I had a call from a dear friend earlier this week asking the best way to wash curtains. She has those little metal hooks in hers and she wasn’t sure if she needed to remove them before washing. I’m not an expert on draperies and all things hanging, but I figured it was probably wise to remove the hooks as they are really sharp and would probably shred anything they came in contact with in the washing machine. Also it would be a really noisy load of laundry.
She took my advice and they came out beautifully clean and intact. But she posed a good question: What is the difference between a curtain and a drape?
My friend is from another country and English is not her first language. We have many great conversations about linguistics and the oddness of my native tongue, and she has taught me just as much about my language as I have taught her. Every now and then she uses a word which doesn’t actually exist in English but so better describes the thing or situation. Take the word “balmy”. We use it to describe a particular type of weather when it feels warm, moist, and tropical (yes, even here in Vancouver). The dictionary defines it as: “having the quality or fragrance of balm; soothing.” What is balm you might ask? Again the dictionary defines it as: “any fragrant ointment”, “a Mediterranean perennial herb”, or “a pleasing aromatic fragrance”. When my friend heard the word being used to describe the weather she didn’t hear “balmy” but “palmy”. Which to my mind, more accurately describes the type of weather we are talking about.
So when she asked what the difference was between curtains and drapes I had to admit I had no idea. Who better to ask than Better Homes and Gardens.
According to BH&G, "Curtains are generally lightweight, unlined and suspended from a rod by simple tabs, rings or rod-pocket casing. A rod-pocket casing is simply a sewn flap at the top of the curtain where you push the rod through to hang. Curtains are decorative and casual and easy to make yourself, if you were so inclined.” (Love that – if you are so inclined – ha ha. I have the urge to whip up some curtains; be right with you).
Drapes are typically lined and floor length and again, according to BH&G, "...often attach by hooks to a traverse rod. A cord mechanism that hangs behind either the left or right panel draws both of the panels open and closed. Here we've moved into a more formal, mechanized window covering, as opposed to curtains which you would open and close by hand. Drapes are typically pleated, though not always and offer a much fuller, richer look.”
I hope this answers my friend's question. And because she had to remove hooks before washing, it’s now that clear she was washing her drapes.
Next week I’ll discuss the difference between carpet, rug, broadloom, and wall-to-wall.