Curtains buying guide

Our ready-made curtains are available in a variety of widths, weights and designs, ensuring a look that’s right for any kind of room. If you’re looking for something different, we also supply made-to-order curtains in just 7 days.

And if you're looking for something even more individual, then the custom service in our shops can make virtually window dressing you want in any suitable fabric available to us.

Watch our curtains video guides for help with measuring up, calculating fabric, making and hanging curtains.

Curtain styles and headings

We stock curtains with two basic types of heading. Pencil pleat is a traditional style, while eyelet curtains give a more contemporary look.

Pencil pleat

These are folds, gathered closely together to resemble a row of pencils laid side by side. They are created by pulling the cords on the heading tape and winding them around a cord tidy to keep the pleats in place. They can be used on curtain poles or tracks.


These are suitable only for use with curtain poles and have a row of eyelets, usually metal, which can vary in diameter. They give a much softer, wider fold.

A range of other heading types is available through our made-to-order service, both online and in our shops.

Voiles, nets and cotton lace

Voiles are very lightweight curtains which will give a soft diffused light when hung at a window, while maintaining privacy.

Nets and cotton lace curtains are usually used in conjunction with heavier curtains to allow light in while maintaining privacy. They're not currently sold online, but a wide range of styles is available in our shops.

Measuring for curtains

To be sure of the best possible fit, take time to measure your window carefully. We suggest using a metal tape measure for accuracy. The first step is to decide whether you want your curtains to hang from a track or pole, both of which should be positioned 15cm (6 inches) above the window and extend 15-20cm (6-8 inches) either side.

Fit the track or pole before taking measurements. Watch our video guide to measuring up.

Measuring width

Measure the total width of the track or pole (excluding the finials) – do not measure the window unless it is wall-to-wall. Don’t forget to allow for overlap – this is an additional measurement, normally 2.5cm (1 inch) that allows the hanging curtains to overlap in the middle when they are closed.

Measuring length

Before measuring the length, decide whether you want your curtains to fall to the sill, below the sill or to the floor. We suggest that:

Sill length curtains finish 1.25cm (1/2 inch) above the sill.

Curtains that fall below the sill finish 15cm (6 inches) below.

Floor length curtains finish 1.5cm (1/2 inch) from the floor (although you can create a romantic, Bohemian look by having them longer so that they actually trail on the floor).

Measuring curtains for tracks

Measure from the top of the track.

View our buying guide for curtain tracks

Measuring curtains for poles

Pencil pleat curtains: Measure from the eye – the small metal ring at the bottom of each curtain ring. This will prevent the pole or rings from being obscured by the curtain.

Tab top and eyelet curtains: Measure from the very top of the pole.

View our buying guide for curtain poles

Buying curtains

While our curtains are sold in pairs, the dimensions on the pack refer to each individual curtain. The total width of both curtains should be two to two and a half times the width of the track or pole. To help you, the minimum and maximum track and pole widths for each size are listed online and can be found on the curtain packaging.

We can supply made-to-order curtains in a wide range of fabrics, many of which are exclusive to John Lewis. These will usually be delivered in 7 working days from the date of your order.

Measure your windows carefully, using the measuring guide provided, then follow the instructions on screen to choose your fabric, heading type and lining. You can also order matching 50 x 50cm piped or unpiped cushion covers and crescent-shaped fabric tiebacks for a fully-co-ordinated look.

View our made-to-order curtains buying guide

Fitting pencil pleat curtains to a track or pole


Pencil pleat curtain tape has three rows for height setting.

To get the right height:
For tracks: insert the hooks into the lower rows so that the heading covers the track
For poles: insert the hooks into the top row of the pockets so that the curtain hangs below the pole.

  • Check that you have the same number of hooks in each curtain as you have gliders on your track or rings on your pole. Don’t forget to count the fixed end stop if you are using a track.
  • Attach each hook to a glider or ring
  • Gently bring the flat area between each pleat to sit neatly in folds.


Before you hang your curtains, you need to fix them at the width they will be when they are closed. To do this:

  • Tie the strings in the heading tape at one end of the curtain.
  • Draw the curtain to the required width.

Tie the surplus strings at the outer edges of the curtains around the cord tidy supplied. Do not tie them too tightly, as they will need to be loosened for cleaning, and never cut the ends.

All curtains need time to settle and it may take a few weeks for any creasing to drop out and the folds to fall correctly.

Curtain linings

All curtains hang better if they are lined. Linings also enhance the appearance of colours and patterns, protect against strong sunlight and improve insulation when it’s cold. Separate linings are available in our shops for use with lightweight curtains.

Removable linings make cleaning easier. Special lining tape, to attach removable linings to your curtains, is sold in our shops. Watch our video guide to choosing curtain linings.

General care advice

  • Hang curtains away from the window pane so they do not come into contact with condensation.
  • Don’t worry if your newly-hung velvet curtains show crease and pressure marks; these will disappear as the pile lifts and the lustre of the fabric returns.
  • Run your fingers along the natural folds of the curtain to tease the pleats into position.
  • To avoid marking velvet through handling, we recommend you fit tracks with a cord or use draw rods to open and close the curtains.

Cleaning curtains

Before you clean curtains, loosen the draw-strings and remove hooks, weights and any other metal fittings. Lined curtains should always be dry cleaned.

Washable fabrics

  • Always hand wash when recommended and rinse thoroughly.
  • If you use a powder detergent for hand washing, make sure that it is fully dissolved before putting the fabric in the water.
  • Squeeze the fabric gently and avoid rubbing actions.
  • Treat machine-washable fabrics with care – never wash or spin them for longer than necessary and do not wash at a higher temperature than recommended.
  • To retain the clarity of dyed and printed fabrics, use a colour care detergent as these have no optical brighteners.
  • After spin drying, the fabric should retain enough moisture to smooth itself out, regain its shape and minimise shrinkage.

Cotton lace

  • Cotton lace curtains can be hand washed or machine washed up to a maximum temperature of 40°C as long as they are placed inside a pillowcase or laundry bag to prevent damage.
  • For white cotton lace use a detergent and for cream, soap powder or a colour care detergent.
  • Stretch curtains gently before they dry completely to help them regain their shape.
  • Press lightly using a cool iron. Do not use steam.

Nets and Voiles

  • Nets and voiles should usually be hand washed. Check the washing instructions on the product.
  • Before washing, gently shake out any dust, then immerse the curtains in lukewarm water that contains soap or detergent.
  • Net curtain whitener will help restore net curtains to their original brightness. Do not use a bleaching agent.
  • Rinse thoroughly and drip dry.
  • Most creases will drop out during drying but press lightly using a cool iron on the reverse if needed.

Curtain accessories

We have a range of accessories to add that the finishing touch to your curtains, including holdbacks and fabric tiebacks, which serve a useful purpose when curtains are especially wide or heavy.