products in the best way possible. No manufacturer will deliberately want their valance to look small (unless it really is).
If you were a curtain maker, which of these product pictures would you rather choose? The valance that makes a window appear smaller, or the valance that’s installed higher to make a room appear larger?
Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of luxurious, high quality valances that are installed near the window frame. Sometimes the design of the room and a low ceiling can limit the length of the valance, too. But if you an encounter a product picture like this and the package says that the valance is only 15 inches long, you’ll know why it was hung on the window frame.
The fact remains that high quality valances are installed high up, and to do that they also must be long enough. At minimum, I recommend a valance that’s at least 17 inches long, and even that is short by some standards. If the valance is installed 9 feet from the floor or more, then the valance needs to be 20 inches long or more.
What the back looks like.
The back of the valance will tell you more about its quality than its front. The front is there to sell you on it, but it’s the back that reveals what the workroom did or didn’t do. This is where you’ll be able to see if corners were cut. One common mistake you’ll see on poorly constructed valances is an ugly seam on the back of the valance.
This usually isn’t a problem when a premium lining in white or ivory is used, but it can become a problem if the valance is made with bulky seams or patterned contrast fabric on the back.
The rod pocket is the only stitch you see while standing 6 feet away.
One side benefit of having lining on a valance that people often don’t realize is that it minimizes the amount of visible stitches. There’s really no reason for unnecessary top stitches to show on a lined valance. Even when trim is applied to a valance, it can be done using a thread that matches the fabric color. Here is how a scalloped valance should look up close.
Fringe can be added discreetly, too.
Now, some things will be visible like thread from Roman shade rings, for example. Either way, a good workroom always tries to keep a valance as neatly sewn as possible.
A large, pronounced pattern is centered.
Today’s trends call for vibrant fabrics with large, bold patterns. Oftentimes, these patterns have to be centered on the valance. Imagine how awful the three valances below would look if their large patterns weren’t centered.
Some patterns are just busy anyway, so it won’t matter whether they’re centered or not. Our workroom made the decision not to center the pattern on the valance below.
The decision to either center a pattern or not can be left to interpretation in many cases. If you’re buying a ready-made valance, you’ll hopefully already know what you’re getting. But if you’re working closely with a workroom on a custom project, you’ll want to have this discussion upfront to make sure you’re on the same page.
The valance is made with a generous amount of fabric.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, but a workroom that’s known for good quality valances just doesn’t skimp on fabric. This is especially important if you’re buying a swag, balloon, London, or any other valance that’s supposed to have deep pleats or folds. As valances get wider, they also require more and more fabric to maintain the proper shape. Otherwise, they simply become flat pieces of uninspiring fabric. Here’s how valances that use the proper amount of fabric are supposed to look like:
Hopefully, I’ve helped point you in the right direction so that you’re well-equipped to buy a custom valance that’s right for you.