How do I Choose the Best Fabric for Curtains?

Susan Grindstaff

Many different types of fabrics work well for curtains and draperies, but before you choose fabric for curtains, consider the window you are covering and your interior décor. Find a fabric that complements the room and the style of the window. For casual décor, you might want to choose burlap or cottons. For more dramatic or elegant rooms, velvet, brocades, or jacquards may work well. If you are going for a bright sunny look, you might want to consider sheer fabrics such as lace or voile.

Some people use burlap as the fabric for their curtains.
Some people use burlap as the fabric for their curtains.

Sheer fabric for curtains is a good choice for rooms with a light, airy décor. If privacy and insulation are important, you will probably want to hang backing curtains or install window shades. In this way, during times when you want privacy, or during winter months when you need some insulation value, you will have the insulated curtains or shades as an alternative. Voile is one of the most popular types of sheer textile for curtains, as it comes in solids and prints, and can usually be machine washed and dried. Lace may also be a good choice because it can be both elegant and casual, and is available in many different styles and colors.

Fabrics can be layered, with sheers to let in light and heavier fabric tied back or closed.
Fabrics can be layered, with sheers to let in light and heavier fabric tied back or closed.

For formal room décor, you might want to consider brocades or velvet. Brocade curtains can be purchased in most any color, and are usually made of silk or polyester. Brocade is a type of woven fabric that has a raised design, and usually consists of two colors in the pattern. Velvet can be purchased in silk, cotton, or polyester, and is a good choice of fabric for curtains that require a lot of drape. Though velvet is usually very soft and flowing, it also works very well in blocking light and offers some insulation value.

Casual room décor typically requires casual fabric for curtains. These fabrics include burlap, canvas and printed cottons. These fabrics as usually affordable and offer a wide variety of color choice and fabric weight. In addition, they are well suited for tab style and café curtains, both of which are popular choices for casual decorating.

One of the most important decisions you will need to make in choosing fabric for curtains is how much money you can afford to spend. If it is within your budget, you might think about having your curtains custom made. Fabric suppliers often have hundreds of fabrics and colors to choose from, so you will not be limited to the more narrow options available in ready made designs.

Silk may be used for curtains.
Silk may be used for curtains.

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Discussion Comments


@Fa5t3r - Blackout curtains are almost always so heavy and prominent though. I wouldn't use them all throughout the house. I usually try to match the curtains throughout all the public areas of the house in order to keep a flow going, as well as possibly saving some money by being able to buy in bulk.

But I think it would work just as well to either stick to a color or a pattern and change other elements to get a bit of variety.


@Iluviaporos - I've actually never been that concerned about insulation, since I live in a temperate climate, but I absolutely have to have curtains that will shut out the light. For a while I was sleeping in the spare room at my mother's house and she had curtains up that were so thin they glowed with the street lights at night.

I found it impossible to sleep properly. I was constantly waking up thinking it was dawn. It would have been OK if it was in the middle of nowhere but in the city it can make a huge difference. And I know people will suggest I wear a sleep mask, but I really don't feel comfortable in one of those either.

Blackout curtains are the best option in my opinion. The fabric to make them usually isn't that much more expensive than ordinary curtain fabric but it makes a huge difference.


As well as matching the decor you will also want to make sure that you get curtains that are going to match the climate. If you have very cold winters, a lot of heat will be lost through window glass and you will want to be able to use the curtains as an extra insulation. The same logic applies if you live in a hot and muggy area, because you might not want to have light shining in your eyes at night, but drawing heavy curtains can trap heat inside.

Some people might even have curtains for each season if they live with extremes. Even if you have air conditioning, this is important as the right insulation can help with keeping your costs down.

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