I’m cheap. If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, then you already know that about me. And I thrive on the challenge of finding ways to DIY and decorate my home on a budget.
But there’s one area where I’m a complete snob.
When it comes to draperies, I’m willing to spend the extra money on custom draperies made specifically for my windows, and I will never, EVER buy ready-made, store-bought draperies or curtains for my home. Of course, I do have the advantage of knowing how to make them myself, so that saves quite a bit of money. But sewing draperies isn’t difficult at all, so let me explain why you should also become a drapery snob like me. :-D (Caution: This is a very wordy post!!!)
1. Drapery length
Today, most designers and decorators hang draperies high and wide on a window. Erin at Elements of Style even issued a design “public service announcement” about this last year demonstrating the “do” and “don’t” of hanging draperies.
Here are a few examples from rooms I’ve decorated over the past few years:
John and Alice’s bedroom, where I used canvas drop cloths, but I actually lined them and pleated them, just like drapery workroom-quality window treatments. I also added a ribbon trim detail along the leading edge of each panel. But you’ll notice how high I hung them — just an inch or so below the crown moulding. Hanging draperies this way adds visual height to the ceiling.
My mom’s house, with the draperies hung (once again) just a couple of inches below the crown moulding. Again, this creates visual height to the room. The ceiling in my my mom’s house is only eight feet high.
Julia’s kitchen, with the draperies hung high and wide, making the window look much larger than it actually is.
Anyway, you get the idea, right? High and wide, people!!
Just for reference, in a room with an 8-foot ceiling and crown moulding, my standard length for draperies is 92 inches. High and wide.
Well, evidently curtain manufacturers still haven’t gotten the memo, because their “standard” drapery lengths are completely outdated. If you have an 8-foot ceiling, you can choose between the 84-inch panel, which is way too short, or the 96-inch panel, which is too long. Either way, in order to hang the panels high, you’re stuck having to either sew on extra fabric to the short ones, or hem the long ones. And if you’re going to have to break out the sewing machine anyway, why not just make custom panels for your windows?
Even at places like Restoration Hardware, where you pay a fortune for their super high quality ready-made Belgian linen draperies, you still have to choose between the too short 84-inch panels, or the too long 96-inch panels. And at $340 to $375 per panel for their linen draperies, that’s quite a price to pay for something that won’t quite fit your window.
2. Drapery width
Ready-made curtain panels are generally somewhere between 45 and 54 inches wide. If you have a window that’s no wider than 36 inches, and you use two 54-inch panels on that narrow window, that’s perfect.
But what about when you have a very wide window, like the one I have in my living room?
That window is 100 inches wide. And because I hang my draperies high and wide, I generally hang my drapery rods 10 inches past the outside edges of the window. So visually, that makes my window 120 inches wide.
Now I know a lot of people would simply purchase two panels, and put one panel on each side…even on a window this huge. Please don’t do this. Please.
Drapery workroom standards say that the width of your draperies should equal 2.5 to 3 times the width of your window for proper fullness. Now I know that many people don’t actually use their draperies these days. They’re just there to give color, softness, and height to the window.
But you still want them to look like they’re functional, and not look like some cheap, skimpy drapery panel from Bed, Bath & Beyond, right? Just like you want your fake eyelashes to look real, and not to shout, “Hello! I’m fake!” And just like you want your hair color to look natural, and not like something out of a bottle. You want your draperies to look like they’re actual, functional draperies, even if they’re not.
So according to the drapery workroom standard, the draperies for my 120-inch window should be a minimum of 300 inches wide to allow for proper fullness on that wide window. (FYI, for stationary panels, I do skimp on that number a bit sometimes, but not too much.)
So some of my choices would be:
- Purchase six 54-inch wide drapery panels from a place like Bed, Bad & Beyond at a price of about $50 to $90 each, and hang three panels on each side of the window. Total cost, about $300 to $540 for the correct amount of fabric to give the proper fullness to my draperies. They would still be the incorrect length, and I’d have three separate panels on each side unless I actually took the time to sew them together.
- Purchase six 46-inch wide “high-quality” drapery panels from a place like Restoration Hardware at the cost of $375 each, and hang three panels on each side of the window. Again, too long (or too short, depending on which length I order), and three separate panels on each side unless I take the time to basically remake them into one panel. But when you pay $2250 for draperies for your window, isn’t it kind of foolish to have to remake them?
- Have my choice of any drapery fabric out there (within reason, of course — I’m m not going to pay $100/yard for fabric.) Order the exact quantity I need for my window. Sew my own custom draperies that are the precise length and width to fit my specific window. End up with custom, drapery workroom-quality window treatments at a comparatively decent price.
Number three is the obvious choice. Even at $22/yard for my living room drapery fabric, those 18 yards of fabric were a much wiser choice than buying some ill-fitting, cheaply-made, ready-made drapery panels from a place like Bed, Bath & Beyond, or purchasing some ill-fitting, incredibly expensive, ready-made panels from a place like Restoration Hardware.
3. Drapery lining
Drapery lining can make or break your window treatments.
I remember in our very first house, when I was just learning how to decorate my house, I made my very first pair of curtain panels. I chose a fabric with a small red plaid pattern, and got to work. I didn’t know anything about drapery lining at the time, so I didn’t line my curtains.
When I hung them, my heart sank. The beautiful red turned to orange when the sun streamed through the fabric. I was so disappointed, and I hated those curtains.
I have since learned about drapery lining, and unless I’m specifically wanting something soft and flowy, I always use blackout lining on my drapery panels. This way, there’s no sun streaming through my fabric to distort the color.
And because I hang my drapery panels high and wide, the blackout lining doesn’t actually block out the sun from the room when the draperies are open. It just makes the draperies look like they should, and like I intended for them to look.
Have you ever seen the stuff that passes for “drapery lining” on most ready-made drapery panels these days? The last time I looked at “lined” ready-made drapery panels, I was shocked at how thin and cheap the cotton lining was. It did little or nothing for the draperies, and only gave the manufacturer what they needed to label their product as “lined,” which, of course, they charge extra for.
If you want actual, usable lining on the back of ready-made drapery panels, you generally have to purchase that separately, and then it just attaches to the back of your panels with snaps or pins of some sort. On custom panels, the drapery lining is actually sewn into the panel, giving it a nice, heavy weight, as well as a quality, custom look.
4. Drapery quality
I don’t care where you purchase them or how much you spend, ready-made, mass-produced drapery panels will NEVER be made with drapery-workroom quality. Ever.
The last time I purchased ready-made panels, I ironed them and hung them, only to find that the side hems were pulled and puckered, causing the edges of the panels to be raised off the floor about an inch or two.
When you make your own, you control the quality of the finished product. And I personally love that control. That way, if something puckers or pulls, I know I only have myself to blame.
So have I convinced you yet? Are you ready to become a drapery snob with me?
Hang ‘em high and wide, and just say “no” to ready-made, mass-produced drapery panels!! Dust off that sewing machine, purchase some fabric, and learn how to make your own drapery-workroom quality draperies that are custom made for your specific windows. You’ll be amazed at the difference it’ll make in your room. And once you go custom, you’ll never go back.