Musings from the workroom
1st October 16
Shrinking Curtains

When these full length curtains were made they were just touching the floor and the fabric was of course longer than the lining. So why have they shrunk?

Shrinkage is caused by changes in temperature and humidity of the fabric and linings. It is not just the fabric but also linings and interlinings that can shrink causing puckering all well as shortening of the curtain.

Factors that may lead to Shrinkage

  • Long Curtains
    The fabric/lining shrinks by a certain percentage. The longer the curtain the longer the actual shrinkage length.
  • Humid Room
    Rooms such as bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms tend to have a greater range in humidity. Curtains in front of patio doors can also be more exposed to humidity changes when the doors are open.
  • Full length glass windows
    Floor to ceiling glass windows and doors can get very cold at night and very hot in the sunshine. South facing windows get more sun and therefore more heat.
  • Under Floor Heating
    We have found the heat under the curtain from underfloor heating can cause problems. 
  • Natural fibre (cotton and Linen) in the fabric
    It s not just 100% cotton and linens we have experienced shrinkage but also fabrics that contain a percentage of cotton or linen.
  • Viscose in the fabric
    Viscose is made from woodpulp and altough techincally manmade it is a cellulosic fibre, like cotton or linen. Fabrics with a high viscose content have been reported to sometimes have shrinkage problems.

Remember curtains usually don’t shrink. We have used many linens and cottons - they are our preferred fabrics to work with and make up and look beautiful. We don’t think there are any guarantees or fail safe ways around this but below are some points to consider when making up full length curtains, in kitchens, where there is under floor heating, large expanses of glass and/or south facing windows etc.


Points to consider to avoid shrinkage

  • Use synthetic fabric (not viscose)
  • Use synthetic linings and interlinings
  • Always steam press your fabric and linings before making up (cottons and linens - not synthetics)
    We check the fabric is suitable for steam pressing and if we can always steam/press before making up in the workroom. This hopefully preshrinks and avoids shrinkage problems later.
  • If you have a problem leave the curtains in situ for a while (a month) to acclimatise to the room.
    See if they move up and down or have just shrunk. Then make any adjustments.
  • Note: Like doors that expand and shrink curtains may also drop back down as the temperature reduces.
  • Apply a protective film to the window to reduce UV and heat

Why they shrank:

The curtains in our example were full length (210cm long), hung in a kitchen breakfast room, in front of south facing french windows, over an underfloor heated floor. The lining was 100% cotton and steam pressed before make up. The fabric was 100% cotton but was not steam pressed before making up.  The overall shrinkage was 5.5cm of the fabric. 

What about wool fabrics?

We have not had any problems with wools fabrics to date, but please share your experiences good and bad in the comments section for everyone to learn from.

Extra Help & Comments

Sew Helpful
Post your questions and comments here, we will reply so everyone can see the answer.
Tresses gee
Edges of my curtains are turning outwards so the lining is showing along the sides. How can I fix this?
Sew Helpful
I'm not sure, it doesn't sound like they are made the way we make them.
Linda Ellis
My kitchen curtains are Liberty Ianthe good strong cotton material ,not cotton lawn. They need washing. They probably need more than 40 degrees but I am worried about shrinkage. Any tips please?
Sew Helpful
We don’t wash curtains. in our experience the sheen of the fabric changes, there can be different shrinkage rates between the linings and fabric creating puckering. We’ve even seen these problems with dry cleaned curtains. Some people suggest hoovering them to get rid of dust. 
Rahul Guglani
We have curtains based on following construction:
Warpwise: Nylon
Weftwise: viscose/cotton blend chenille and 100% cotton. These get shrunk up to +8cms in summer and -5cms in winter. Why this is happening? Please let us know.thanks for your answer.

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