How do I Choose the Best Calico Curtains?

Susan Grindstaff

In most homes, calico curtains are used for windows in rooms that have a rustic or cottage theme. Though this type of window covering could be used anywhere in the home, calico is more frequently used in kitchens and bedrooms. Important things to take into account when choosing calico curtains are color, style, and fabric content. You should take care that the color matches nicely with other items already in the room, and because calico is a printed fabric, make sure the curtains do not overwhelm the room.

Calico curtains should be washed in cold water.
Calico curtains should be washed in cold water.

Calico is a popular fabric for curtains, quilts, and pillows. The fabric usually has a solid color background sprinkled with small flowers in varying colors. Most of the time, the calico is 100% cotton, but some calico is constructed of cotton blended with polyester or rayon. Fabric content is important when choosing calico curtains because it will determine the type of cleaning methods you can use.

In most cases, calico constructed of 100% cotton will shrink unless it is washed in cold water; heat from a dryer may also cause shrinkage. Cotton calico should be line dried to prevent shrinkage. Calico that is blended with rayon usually shrinks even more than pure cotton, so should probably be hand washed in cool water and dried flat or on a line. Generally, polyester blended calico can be washed and dried normally, using warm water.

Once you have determined the appropriate fabric content for your needs, it is then a matter of selecting style and color. Calico curtains can be purchased in a variety of styles, so you should find a style that best complements the room. You may be able to get some fresh ideas for window coverings by looking through home decorating books or magazines.

Two types of drapery designs that are especially adaptable to calico are café and Priscilla style curtains. Cafe curtains usually have panels that cover the lower half of the window, with the upper section of window being open with an attachment at the top of the window frame. Priscilla curtains are long, full panels that are ruffled around the edges. This style usually splits in the front and are tied in the middle to the side of the window frame. Many people choose sheer draperies to hang behind Priscilla panels.

Choosing the best color for your calico curtains usually comes down to coordinating with colors already existing in the room. You can choose to stay within the same color scheme or go with complementary colors. For rooms that already have heavily printed or colorful furnishings, calico curtains may not be a good choice.

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Discussion Comments


@rundocuri- I have to agree with you. My grandmother has a home that was built in the early 1900s, and she has calico curtains hanging on her windows. I always feel like I am stepping back in time when I go to her house, but the curtains go perfectly with her old-fashioned home and decor style.


While I think that calico curtains are attractive, I also think that they have the tendency to make some homes look dated. If you have a contemporary home, you should probably choose different types of curtains. On the other hand, if your home is in the Victorian style, calico curtains will probably look very nice on your windows.

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