Drops, widths, panels ... whaaat? Curtain terms explained

Any industry terminology can be a bit of a minefield, but as they say, once you know, you know. Here’s a quick reference to guide you through having the right terminology when getting curtains (or 'drapes' if you’re American) made, altered or cleaned.

Drop. This one generates the most confusion as it can mean different things, ‘the’ drop and ‘a’ drop can give you a clue as to which measurement you’re talking about.

1. The Drop or Drop: This is the measurement of your curtains from the top to the bottom, or header to hem.

If your curtains go right to the ceiling of a standard room height, the drop will be around 2.4m. So technically you can have a drop of 2.4m and 1 drop wide – I’m not surprised it’s confusing.

2. A Drop: This is an industry standard width of fabric. Fabric is made by manufacturers in fairly standard sizes, for curtain fabric it’s generally between 1.2m and 1.4m wide. Occasionally it is wider and I will talk about that later. *

Width. A width of fabric, also called a panel, or a drop. Often around 1.2m-1.4m wide.

Panel. Another American term we sometimes use. This is the same as ‘A Drop’ or a width. It’s a width of fabric. Some readymade curtains are purchased as 'panels', this means they are only one width of fabric wide.

So when you’re having curtains made the maker will measure the window, and determine how much fabric will be required for the style of curtain you are after. This will determine how many drops of fabric will be in your finished curtain. A fuller gathered curtain with lots of pleats in the header will take up more fabric than a flatter header like this one where the fabric isn’t as full.

"How do I know how many drops are in my curtains?"

Whether the curtain is lined or not, it’s often easiest to count by pulling the curtain back and looking at the back of it. Start at the edge furthest away from your window as this is where the first full drop should be. As you look along the back of the curtain, you will see vertical seams where the widths of fabric have been stitched together – simply count the widths (drops). If there is only one seam, that will mean there are two drops in your curtain. The final drop (where the two curtains meet) may be slightly narrower than the others, this is where the amount of fabric is adjusted to get the right look for your window.

"What if there are no seams in my curtains?"

* Occasionally, fabric is manufactured 3m wide. This is great for curtain makers as it means they can turn the fabric widthwise and make a curtain up to 3m drop continuous - with no seams. In this case, measuring the amount of fabric in your curtain means you have to measure how many metres along the hem (bottom) of your curtain.

Now you have the lingo to sound like a professional, and save you the confusion.

If you’re looking to replace your curtains, have you thought of having them cleaned instead? For a fraction of the price of new curtains, curtain cleaning can often make old, dirty , mouldy curtains come up like new. Contact us for a no obligation free quote for curtain cleaning.

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