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What is Sheer Fabric?

By J. Beam
Updated May 21, 2024
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When it comes to fabric, there are literally hundreds of textile terms describing their weave, composition, and uses. Sheer fabric is just one of the many types of fabric available. Unlike most fabrics that are opaque even if varying in thickness, this fabric is semi-transparent and flimsy. Gossamer and rayon are also semi-transparent fabrics and may be referred to by this name. While there are a variety of uses for sheer fabric, the most common is for making curtains.

Also known as window sheers or panels, curtains or drapes made of sheer fabric typically hang the full length of a window, if not all the way to the floor. Their transparency allows for a window to be dressed, but for sunlight to still come through. Window sheers are often offset with a top layer of window coverings, whether it be full-length drapes, a valance or a decorative window topper. Sheer fabric on a window can add a touch of elegance or can create a casual, bright and breezy feel. They are popular in living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchen windows, and they are typically bunched together to create billows rather than stretched out flat.

Other uses for sheer fabric include wedding gowns and formal costumes. The nature of the fabric makes it more delicate to cut and sew than many other types. One of the precautions that must be taken when sewing it is to avoid bunching at the seams and to create a clean hemline. Depending on the pattern and garment construction, sheer fabric typically require some sturdier fabric as an underlay to support it.

Sheer fabric comes in a wide variety of colors, but white and shades of white, such as cream, winter white, eggshell, and ivory are most popular. In some cases, it may be embellished with embroidered patterns or designs. While embroidered fabric is elegant, it is extremely delicate and difficult to work with. As a rule, this fabric is less expensive than other richer material, such as satin or suede, but intricate sheers, especially when embroidered, typically costs more than the plain variety.

Most any fabric store sells sheer fabric. If purchasing it to sew your own window sheers, allow ample length to include a top hem wide enough for your curtain rod and a bottom hem of approximately 2 to 4 inches (5.08 to 10.1 cm). When covering a window with sheers, purchase enough fabric to cover the width of your window three times over to allow for bunching or pleating.

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Discussion Comments

By EarlyForest — On Aug 07, 2010

Sometimes you can get a really nice effect on a skirt, or even with curtains if you match a printed sheer fabric with a plain background fabric.

Of course, you would have to use a different fabric for the curtain than for the skirt -- even though they're similar, I don't think you want to channel Scarlett O'Hara wear a lovely sheer drapery fabric as a skirt!

By naturesgurl3 — On Aug 07, 2010

I think one of the best inventions for wedding dresses is sheer stretch fabric. Those dresses, as beautiful as they are, can be terribly uncomfortable, especially is you have a very heavily embroidered, tight sheer fabric on the top.

Although most sheer stretch fabrics don't have that much of a give; those few extra inches of stretch can make such a difference!

Sometimes you can even get a tailor to change out the stiff fabric on a wedding dress for a stretch sheer fabric, if it's not too intricate of a design.

There's nothing like looking great and being comfortable on your wedding day!

By rallenwriter — On Aug 07, 2010

Thanks for the tips on how much sheer curtain fabric to use -- I learned that one the hard way the first time I tried to make sheer curtains for my kitchen.

I bought exactly enough to cover my window, and ended up having to scrap the whole thing and start over with more...luckily I got a discount on the sheer fabric for buying so much!

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