The One Stop Upholstery Shop
Guide to Upholstery Fabrics
The fabric of an upholstered piece is the most visible sign of quality and style. Upholstery fabric also is the part most likely to show wear and soil. When choosing upholstery, you should be aware of its durability, cleanability, and resistance to soil and fading.
How will your upholstered pieces be used in your home? Sofas, chairs, and ottomans receiving only moderate amounts of wear will do fine with a less durable fabric.
However, pieces subjected to daily heavy wear need to be covered in tough, durable, tightly woven fabrics.
When purchasing an upholstered piece or upholstery fabric, be aware that the higher the thread count, the more tightly woven the fabric is, and the better it will wear. Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch.
From top to bottom, the upholstery fabrics shown in this photograph include:
Linen: Linen is best suited for formal living rooms or adult areas because it soils and wrinkles easily. And, it won't withstand heavy wear. However, linen does resist pilling and fading. Soiled linen upholstery must be professionally cleaned to avoid shrinkage.
Leather: This tough material can be gently vacuumed, damp-wiped as needed, and cleaned with leather conditioner or saddle soap.
Cotton: This natural fiber provides good resistance to wear, fading, and pilling. It is less resistant to soil, wrinkling, and fire. Surface treatments and blending with other fibers often atone for these weaknesses. Durability and use depend on the weave and finish. Damask weaves are formal; canvas (duck and sailcloth) is more casual and more durable.
Wool: Sturdy and durable, wool and wool blends offer good resistance to pilling, fading, wrinkling, and soil. Generally, wool is blended with a synthetic fiber to make it easier to clean and to reduce the possibility of felting the fibers (causing them to bond together until they resemble felt). Blends can be spot-cleaned when necessary.
Cotton Blend: Depending on the weave, cotton blends can be sturdy, family-friendly fabrics. A stain-resistant finish should be applied for everyday use.
Vinyl: Easy-care and less expensive than leather, vinyls are ideal for busy family living and dining rooms. Durability depends on quality.
Silk: This delicate fabric is only suitable for adult areas, such as formal living rooms. It must be professionally cleaned if soiled.
Acetate: Developed as imitation silk, acetate can withstand mildew, pilling, and shrinking. However, it offers only fair resistance to soil and tends to wear, wrinkle, and fade in the sun. It's not a good choice for furniture that will get tough everyday use.
Acrylic: This synthetic fiber was developed as imitation wool. It resists wear, wrinkling, soiling, and fading. Low-quality acrylic may pill excessively in areas that receive high degrees of abrasion. High-quality acrylics are manufactured to pill significantly less.
Nylon: Rarely used alone, nylon is usually blended with other fibers to make it one of the strongest upholstery fabrics. Nylon is very resilient; in a blend, it helps eliminate the crushing of napped fabrics such as velvet. It doesn't readily soil or wrinkle, but it does tend to fade and pill.
Olefin: This is a good choice for furniture that will receive heavy wear. It has no pronounced weaknesses.
Polyester: Rarely used alone in upholstery, polyester is blended with other fibers to add wrinkle resistance, eliminate crushing of napped fabrics, and reduce fading. When blended with wool, polyester aggravates pilling problems.
Rayon: Developed as an imitation silk, linen, and cotton, rayon is durable. However, it wrinkles. Recent developments have made high-quality rayon very practical.
Fashion fabrics may be pretty to look at
but none have what it takes to make long wear.
Fabrics touch almost every surface, adding color and design to every room. Today there are so many different selections available to match every room’s style and décor. Be daring, put your heart in your home, create warm spaces that put your family and friends at ease.
Turn every room into a loving reflection of you! Enhance your life, refresh you sprit, reward yourself with a home that loves you back. The fiber content is very important it must pass the home furnishing rule. This rule was past in the early 80’s. The fabric must not be flammable. Do you remember the flannel pajamas for babies? In a fire the pajamas were a danger, they smothered and melted creating 3-degree burn or worse. This problem was solved by the home furnishing rule. Most fabrics today are a natural fiber mixed with a manmade fiber. This is called the fiber contents. Cotton is a natural fiber its strong, a all purpose fiber for home furnishing. Its wear ability is superior. Linen is strong, but it will wrinkle. If the wrinkling is a concern do not use this fabric. To test the wrinkling crush a handful of fabric tightly in the palm of your hand. Release to see if the wrinkles are retained. Rayon and acetone are often used together or in blends for a rich, silky appearance. Acetone may spot if it gets wet and its stretches which makes it applicably to upholstered Furniture. Just imagine you’re sitting and moving all around living and doing what ever on that piece of furniture. You expect the fabric to hold up and wear accordingly. As a normal characteristic you expect no less. This is why you should pick your fabrics accordingly. Polyester is usually combined with other fibers to add stability. Usually polyester is mixed with a
natural fiber making the fabric very strong. It wears great. These fabrics are suggested for long wear. As a rule, the tighter the weave or the higher the thread count, the stronger the fabric. Always remember Upholstery fabrics are 54” wide. Most drapery fabrics are not suitable for upholstery. Drapery fabrics are for window treatments and were not created for upholstered pieces. The fabric simply won’t endure every day use. If the fibers get damages the fabric will unravel, holes will start being visible from the eye. Also, fraying will occur and sun fading. This fabric is hard to keep clean and stains. I do not recommend this fabric at any time.
Many decorator fabrics have a stain-resistant finish. To test, drop a small amount of water on the fabric. If the water beads up instead of soaking in, the fabric will repel stains. If it soaks in the fabric it will stain. You should also, make sure the dyes don’t bleed or rub off. You can accomplish this by rubbing the fabric between your fingers. Always consider the end use, being sure the fabric is appropriate for the piece.
Always remember you get what you pay for. When comparing cost of fabrics consider that prints cost more than solids. If you chose a fabric with a pattern repeat it will take additional yardage. Here’s the rule: 1-3 “ repeat (10% more fabric), 4-6” repeat (20% more fabric), 7” repeat (30% more fabric). The larger the repeat the more fabric you will need to complete the piece.
Chose a fabric carefully, analyze the original covering of the piece and try to determine why it was successful or not. Then determine if it’s going to be used often and pick accordingly.
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