Walk into any fabric store and you’ll see rows upon rows of beautiful decorator fabric in all sorts of designs.
But how wide is drapery fabric? Most decorator fabrics are 54 inches wide per industry standards, but this may vary slightly. You may also encounter fabrics that are between 50 and 60 inches wide, although those widths are less frequently found. Of course, there are also railroaded fabrics, where the width is the entire yardage on the bolt.
Let’s go into more detail to help you pick what’s right for you, as well as how much yardage you’ll need for your own decorating project.
54 Inches Is the Industry Standard for Decorator Fabric Widths, But Not Always
54 inches is the industry standard, but do you know why?
That’s because back in the day before there were any UPS trucks, horsedrawn carriages used to be 54 inches wide. Decorator fabrics were made exactly 54 inches wide to be able to be transported, and that rule stuck ever since. Fast forward to today, you’ll often find most fabrics to be 54 inches wide measuring between the two selvages when laid out.
A selvage is the strip of excess fabric on each side of a fabric. Whenever you’re able to see a clear selvage like the one below, you can expect the printed (usable) part of the fabric in between to be about 54 to 55 inches wide.
When you don’t see a selvage and the printed part of the fabric runs almost entirely across the bolt, you can typically expect the fabric to be about 56 to 58 inches, and sometimes even up to 60 inches wide. These are oftentimes heavier fabrics like the ones below, but you’ll often also find that lightweight silks and faux silks are made this way, too.
Another thing to consider is also whether the print or pattern runs fully across the entire width of the fabric. This usually happens with embroidered fabric. The embroidered part often runs 50 or 51 inches across, even though the base fabric below is 54 inches wide or wider. Be mindful of this when shopping for your fabric.
You want to focus on the width of the usable part of the fabric, not just the width of the base fabric. Also, not all fabrics run up the roll. Some fabrics are railroaded. In other words, the design is turned sideways, or 90 degrees. You won’t be able to create a drapery with railroaded fabric since fabric won’t be long enough.
Railroaded fabrics do come in handy when you’re trying to make window treatments that are very wide, but don’t require a lot of length. Railroaded fabrics are perfect for valances and extra wide Roman shades.
How Much Yardage Will I Need?
Now that you’ve determined how wide the decorator fabric is, you’ll need to determine the yardage that you’ll need. There are two things that you must take into account when trying to determine the yardage needed for your custom draperies (or any other type of custom window treatment).
- Fabric pattern repeats.
- Length and width of the drapery.
Fabric Pattern Repeats
If you’re aiming for a solid or small-scale pattern for your drapery fabric, then it’s easy to calculate the yardage that you’ll need. But the larger the pattern becomes, the more yardage you’ll need.
First, you want your draperies to be identical if you want to pair them up on each side of a window. It’s going to look very ugly if say, a particular part of the design starts 10 inches down on one drapery and 20 inches down on the other drapery. This is not always important, but it’s important to those who want quality draperies on their windows.
Second, once a drapery width gets past its standard one panel width of 50 inches, you’ll want to match the pattern across the seams. That involves skipping ahead in order to align the pattern and looks like this:
Now back to the idea of fabric pattern repeats. Repeats can either be vertical or horizontal. It just means how many inches are in between each time that a particular repeats in either direction.
Even if you have a large repeat, you’ll often notice that you’ll rarely have to skip more than 12 inches or so in between each of the fabric panels. But it can quickly add up. If you’re making two draperies that require a total of 6 panels of fabric that require 12 inches of fabric to be wasted in between, that’s an extra 2 yards you’ll need to buy.
Also, be mindful of large-scale patterns that have a half-drop repeat. Those can require a lot more yardage than initially calculated. Here’s an example of a half-drop repeat on a fabric.
Length and Width of the Drapery
Once you’ve found the right fabric, determined its width and what size repeats it has, it’s time to figure out the size that the drapery needs to be. When thinking about an outside-mounted window treatment like draperies, remember one thing –
You want a drapery to frame your window, not cover it.
A window treatment should add emphasis to a window’s features, and there are two ways to do this:
- Emphasize the view outside with the help of an outside-mounted window treatment, or
- Emphasize the woodwork of the window frame with the help of an inside-mounted window treatment.
Now, back to draperies and outside-mounted window treatments. The illustration below shows what the correct and incorrect ways to hang a pair of draperies are.
How High to Hang a Drapery
If you only have 8-foot ceilings, hang the drapery as close to the ceiling as possible. If you have crown molding, hang the drapery pole immediately below it. With rooms that have 9-foot ceilings and above, you have more options. You can still hang the drapery right under the ceiling, but you can also hang it lower.
Just make sure that the drapery is installed at least 12 inches above the top of the window. The closer a custom drapery is hung to the window frame, the more it will look like a cheap, storebought curtain and less like the custom drapery that it’s supposed to be.
How Far From the Floor to Hang a Drapery
Your drapery can generously puddle on the floor, for which you’ll need an extra 2 to 5 inches of length. If you want just a modest brush with the floor, add about 1/2 to 1 inch to the overall length.
Even if you don’t want the drapery to touch the floor, make sure you don’t hang it too high. If there’s a 1-inch gap between the drapery and floor, you’ve hung the drapery way too high and need to lower it a bit.
Panel Vs. Drapery
From a workroom perspective, a panel is a piece of fabric that’s used to construct a particular type of window treatment. So, we say that a drapery can be made of one panel or several panels. The reason why so many people assume that a panel IS a drapery is because most storebought curtains are made in single panel widths only.
Since a decorator fabric is about 54 inches wide, you can expect each panel of the drapery to be about 50 or 51 inches wide flat once the seams are created on each side. After that, draperies can be made with several panels to have widths that are known as a width and a half, a double width, etc. A rod pocket header makes the drapery slightly wider than a hand-pleated header with pinch pleats,
Euro pleats, or goblet pleats, for example. Here’s that information, simplified in a useful table. This is a rough estimate, but you should expect similar results with a 54-inch drapery fabric of medium-weight that’s been lined with standard lining. The gathered rod pocket and pleated header widths are widths you should expect after the drapery has been hung and adjusted to fit the window in its natural, free-flowing form.
|Width||Total Drapery Width, Flat||Gathered Rod Pocket Width||Pleated Header Width|
|Single||50″ – 51″||24″ – 28″||21″ – 24″|
|Width and a Half||76″ – 78″||36″ – 42″||32″ – 36″|
|Double||102″ – 106″||48″ – 55″||43″ – 48″|
|Double and a Half||128″ – 134″||60″ – 70″||54″ – 60″|
|Triple||153″ – 160″||72″ – 84″||65″ – 72″|
If this sounds like a lot of numbers, here are a few examples of draperies in actual rooms designs and the suggested widths for each example.
A standard 40-inch window is framed by single width draperies.
Each silk drapery here is a width and a half. Add 3 to 5 inches to the overall length to achieve a similar puddled effect.
Single panel draperies with pinch pleats.
Rod pocket draperies that are each made with single wide panels.
Euro pleat draperies. For each drapery, consider a double panel width for wide windows to achieve similar results.
Double wide draperies with a board-mounted valance.
Each drapery here is a width and half wide. Add about 1-1/2 yards of yardage for each of the bustle swags.
A width and a half wide silk draperies.