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How to Measure for Your New Curtains

When measuring for curtains, there are a number of factors to consider. Are you going to open and close the panels or will they remain stationery? Do you want them to cover the windows with a minimum amount of fullness (bunching) or do you want your draperies to be much fuller? Are you trying to create the illusion of a larger window?

Perhaps, you are covering a wall or a closet opening instead. As you read through our Buyer’s Guide on curtains, remember, there is a lot of personal preference that goes into the final calculation. After all, the curtain panels are covering your window.

Measuring: Start with a metal, retractable tape measure. It’s always a good idea to measure in three places both vertically and horizontally. Not all windows are created equal. If you are using a tension rod, measure to the inside of the frame. If you are using an outside mount, measure to the outside of the frame.

For an outside mount, decide how high you want the panels to start. If there is an existing rod in place, measure from that point. Now measure from the outside of the frame down to where you want the panels to end. Although there are a few standard placements, the possibilities are really endless.

For an inside mount, keep in mind there is no room to the left and right to push window panels out of the way: your window frame is there. The use of tiebacks is helpful when you want the curtains open. Think café curtains.


Tip: Keep in mind furniture placement, heating/cooling elements, grabbing reach for young children, pet hair on the floor, etc. (Example, a puddle of silk drapes may look fabulous in a magazine; however, in my house they would be nothing more than dust collectors.)

Now the fullness factor:

How much fabric is the right amount for my curtains? A very general rule of thumb when figuring fullness is a 2/1 ratio. This means 2 times the amount of fabric is needed to cover the opening with a moderate amount of fullness. For example: a 36” width window could use 72” of fabric. Since most curtain panels are each approximately 48 to 50 inches in width, two panels would cover well. This means 100” of fabric for a 36” window = 2.77 fullness factor.

The 2/1 ratio is a good starting point but can be altered to suit your taste and needs. Remember to ask yourself those questions above. For smaller windows and tight spaces, you could use less than the 2/1 ratio. If you add grommets, it would be a good idea to go slightly more rather than slightly less as the grommet panels create their own fullness.