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Drapery and Curtain Hardware: The Basics

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Click to Read MoreMy assignment was to write about window treatment hardware. You'll notice that's not the title of this article. Windows are a BIG subject and the more I dug, the less I knew. And, I'd thought I was well-versed in the ways of windows. It reminded me of another dig long ago...

When I was a kid, my brother and I heard someone say something about digging a hole and ending up in China. There was probably more to that conversation, but we had a shovel and nothing else to do that summer day. So, logic not being in play, we went next door and began our dig in the neighbor's raised garden bed. As we dug, we thought about what we'd say to the Chinese citizens we would soon encounter; we even considered the language barrier. However, we never grasped our folly at starting the dig 18 inches higher than the surrounding lawn. We must have figured a lawn divot was going to be our undoing and not the unauthorized trip to China.

After what seemed like hours, we had a hole about a foot deep that refused to go deeper; only wider. We gave up and decided we'd dig to China another day, agreeing we had an admirable start.

I'm about a foot deep now in information about window treatments and the more I dig the more information I find that seems relevant. I've decided I'll dig more another day... after all, I have an admirable start.

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Curtains & Draperies

Your first question is going to be: What, exactly, is the difference? Seems straightforward enough. The same question came to my mind. No two resources, I subsequently learned, could agree. At all.

After taking in all the data I could stand, here's my 2 cents: draperies are more formal, always lined and hang to the floor, while curtains are their wilder cousins – often unlined, can be any length and basically free to hang however they want.

Either way, making your own curtains and draperies can save you more money than most any other sewing project. In fact, the cost savings are often more than enough to pay for a new sewing machine. Curtains and draperies are not difficult to make they're just big. Don't let the size put you off. It really is manageable.

Before You Begin

Think about what you're trying to accomplish:

  • Privacy – a little or a lot
  • Filtering or blocking sunlight
  • Framing a beautiful view
  • Hiding an unattractive view
  • Making the window look bigger

Think about the fabrics you'd like to use:

  • If you choose a pattern, how does it look with other patterns in the room? They should complement each other.
  • How does it drape?
  • How much light comes through?
  • How much sun can the fabric take? (You can buy sun-resistant fabric.)
  • Will they be lined? (You can also buy sun-resistant lining.)
  • How heavy will they be? (Your hardware need to have the strength to support the weight.)

OK, now you can think about hardware:

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  • Flat rods hold shirred panels by feeding the rod through a casing at the top of the panel.
  • Tension rods are only for lightweight curtains and are held in place inside the window frame using a spring mechanism contained inside the rod. They require no holes, screws or additional hardware.
  • Continental pocket rods are wide flat rods 2-5 inches that are used for sheered heading look. They work especially well for a valance or for a variety of under treatments.
  • Decorative rods are mounted on brackets or sconces inside or outside the window frame and are suitable for use with curtain rings, tab tops and curtain clips. Decorative rods are the most popular choice. They can be made of brass, wrought iron, verdigris, brushed nickel, pewter, wood and bamboo and are fitted on either end with a decorative do-hickey called a finial. Often curtains are held back with tiebacks or holdbacks.
  • Traverse rods are a traditional drapery hardware, and are opened and closed using a wand or cord. Drapery hooks are inserted into sliding holders that move back and forth with the wand or cord. Traverse rods are good for hanging pinch pleat draperies and sheers.
  • Double rods hold two layers: draperies or curtains plus a decorative valance or sheer panels. You can also install two separate rods. 

Decide where the hardware will go:

  • Figure out where you want the rod or pole to be mounted. It determines how long your curtains or draperies need to be. 
  • Determine how many brackets are needed (see manufacturer's recommendations).
  • Use a tape measure to measure from the curtain rod or pole to the bottom point, and then from side to side. Generally you multiply the side-to-side measurement by 2 when calculating the width for curtains to allow for appropriate fullness.
  • I like to install the hardware before I do the final measurements for cutting and sewing. That way, all my sewing measurements are exact. No surprises.

There's plenty more to know, but this will get you thinking about some of the choices you need to make, and when you need to make them. 

Back to China...

You may be interested to know that had my brother and I successfully dug straight through the earth, we would have ended up in the middle of the Southern Ocean – 2000 miles from land. A bullet dodged!

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