Window dressing: how wide should your drapes be? (part one)

Have you looked into buying a pair of panel drapes lately? There are so many choices on the market today that it can be a little overwhelming. How long should they be—and does width really matter? Lined or interlined? How high should the rod be? Does that impact length? Is your head spinning yet? Let me see if I can stop the spinning and clarify some basics around drapery panels that will help you determine the right choices for you.

Whether you are buying online, from a store or from your designer, there are some universal terms that may help you either ask the right questions or make the best decision. “Width” and all its variations are a great place to begin.

Width refers to how wide fabric is when it comes off the roll. A typical fabric width is 54”. One or more widths of fabric are used to make a drapery panel. The number of widths used will be based on what you want the finished width to be.

Finished Width refers to how wide the drapery panel is after it has been made and hung. The size of the window, the height of the ceiling, the length of the drapery rod and the how full you want the panel will all be factors in determining the desired finished width. Other factors that affect the finished width include the thickness of the fabric, whether lining and interlining are used (we’ll get to those terms in the next blog) and the style of drapery / placement of pleats.

Single Width is an industry term that describes how many fabric widths are used for a drapery panel. Now here’s where we’ll start to combine terms…and where it gets a little tricky. Typically, a single width panel will have a finished width of anywhere between 10” to 20” inches—again, depending on the thickness of the fabric, the type of lining used, and the style of drapery.

Width and a Half: Same as above, except 1.5 widths of fabric (typically 81”) is used for the panel. And the finished width for a 1.5 width panel is typically between 15” and 30” inches. Wider variation occurs here than with a single width because you have more fabric to move around on the rod, and can vary the fullness to a greater degree.

Double Width: I think you’ve got the idea by now!

There are some simple formulas you can find online to help you determine the “ideal” finished width that would look good on your particular window size—whether you want stationary panels or ones you can open / close. But don’t rely solely on a formula for stationary ones. It is really just a starting point. You also have to factor in the thickness of the fabric and lining being used, the number of windows in the room, the size of the room and ceiling height, as well your personal preference around fullness.

Most ready-made (stationary) panels come in single width, but some do come in double width. Watch for panels that are actually less than the typical 54”…they will have a very narrow (or flat) finished width. And while some ready-made panels are lined, most use fairly thin fabric. So if going the pure ready-made route, I would almost always opt for the double width, if available, to be able to create more fullness when hanging them. Or even consider buying four single-width panels and hang two together on each side of the window. If you can afford to spend a little more…consider semi-custom or custom for your main living areas and get the right width and fullness, not to mention more choice in styles, fabrics and lining options.

2 Responses to Window dressing: how wide should your drapes be? (part one)

  1. Donna says:

    In making drapes I want to frame the window. My fabric keeps moving towards the center of the window. Are my drapes too wide? I made them myself with heavy drapery fabric.

    • Kathy says:

      Hard to answer without more information. Check the length of your rod and how much it extends past the window frames on each side…depending on the size of your windows, you want to be at least 4-6 inches beyond.


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