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The Best Fabric for Curtains and Drapery

With its curves, folds, colors, textures, and patterns, fabric drapery can be exciting. So, picking your fabric should be interesting—even fun. Having the help of a Graber Design Expert ensures that the whole process is positive and satisfying.

Why Choosing the Right Fabric Matters

Choosing to hang drapery is a great decision. Drapery adds an elegance and visual richness that no other window treatment can. It conveys a message about your style and tastes—and that message has a lot to do with the fabric you choose.

An intriguing color or pattern can change the entire mood of a room. A richly textured brocade can invoke fascination and even nostalgia. The glow of the dawn through translucent sheer drapes can be breathtaking. The power of fabric to create interest and even drama is why drapery is so wonderful.

Picking the right fabric is easy with Graber. Every fabric in our sample books has been tested to perform its job flawlessly. There are soft fabrics that move effortlessly. There are stiff fabrics that stand at attention and hold their folds tenaciously. There are subtle fabrics that serve simply as a backdrop, and there are fabrics with patterns so bold that they capture all the attention.

What gives these fabrics their unique personality when fashioned into drapery? There are five main factors: color, pattern, texture, weight, and opacity. And these factors are all affected by what the fabric is made of.

Color, Pattern, and Texture

When you look at a set of drapes, you see color, pattern, and texture. Sometimes color dominates—think heavy drapery in a jewel tone. Sometimes pattern speaks the most boldly, such as when you have a bright floral print on a white background. And sometimes the rough weave and varied surface of the fabric makes texture the most expressive element.

Color Sets the Tone

There’s no right color for drapery, but color matters more than any other single element. Your process for selecting a color should be guided by your tastes, your current décor, and your household needs.

Here are some general color options to get you started:

  • Warm Neutrals —A popular family of colors in which warm primary colors are mixed with blacks, browns, or greys to create a more subdued tone with an underlying sense of warmth.
  • Neutrals (Browns, Greys, Tans) — When you do not want your window treatments to take center stage, choose one of these neutral colors. Aside from white, this neutral palette is the go-to for homeowners seeking anything from the coziness of a country manor to the clean look of a high-rise apartment.
  • Greens and Blues—There is a calming nature to blue that makes it ideal for creating a subdued atmosphere. White and blue is one of the most popular color choices. Greens are similarly calming but also possess some refreshing energy. Both colors are easy on the eyes and can help to create a sort of oasis.
  • Warm and Cool Colors — Red can set a room aglow with energy. A cool lavender can convey calm and serenity. Warm or cool colors can coordinate with other décor elements or be highlighted against a light background.
  • White (in all its variations) — Last but not least. By far the most popular color of window treatment is white or some version of white. From sheer drapery to thick fabrics with textured weaves or bright patterns, white creates the perfect backdrop for just about any interior design scheme you can devise.

Pattern Speaks Loudly—or Softly

Pattern can really say something, though it’s often hard for us to put into words. Patterns actually share some characteristics with the handwritten or printed word—the variations, repetitions, the linearity. The human eye has been well trained to pay attention to words and symbols. So, when you see blue diamonds repeated in rows against a field of neutral blue, you notice it. And because you notice it so clearly, you will quickly make a judgement as to whether you like it or not. And that’s the litmus test for a pattern: do you like it or not.

Another important part of pattern is scale. Small, frequently repeating patterns can sometimes create the impression of vibration. Large, bold patterns appear stationary and feel more like a piece of art than a window fabric. That large, bold pattern might play nicely against a room filled with large, bold design elements, but it might seem out of place in an intricately designed study filled with small pieces of art and cherished keepsakes.

Texture—A Matter of Taste

Texture has two aspects—visual and tactile. When we see a fabric’s texture, we imagine in our minds what it might feel like. We see patterns in the texture and we see variations in light and color created by that texture. Then, when we touch the fabric, we get another sense of texture. It might match the texture we see—or it might feel entirely different.

Both aspects of texture are important. When you look at and touch a fabric, how do you feel about the sensation in your fingertips? Do you like it? If so, does the texture’s appearance also feel satisfying? Color and pattern can attract the eye, but texture is where one falls in love with a fabric.

Fabric Weight—Heavy, Thick, Light, or Thin

Another aspect of drapery fabrics to consider is weight—and in some ways, weight is similar to texture. That’s because like texture, weight has both a visual and a tactile component. And the visual weight and the tactile weight might be quite different: with modern materials, a heavy-looking fabric can feel featherlight in your hand.

But weight has an importance beyond the way it feels. Weight determines how the drapery hangs. Heavy or thick fabrics tend to hang with straight, even, vertical folds, and they do not move much when hit with a gust of wind.

Light or thin fabrics tend to go with the flow, gently flapping in a breeze and opening and closing with the gentle sweep of a hand. This difference in behavior helps to give heavy fabrics their more sturdy, formal feel and lighter fabrics a more casual or delicate impression.

To See or Not to See: Opacity

We’ve talked a lot about how to choose a drapery fabric that looks and feels right. But what about how well the fabric does the job that all window treatments must do: providing privacy and controlling light?

The amount of privacy and light control you get from a fabric has a lot to do with opacity—how much light comes through a fabric and, as an extension, how easy it is to see through a fabric. Because most Graber drapes will be made using a quality sewn-in liner, you can be assured that your drapery will do these jobs very well.

The differences in fabric opacity become more important when looking at sheer and light-filtering fabrics that will not be made with a liner. This is where the help of a Graber Design Expert will be invaluable. Your Graber Design Expert understands the differences between various fabrics and can help you find just the right option to suit your light-control and privacy needs.

The Bottom Line About Drapery, Privacy & Light Control

The truth is nothing does a better job controlling light and privacy than drapery. The way drapery extends well past the sides of the window means you get excellent control of sunlight into the room as well as privacy. And because drapery is endlessly adjustable, you’ll always have just the right amount of light and privacy. Drapery looks beautiful, but don’t let that fool you—drapery works just as hard at controlling light and providing privacy as it does looking good.

Types of Curtain Fabrics

Drapery can be made of a nearly any material you can use to make a fabric. Cotton, linen, polyester, silk, wool, rayon, acrylic, viscose, and mixes of these materials can all make quality drapery fabric. Let’s look at the unique properties of each of these materials.

Natural fabrics

  • Cotton — The workhorse of drapery, this natural fiber can be used to create graceful sheer drapery as well as stiff, opaque fabrics that exude sturdiness and strength.
  • Linen — This natural fabric made from flax has a simple texture that evokes timeless style and tradition. It is very durable, but often develops folds and wrinkles over time. There’s nothing that looks quite like linen, which is why it remains a perennial favorite with homeowners.

Synthetic fabrics

  • Polyester — This is the most versatile of all drapery materials. There’s nothing that can’t be created with polyester. You’ll find light-as-air versions of polyester fabric and thick, rich tapestries. It is among the most durable of all drapery materials, but lighter colors can stain more easily than other materials.
  • Rayon — This versatile fabric derived from wood pulp has properties of both silk and linen. Many richly textured fabrics utilize rayon.
  • Acrylic — Another versatile fabric that is highly durable. Acrylic can imitate wool but can also be woven into a tight knit that can withstand outdoor use.
  • Viscose — A hardworking, durable alternative to silk, this fabric is often used in delicate, textured fabrics.

So, What’s the Best Fabric Material?

Using decades of research and experience, Graber has combined the different materials you see above to produce fabrics that no single material alone could create.

The result is literally the best of all worlds. A thick twill weave, made of a combination of cotton, polyester, and rayon, hangs perfectly and lasts through decades of heavy use. A silky-smooth sheer created with cotton and polyester drapes perfectly, day after day. The combinations are endless, as are the colors, textures, weights, and opacities.

Graber’s fabric innovations mean you get a drapery that hangs, billows, and folds exactly as it should. You get durability that is unsurpassed. And that mixing and blending of ingredients means a huge array of fabric options—which means you can find exactly the right look.

Other Things to Look For—Five More Fabric Features

Color, pattern, and texture are the most important factors to consider when choosing your drapery. The rest of the factors are details—important, but secondary to color, pattern, and texture. Here are five details your Graber Design Expert will help you consider.

1. Durability

Many fabrics made purely of one material can have vulnerabilities that greatly affect the fabric’s durability. To counteract these vulnerabilities, Graber uses a mix of materials to create drapery that hangs better, lasts longer, and looks exquisite.

For example, pure linen fabrics are strong and attractive, but they have a tendency to change over time, developing folds and creases. This tendency can be counteracted by combining linen with synthetic materials to produce a more durable fabric that is far less prone to wrinkling and performs flawlessly. Polyesters, acrylics, and other synthetic material combine with natural fibers to produce more durable fabrics in every color and texture. Each Graber fabric was made to be among the strongest in its category.

That said, each category of fabric has its own relative strength. The weave and weight of a fabric affect durability. Sheer fabrics tear and crease more easily than heavier fabrics, like cotton canvas or a thick, tightly woven polyester. This variation in durability is found within any fabric collection. Your Graber Design Expert can help you find the fabrics that will serve you well for decades to come.

2. Light Control & Light Filtration

What if you want some sunlight in the room—but still want privacy? Enjoy a level of privacy as well as light filtering with a sheer fabric. A sheer fabric can afford excellent light penetration while maintaining some view to the outdoors—served up with an elegance that’s hard to beat. Go to a less sheer fabric for greater light filtering and increased privacy.

What is the best fabric to block sunlight?

Are you looking to really shut out the light? Say, in a bedroom or entertainment room? Try a blackout liner. Sewn onto the outward facing side of the drapery, this lining will not let any light pass through. There will be some light, of course, along the edges of the windows, but it will be quite minimal.

3. Insulation Against Heat & Cold

Drapery of all types will help protect against the heat and the cold. Drapery with a lining can provide excellent insulation, and special-purpose liners can boost that performance. Thicker fabrics do a better job of insulation, but all drapery can have a positive effect on your home’s energy efficiency. Drapery stops drafts and protects against the sun’s heating rays. Harness the power of fabric to make your home a more comfortable place to live

4. Maintenance

All of Graber’s window treatments are built to last. But you can extend the life of your drapery by periodically cleaning them.

The first thing to know about maintaining your drapery is that it should not be washed. Although decorative fabrics are tough, they are not meant to stand up to a washing machine or being washed in soap and water.

The trick to cleaning drapery is consistency. Every time your clean your home, take a minute to vacuum your drapery with the upholstery attachment. This will remove any accumulated dust and reduce the need for a deep cleaning. But, if a deep cleaning is necessary, take your drapes to a dry cleaner who is experienced in cleaning drapery.

One note about sheer fabrics. Sheer drapery is made with the thinnest of all fabrics, and therefore the most delicate. When vacuuming, the upholstery brush might not be gentle enough for your sheer drapes. Instead, try using a handheld vacuum—with its lower suction, there’s less chance of the handheld vacuum inhaling your delicate sheer drapes.

5. Style That Lasts

Fashions come and go. But there are some styles of décor that seem to be timeless. The Traditional home-decorating style, with its warmth and European roots, has been the go-to choice for millions of homeowners. The Modern style, with its straight lines, contrasting darks and lights, and Scandinavian influences, has been around for decades. But, all it takes is a quick perusal through some old magazines to see that there are some other styles of interior design that no one wants to think about anymore.

So, when selecting your drapery, you might want to keep in mind the future. If you’re looking for a style that lasts—so you don’t have to redesign your room anytime soon—choose something Traditional or Modern or some version of those two venerable styles. Graber is constantly researching style trends and selecting color and fabrics that show a strong potential for long-lasting style—so you can feel confident that the fabrics you see in the Graber catalogue will look fresh for years to come.

So, What’s the Most Popular Fabric for curtains and drapery?

Variations of white as well as neutrals—browns, grays, and tans—are top choices for drapery fabric color. Combinations of blue and white are quite popular, as are sheers in white and ivory. But none of that matters if that’s not what you want in your home. The color that speaks to you is the right color for you.

The base material of the fabric is of lesser importance. That’s because modern fabrics utilize a mix of innovative materials and processes to create cloth that is ideal for drapery. Using cotton, rayon, viscose, polyester, and acrylic, you can get the look, and even the feel, of linen or silk or wool—but with none of the disadvantages.

Choose color, then pattern, then texture—and if you make those choices based on your own unique preferences, you’re going to have no trouble finding the right fabric.

Deciding on Drapery—Breaking It Down One More Time

Here’s a simple, step-by-step process on How to Choose the Right Fabric for Your Curtains and Drapery:

  1. Start with color. Once you’ve picked a color or color scheme, the rest of the steps are easy.
  2. Once you’ve got color covered, see if you want any type of pattern—keeping in mind that smaller, repeating patterns are more subtle and big patterns make a big statement.
  3. Next, focus on texture and weight—make sure that the fabric is pleasing to you, both visually and in a tactile sense.
  4. Consider how durable your drapery needs to be and how often you want to clean them (e.g., you probably don’t want to put pure-white sheer drapes in your children’s playroom).
  5. Decide how much light and privacy you want. What’s the right amount of light and privacy for a room? Bedrooms and entertainment rooms are well served by thick fabrics and blackout liners, and an airy living room might be the perfect place for light-filtering linen.

Whatever Graber fabric you choose, you can rest assure that it will be made into the highest quality drapery. Graber constructs some of the finest drapery available today using double-turned hems, mitered corners, sewn-in liners, and bottom weights that guarantee your drapes and curtains hang perfectly.

Yes, there are a lot of different drapery fabrics. So many that it might seem overwhelming. But don’t worry. The first thing to remember is this: your Graber Design Expert is a drapery expert—and there to help you every step of the way.

You do not have to understand everything about fabrics to pick the right one. Your Graber Design Expert can guide you to a fabric that both fits your needs and style. Whatever you choose, the fabric is always of the highest quality and the drapery is always hand-tailored in the U.S.A. And Graber will measure and install your drapery—so that all that’s left for you to do is Delight in the Details.

Are you starting to get some idea what your new drapery would look like? Don’t just dream it—hold it, feel it, see it! Order free swatches today and fall in love with the perfect fabric for the drapery of your dreams!