My A-Z Guide of Window Dressing:Tips, Tricks, and Terms You Should Know.


Way, way, back in the day, long before I was married, I had a tiny little business in which I designed, sold, and manufactured custom window treatments.

I made pinch pleated draperies, valances, Roman shades, balloon shades, cloud shades, sheers, bedding, pillows, and the like.

I loved it.

People don’t seem to do as much with window treatments anymore, but they should.  Not only do they finish out a window but they go to great lengths to soften the look of a room and create warmth.

I have a few posts up and coming both here on this site and on another as a guest post on how to dress your windows ~ whether you are an expert seamstress, able to sew just a little, or can’t sew a stitch at all.

Here to start with is a general guide of terms you should know, a few tricks and (I hope) some helpful advice in dressing your windows.

A-Apron The apron is the part just below the window sill.  Curtains that do not fall all the way down to the floor, are often hemmed to hit evenly with the apron.

B- Balloon shade  A balloon shade can be mounted to a board as a working shade that raises and lowers, or it can simply be a valance shirred onto a curtain rod.  They can be made up in a simple country print, or if you want to go all out, made up in raw silk.


C-Curtains  Curtains are those panels that are either gathered or clipped onto a rod. Not to be confused with draperies…

D-Draperies  Draperies refer to those panels that are pleated.  They can be used with rings or on a traverse rod.

E- Easy  Curtains are very easy to make.  If you don’t sew you can even use items that you already have on hand at home (more on this later).  Draperies on the other hand, are best left to a professional as the  math can be tricky.

F-Fullness For gathered curtains the general rule of thumb is a fullness 3x that of the area being covered.  Anything less than that and the result can look crafty and homemade.  Of course rules are meant to be broken and in some cases less is more.

G-Glass is not the only thing to cover.  Husbie and I honeymooned in a cottage in the Cotswolds.  In place of a closet door was a beautifully printed curtain.  The effect was charming.

H- Header  The top of your window treatment is referred to as the header.  H is also for hem.  Drapery and curtain hems are always doubled to give a nice rich feel.  They can be anywhere from 2″ doubled, to 6″.  The depth of the hem usually depends on the length of the drape.

I-Inside mount  Cafe curtains, shades of all sorts are often mounted within the window frame.  This is referred to as an inside mount. (see photo at the beginning of this post)

J- Jamb Located at the top of the window within the frame.  The jamb is something to be mindful of if using an inside mounted shade. (see photo at the beginning of this post)

K- Know where to spend the money.  As mentioned before: gathered valances and curtains are easy to make and inexpensive to purchase.  Pinch pleated draperies and some shades, are not.  Know what you are capable of doing yourself, and when it would be best to call in a professional seamstress.

L-Lining Unless you are making sheers, draperies and curtains should always be lined.  Not only does this add body, it will also protect your fabric from the sun.  Lining can be a simple standard weight, or it can be heavy and treated to block out the sun completely. Linings are typically available in white and ecru.

M- Materials Your materials can be purchased at craft stores, home improvement stores, and hardware stores.  I’ve found great deals on fabric and trim on ebay.

N- No sew New sew window treatments are easy and often inexpensive.  In my opinion however, they should be used in moderation to avoid a crafty look.

O-Outside mount An outside mount is, obviously, the opposite of an inside mount.  There is no hard and fast rule on this one, but typically drapery and curtain hardware is mounted a minimum of 2″ outside the window. (see photo at the beginning of this post)

P-Pinch Pleat  The standard plain vanilla pleat at the top of the drape is referred to as a pinch pleat.

Pinch Pleat

Q- Quilt Try one as a window covering!

R-Repeat  The distance of the pattern before it repeats itself is referred to as the repeat.  This is important because your treatment needs to match at the seams as well as from panel to panel and window to window.  Additional fabric needs to be added to the yardage to figure in your repeat.  (Sort of like hanging wallpaper)

S-Spring tension rod A spring tension rod is a rod with a spring mechanism that allows it to fit tightly within the window.  Purchased inexpensively, these are great things to have as they require no hardware or tools for installation.

T-Tie backs Get creative.  Use jute, ribbon, bandanas strung together, or simply do without and let them hang.

U- Up Consider mounting your window treatment all the way up to the ceiling to add height to a room.

V- Valances Because they are smaller and require less fabric valances can be an inexpensive alternative to draperies.  They add a lot of class to a room.

A shaped valance trimmed with tassel fringe

W- Width  The standard width for drapery fabric is  54”.  If you have to sew two widths together, never, never, never have a seam down the middle.  Split one width, and sew to either side of one whole width.  Seams are best hidden.

X- eXact measurements are a must for such things as Roman shades and pinch pleats.  Don’t ever guess.  These type of window treatments are very unforgiving if you make a mistake.  Trust me.  I know this.

Y- Yes you can do it yourself! Don’t be afraid to give it a try.  Following this article are a list of recommended resources.

Z-Most important: ignore current trends and be true to your style. Choose what you like and don’t settle for anything less.  (Did you really expect me to list something beginning with the letter Z?)

Recommended Resources: Following are a list of resources that I found to be helpful references in my drapery workroom.  There are many, many others available, but this is a list of those that I can personally vouch for.

The Shade Book by Judy Lindahl.  Don’t be thrown off by the dated photo on the cover.  The information in this book is timeless and the techniques shown are excellent and can be used for other projects as well.




Step By Step Home Decorating Projects from Singer.  This guide covers projects besides window treatments, such as bedding and cushions.  This is a small book but it covers a variety of techniques such as how to measure for your projects and cover cording.



Curtains, Draperies, and Shades from Sunset.  This is another how-to book that offers a series of projects.  While I prefer the book from Singer, this is a good book to have on hand that gives additional tips.




The Encyclopedia of Window Fashions: 1000 Decorating Ideas for Windows, Bedding, and Accessories by Charles T. Randall.  This book is not a how-to manual, but rather a compilation of illustrations and terms, helpful for gathering ideas.  If  you are not someone who wants to DIY, this would be a great resource to use in showing a professional what you are wanting.


Colefax & Fowler The Best in English Interior Decoration Even if you aren’t English, or don’t care for the English Country look, I would still highly recommend this book as a guide for decorating for comfort.  It has been around for some time, but the inspiration and techniques described are timeless and can (IMHO) be adapted for any taste.




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My A-Z Guide of Window Dressing:Tips, Tricks, and Terms You Should Know. — 6 Comments

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