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Curtain Glossary

abutted seam - a seam used to join non-woven interfacing, in which the two edges are butted together over a narrow band of lightweight fabric underlay and a line of wide zigzag machine stitching down the join holds the two pieces together.

anchor - to fix the end of a piece of yarn or thread, or attach a piece of fabric at one point, so it will not pull away from the main piece. Some curtain makers begin sewing with a few small running stitches to anchor the thread, others prefer to knot the end so that it will not pull through the fabric.

architrave - a moulded frame around the sides and top of a window or door.

bias strip or binding - a strip of fabric cut on a 45° diagonal to the straight of grain of a piece of fabric. It is used to bind edges, particularly curved edges. It stretches very easily and should be handled with care.

blackout lining - a lining of closely woven fabric, or a plastic-coated fabric, that will block the passage of light. Also known as a light-resistant lining.

bespoke curtains - a bespoke service making curtains from customers choice of fabric from measurements provided.

blend - a fabric that is a mixture of two materials, such as polyester/cotton, or mohair/wool. The mix can be 50/50 or may be unequal amounts, such as 50 percent merino wool/33 percent microfiber/12 percent cashmere. The exact composition of fabric is usually given on the end of the bolt.

bolt - an amount of fabric, wound onto a round tube or a flattened oval cardboard form. The fabric is usually folded lengthways, right sides together and the amount in a bolt depends on the type of fabric and the manufacturer. Wholesale fabric stores often sell fabric by the bolt, rather than by cut length, so you purchase a larger amount but at a cheaper price per metre/yard.

box valance - a three-dimensional valance that has sides and a front and protrudes from the wall above a curtain, covering the curtain heading. See also valance, pelmet.

buckram - a stiffened hessian-like fabric, used to stiffen pelmets and curtain headings.

bullion fringe - a thick, heavy and long fringe.

butting - bringing two edges together so that they touch but do not overlap.

canopy - fabric draped or hung over a frame attached to a four-poster bed, or a decorative treatment above a headboard. See also corona, half tester.

catch - to attach one piece of fabric to another, generally with a few tiny backstitches made by hand. For instance, a facing could be attached to a seam allowance.

clip - to cut a short distance into a seam allowance or selvedge with the point of the scissors. It is used on curved seams, square corners and in similar places, to remove excess fabric so seams will lie flat when pressed.

colour way - any of a range of combinations of colours in which a style or design is available.

composition - the percentage of each material that a fabric is made from. This is generally given on the end of the bolt, but may also be printed or woven in the selvedge. It is important to know the composition so you will know how to treat the finished item when it needs cleaning or pressing.

corona - a decorative half-circular frame above the head of a bed, that often supports a canopy. See also canopy, half tester.

count - the number of warp and weft fabric threads in an inch of fabric. It is used to indicate the fineness or coarseness of a fabric.

covered lathe - a decorative strip hiding a curtain track when the curtains are open.

custom made curtains - curtains that are created from a design using a designer fabric and possibly advanced stitching methods, decorative borders, with trimmings and matching tiebacks. Custom made curtains may also include a matching pelmet or valance.

cut length - the cut length is a piece of fabric that has been measured and cut. In curtains, it is the length to cut for each width, allowing for the matching of repeats.

designer curtains - curtains made using a designer fabric or created from an interior designers drawings to create a bespoke window treatment, as in custom made curtains.

directional designs - see one-way designs.

drape - the property of a fabric to fall into folds. If it falls gracefully it is said to drape well or have good drape,

dress curtain - a curtain that is for show and is not intended - or is not able - to be drawn across the window.

dressed curtain - a curtain that has had its folds adjusted into even lines and then loosely tied and left to 'set', so that when the ties are removed the folds will remain in place. Formal curtains should always be dressed - and dress curtains are usually dressed.

drop/finished drop - the measurement from the top to the bottom of a completely finished curtain, with all seams and hems stitched in place.

eyelet - small round hole in fabric, which may be hand-stitched or created with a punch and lined with a metal ring that grips the fabric on the reverse. Hand-stitched eyelets are edged with overcast stitching or blanket stitch to stop the edges fraying. Eyelets are used for curtain headings, for decorative effect and to take lacing.

facing - a shaped piece of fabric stitched on the seam line and turned inside to create a finished edge.

finial - turned shape used to end a pole decoratively.

flush window - a window that is set level with the front face of a wall.

four-poster - type of bed with a flat `ceiling' of fabric - or sometimes wood - that covers the entire bed area and is supported by full-height posts that extend upwards from each corner of the bed. Sometimes it also has curtains that can be draw right around to enclose the bed. Also called a tester. See also half tester, canopy, corona.

frill - a ruffled, gathered or pleated border also known as a ruffle.

fullness - an amount of extra fabric allowed across the width of a curtain, so it will still have gathers or pleats even when pulled closed across the window.

gathering - a method of controlling fullness by running a double line of large stitches through a fabric, fastening the threads at one end and pulling on the other end to reduce the fabric to a smaller length.

gimp - narrow flat braid or rounded cord of fabric used for trimming or as the base of other trimmings.

grain - this is the direction of the threads making up a woven fabric, so each piece has two - lengthways (warp) and widthways or crosswise (weft).

half-drop repeat - with a half-drop repeat, the motifs repeat across the fabric, but on alternate lines they are offset so each motif falls in the centre between the motifs above and below. See also pattern repeat.

half tester - A half tester has a 'ceiling' that extends only partway down the bed, cantilevered from above the head end, so the bed does not have full-height foot posts. See also tester, canopy, corona.

heading - the top of a curtain or valance.

hold-back - a solid hoop or decorative knob that is fixed to the wall on each side of a curtain. When open, the curtain is hooked back behind the hold-back to hold it in place. See also tie-back.

interlining - a non-woven brushed fabric placed between the lining and the main fabric of a curtain to add body, insulation and to help the fabric fold properly.

Italian stringing - a method of opening curtains in which the curtains are fixed at the top, but cording running diagonally across the curtain pulls it up from near the bottom into a deep curve towards the top.

leading edge - the edge of a curtain that travels across the window.

lambrequins - a flat ornamental drapery across the top and down the side of a window or door, or suspended from the edge of a shelf.

lengthways fold - a fold down the length of a piece of fabric. Very wide fabric on a bolt is generally folded lengthways, with right sides together.

light-resistant lining - see blackout lining.

made to measure curtains - curtains made from measurements provided by customer using customers own choice of designer curtain fabric and choice of headings.

mitre - a diagonal join between two strips of fabric meeting at a square corner.

nap - fabric with nap usually has a short pile and will look different shades from different angles because it catches the light differently. Velvet and velour are both fabrics with nap. When making curtains with a napped fabric, make sure that the pile runs the same way on each width.

neaten - to finish off by pulling loose threads to the wrong side and tying or stitching them in before cutting off. Seam edges can be neatened and prevented from fraying by binding, pinking or zigzag stitching.

one-way designs - designs based on repeating motifs with a distinct top and bottom, so they run in only one direction and will look very different if the fabric is turned upside down. Also called directional designs. When making curtains with a one-way fabric, make sure that the design is running the same way on each width.

overlap - the amount the leading edge of one curtain overlaps the leading edge of other curtain.

panel - flat fabric which is lined only, with weights in the hem to make it hang straight. The panel is then hung from tracking, which is generally attached to the ceiling.

pattern repeat - most patterns are made up of one or more components that repeat along the length and/or width. The length of a pattern repeat is determined by measuring from a set point on a motif to the matching point on the next. In a full drop repeat the rows are all repeated with the motifs directly in line both down and across. See also half-drop repeat.

pelmet - a solid covering that hides the top of a curtain. It may be carved, fretwork, moulded or covered in fabric.

pin tuck - a very narrow stitched tuck in fabric. Several are often made in close parallel rows to give a decorative look. See also tuck.

pleat - even folds in fabric to add fullness.

portiere - a one-sided curtain that acts as a door in a corridor, or a window/door covering with slotted rods at top and bottom that are attached to the wall at one end only, so the panel can swing open.

raw edge - a cut edge of fabric that has not been finished in any way.

recessed window - a window that is set back into an alcove in the wall.

repeat - see pattern repeat.

return - part of the curtain that returns to the wall at the end of the curtain rail - also applies to the outer edge of a pelmet or valance.

right side - in printed fabrics the pattern will be clearer and brighter on the right side, but the difference is not always so obvious. The term is usually abbreviated to RS.
saddle stitching - a decorative form of stitching done with two needles, where each stitch butts right up to the following one.

seam allowance - the amount of fabric allowed for seams when joining two pieces of fabric together. Usually there is a seam allowance of 1.5cm (%in), between the cutting line and the seam line.

selvedge - this is the finished edge along either side of the length of fabric. These edges will not fray, but it is usually better to avoid incorporating them into curtains as they sometimes pucker up when the fabric is laundered.

slub - an uneven thread or yarn with thicker sections, which may be accidental or by design. When woven the fabric will have random nubs running with the weave. With some fabrics, such as slubbed silk, this is an essential part of the character of the fabric.

stack back - the width of the hung curtain when it is pulled completely open.

straight of grain - threads running lengthways, or parallel to the selvedge's, are on the straight of grain. Threads running widthways, or from selvedge to selvedge, are on the cross

swags - a graceful fold of fabric across the top of a window. Often combined with tails.

swatch - small piece of fabric, used as a colour sample.

tacking - a technique used to temporarily hold layers of fabric together for fitting or to stop them slipping as seams are stitched. The US term is basting.

tails - ends of fabric that hang down in decorative folds at each side of a window. Often combined with a swag.

tie-back - a short decorative length of fabric, cording or rope that is either hooked or fixed to the wall and is used to tie back a curtain when it is in the open position.

touch and close tape - a type of fastening that comes in two parts; one half has tiny loops and the other tiny hooks so when pressed together they cling to each other. It is often used for items that need to be unfastened quickly. Also known as hook and loop tape; in the UK it is known as Velcro

tuck - stitched fold of fabric, often used as a decorative feature. See also pin tuck.

valance - a soft draped or gathered fabric covering to the top of a curtain.

width - the measurement across a piece of fabric. A curtain may be made up of several widths to enable it to cover a window with some fullness.

wrong side - the side of a fabric that will not be seen. In printed fabrics the pattern will be fainter and duller on the wrong side, but the difference is not always so obvious. The term is usually abbreviated to WS.