So much goes into a fabric that this question is hard to answer in just a few lines. First, yarn qualities vary according to their composition and the way they are spun.
Yarns that are evenly (or at least consistently) spun, that have no foreign fibres, that take dyestuffs the same way every time, are more expensive to produce. Dyestuffs that resist sunlight and cleaning processes are very much more expensive than dyes that will fade within a short time in use. Slow-weaving fabrics like jacquards and tapestries will inevitably cost more to produce, reflecting the true cost of the additional yarn, tiome and care that goes into their manufacture.
Heavy fabrics that contain a lot of yarn will stand up to wear and tear better, as a rule of thumb, but of course more yarn adds to the cost. With fabrics, it's fair to say you do get what you pay for.
Yarns come from products sourced on the global commodity markets, polyester, cotton, wool and silk, for example - and the global market system tends to keep these prices as low as possible. If a fabric is cheaper than another in a comparison, there is usually a very good reason for that price difference.
See our sample cutting request form if you would like us to send you a cutting, we can send it directly to your customer at your request to save time. If you would like to order a sample hanger please see the sample hanger category on this site.
All curtains must by law, have cleaning instructions sewn into the hem. Generally we would recommend having your curtains cleaned by a professional cleaner, simply because they are bulky and difficult to handle domestically. However many fabrics are suitable to be cleaned at home. Every sample has complete after-care instructions included. Cleaning your curtains will also prolong their life. Water damage and exposure to sunlight can weaken yarns over time. The effects of heat, tobacco smoke, moisture and some atmospheric pollutants can cause permanent damage to curtains. Cleaning them will lessen these effects. See our care codes for more information.
There are five levels of performance in the Australian Standards for upholstery depending on the end use you have in mind. The highest level is a Category 5 fabric and it needs to withstand 30,000 rubs (using a test called the Martindale test) without breaking a thread. That is a very high standard and is usually associated with fabrics being used commercially in theatres and so on. The next level down is at 20,000 rubs and this is designated as heavy domestic use or medium commercial. The mid level, Category 3, must tolerate 15,000 rubs. It is medium domestic use or light commercial. If you are going to sit on this fabric every day we would recommend at least a Category 3 fabric. Category 2 is for light domestic use and must reach 10,000 rubs. It is fine for dining room chairs of furniture that isn't used every day. Finally Category 1 is for decorative use where the furniture is for aesthetic appeal rather than normal use. All upholstery fabrics will specify on the sample the standard you can expect form them.
There are three categories for curtain quality, they are simply Categories 1, 2 and 3.
Category 1: Basic performance - applies to fabrics which are recognised as having a short life expectancy and which are liable to change their characteristics in response to hanging or cleaning to a greater degree than in Categories 2 and 3.
Category 2: Medium performance - Most people would be happy with this level of performance from their curtains, but they will show slightly less dimensional stability (may move up and down more) than the top category. Some lovely fabrics such as silk will be in this category. It doesn't mean that they are poor quality, just that they will need a little extra care.
Category 3: High level of performance - This is the top level. The light fastness is higher and the strength and stability are excellent. They are still not indestructible, - for instance you need to protect them from too much sunlight - however they are as good as you can commercially expect.
These days many window treatments, such as Austrian blinds, festoons, Roman blinds, and tied-back curtains are to coin a phrase, wide-open to fading. It doesn't take only direct sunlight to do the damage, indirect light will take a little longer, but will fade your curtains just as surely. There are substantial benefits of using good quality linings on our drapes, but with the above changes in the usage of fabrics, problems with fading have increased. Lighfastness is how we measure the performance of products to fading. It is the resistance to colour degradation of an object when it is exposed to light. Ultra-violet radiation from the sun breaks down coloured compounds over time. All fabrics and dyestuffs fade eventually, and we can measure this using an internationally accepted scale, called the "Blue Wool Scale" (BWS). Each increment in the BWS indicates an approximate doubling of the lighfastness of the fabric. Thus "6" is twice as lightfast as "5" and four times as lightfast as "4", etc. As a guide for furnishings used indoors, the accompanying chart shows the BWS and the days of exposure associated with the scale. As soon as any fading is apparent we note the BWS result; we do not wait until the colour degrades completely. Score of 7 and 8 are virtually unknown is furnishings. You can get them in some canvas awnings that are outdoors all the time and paints for cars and outdoor use.
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There are external influences that will, and do, affect the reliability of the scales, they are:
1. Exposure conditions: Smog, pollution, soiling, seaspray, algae, fungus, moisture, and high temperatures will speed the fading process.
2. Colour concentration: Since colour degradation is a breakdown of the pieces of chemical dyestuff, it follows that more pieces will take longer to degrade. Surprisingly therefore low concentrations such as soft pinks and apricots will degrade (fade) faster than strong colours like dark blues or dark greens.
3. Cost of fabric: Naturally the better resistance to degradation from light the more expensive the dyestuff. As dyestuffs are a high proportion of the cost of fabric production, generally, the higher the BWS rating, the more expensive the fabric.
Protection: Firstly, always use a good quality lining to protect the fabric as much as possible. Next, be aware of the potential for fading; forewarned is forearmed. We recommend that roller blinds or awnings be installed when soft window treatments like swags and tie-back curtains are used. Finally, use a good quality fabric, especially when using fancy window treatments. Ask about the light-fastness of your chosen fabric. Suppliers should be able to give you an idea of the rating. Expect to pay more for good lighfastness. Quality dyestuffs are a lot more expensive than the poor ones.
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