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How to Measure Fabric for Wall Coverings

Fabric is a favorite wall covering for almost any room in the house. Certain historic houses have velvet-covered walls, while others have linen. Fabric, such as polished cotton, works well for tenting (covering the walls and ceiling) powder rooms, fancy bathrooms, and even bedrooms. But fabrics are impractical for use in kitchens, where they’re a fire hazard. Generally, in living rooms and other public areas, fabrics are professionally mounted on a backing material that makes them easier to install (by professionals). Consider having fabric treated with a protective coating that makes it easier to maintain.

Fabrics used in bedrooms are often gathered or sheared at the top and bottom on curtain rods that are attached to the wall. Sometimes fabric is gathered on wood slats, which are screwed or nailed into the wall. Another method is to gather and staple fabric directly onto the wall.

Tenting bedrooms and bathrooms is a romantic and practical way to disguise disfigured walls and ceilings.

Favorite fabrics for walls are velvet, linen, silk, cotton chintz, and cotton corduroy. Some fabrics, like corduroy, don’t drape very well. Silk does.

Fabrics come in standard widths: dressmaker, 35-inch; drapery, 45-inch; and upholstery, 54-inch. To measure fabric for wall covering, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the number of widths you need per wall by placing a full 35-, 45- or 54-inch-wide piece in the center of the wall, and then adding widths to either side to cover the wall. Deduct 1 inch from each side to allow for cutting away selvage and room for a 5/8-inch seam. (Consider 54-inch-wide as 52-inch-wide fabric.)

    This prevents awkwardly placed seams or motifs.

  2. Measure your wall’s height and translate that figure into yards.

  3. Multiply the number of widths by number of yards for total yardage needed to cover your wall or walls. (For example: A 13-foot-wide by 12-foot-high wall needs 3 widths of 54-inch fabric, multiplied by 4 yards, for a total of 12 yards of fabric.)

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