You’re ready to introduce custom draperies into your home, how exciting! But to pull off this kind of project and make sure you end up with a well-dressed window, you’ll have to be careful to choose the right kind of fabric. But what is the best fabric for draperies anyway? I’ve sewn hundreds (if not thousands) of drapery panels over the years, and this is what I can tell you works best from personal experience.
There’s No Other Way – You Absolutely Must Use Home Decor Fabrics
Whether you go to your local home decor fabric store or just find the home decor section on your fabric website, the point is the same – You must use actual home decor fabrics. It’s easy to get caught up in light-weight fabrics from your local Walmart (no insult intended), but don’t do it. You wouldn’t bring a cheap polyester to a tailor to create a designer suit for you, so don’t do it to your drapery maker, either.
In case you’re wondering, home decor fabrics for draperies are about 54 inches wide on the roll and medium-weight. When you walk into your local fabric store, they’ll look something like this:
Display of home decor fabrics.
Know Your Budget and Know Your Yardage Needed
Most people are used to drapery panels that are only 50 inches wide, but for many windows, a wider width may be necessary to have the right coverage. Check out this calculator to help you determine how much coverage you’ll need. Once you calculate how wide your drapes need to be, you’ll be able to tell how many yards of fabric you’ll need.
You can expect to pay about $15 to $30 per yard of fabric at the average home decor store, but if you’re working with an interior designer or want the kinds of fabrics you see in the mansions that make magazine covers, don’t be surprised if the cost is over $100 per yard in some cases. And if you happen to find a fabric that has a brand new roll at $10 per yard, buy it right away if you like it.
I promise you it will be gone if you take your time thinking about it. So, if you’re on a budget, you may have to become your own interior designer and shop for your own fabrics. You may also have to consider fabrics with smaller patterns. Fabrics that have pattern repeats of 13 inches or more will require extra yardage. You can learn more about pattern repeats on curtains in this post.
Be Careful with Fabrics That Aren’t Pliable Enough
When I tell some of my clients to stay away from thin, flimsy fabrics, some of them tend to immediately go for thick, heavy-weight fabrics.
A drapery has to… well, it has to drape, that’s what its name says.
You have to be able to dress it into its proper folds once it’s hung on the window. This may not be a big issue if the drapery is decorative only (meaning that it stays put without opening or closing it) or if it’s floor-length only. But anything that requires more fullness or length means that you’ll need more fabric that needs to be handled. You want to make sure you pick a fabric that flows well.
Most people know to stay away from tapestry fabrics and fabrics with heavy backings, but there’s more to this. I’ll give you a few examples where your project could go wrong.
Many polyesters are woven into a thicker fabric. These usually don’t have a thick backing, but many of them are reversible. Be careful with these kinds of fabrics, as many of them often take a long time to “memorize” their folds once you dress the window. If you find a fabric like this, make sure it’s ultra soft. The two drape examples below are made from woven polyesters, but these fabrics were pliable enough to drape properly.
Fabrics with Protective Finishes
A popular trend, especially for commercial spaces where you need special, fire-retardant fabric. But, some protective finishes often make a fabric less pliable (a bad thing), while others make the fabric crisper on top of giving it a nice sheen (a good thing).
Cotton fabric with a protective finish. Notice how the fabric is crisp but very pliable.
You may come across a duck cotton or twill cotton. Now, the majority of those fabrics will work just fine and are actually quite commonly used. But you want to be careful with the ones that are too thick.
If your cotton drapery is able to ruffle like this rod pocket drapery, then you’ve picked the right fabric.
Don’t let the examples above keep you away from those kinds of fabrics. The choice of fabrics is often more an art than a science. But if you want to keep it safe and don’t want to worry, go with soft, medium-weight cottons, silks, or faux silks. Also, remember that they must be about 54 inches wide each.
Up close image of an embroidered faux silk drapery. Faux silks are usually 100% polyester fabrics.
Picking the Right Kind of Lining
Most drapery linings won’t interfere much with how your drapery will flow, provided that you followed the advice above and chose the right face fabric. Blackout linings can be a bit stiff, however, so if this is a concern, consider getting interlining instead. Interlining is a soft, felt-like material that’s also very potent when it comes to blocking the sun and being a thermal barrier.
Also, if your chosen fabric is 100% silk, you will absolutely have to use interlining, or else the silk will fade.
Examples of the Right Home Decor Fabrics
I hope that this post has helped guide you in the right direction to pick the right fabric. Lastly, I’ll leave you with a few examples of home decor fabrics that you may come across. All those would make beautiful draperies!
Cotton stripe damask fabric.
Cotton damask fabric.
Cotton and linen blend fabric.
Embroidered cotton fabric.