When I go to a high-end hotel or a well-furnished home my eyes invariably lingers on the curtains there. Usually, the curtains will be the richest fabric in the room. Here is a list of the best fabrics usually used as curtain material.
Everyone takes a lot of care and consideration when they decide on the curtain fabric – it is a costly buy, whether you are making it yourself or getting it made; a decision that needs to be taken with thought and deliberation.
If I was changing my curtain, what I would do is – go to the best fabric shop in the town on a sunny day when it is not too crowded and has good sunlight and spend some time touching and looking at the different fabrics there.
Even if I have all the measurements noted down with yardage calculated and found that particular fabric I always had in mind, I would not buy it right away. You need to see the fabric in the background of your home. Get a small piece of the fabric and take it home and see if it really matches the rest of your room in the real setting.
If you are short of time and you need to buy it right away, buy enough and a little more so that you do not have to return to the shop and find that the fabric is not available anymore. Look for the label prewashed; this will prevent shrinkage at a later date.
The texture of the fabric, transparency, the way it falls and gathers are all important considerations when choosing the best fabric for the curtains for your home
In this article I will cover:
- Best fabrics for curtains
- What kind of fabric can be used for sheer curtains?
- 2. Voile
- 3. Lace
- 4. Nylon net
- 5. Eyelet cotton fabric
- 6. Muslin
- 7. Gauze
- Best materials for regular curtains
- 8. Cotton
- 9. Synthetic fabrics
- 10. Linen
- 11. Silk
- 12. Velvet
- 13. Damask and Brocade
- 14. Synthetic blends
- 15. Lining material
- What is a good fabric weight for Curtains?
Best fabrics for curtains
Usually, there are two layers to curtains – the outer curtains called Blackout curtains that block all light from entering the room and an inside layer which gives just enough privacy or nothing at all, a sheer layer. If you do not want this kind of luxury of light proofness, you can go for just the single-layer curtain with an enough-dense fabric that blocks out light and gives privacy.
1.Blackout curtain material
Blackout curtains do multiple duties- they are supplosed to block light and even cold draught. You can use a very thick multilayered synthetic material(polyester or nylon) with a special finish (polymer coatings) or a lined curtain as a blackout curtain. A heavy woollen twill fabric (Wool serge ) or medium weight synthetic suede or a lined cotton twill or lined brocade can be used as a blackout curtain. You can read about the proper lining to use for the blackout effect below.
What kind of fabric can be used for sheer curtains?
Sheer curtains are used more for their aesthetics than their functionality as you can see through these thin transparent curtains. It is usually used as an inner layer rather than on its own. They are combined with a heavier curtain in the front, or with a blind behind.
Sometimes a sheer curtain is used if you want to filter out the light only partially but at the same time give an illusion of privacy. They are also used behind glass doors, inside wardrobes, over kids’ beds or as romantic drapery over beds.
Voile is a woven fabric which is soft, lightweight and sheer. It is usually 100% cotton though it can also be polyester. It has a very fine surface (the better quality ones) with a good drape and is best for letting in just that amount of light inside to make you feel some privacy at the same time being sheer. Learn more about the voile fabric here.
Lace fabric can be used as the sheer curtain ; the open weave of this fabric is suitable for the purpose. Good quality dress making lace can be expensive though. What people usually do is to look for cheaper varieties of affordable lace – remember you need a lot of fabric for curtains. Leavers lace / Calais lace is a generic name for a lace category used as curtains.
Learn more about different types of lace fabrics here.
4. Nylon net
Nylon net is an inexpensive option as a sheer curtain. It has a knitted construction. It is not as fine as voile. Polyester voile is the name for polyester net fabric used for curtains.
Remember that the net used for curtain shouldnot ideally stretch.
If you like those net fabrics with small satin feel rounds scattered, they are called Point d’Esprit fabrics (Also sometimes refered for lace curtains) Really pretty.
5. Eyelet cotton fabric
Eyelet cotton fabric has small eyelets all over the fabric giving the look of an open weave fabric.
This is a thin cotton fabric which is very inexpensive and lightweight enough to be used as a sheer curtain, though not as sheer as others in this list. More on Muslin fabric here.
Gauze is a super sheer open weave fabric – it has a special weave called leno weave which makes for its open weave look – two warp yarns are twisted around weft yarn in an 8 construction.
Best materials for regular curtains
For curtains that are not see-through, you need a durable opaque fabric that has a high thread count but at the same time has a great drape and will fall gracefully. This is usually labeled in your store as decorator weight fabrics /drapery weight fabrics.
Not all fabrics in a home decor store are made equal. Just because a fabric is in the home decor section does not mean that it is suitable for curtains. It may be for making bedsheets or covering your sofa and marked as upholstery. They are not suitable for making curtains.
Simple plain weave cotton fabrics in various weights are used to make curtains. They are popular because cotton drapes well, feels soft and looks simple. Cotton curtains in a drapery weight material are thick and they are very popular for their looks as well as function. You may not need to line drapery weight cotton fabric, though lining can add to its strength and durability and looks.
Quilting and dressmaking cotton are also used for making curtains but they are usually thin and they do not give adequate coverage because of their near transparency when exposed to light. You will need to line these fabrics to use as curtains with good coverage and opaqueness.
They are also not wide enough because of which you will need to join yardage to get the width you want. On their own they are inexpensive but when you add lining to this fabric you would think it is better to buy a more heavyweight fabric which is thick enough.
Madras Cotton is chequered cotton with really bright colors and is used for festive happy feel curtains – it has a loose leno weave. Twill cotton, cotton duck are thick cotton materials suitable for making curtains. Twill cotton has a subtle pattern on it as part of its weave which is very attractive. Cotton duck is thick, though a little rough. Gingham cotton is check-patterned cotton that is very popular to make kitchen curtains. If you want a shiny look in cotton you can ask for Polished cotton- it has a glazed finish applied on the surface.
Cotton has a disadvantage though – it shrinks a lot.
9. Synthetic fabrics
Synthetic fabrics are a comparatively inexpensive option for curtains (Polyester, Nylon). Good quality fabrics have a satin-like finish on the face which is very appealing. They are sturdy enough and look good in their fall. The most appealing qualities for me is that synthetic curtains withstand wrinkling and is easy to wash and drape as it is lightweight than cotton drapery fabrics. But they may not last too many washes, depending on the quality of the fabric..
Some synthetic fabrics also come with UV blocking ability which is a big deal for areas where protection against the sun is a deal breaker. Learn more about different types of synthetic fabrics here.
Medium weight Linen/heavy weight linen (not dressmaking linen) is very suitable as a drapery fabric because it is thick and durable and strong and has an unmatched elegance.
The problem with linen fabric is that it wrinkles fast and some may hang stiffly. Linen drapes need dry cleaning to keep its look.
But the best thing is that with every wash, it will look better and fall better. If you go for a linen blend, you can combine most of the good qualities of linen and get rid of the qualities like wrinkling and moisture absorption to a degree. More on Linen here.
These fabrics are beautiful and bring on a look of luxury with their luminous face. But you will need to line the silk curtains if you value privacy and protection from the sun’s rays. Most silk fabrics are dry clean only which is another expense added to the price of the fabric. When exposed to sunlight silk fades, so silk curtains are used usually in areas away from sunlight.
Read more about different types of Silk fabrics here.
This is a very expensive piled fabric which looks luxurious. It is thick and has the ability to keep out cold. Most of the velvet fabrics can be used for making curtains but some may not be. The suitable velvet will be very heavy so you have to make sure that the wall studs to which the curtain poles are attached in your home will hold the weight.
Learn more about the different types of velvet fabric here.
13. Damask and Brocade
These are specialty drapery fabrics with floral and other patterns on the surface. Damask has a two-tone design ie two tones of the same color. In Brocade fabric you will see such rich patterns in a different colours. They can be made of cotton or silk fibers. These fabrics are very luxurious and very expensive and may need to be lined to preserve their patterns and drape
14. Synthetic blends
I would say blended fabrics are the best fabric for making curtains, as they combine many of the good qualities of synthetic and cotton/linen/silk fabrics. Polycotton, poly rayon are all good choices, in suitable weights.
Do not use blended fabrics/synthetic in kitchens or near fireplaces as they may catch fire easily. Cotton blends are very easy to maintain. No wrinkling like 100% cotton or linen; no fading like silk. They also fall and stack nicely and are great for even the smallest windows. If they are lined the synthetic – cotton blends can look as good as any top-level curtain material.
15. Lining material
If you have paintings and wooden furniture or even books you need curtains that will block harmful UV rays from damaging them. Normal drapery weight curtains are usually enough but you may want more protection. You will also have to line curtains if they are made of thin dressmaking fabrics for full privacy as well as protection from suns rays.
Black-out, thermal, and poly-cotton in colours like white and ivory are the usual fabrics used for linings. Blackout, as the name suggests, is used when you need full-on opaqueness. Thermal lining has a coating on one side which keeps heat from escaping outside.
Dark coloured lining fabric is used for darker curtains. Most people buy lining fabric which matches the main curtain fabric though at times a contrast look may be desired. The lining should be of good quality lest it mars the look of the curtain. You may also be dismayed by the bleeding of the lining fabric if you decide to cut cost and choose a poor quality lining fabric.
What is a good fabric weight for Curtains?
For ordinary curtains which do not need to block light and is going to be lined for full coverage, anything from 150 gms/yard is considered fine. But for dense curtains you need fabrics marked 200 gms/ yard and above. Read more on fabric weight here.