Post 431 – by Gautam Shah
Translucency of a fabric for has been an important factor how curtains sensorially affect us. In ancient times when heavier tapestries including rugs were hung on openings, little light seeping through the weaving or worn out gaps was very much pleasing experience. Light through the woven material gets refracted by the surrounding fibrous texture of threads at the gap point. It not only diffused the glare of outdoor light but created a warm glow due to the unbleached warp yarn.
Nominally our experience tells us that heavy fabrics are more opaque, and light weave fabrics are translucent. Though there are many exceptions to these, due to the nature of fiber, its post spinning treatments, use of colourants and nature of the weave. For the favour of anyone (heavy-opaque or light-translucency) the others can be redefined. Fabrics are lighter, because the fibres are naturally thin, can be spun to a very fine count, filaments or long staples in nature, and woven with a single weave or similar techniques. Fabrics or fibres dyed to lighter shades seem less heavy. Fabrics with finer warp yarn tend to be tightly woven rendering it to be opaque.
The substantive determinants for perceptual and actual transparency or translucency of a curtain material depends on Treatments over a fabric, mode of hanging and pleating, presence or absence of a liner-layer and the secondary treatments over the opening itself.
The illumination conditions of the interior space, and the viewing position in the interior or exterior location, substantially affect the perception of transparency. A bright exterior or one that allows greater proportion of ‘sky component reflection’ (the reflected light from the sky) such as clear sky days, openings on sea coast, very vast open grounds, on the upper level windows in tall buildings, and very bright or highly a reflective frontage of urban streets, all contribute to the brightness over the windows’ plane (an exterior side). A bright exterior side and a glare-less interior, both add to the translucency. A curtain fabric shows the glow of exterior daylight when the interior glare is less dominant. Such conditions also arise when areas besides the curtain are not highly illuminated, or furnished in lighter shades. A direct sunlight exposure of the window makes the curtain seem opaque (at least from outside) where as a deep shade or awning makes a curtain ‘see-through’ entity.
The perception of transparency is governed by the construction of the curtain, such as design and density of pleats, presence or absence of back-layering, and the direction of the weave. The natural way of fabric orientation for curtain is the warp forming the vertical orientation (and the weft the horizontal position). A curtaining system, called Railroading, places the fabric, with weft forming the vertical orientation (and warp the horizontal position), which makes the fabrics seem more opaque. Curtains are also formed with multiple fabrics of synchronized colours or textures. The mid sections are formed with lighter (or white) fabric, allowing more light, feeling of lightness and view-through facility.
Fabrics of Filament yarn (very long fibres) such as of silk and synthetics, naturally have very thin and uniform section, allowing lighter density weaving. But filament yarns of synthetics provide fabrics with a glossy finish, which takes away the ‘glow from back’ effect. Compared to these yarns of natural staple fibres of cotton, jute, wool, etc. and Rayons, have variable section and micro fibres jutting out, after spinning. Such yarns create weaves with many small gaps, and the micro fibres diffract the light.
Silks have been the first choice for sheer curtains due to fineness and natural ‘fall’ it offers. Sheer curtains are known as privacy curtains. Some of the best sheer fabrics are of pure silk, but most of the commercial materials are made of synthetic filament yarn (long length fibres). Very fine count cotton yarn fabrics such as lawn, cambric, chintz, voile, Malmal, muslin, etc. are also translucent, but have a tendency to creasing, and the quality of ‘fall’ is not natural.
Fabrics in lattice or net forms are created through weaving, knitting, netting, crochet and such other constructions. Embroidered fabrics were used in Dutch and Swiss dwellings. Sheer fabrics flourish with their pleats and resultant folds, whereas the embroidered constructions brandish their self-patterns. Such constructions are very pliable and semi-transparent like a sheer fabric curtain.
Net woven fabrics of cotton and synthetic materials are soft and of substantial to flimsy body. It is net density (or lightness) and the pleat formations that add to its hazy see-through charm. Net patterns are created by singeing fusible weft or sections of fabric, or by selectively pulling out the weft yarns.
See-through curtains nominally form the first layer in multiple curtains’ system. Such curtains allow a fuzzy view of outsides during day time, but at night may require an opaque topping of a curtain. Such fabrics or constructions must not be used with a lining fabric, to maintain the translucency. Similarly such curtains not embellished and embroidered for patterns. Such extra work increases the weight of the fabric at the cost of graceful fall. These types of curtains are commonly heavily pleated or hung as a plain panel (such as a roller or horizontally folding curtain) and so the total quantity of cloth required for must be pre-considered.