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9 Top Tips to Consider When Buying Made to Measure Curtains

9 Top Tips to Consider When Buying Made to Measure Curtains

We often get asked by our customers about our recommendations for the best curtain fabrics, curtain headings, fabric quantities, fabric suitability, and so on. We got in touch with two of our trusted Ian Mankin makers, Victoria Newton from Victoria Newton Bespoke and Justine Bennett from The Windmill Workroom to answer your questions and help make purchasing your new made to measure curtains easy and stress-free!

#1 How should I go about choosing the perfect curtain fabric?

The most important factor is to pick a fabric that you love. Professionally made curtains are an investment and will last 20 years or more if you look after them. It’s like clothes shopping - stick to what you are drawn to and worry about the price tag later. If you really like something, go for it! You will get so much more enjoyment from it over the years than picking something cheaper because it saved you £200 10 years ago and which is BORING. The fabric you choose can completely change the look and feel of a room, so go for what you love and enjoy it every day.

Ian Mankin 1485 collection curtains

#2 What fabrics are most suitable for made to measure curtains?

Let your curtain maker worry about suitability. If it’s not suitable your curtain maker will say, but most fabrics can be made to work. We’ve never sold fabric based on rubs, so that doesn’t seem relevant to curtain making, it’s only really applicable for upholstery projects. Customers are not often interested in technical qualities, but they can be pointed out if it’s of real benefit.

#3 What lining fabrics are best to use on curtains?

Curtain linings can be used to extend the life of curtains, but are often more of a practical issue. We usually ask if sunlight, draughts or noise is an issue and then we would recommend the most suitable linings.

Ian Mankin Linings
Image: The Windmill Workroom

Standard and blackout curtain lining fabrics are generally used. A good quality lining will help protect your face fabric and help your curtains drape better. If you want to block out dazzling sunlight and minimise heat loss and then we would suggest a blackout lining, this will stop any light at all from passing through the fabric. Most fabrics do look better interlined. Interlining provides another layer of fabric between the face of the fabric and the lining, and so offers a more luxurious finish. Using interlining will give you fuller, more rounded, opulent pleats to your curtains and can also help block out cold draughts. There are many different weights of interlinings, and your maker will advise what is suitable for your choice of fabric. Some fabric designs and curtain styles are much better just lined, e.g. a heavy jacquard fabric would get too bulky if interlined.

If you’d like to add a unique touch to your curtains, consider a patterned curtain lining fabric. Make sure you’re happy with how your curtains look from outside your house - if you live on the main road you want people to be WOWED! It’s also worth considering the lining fabrics fade resistance from sunlight and also if all your curtain linings throughout your home should match?

#4 What is the best way to measure my window correctly for curtains?

Windows are often mismeasured for curtains, and once the curtain is made, there isn’t really much that can be done to resolve this issue. It’s not just about the measurements. A skilled maker will take into account floor and ceiling levels at multiple points, the optimum position for the top of a curtain or blind for the proportions of a window, as well as how much space a curtain needs when they are fully open.

They will also consider:

  • - The style of your window

  • - The track or pole you have in situ

  • - If you have any small children with sticky fingers

  • - How your windows and doors open and close

  • - How much light you want inside your room?
  • - How you would like your curtain to hang? Do you want to create a look that is soft and relaxed, something more formal or very modern and tailored?

ALL SORTS of stuff. So basically - don’t bother trying to do it. There are often allowances to add on and to be honest no sane maker would make from a customer’s measurements unless they had written consent that they would take responsibility when it all goes wrong. JUST LET YOUR MAKER DO IT! Some curtain makers will offer this service for free; some will ask you to pay for them to come and measure and others will build it into their quote, but trust us it’s worth it!

Ian Mankin Fulham Mint Fabric curtains
Image: Victoria Newton Bespoke

#5 Where is the best place to buy curtain fabric?

Before purchasing any fabric for your curtains, ensure that you have spoken to your maker. Some makers will not be able to work with particular fabrics if they have faults or quality issues. By all means approach your maker with ideas, photos or swatches but let them supply it to you as they have a wealth of knowledge that’ll ensure everything is perfect. They also probably have sample books for you to look at, they can offer options you may not have seen and will advise on the most suitable fabric for your desired look.

#6 Do pattern repeats affect fabric quantities needed for curtains?

The pattern repeat on a non-plain fabric can vary from 1cm to over 1m, and these can be horizontal as well as vertical and need to be taken into account when planning your curtains and ordering fabric. Quite often, when customers order their fabric online, they usually don’t order enough when taking into account the extra needed to match the pattern across the curtains OR if you need to pleat to a pattern. A pattern repeat will usually also increase the price of fabric required compared to a non-repeat fabric as extra is generally required. Also, always check for a half drop repeat as these need a different calculation. Basically, just ASK YOUR MAKER!

Ian Mankin Kew Charcoal Fabric Curtain
Image: The Windmill Workroom

#7 Is it essential to consider fabric quality over cost?

While any maker worth their salt can make even the poorest quality fabrics look good with clever style choice, quality linings and careful making - this still comes at a cost as it can take longer and require extra skill. Quality fabrics usually don’t need as much handling as cheaper alternatives, and you’ll find they will look, feel and drape far better. Buying cheap will inevitably incur a cost further down the line, so buy decent stuff that’ll LAST! That said, you don’t need to spend an absolute fortune on the most expensive fabric ever, a good quality curtain fabric can cost you in the region of £40 - £80 per metre and the rest is up to individual taste. If you aren’t fussed about additional embellishments and then save your money and don’t bother with the fuss!

Ian Mankin 1485 collection curtains

#8 Is there anything to consider in regards to choosing fabrics made with natural fibres over synthetic fabrics?

Although some synthetics are good contenders, natural fabrics are ALWAYS more beautiful to work with; texture, depth, drape, handle, even smell sometimes. Also, depending on what design style, they can offer true longevity. Natural fabrics are exactly that though - NATURAL - so clients need to understand that can mean crumples, softness and less perfection in looking STEAMED within an inch of its life.

#9 What curtain heading will best suit my window?

There are a very few standard curtain heading styles which are perennially popular and look fabulous on most windows. These can either be formed with a sew-on tape and gathered up (pencil pleat) or formed in a buckram heading and pleated by hand (triple and double pleats, cartridge, goblet, single pleat and euro pleat).

There are also additional design details such as integrated valances, hard pelmets, soft pelmets, swags and tails that can be added to your curtain. Its BASICALLY an art form but if you’re feeling totally lost, we have plenty of inspirational images to show you to help you visualise different heading styles. Look on Pinterest and Instagram for ideas and take them with you to show your maker what you love. A professional maker will sketch your ideas out for you, and so you can understand the scale of the curtain to the window in your room. It’s a lot higher end but shows the depth of knowledge and skill needed to get IT RIGHT. Again, it’s worth it - you will get something designed bespoke, especially for your home.

Ian Mankin curtains

Ultimately, curtains are a long-term investment, not just financially, but that can transform any interior setting, and so it’s got to be right! If you’d like to find out more about how you can avoid sending home furnishing waste to landfill by buying well, read our recent blog.

If you’d like to create a pair of curtains or blinds with a bespoke design to suit your home that will withstand the test of time and look beautiful for years to come, then consider getting in touch with a professional curtain maker once you’ve considered all of the points listed above.

To find a trusted Ian Mankin designer or maker near you to make your dream pair of curtains, visit our ‘Find a Stockist’ tool.

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