How Much Drapery Fabric Do You Need?

One of the most challenging steps in sewing curtains is measuring how much drapery fabric you need. It depends on several factors, like the lining, pleats, and fabric type. 

This tutorial will show you how to choose a fabric and measure the yardage for your curtain. It’s complete, easy to follow, and will get you ready for sewing right away. Keep reading to learn more!

How to Choose a Curtain Fabric

Take a look at a few key things to consider when deciding on a fabric for your curtain.

Type of Curtain

Curtains have different styles that will affect the kind of fabric you’ll get. Consider whether they will stretch from ceiling to floor and if they are functional or decorative.  

With a floor-length curtain, your window has to be empty so as not to cover any decor or wall heater. Avoid long curtains on walls with an electric outlet because they can be a fire hazard.  

If you’re looking for something decorative, a valance or drapery panel is worth considering. You may even use bed skirts since they are categorized as drapes.  

Check out these common types of curtains:

  • Panel Pair has two detached panels of the curtain.
  • Single Panel means only one piece of curtain covers the window.
  • Window Scarves are long curtains that hang on the window.
  • Window Tiers are thinner curtains for kitchen windows
  • Valance is a short fabric that hangs on the curtains.  

If you tend to open and close your curtains all the time, you will need a heavy-duty fabric. But decorative curtains can be lightweight and sheer. Pleated curtains need materials that fold for a long time. 

Fabric Kind

Once you have decided on a curtain style, it’s time to narrow down your choices for the drapery fabric. Polyester is ideal for lightweight curtains. But you can also use it for blackout curtains. These curtains have a coating on one side for full opaqueness. 

Other things to consider when choosing a fabric include pets and children, the traffic in the location, stain resistance, and care instructions. I recommend getting a sturdy and heavy fabric if you live with pets and family. 

Heavy-duty fabric or curtain lining is also essential if you have wooden furniture, paintings, and books. This unique drapery will protect your belongings from UV rays.   

Here are some curtain fabrics you may try:

  • Use voile, lace, nylon net, or muslin for sheer curtains. 
  • Use cotton, nylon, polyester, linen, or silk for regular curtains.
  • Use velvet or damask and brocade for dramatic curtains.

Hem and Seams

When calculating or sewing a curtain, always add extra fabric measurements for the headers and hems. Hem lengths differ according to how you want your curtain’s base to look. It’s the edge below the curtain panel. 

The header is on the fold or section on top of your curtain that fits the pole. Extra measurements are also necessary if you’re piecing fabric together for the seams. 

The Thickness of the Curtain Pole

The amount of drapery fabric you’ll get also varies according to your header and curtain pole size. Remember that the fabric should also create tabs or channels. 


Curtain liners provide privacy and enough lighting in your room but are optional. Use one to control the temperature or wind in your room.  

Do you want a valance for your window? Place this decorative fabric at the top of your window to hide the curtain rail. 

Perhaps you also want a window scarf. A window scarf’s function is to enhance the look of the curtain through layers. As with curtain liners and valances, window scarves are optional.

How Much Drapery Fabric You Need

Here’s a simple formula for how much drapery fabric you need. It applies to any curtain unless you want to add scarves or a valance. 

Amount of Fabric You Need for ONE panel = width of the curtain + header to bottom or length + 1 inch for ½ inch to be folded on each side of the panel + 2 inches of hem.  

Multiply your measurement by two if you’re getting a panel pair. You may also add more inches for the hem if the fabric weighs more.  

To convert your calculation into yards, divide it by 36. So, if you got a total of 111 inches, you will need about 3.1 yards of fabric.  

Here’s a more detailed tutorial for you.

1. Calculate the Width 

The width of your curtain panel is the measurement from left to right. You may use your window as the basis. But you want to multiply it by 1.5 or 2, especially if you’re opting for a lightweight fabric. This double fabric allows for fuller coverage and proper hanging.  

You may also add extra inches for ruffles, pleats, tie-backs, and other preferences. Then, add one inch to your calculation. This final number will allow you to fold ½ inch of each panel for sewing. 

2. Calculate the Length

How long do you want your curtain to be? Check the wall or window where you will place the drapes and measure in inches. Make sure to add two to three inches for the hem, depending on the weight of your curtain. 

3. Add the Final Length and Width Measurements.

Once you’re done, add all the recorded measurements. Multiply by the number of single panels you need for your curtain. Then, convert into yards by dividing by 36. 

How to Solve Fabric Shortage

It’s okay if your measurement was insufficient or if the fabric shrunk after you washed it. Shrinking is common among cotton, silk, and linen.

All you have to do is get extra fabric that will go to the hems and header later on. Make sure you have more than enough cloth this time to avoid tough stitching. And understitch the material to stay invisible.  

However, it will be challenging to make adjustments if the inadequate fabric is more than the hems you need. You may try piecing two large fabrics together, but it may not have a good appearance. 

Another solution to fabric shortage is using solid fabrics or contrasting print for additional width or length. You may also try drapery weights to stretch the curtain down to the floor.

Wrapping Up

Measuring drapery fabric is not an easy task. You need to calculate the height and width and add extra fabric for hems and seams. You also need to add extra fabric for folds, scarves, and other curtain styles.  Did you enjoy reading this article? Comment with your tips and questions on measuring curtain fabric. And if you’re looking for some great curtain material, check out our selection of drapery fabrics!

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