Glossary of useful terms
Our glossary of useful terms is a comprehensive overview of common terms used on our website.
Soft, lightweight, man-made fibre, which is warm, strong and crease-resistant.
A rich fabric with an embossed design, originally of silk but can be made in cotton, linen, wool or man-made fibre it is usually woven in one or two colours, with the additional colours applied to the woven surface, which is what distinguishes it from damask. Heavier than damask, it is often woven in silver or gold thread. It is used for curtains and special upholstery. The term has come to mean ant flowered fabric with a raised pattern.
A brocaid-like fabric, usually in silk or wool, strengthened with linen. It seldom uses more that two colours. It had a satin or twill figure on a plain or satin background and is distinguished from damask by raised areas of pattern that are formed by a double warp. It does not drape well and in the 17th century was used mainly for wall hangings.
A cheap cotton of medium weight. It can also be printed, and fabric paints and stencils work well on it. It does shrink easily and looks best on tightly fitted upholstery.
A plain basket-weave material of coarse jute threads. It is made in various weights and is the basic material from which buckram is made.
A velvet-type fabric with a looped pile.
A Plain or printed cotton with or without a glazed finish, printed in colourful patterns of flowers, fruit and birds It is not especially hard-wearing, and glazed chintzes in particular do not drape very well. It is best suited to curtains or small items of upholstery but can be strengthened with a lining backing. It suffers some shrinkage if washed The term was originally applied to painted calico imported from India.
Available in a wide range of weights and finishes. The unmixed version creases easily but a cotton/synthetic mixture can be more practical. Furnishing cottons should always be used, as dressmaker's cotton is simply not strong enough.
Hard-wearing cloth usually of cotton but sometimes of synthetic yarns with a cotton backing-cloth. Equally spaced cords run down the length of the fabric and are obtainable in different widths.
Originally hand-embroidered in chain, stem or herringbone stitch onto white cotton or wool in designs such as a tree of life or flowers and leaves and used for early English and American bed hangings. It is now available by the metre and is suitable for window and bed curtains, light upholstery and cushions.
Was traditionally made from silk from Damascus but is distinguished by the weave rather than the fibre content and can also be made in silk, cotton, linen, wool or man-made fibres. Its durability depends on its fibre content, so it should be chosen accordingly. The patterns are fluid but formal. The pattern is reversed on the "wrong side" of the fabric. The formality of the patterns does not work well with modern interiors. It is mainly used in restoration work for upholstery and formal full-length curtains. Early damasks had huge pattern repeats suited to the tall windows to be curtained. The patterns show to advantage on a large flat area so work particularly well when stretched on walls. Damask curtains are always heavy and need extra-strong fixings.
Originally made from an irregular thickness of silks, this medium-weight fabric can now be produced from various fibres. It has a slubbed appearance and comes in many colours It is mainly used for curtains.
A light, washable cotton fabric in a check pattern of two colours on white. It is often used in kitchens and children's rooms and for table linen.
Very light open work fabric made from cotton, viscose or nylon; pattern can be applied to mesh ground. It is used in windows for privacy, as bed drapes and as romantic-style bedcovers, cushion covers and dressing table skirts. It is also available as edging and in frills.
A twill weave, usually wool or tweed, achieved by alternating the diagonal pattern within the cloth. It is suitable for upholstery.
Plain linen cloth, originally from Holland used especially for roller blinds.
A type of printed cotton first imported towards the end of the 16th century.
The name of the loom which originally had a series of punched cards to control the weaving of the threads; computerised versions are used today. The resulting patterns are usually multi-coloured and elaborate.
A strong cloth spun from flax. Its disadvantages are a tendency to shrink and crease. It is more practical when blended with cotton to form a linen union, and can also be strengthened with synthetic yarn. It is used for chair and sofa slip-covers and occasionally curtains, though it can be a little stiff to drape well.
Sometimes called watered silk. Produced in silk or a synthetic substitute thereof. It is finished with a process that gives the fabric a wavy effect. Used for light upholstery, walling and cushions.
A wool or wool-and-cotton mix heavy weight fabric, usually with a watered pattern.
Available in cotton, silk and synthetic yarns, it has a horizontal rib pattern, the stripes of which can be in different colours. It is hardwearing and suitable for upholstery.
A cut-pile fabric similar to velvet but with a longer, less dense pile.
A polymerised substance, especially as a synthetic resin or fibre.
To create a pool of fabric by making floor length curtains 'over-long' so that they ruche on the floor.
A ribbed cloth of lightly woven cotton.
Can be made of silk, cotton or synthetic fibres. The surface is smooth and shiny and the reverse side matt. It is not the most practical fabric as it tends to spot easily and is difficult to clean.
A plain woven fabric of silk or synthetic with a slubbed appearance, used for curtains and cushions.
A natural fabric from silk worms. It dyes well and has a vibrant colour range. It fades easily in sunlight, however, and is best used on beds away from the light, or lined and interlined and protected by a blind if used as window curtains. It can be used for light, elegant upholstery. Until the early 16th century silks had large Patterns and were made for specific purposes such as upholstery or wall coverings. The jaquard loom produced figured silks, and the Industrial Revolution made mass production of silks possible by the mid 19th century.
The waste product of spun silk is mixed with cotton or wool giving a shimmer to the fabric in the form of tiny balls on the surface.
Originally made as a thick fabric of woven silk it can now be of any plain woven fabric. It is smooth and crisp, sometimes ribbed, but not very pliable. It can be "shot" for a shimmering effect.
Woven either by hand or by machine The latter is sold by the metre as a jaquard imitation. Available in a wide variety of designs and colours, it is used for chair upholstery and cushions.
An iridescent fabric, slubbed and dyed in vivid colours. It is very expensive.
A stiff fabric in twill weave originally developed for matress and pillow covers. Cheap, hard-wearing and effective, it is good for roman and roller blinds and upholstery on modern or traditional chairs.
Printed cotton fabric depicting charming rural scenes or classical designs printed in one colour. (usually a deep pink) onto a cream background. The original copperplate printing was done in Ireland in the mid 18th century, and the famous factory at Jouy began printing Toile de Jouys some 20 years later. It is used for curtains, bed hangings, wall hangings and light upholstery.
Made with wool yarns, in comes in a variety of textures and colours. It can be used for curtains and upholstery.
A fabric with a thick pile that lies in one direction, it is made of cotton, wool or synthetic fibres. It is good or heavy curtains or tablecloths.
A closely woven pile fabric of cotton or synthetic fibre, it comes in a variety of weights and colours. It is best used flat or smoothly draped. A plain velvet used for upholstery can quickly look shabby, as the pile is flattened, while a light coloured velvet will show the dust. Figured velvets are the most practical. Velvet curtains are good for insulation and blackout but can have a deadening effect on the room. In general, velvets do not mix well with modern fabrics and interiors.
A hard -wearing wool fabric made from twisted yarn with a smooth texture which is useful for upholstery.
Sheers & Lightweight Fabrics
Available in many fibres and a fine fabric wit a crepe like texture. It is available in a wide range of colours and drapes well. It can be used for lightweight curtains fr beds and windows and for Austrian blinds.
Lightweight gauze made from cotton. Sheer and crisp, it can be patterned with floral motifs. It is inexpensive but tends to shrink and crease.
A very light, open-mesh, almost transparent fabric made from cotton, silk or man-made fibres, usually in white or cream but these days available in a wide range of colours including dramatic dark ones.
A light, soft loosely woven cotton fabric slightly more densely woven than muslin.
Light-to medium-weight cotton or rayon fabric which has a fine rib and slight sheen. It is inexpensive and drapes well. The heavier, ribbed fabric can even be used for loose covers.
A finely woven, semi-transparent, crisp fabric made from cotton, silk, wool or synthetic fibres, it is suitable for sheer curtains and dressing-table skirts.
A sized, coarse cotton or linen used for stiffening pelmets and tie-backs.
A soft cotton-waste material used as an interlining to add body and insulation.
The most popular form of curtain lining. It is usually buff-coloured but white lining looks better if it is being used with fabric printed on a white ground. Coloured linings chosen to contrast or co-ordinate with the curtains can also look attractive.
A synthetic fibre used for filling and padding.
Soft material sewn between a curtain and its lining to add bulk, to improve the "hang" of the curtain, and to improve insulation.
A secondary hanging sewn in at the back of a curtain to protect it from the light and improve its hanging qualities and insulation.
A heavy rubberised fabric now available in white and cream for blackout and insulation.
A soft, bulky padded interlining usually made from polyester, for stuffing and packing out shapes, as in goblet headings.
A fringe trimming coloured with equal block of contrasting colour.
A fringe trimming formed of twisted loops of rope, made in wool or silk and available in a variety of lengths and thicknesses.
Ornamental curtain detail consisting of a circular gathered piece of fabric designed to give the illusion of a curtain having been caught up. The name is derived from the French word "cabbage".
A woven braid used to ornament curtains, bed and chairs. It can be very complex in design.
A woven cotton braid of various widths with a bobble edging.
A device for focusing attention on a particular area with a curtain arrangement. An attractive "finishing-off" motif for curtain headings, swags and tails, and tie-backs. Can be knife-pleated, choux or bow style.
A LA DUCHESSE
A type of bed with a canopy suspended from the ceiling rather than supported by posts (also known as angel bed).
A form of decoration produced by superimposing one material on another. It may consist of figured patterns cut out and applied or embroidered bands of patterns.
Decoration characterised by symmetrical intertwining branches, leaves and other plant forms together with abstract curvilinear shapes.
A wooden surround to a door or window frame. Also the moulding around an arch.
A window with an arch shaped top.
A soft fabric blind which is ruched at the base.
An angled window which projects from the wall.
Panels of fabric or ruffles which cover the base of a bed.
Flat, symmetrical pleats formed by folding the fabric to the back at each side of the pleat.
a slim rod, usually of brass, used for cased or scallop-headed curtains.
CASED HEADING (or slot heading)
A curtain heading consisting of a simple, hemmed top through which a rod or narrow pole may be slotted.
Strips of contrasting fabric sewn onto the edges of curtains, valances, pelmets or blinds to define the edges.
A decorative moulding at the top the wall, just below the ceiling. Also, a pelmet-like construction above a curtain arrangement.
A curtain pole with rings, used for heavy curtains.
A semi-circular fitting used to hang curtains above a bed.
A fabric goblet placed above trumpets or tails.
The finish at the top of curtains. They can be gathered, pleated or even flat.
DEAD WALL SPACE
The space between the top of the window and the coving or ceiling line.
A small, short tail which can be placed at the intersection of swags.
Hinged metal rods which are fitted at dorma windows for curtains to hang from.
A window that projects from a sloping roof.
Non-functional curtains which do not draw.
DROP DOWN SIDES
The outside edges of an Austrian blind which are not pulled into a scoop by cords.
DROPPED DOWN HEADING
The frill above a gathered heading.
A hole punched in fabric, strengthened by a metal collar.
FABRIC COVERED LATH
Narrow pelmet board with a fabric covered fascia fitted on the front edge of the board to conceal the curtain track.
A braid where one side is looped to form a delicate, scalloped edge.
A rectangular board, set vertically to cover a curtain heading or blind fixings.
A blind that is ruched down the whole of its length so that billows are formed when the blind is raised.
An attachment placed at each end of a curtain pole, originally to stop the rings falling off, but usually treated as a decorative addition.
A decorative, fabric-coverd band of buckram, canvas or ply wood which is fixed on to the front edge of a pelmet board concealing the track and curtain heading.
A blue-flowered plant cultivated for the fibre of its stem which is used in the production of linen.
A goblet heading in which the pleats are linked along their base by hand-sewn cord.
FOUR POSTER BED
A bed with a frame which has a post at each corner and usually a fabric-covered ceiling.
FRENCH PLEATS (or Pinch Pleats)
On a curtain heading, hand-sewn triple pleats separated by flat areas.
A pair of glazed doors opening onto a garden, terrace or balcony.
The relationship between the track, pole or pelmet-board measurements and the width of the un-gathered curtain or valance.
A curtain heading consisting of hand-sewn tubes whose tops are stuffed with wadding or contrast fabric.
A rectangular canopy above a bed, extending only part-way down the bed from the headboard.
IINVERTED PLEAT (or Kick Pleat)
A pleat formed like a box pleat in reverse, so that the edges of the pleat meet in the middle on the right side of the fabric.
Decorative feature made by forming symmetrical pleats in fabirc. A kind of mini 'tail' usually used with swags and tails.
A stiff, shaped surround to a window. Unlike a pelmet, a lambrequin continues down the side of the frame.
Roller blinds made out of fabric which has been laminated to stiffen it.
The inside edge of the curtain facing the centre.
Where two or more window treatments are combined at a window, say a blind, curtains and sheers.
A decorative round fitting with a stem to fix it to the wall used to hold curtains open - also called a boss.
Extra length, allowing full-length curtains to puddle comfortably onto the floor.
PALLADIAN WINDOW (or Venetian Window)
A window with a high, round-topped central section and two lower, square-topped side sections.
A generic term for any type of top treatment, but it is usually a shaped, stiffened drapery across the top of a window, used ornamentally to hide the curtain rail.
A horizontal board used to support a pelmet and sometimes as a base for swags and tails.
PENCIL PLEAT HEADING
A curtain heading formed by a tape which, when drawn up, creates a row of narrow, densely packed folds.
See french pleats.
A flat blind made out of bamboo split cane. It is pulled up by cords.
Fabric-covered cording used to emphasise the edge of a curtain, pelmet or tie-back, often let in at the seams.
A wooden or metal rod supported by brackets; curtains are hung from rings threaded on the pole.
A bed set lengthwise against the wall and surmounted by a small dome.
A metal pole fixed to a door. When the door is opened and closed both the rod and curtain hanging from it move with the door.
A pool of fabric created by making floor length curtains 'overlong' so that excess fabric ruches on the floor.
REEDED CURTAIN POLE
A wood or metal rod which has a series of linear grooves in it for decoration.
The part of a curtain, pelmet or valance that turns around the sides.
The sides of a window opening, at right angles to the faces of the wall and the window itself.
A blind, usually made of Holland, operated by a spring mechanism so that when let up it coils itself around the cylinder in which the mechanism is located.
A corded blind with horizontally set rods at the back, causing the blind to form a series of lateral pleats when raised.
A heading with deep, rounded cut outs which slots onto a rod or pole.
SERPENTINED (or shaped) VALANCE
Where the lower edge of the valance has a series of curves.
SHAPED PELMET BOARD
Pelmet boards that have a curved or curved and shaped front edge.
Hinged wooden panels fitted to the window frame; usually painted in with the window frame.
SILL LENGTH CURTAINS
Short curtains that finish either at or just below the window sill.
see cased heading.
SLUB (or slubbed)
A thick lump in yarn or thread.
Woven or dyed so that different colours show at different angles.
A heading of pencil pleats anchored together at regular intervals to create a honeycomb effect.
The wall area at the side of the window covered by the curtain. The curtain "stacks back" or folds into this area when opened.
A generous scoop of fabric from two fixed points over a window or bed.
see Dorma Rods
Made by synthesis; manufactured as opposed to produced naturally.
Hanging trails of fabric, either shaped and stiffened or falling fluidly from the ends of swags.
A curtain heading formed by a narrow, threaded tape sewn at the top of the curtain. When the parallel threads are pulled up, a gathered effect is created.
A shaped and stiffened band, tasselled cord, sash or ribbon used to hold back curtains.
A plastic or metal fitting from which curtains are suspended when a pole is not used. Modern tracks often have cording systems and overlap arms. Some curtain tracks can have a valance track clipped on to them.
A three-pronged, fabric bow with a fabric-covered button at the intersection of the prongs.
A narrow bed set into a draped recess.
Textile fabric woven so that parallel diagonal lines are produced.
A soft fabric skirt that hangs from the top of a window or bed, as an alternative to a pelmet.
see Palladian Window.
A flat, often stiffened, band of fabric which is used above valances or swags and tails.