Check before you cut fabric for your drapes

So, it's time to start making up your drapes and cut fabric! But wait. There are some checks you need to do first. And they could save you a great deal of time and money. Don't ignore them.

Check the fabric

Whether you've brought your fabric home from the store yourself, or its arrived via mail order, don't assume it's correct.

Check that the reference number and color number are correct on the fabric label before you cut fabric.

If these are correct, check that the color and design are what you were expecting. Perhaps you have a sample of the cloth you can use for this. While it would be unusual, it's not impossible for the fabric to have the wrong label on it. Or for a sample to be labelled incorrectly.

If the fabric is divided into more than one roll, make sure:

  1. The rolls are from the same dye batch
  2. You can get all the cut lengths you need.

Unroll the fabric completely (this is where a good sized table come in handy). Check for flaws, and that the correct quantity has been dispatched.

Remember, most manufacturers will not replace fabric once it has been cut!

Tight selvages?

snip selvages

Release the tension in the selvages

Sometimes you'll find that the selvages (the outer edges of the cloth) are puckering the fabric, almost as if they have elastic in them.

The tension needs to be released, and you do this by snipping in half an inch or so at regular intervals. This will enable the fabric to lie flat, which is very important for making drapes.

Cut fabric

Work out the cut length (add the hem/heading allowance to the finished length).

Mark off the cut lengths using a fabric marker or pins. Don't cut any lengths yet! Make sure you've done your calculations correctly. If you have, then you'll be able to get out all the cut lengths you need, plus any extra for top treatments or other accessories.

cutting fabric details

Cutting the fabric

Once you're sure everything is correct, cut the lengths.

Use your yard or metre rule and set square to draw straight lines horizontally across the fabric. Don't do it by eye, or follow what you think is a straight line made by one of the weft threads.

Make sure you know which is the front of the fabric

Sometimes it's not easy to see, and you don't want to join up your widths with some the wrong way round!

So to be safe, each time you cut a length, mark the front of the fabric. You can do this on one of the allowance sections so it won't be seen.

Using lining and interlining

Once you've cut fabric, do the same for the lining (and interlining if you're using it). One thing you should check is that the lining and interlining are the same width as the fabric. If the widths are different you'll have to adjust how many widths you use so you end up with the same total width as the fabric.

Don't mix your measuring units!

Finally, make sure you work in the units you're used to, either feet and inches or metric. Don't use both. If you're not very comfortable with converting inches to feet and vice versa, work in inches only. This isn't an exam!

One of the most common mistakes is to write down 60" (60 inches), only to misread it later on and think it is 6'0" (6 feet). That's 1 foot (12") difference!!!

And in case you're feeling smug because you use metric, there are possibilities for error here as well. It's best to be consistent. Don't switch between using the normal notation (1.256m for example) which means 1 metre, 25 centimetres and 6 millimetres, and 125.6cms (which is the same thing). Stick to using metres or centimetres, but don't mix them.


Taking the precautions as I've mentioned here will help to prevent mistakes creeping into your work as you cut fabric.