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How to Measure Fabric to Make Curtains

Making your own curtains isn’t too hard. You start by choosing a fabric and deciding how much to buy. Fabric is woven in several conventional widths: 36 inches; 42 to 45 inches; 54, 58, and 60 inches; 75, 90, and in some cases, 105 to 110 inches. The narrow widths are usually reserved for clothing; however, some wonderful ethnic fabrics are 36 or 45 inches wide.

The fabric bolt, or hangtag on a cylinder bolt, is where the manufacturer lists all the information you need to know about the fabric, including fiber content, fabric width, and whether the fabric has been prewashed. Pattern-repeat length is indicated on the bolt or cylinder tag as well.

If the fabric you like is made from natural fibers or a blend with natural fibers, and hasn’t been prewashed, you must allow for some initial shrinkage when calculating how much fabric you need. To be on the safe side, if you’re making a project that needs a lot of fabric — a sofa slipcover or even a very long or wide pair of drapes — adding an extra 3 yards to accommodate shrinkage is a good idea.

This quick overview on measuring can help you figure out how much solid-colored or small-print, nondirectional print fabric you need for a basic window panel.

The total amount of fabric you need for a window treatment depends on your treatment’s finished dimension, not your window frame, because most treatments extend past the frame.

To begin calculating yardage for your window:

  1. Measure your window treatment width.

    You decide where your treatment will extend — to the edge of the frame, 1 inch outside the frame, or even 3 or more inches, depending on the look you’re after. Measure from the edge of the extension on one side to the edge of the extension on the other side of the window. Divide the total in half if your treatment will separate in the middle.

    For most treatments that require fullness, the fabric for your width needs to be 2-1/2 times the width of this measurement.

    Add 2 inches if you plan to have 1/2-inch side hems, 4 inches if you plan to have 1-inch side hems.

  2. For your length, measure from the top of your mounted rod or pole to where you want your treatment to end (at the sill, halfway below the sill, to the floor, or farther).

    For your top and bottom hem, double the measurement of your desired hem depth and add it to the total length. For example, for a 1-inch hem, add 2 inches.

  3. To calculate the heading (the extra, decorative fabric that extends above the rod sleeve or other casing), if necessary, double the desired measurement.

    For example, for a 3-inch heading, add 6 inches to your length.

    Be sure to calculate for any rings or other hardware you plan to use when figuring total length.

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