Perhaps the most compelling reason to make your own curtains — other than the satisfaction that comes with completely customizing their design and execution — is picking out fabric. Although you are limited to woven fabrics, you have many more options at a well-stocked store than you have for premade panels. While perusing fabrics, look beyond just the color or print. Unwind some bolts and feel the fabric with your fingers — don’t be shy. See how it drapes and gathers, and assess the texture and transparency. All of these characteristics determine the finished look of your curtains, and they vary considerably by fabric type.
Decorator fabrics, which occupy their own section of a fabric store, are generally the best choice for curtain-making, especially if your curtains will get a lot of use in terms of opening and closing, and if you intend for them to last many years. Decorator fabrics usually have a high thread count, which makes them more durable than other fabrics. The more substantial weight of these fabrics also helps curtains hang nicely. Typical decorator fabrics that are suitable for curtains include linens; silks and faux silks; cotton and cotton-blend chintzes, which have a shiny coating; warp sateens, which are smooth and heavy; drapey antique satins with characteristic slubs; and brocades, with raised, tapestry-inspired motifs. Velvet is a nice choice for a traditional, regal look.
Garment and Quilting Fabrics
Garment and quilting fabrics don’t have the high thread count or substantial weight of decorator fabrics, but don’t eliminate them entirely as an option for curtains. They are suitable for more lightweight window treatments, particularly those that are intended to be decorative rather than functional. Examples include cafe curtains, which cover just the bottom part of a window; hourglass curtains, mounted at the top and bottom of a glass-paneled door and cinched in the middle; and simple, plain panels that will hang from clip rings. Use these fabrics also for curtains that will only be hung for a limited time, such as in a short-term rental or the room of a child whose tastes will quickly change.
Sheer curtains offer some degree of privacy without fully blocking light, and are used either alone or as a decorative accent layered over an opaque window treatment, such as blinds. These lightweight fabrics tend to appear delicate, complementing a romantic or feminine style of decor. Laces and eyelet fabrics, most commonly in white, are easier to handle than you might think; often you can trim around their design for a decorative, no-sew hem. Lightweight, transparent sheers, usually polyester, are available in a wide variety of colors and sometimes prints. They are slippery, which can make them difficult to work with, but successful cutting and sewing is achievable with patience. For a more rustic version of sheers, consider a loosely woven fabric, such as burlap, which is easy to fray at the edges if you want to create a fringe instead of hems.
Linings and Interlinings
Lined curtains, with the exception of sheers, have a more professional-looking finish, block more light and offer more insulation than unlined ones. They also resist fading and look more attractive from the outside of the house when drawn closed. White or unbleached cotton is typically used to line curtains. Special blackout fabric is available specifically for lining curtains, and is a good choice for bedrooms. Insulated lining is another specialist option, keeping a room warmer in winter, blocking drafts and possibly lowering your heating bill. Interlining, an additional layer of fabric sandwiched between the curtain fabric and lining, adds further insulation and more body.