As a decorator I can tell you that curtains can make or break a room. It is a great way of adding flare, style, warmth and character to a room. When selecting curtains there is quite a bit to take into consideration making it quite confusing. You for instance need to consider fabric type, colour, plain vs. patterns or florals, length and lining options, how easy (or difficult) it is to clean, and of course, off-the-shelf vs. custom made.
Fabric plays a major role in your choice as it will determine whether it will for instance shrink when washed or fade over time, how colourfast it is. In other words how it will last over time. The weight of the fabric will also determine whether is hangs well. When too heavy and stiff it might not look great when drawn as it will not fold well and seem bulky. If too light on the other hand it will not fall well either. Direct and even indirect sunlight will make fabric fade over time, especially in our harsh Namibian sun.
Fabrics can be divided into 2 major groups, namely natural and synthetic. Both have pros and cons.
Natural fabrics, such as linen, cotton and silk are eco-friendly, naturally strong and washable, available in wide variety of colours, patterns and designs. But they are prone to shrinking, colour fading and wrinkling. Natural fabrics are as a rule more expensive than synthetic option.
Polyester, acrylic, nylon and acetate are the most common synthetic fibers used in drapery. Polyester is probably the most popular as it hugely versatile fabric. It van be produced to look like natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk. It is very strong, colourfast, affordable and wrinkle-resistant. It is however not always to easiest fabric to clean. Acrylic has a soft wool-like feel, is very strong and requires little maintenance, but does not react well to heat. Nylon is affordable, elastic and resilient, but does not react well to high temperatures and too much washing and drying may cause piling. Acetate resembles silk and has a high resistance to shrinking and wrinkling. It is not as strong as silk though and does not react well to certain chemicals.
Rayon is neither synthetic nor natural, but rather a manufactured fiber derived from naturally occurring cellulose. It is a cheap, versatile fabric which drapes well, is easy to dye, and is highly absorbent. It however tends to not age well. Due to manufacturing process, rayon results in a great deal of environmental pollution making it non-eco-friendly fabric. There is however an industry drive to clean up the manufacturing process.
Well that was a mouthful. And to not confuse you even more, most fabrics are made of blends of two or more of the fabrics listed above. The combination of the different fabrics attempts mitigate some of the cons of a specific fabric. Polycotton for instance is a blend of polyester and cotton with the benefit of creasing less that cotton, being long lasting and more tear resistant. It is also less expensive than 100% cotton.
What would I suggest to a client for curtaining? Always 100% Polyester or a blend with a very high polyester presence.
Next week we will look at a few different curtain styles and where they work best.
(Images obtained from the internet)