The Purpose of the Curtain
Firstly, consider what purpose will the curtain be serving? Is it primarily for decoration, for example, or to help keep the house warm? It is likely that keeping the light out of a room is more likely to be the purpose of a curtain in a bedroom than in a dining room, for example. The function of the curtain will determine the type of fabric you will require to a large extent; thick, tightly woven or coated fabrics will be required to block out sunlight and help insulate rooms, whereas purely decorative curtains can be made from a wider variety of fabrics, including translucent, loosely woven sheer fabrics. Most curtain fabric is made of uncoated fabric that is more tightly woven that sheer fabrics, improving light absorption and insulation. Coated fabrics are similarly woven to uncoated, but have an opaque rubber backing applied to the rear of the fabric, that further improves light absorption but also weighs the fabric down somewhat.
The Location of the Curtain
Where the curtain is going to be placed will obviously dictate various aspects of the fabric, from colour to style. If the room is smartly decorated or often serves a formal purpose, fabrics like silk, satin and velvet may be preferable to standard cotton. Conversely, rooms in which curtains are likely to accumulate dirt may be better off fitted with harder wearing fabrics that take well to regular washings; denim, linen and cotton for example. A good compromise, for formal rooms that see a lot of use, is a man-made equivalent of a delicate fabric.
Ensure that the style of the curtains is appropriate for the room as well; thick traditional curtains in a modern, minimalist room will probably look very out of place, for example. Consider whether you want the curtains to drape like cotton or linen, or billow like silk and taffeta; this will directly affect which fabrics are suitable for your purposes.
Obviously the colour of the curtain must fit that of the room it is in; no matter how nice the fabric may be, it will look horrendous if the colour doesn’t match the decor of the room. The same goes for any patterns and textures of the fabric, as too many or contrasting patterns can be overpowering. If you are unsure, a good rule to follow is that of plain curtains on patterned walls and patterned curtains on plain walls. A good choice of curtain fabric will compliment the feel and theme of the room; hence the decoration, formality and function of a room will directly affect which fabrics will be most suitable for the curtains.
There’s not escaping it – good quality curtains are expensive. The size of the window alone may limit your choice of fabrics, as large windows are especially costly to cover. In the case of a strict budget, it is always best to ensure that the curtain is full and properly fitted before worrying about the quality of the material; the nicest fabric in the world will look a mess if it doesn’t fit the window that it is intended to cover.
Once you have a good idea about what you want the curtain to do, what you want it to look like and how much you can afford to spend on it – you’re in a much better position to start looking at fabrics. There is never any pressure to buy immediately either; most fabric retailers offer samples of their materials that you can take away and look at again at your leisure. Lastly, never trust descriptions or on-screen representations of colours and patterns; the only way to gauge the look of a curtain is to see it in real life, with real lighting, where you can get a feeling for the pattern and texture of the material. You can always buy the same material later from the internet.
That concludes my guide to choosing a fabric for your new made to measure curtains; I hope it has been of use!