Budget Fabrics for Making Curtains - dummies

By Mark Montano, Carly Sommerstein

If you have decided to make your own curtains to save money, you may be shocked by fabric prices. A few different factors can add up to a higher cost for your fabrics. Keep the following points in mind the next time your mouth is gaping at the price of that precious silk.

  • Fiber content is one way that price is determined: Even natural disasters can cause a shortage of natural fibers, contributing to the price. A drought or an influx of hungry insects can hurt natural fiber production, which can be passed on to the consumer. Because of these ever-changing factors, fabrics like real silk always go for premium rates. A man-made imitation silk, on the other hand, made mostly of polyester, has the approximation of silk without the cost.

  • The laws of supply and demand in a free market can make fabric expensive: A high demand for fabric raises its cost. Wedding dress silks are more expensive than other silks because each year, the world keeps churning out more brides (and bridesmaids!).

  • Some fabrics are expensive because they take more time to make: Beautiful brocade spends a long time on the loom because the colors and designs are woven in, not simply printed on. Creating complicated or multicolored designs on any type of fabric entails more man-hours.

  • The research behind the material matters: When considering microfibers, you’re paying for the investment in research by chemical companies, and then for the development of these new fabrics based on that research. Similarly, when you’re buying a fabric created by a celebrity designer or a well-known design house, you’re paying for their experience, name recognition, and label.

Picking a polyester version of a fabric classically made in a natural fiber can save you some money. However, synthetics aren’t always going to be cheaper than natural fabrics. Some really fantastic, newfangled synthetic fabrics are as costly as silks, and so are some very expensive polyester brocades. The best way to choose well-priced fabric doesn’t mean choosing only synthetics or naturals, but rather shopping around and comparing prices. The following tips can help you snag a great deal.

  • Consider buying fabric with a wide selvage: Sometimes a bolt of fabric is reduced in price because the selvage (the right or left finished edges) is too wide or uneven. If you plan to cover this edge with decorative trim, or trim it away entirely, an overlarge selvage isn’t an issue.

  • Try to cut a deal: Sometimes if a fabric is at the end of its bolt, you can negotiate a deal for the last 2 or 3 yards, which can be really useful and economical when creating window treatments. For example, you can use a few yards for creating a contrasting ruffle or tieback, for adding some extra fabric at the bottom hem for a visual effect, for creating some needed weight, or for fixing length mistakes (you cut the fabric too short and need to lengthen the treatment).

    The minimum amount of fabric that you can buy is a 1/2-yard. Some stores maintain a 1-yard minimum, so ask first.

  • Combine fabrics: Buy an inexpensive but durable fabric for your slipcover, and a yard of ornate and expensive fabric for a coordinating pillow (or two, if you can squeak it out of one yard). The pillow makes the slipcover look better, and you’ll have the new, fresh look you’ve been craving.