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How Much Draping Do I Need? A Guide To Fabric Fullness

Posted by JC on 3/2/2018 to Pipe and Drape
How much draping do I need for my pipe and drape backdrop?

A question that we are often asked is “How much draping should I use?”.

That’s certainly a good question -- after all, it’s important for your event drapery to have the right look! This article will help explain “fullness” and how to determine how many drapes you need for your pipe and drape backdrop.

I should start first by pointing out that most pipe and drape panels are sewn flat.

This means that the curtains are not pre-pleated – so in order for you to get a gathered (bunched-up, pleated) look in the fabric, you would arrange the drapes by hand on a horizontal Drape Support Rod / Crossbar pipe.

A picture showing how pipe and drape panels are usually sewn flat and need to be gathered by hand on a drape support rod or crossbar

Having gathered drapes adds depth and dimension to your backdrop, so it’s likely that you’ll want some sort of fabric gathering, rather than having the drapes taut (spread completely out, with little or no pleated look).

Of course, every event is different, and you may have a need for taut drapes. So we’re going to cover the range of fullness options to give you a better idea of what would work best for you.

The amount of bunching that you can achieve is determined by the width of each drapery panel, the number of drapes that you are using, and the area that you are trying to cover.


Degrees Of Drape Fullness

Let’s go over some of the most common levels of fullness: 0%, 50%, and 100%. As the fullness percentage increases, the drapes become more gathered.

0% Fullness (No Gathering / Flat Drapes)

Image showing a pipe and drape backdrop with no gathering in the drapes.

With no fullness, the drapes are flat; there would be no pleated / bunched-up look to them.

In general, this look is only done if there is a certain reason that you wouldn’t want or need your curtains to have a gathered appearance. Otherwise, you will likely prefer one of the other degrees of fullness below.


50% Fullness

Picture of a pipe and drape system with 50% fullness.

50% fullness provides a good level of a pleated look. This is a commonly used fullness level, as it’s both cost-effective and gives your backdrop a nicely gathered appearance.

For many of our fabrics*, we suggest using the number of drapes that will result in around 50% fullness.

*There are some of our fabrics, such as our Sheer Voile, where we recommend having more than this level of fullness. Please see the product descriptions on our website for our suggestion on the minimum number of drapes we recommend using.


100% Fullness

Photo of a pipe and drape display with beautifully pleated drapery panels

100% fullness gives your drapery a great amount of gathering for a rich, pleated look.

For most solid, non-sheer fabrics, this degree of fullness provides a luxurious amount of gathering. If the material is semi-opaque (not sheer, but not light-blocking either), using this amount of gathering can also help reduce some of the fabric’s transparency compared to lesser degrees of fullness.

You can see how different levels of fullness can transform the look of your backdrop as it goes from a flat, non-pleated look to a more gathered, pleated look.


The Fullness Formula

Here are the basic rules of determining how many drapes you need:

0% Fullness
A closeup image of flat pipe and drape curtains

You would take the area that you’re trying to cover and multiply it by 1.

Example: Your drapes are 5 feet wide. You’re covering a 10 foot wide area:

→ 10 foot wide area to cover * 1 = 10 feet of total fabric width

→ 5 foot wide drape + 5 foot wide drape = 10 total feet of fabric width.

→ Using this example, you would need 2 drapes for 0% Fullness.


50% Fullness
A closeup picture of pleated pipe & drape curtains

You would take the area that you’re trying to cover and multiply it by 1.5.

Example: Your drapes are 5 feet wide. You’re covering a 10 foot wide area:

→ 10 foot wide area to cover * 1.5 = 15 feet of total fabric width

→ 5 foot wide drape + 5 foot wide drape + 5 foot wide drape = 15 total feet of fabric width.

→ Using this case, you would need 3 drapes to get 50% Fullness.


100% Fullness
A closeup photo of drape panels with a lot of pleats

You would take the area that you’re trying to cover and multiply it by 2.

Example: Your drapes are 5 feet wide. You’re covering a 10 foot wide area:

→ 10 foot wide area to cover * 2 = 20 feet of total fabric width

→ 5 foot wide drape + 5 foot wide drape + 5 foot wide drape + 5 foot wide drape = 20 total feet of fabric width.

→ With this example, you would need 4 drapes for 100% Fullness.


When The Math Isn’t Perfect

What if you were using a fabric that isn’t 5 feet wide, like in our examples above?

If you find that the drapes that you’re using aren’t perfectly divisible (as they were in the previous examples), no worries at all! Here’s how it works in those situations:

Let’s say you have drapes that are 4 feet wide. You’re covering a 10 foot wide area, and you want 50% Fullness.

We know from our formula above that it would be:

10 foot wide area to cover * 1.5 = 15 feet of total fabric width

Since each drape in this fabric is 4 feet wide, and that doesn’t divide into 15 evenly, you would have to determine if you prefer more gathering, or less gathering, than your 50% target.

If you were to use 3 drapes:

4 foot wide drape + 4 foot wide drape + 4 foot wide drape = 12 total feet of fabric width

You would be more on the flat spectrum. Your target for 50% Fullness would require 15 feet of fabric, and here you have 12 feet of fabric width.

In this case, using 3 drapes gives you 20% Fullness.


If you were to use 4 drapes:

4 foot wide drape + 4 foot wide drape + 4 foot wide drape + 4 foot wide drape = 16 total feet of fabric width

You would actually be a bit more than your 50% Fullness target, since your target is 15 feet of fabric, and here you have 16 feet of fabric width.

In this case, using 4 drapes gives you 60% Fullness.


When the math isn’t perfect, it comes down to your preference for either a little bit more, or a little bit less, than the target fullness that you originally planned.

For this example, since your original target was 50% Fullness, you would likely prefer using four drape panels, because a slightly more gathered look (60% Fullness) in your fabric would be closer to your target, compared to the alternative of using only three drapes and having a much less gathered look (20% Fullness) than your original target.


If In Doubt, Check With Your Supplier



Some fabrics, particularly sheer fabrics, are suggested - and look best - with a LOT of gathering.

For example, we recommend using 4 of our Sheer Voile drapes per 10 foot wide area being covered.

At a glance, this may not sound like a big number to use, but keep in mind that each Sheer Voile drape is TEN FEET WIDE!

In other words, our suggestion is to use 40 feet of fabric width to cover a 10 foot wide area – that’s 400% fullness!

This is because that particular type of fabric looks amazing when it’s super-gathered, and at the same time, it also helps cut down on some of the natural transparency of that material.

So we definitely suggest following, or at least considering, the recommended minimum number of drapes.

Of course, if you have a different preference, you’ve now learned how to calculate different degrees of fullness, and you can use that information to help make the best decision for your event.


The More You Know!

Hopefully you have a better understanding of the different ways that drape fullness can help your pipe and drape backdrop look its best.

Now all you have to do is figure out what look you’re trying to achieve, and your personal preference, to decide if you’ll want more or less gathering in your fabric.

Of course, we work with drapery every day and are used to calculating fullness, so if you have any questions at all, please contact us and know that we’re always happy to help!


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