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Home | Interior Decorating Blog | Decorating Tips and Advice | Curtain Terms & Definitions

Curtain Terms & Definitions

Category: Decorating Tips and Advice
Posted/Updated: 04/05/2010 23:23:02
Views: 37420

With so many different choices in designs, it's difficult to grasp what all the different terms mean. The following are some very commonly used terms in the trade that you may find useful as a consumer:

What is an ALLOWANCE? See overhang.

What is an APRON? An apron is the wooden molding part that frames the bottom of your window.

What is an ASCOT? An ascot is a triangular swag with a sharp tip. It is gathered and commonly seen in valances or draperies. It requires relatively little fabric, so it is one of the least expensive and budget-friendly ways to dress a window.

What is an AUSTRIAN SHADE? This is a shade that is shirred along its entire length. It can either be stationary or be pulled up. It only works with light-weight fabrics such as sheers or soft cottons. Austrian shades require a lot of precision in labor and are very fabric-consuming, so unfortunately, they have become difficult to find nowadays.

What is an AWNING? An awning is usually a stationary board-mounted valance that projects out from the window in a sloped fashion. Sometimes they need wires or slats in the back to prop them forward.

What is an AWNING WINDOW? Awning windows are hinged and swing open towards the outside.

What is a BALLOON SHADE/VALANCE? A balloon (also known as a cloud) is a section that has enough fullness to create round "poufs" that are pushed out by the walls or window panes. Balloon valances are stationary; balloon shades can be drawn up by a cord.

What is BANDING? Strips of fabric that are sewn to the edge of the window curtain. The banding fabric usually solid or features a small-scale pattern and is complementary to the main fabric.

What is BANNER VALANCE? A banner valance includes triangularly cut fabric pieces that overlap together.

What is a BAY WINDOW? Usually a set of three recessed windows that are positioned at an angle to each other.

What is a BELL? You may see this sometimes referred to as a trumpet as well. Both are similar. A bell is the part of the valance that projects out into a triangular cone, usually in the center in between swags.

What is a BIAS CUT? A bias cut is a section of a window treatment that is cut diagonally to go along with the grain of certain fabrics. This is usually done in jabots to add interest, but mostly, it is done to conserve fabric. We do not recommend bias cuts as that stretches the fabric and allows for cutting errors. Bias cuts should only be made when the grain of the fabric is a bias grain.

What is a BISHOP SLEEVE? Instead of tying a curtain back by sweeping it to one side, bishop sleeves are created by tying a curtain in the center. The top portion in a bishop sleeve has more volume (like a tucked in blouse). Because bishop sleeve draperies need more length, add at least 2 extra inches to the length when measuring.

What is BLACKOUT LINING? This is a thick, vinyl-like lining that is used to block out the sun and heat. It is not recommended for many window treatments, but window treatments with flat sections are ideal for it. Blackout lining is also referred to as blockout lining.

What is a BOX PLEAT? This is a pleat that is folded over twice behind the header. Box pleats are commonly used in balloon shades to add fullness, although they are also used in other window treatment styles.

What is a BOW WINDOW? Usually a set of five windows that are positioned at a slight angle to each other.

What is a BUTTERFLY PLEAT? A two-fold pleat on a drapery very similar to a pinch pleat.

What is a CAFE CURTAIN? This is simply a panel that covers the bottom of the window (usually the bottom half).

What is a CAFE ROD? Cafe rods usually have a smaller diameter and are less ornate than other decorative rods. They are used to hang cafe curtains.

What are CASCADES? See jabots.

What is a CASING? This is the wooden molding around the window. Also known as the window frame.

What is a COMBINATION ROD? This is 1 2-in-1 rod that has two curtain rods attached to each other. It is used for layered curtains such as valances and draperies that are to be installed on the same window.

What is a CONTINENTAL ROD? A standard size is generally 2 1/2 inches wide, but flat. A continental rod comes with brackets that make up the projection. Generally, the projection is 2 1/2 inches, although some major retailers carry continental rods with smaller and larger returns.

What is a CORNICE? A cornice is simply a window treatment that is installed onto a lined wooden board. Cornices generally feature padded and upholstered sections.

What is a DOUBLE HEM? This is the folding of the fabric twice towards the back, or lining, part of a curtain. Double hems add strength and provide a means to sew drapery weights discreetly. Therefore, double hems are common in draperies. Keep in mind that double hems are not always appropriate. They are best in designs where strength and weight are needed.

What is a DRAPERY? The term drapery is used very commonly in custom window treatments. Even though it can be used interchangeably with panel or curtain, the term additionally implies that the panel or curtain is heavy. Therefore, draperies are usually fuller, heavier, lined, and otherwise constructed with better quality materials than curtains.

What is a DRAPERY CLEARANCE? In order to pair up draperies with valances, the valance and its curtain rod must be installed with a generous clearance (return) so that a drapery and its curtain rod can fit underneath without any obstructions. For lined custom draperies, a drapery clearance should be between 5 and 6 inches.

What is a DROP? This term is commonly used when discussing swags on valances. This simply tells you how many inches a short part of a curtain, such as a swag, drops from top header to bottom hem.

What is FACE FABRIC? This is the fabric that projects out the most and predominates in a valance. Since is faces the room's interior, it gets to be called face fabric.

What is FESTOON? See swag.

What is a FLOATING BOTTOM HEM? Found in draperies. The term "floating bottom hem" simply means that the lining and face fabric are not joined at the bottom hem, but instead are sewn separately. Floating bottom hems are a sign of a good quality drapery because they don't allow a drapery to bunch up at the bottom because of any unevenness between the lining and face fabric.

What is a FRENCH DOOR? A French door is made of glass panes from its top to its bottom. They generally lead to a porch or patio.

What is a FULLNESS? How much a fabric needs to be gathered on a curtain rod, related to the actual width of the fabric. Usually, this fullness is two to three times the width. Fullness depends on the thickness of fabric. For example, faux silks and silks need the most fullness. Curtains made in these fabrics will need three times as much fabric for three times fullness. Two times fullness is enough for heavier fabrics or fabrics with interlining added to the curtain.

What is a GROMMET? A grommet is a punched out hole with a ring around it (called an eyelet). Grommets are a simple method to use in contemporary draperies, valances, shades and shower curtains because the curtain rod easily slides through the grommet openings.

What is a HEADER? A header is the top part of a window treatment that determines what kind of installation is needed. Header examples include rod pocket, tab top, pinch pleats, and many others.

What is an HOURGLASS CURTAIN? An hourglass curtain has a rod pocket at both the top header and bottom hem. In addition, it is tied in the center to resemble an hourglass shape.

What is an INSIDE MOUNT? Simply a window treatment that is mounted inside the window between the trimmer studs. Usually requires a cornice or tension rod installation. Also requires very accurate measurements for a perfect fit.

What is a JABOT? A jabot is the fabric on a valance that usually hangs on each side. It is longer and traditionally is made with pleats that fold in a cascading manner. There are also center jabots, which are similar, but are placed in between swags.

What is a PANEL? A panel, to most people, is the long piece of fabric that covers the window all the way to the floor. However, to the trade, a panel is also any section of a window treatment fabric that is cut during the sewing process.

What is NON-DIRECTIONAL FABRIC? Non-directional fabric can be rotated at 90-degree intervals and the fabric prints would still be right-side up. Non-directional fabrics are usually railroaded.

What is a SWAG? A swag, or festoon, is the fabric that is usually inserted between jabots on a valance. Traditionally, swags are pleated on each end and form a piece of fabric that is full and heavy. However, swags can also be flat and don't necessarily need to be pleated.

What is a PANEL? A panel, to most people, is the long piece of fabric that covers the window all the way to the floor. However, to the trade, a panel is also any section of a window treatment fabric that is cut during the sewing process.

What is an OVERHANG? An overhang is the difference between the window treatment width (or the curtain pole section) and the actual window width, including molding. In other words, this is the extra width that you add to your window width. Overhang should be calculated proportionally to the window size. A very small window can have an overhang as little as 1 inch, whereas large windows can have a larger overhang. Overhang also depends on other factors such as room size and window treatment style. Overhang is also sometimes called allowance.

What is PASSEMENTERIE? This is the fancy term for trims such as decorative fringes, tassels, tiebacks, cords, etc.

What is a PINCH PLEAT? A pinch pleat is created with three folds that repeat across the top of a drapery or valance. Pinch pleats can be either created by using ready-made polyester tape or they can be hand-crafted. Priority Windows pinch pleats are all hand-crafted generous depth.

What is a PROJECTION? Projection is used interchangeably with the word return. There is a slight difference, however. A return is how far a curtain projects out from the wall, whereas a projection is how far a curtain rod (or other hardware) projects out from the wall.

What is a PUDDLED DRAPERY? A puddled drapery is a drapery that is slightly longer so that it puddles on the floor. Usually, for a dramatic puddled effect, up to 8 inches are added, even though slight puddling (known as trouser length) can also be achieved by adding 3 inches. If using tiebacks, one should take the drapery width into account as wider draperies need more length when they are tied back.

What is RAILROADING? This is turning the fabric at a 90 degree angle from the usual way it is wrapped onto the bolt. Fabricators can railroad non-directional fabric when cutting in order to avoid unwanted seams.

What is a REPEAT? All fabrics except for solid prints have a repeat. A repeat is how far apart any given, identical prints repeat on fabric. Repeats can be measured both vertically and horizontally. For example, if the tip of a leaf repeats every 18 inches vertically and every 25 inches horizontally, we say that the fabric has repeats of 18" V and 25" H. Repeats are not perfectly positioned and it is common to have a print positioned slightly higher than another (especially common in vertical repeats). In contrast to popular belief, the process of fabric printing does not work like our scanners or printers. The process has advanced throughout the years, but it is not as automated as most people think, causing slight differences through the process.

What is a RETURN? A return (also known as projection or clearance) is the distance from the wall to where a window treatment is installed. If using draperies underneath a valance, the valance must have at least a 5-inch return to be able to clear the draperies underneath.

What is a ROD POCKET? Also known as a pole pocket. A rod pocket curtain has a pocket sewn at the top header where a curtain rod can be inserted.

What are TAILS? See jabots.

What is a TIERED CURTAINS? Tiered curtains are usually installed on short kitchen windows. They feature two gathered curtains that are installed above one another. One is installed above the window and another is installed about halfway down the window like a cafe curtain.

What is a WEIGHT? A weight, or drapery weight, is discreetly hand sewn into each corner of the bottom hem so that a drapery hangs properly.

Comments on Curtain Terms & Definitions

Chickpea 04/04/2010 11:44:16
Many thanks for your informative website. I purchased 4 - 54" cheap grommet panels at TJMaxx (tight budget) on impulse. There were only 4 and I thought the color would work. I thought I could jazz them up with a great rod, but knew the fullness was important. Just didn't know what the "right" fullness should be. I've been researching all morning until I found your sight. I am now satisfied with the answer. BTW, I have 96" of window, plus returns. Thanks for your help.
Beth 11/16/2010 13:37:58
This was very helpful! Thank you so very much.
Michelle MFC 03/28/2013 12:48:12
GREAT resource and information. Even in my sixth decade, I'm still learning new things!
Thank you for your efforts.
Bill W 02/23/2014 14:09:10
How about adding the definitions for: valance, traverse rod, and other types of curtain rods?

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