Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

How's it hanging?
Comparing ready-made and custom drapes

Off-the-rack drapes may, at first glance, seem less expensive than custom-made, but that isn’t necessarily the case. (photo: Shutterstock)

I thought that a recent conversation with my sister regarding drapery would be of interest to all of us.

Let’s chat ready-made drapery versus custom-made draperies – or should I say instant gratification versus prolonged agony. Just kidding – I’m actually a fan of the custom idea. But let’s compare the two.

We’ll start with the pros of ready-made drapery:

• You can dress your windows in less than an hour. Bring them home and hang them up!

• The price is usually right.

• They can be customized at home (as I explain below).

The not-so-good things about ready-made:

• Someone else is going to have the same drapes.

• Limited sizes, colours and patterns.

• They may need to be lined.

• They take 2-6 weeks for delivery.

• They can look sloppy at the head because they’re sewn to fit a variety of rods.

I believe that the greatest benefit to ready-made, or prêt-à-porter, drapery is the price. It appears that ready-made panels are less expensive than having your draperies custom made. But that may not necessarily be the case.

The largest expense with draperies is the material, not the labour, and one of the greatest benefits to custom drapery is the ability to use any fabric – and a lot of it – so that the panels look full and fabulous.

Ready-mades typically come in one width, usually 27 or 48 inches (standard fabric width, minus hems), and that is not wide enough for everyone’s windows. We definitely do not want our windows to be under-dressed! So if you are buying ready-made, you may need to hang more than one panel side by side to ensure enough bulk. If you are going the custom route, then all panels would be sewn together to ensure that you would have a full two-and-a-half to three times the width of the window.

With ready-mades such as the ones my sister choose for her home, we added a lot of trimming details (braids and fringe) and we took the time to sew the panels together where she needed more than one panel width.

If your panels do not come lined, then I would definitely consider lining them to give them that custom look and to preserve their good looks. Lined panels also hang better.

Bottom line: When deciding whether to order custom draperies or simply buy ready-made, always take the time to do the math. If you have to line them, if you need to hang multiple panels and if they are not exactly what you dreamed of for that room, it may be better value to order exactly what you want.

Designer secret: When measuring for draperies, the standard formula is two-and-a-half to three times the window width. Whether I go the former or the latter is determined by the weight of the fabric I am using. A thin, sheer fabric would be calculated at three times the window width, while a heavy chintz would be two-and-a-half times.

Cheryll Gillespie is an award-winning designer with a passion for travel.

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