If you are new to the world of upholstery, choosing the right fabric may seem like an arduous process. With all the fabrics (not to mention the colors and designs) available, how do you choose the one which is right for you? Here is some information on various fabric to help you select the right fabric for your furniture.
If you are planning to upholster something that will experience everyday wear and tear, durability is important to consider. Upholstery fabric’s durability is determined by how it rates on the manufacturer-administered double rub test, which is a back and forth motion that mimics the wear and tear of someone sitting on an upholstered seat over time. The higher the number of double rubs, (for example 100,000 vs 10,000) the better the indicator of quality and durability. In addition to higher double rubs, look for upholstery fabrics treated for performance, like stain resistance, water repellant, or UV resistance.
For upholstery projects that will not be used every day, like decorative or heirloom pieces, performance characteristics might not be as important, which opens up a wider variety including silk, wool, linen, cotton duck, embellished fabrics and more! Just look for home décor fabrics in the medium to very heavyweight range.
Upholstery fabric is often not suitable for traditional washing or dry cleaning once applied to furniture; therefore, you must follow the manufacturer’s instructions and look for stain repellent fabrics for heavier-use pieces. Our recommendation for dry-cleaning is intended prior to upholstering, if cleaning before use is desired. Once upholstered, use spot cleaners intended for upholstery fabric, or upholstery cleaning services. Using a fabric protectant spray over your finished furniture is highly recommended.
These common, upholstery fabrics come in a variety of weights, colors, fibers, and treatments to ensure you get the fabric you need for your project.
- Chenille – Excellent fabric choice for home usage, primarily heavier use pieces. Similar to velvet, it has a cut pile that aids in abrasion resistance and comfort.
- Faux suede / Microfiber / Ultrasuede – Typically a polyester multi-weave fabric with a surface abrasion treatment giving it a fuzzy, sueded pile to mimic suede, this fabric is an excellent choice for heavy-use family rooms and pets. It’s very strong, abrasion resistant and easy to clean.
- Velvet – Velvet has a dense cut pile, making it luxuriously soft with a sheen. Velvet can stand up to heavy usage, and is an attractive choice for most homes. Cleans best when spill or stain is tended to immediately.
- Basketweave / Tweed – These textured woven fabrics hide stains and wear well, and can be used in any upholstery application depending on their double rub rating. Higher double rubs will reduce pilling and fabric pulls.
- Faux Leather – Easy to clean and makes a great choice for children’s furniture and other high-usage pieces. Clean and condition appropriately to reduce risk of cracking.
- Marine Vinyl – Made to resist weather and harsh elements, marine vinyl is a leather look vinyl that is extremely durable and easy to clean.
- Jacquard – Typically a heavier fabric, it has yarn dyed fibers that create a pattern, giving the fabric texture and style. Good fabric choice for home usage, primarily moderate use and decorative pieces.
- Duck/Canvas – A strong, plain weave fabric, ideal for printed designs. When made of cotton, this fabric shape can warp over time with heavy-use, so it should be used on moderate-use furniture, decorative pieces or pillow accents.
These are common fibers used in upholstery fabrics. They can be 100% or blended with other fibers to join characteristics. These fibers can be made up into a variety of fabric types, which also have an effect on their performance:
- Cotton – breathable, comfortable, and budget-friendly. Not fade resistant.
- Linen – Very strong and breathable and classic. Less resistant to stains and fading, should not be used for heavy-use, but excellent for heirloom pieces.
- Wool – Luxurious, great texture and feel, keeps its shape, less resistant to stains – look for stain resistance treatmemt or a blend.
- Silk – Luxurious and strong, but should not be used for everyday.
- Rayon / Viscose – Adds softness when blended with other fibers, not durable.
- Polyester – Durable, easy to clean, low – moderate abrasion resistance – it can pill if double rub rating isn’t high enough.
- Nylon – Durable, high abrasion resistance, easy to clean.
- Acrylic – Very durable, color fast, easy to clean, great for heavy-use upholstery.
- Olefin – Very durable, color fast, easy to clean, great for heavy-use upholstery.
Your color choice is also dependent upon the type of use your furniture will see. A natural beige color is a popular choice for hiding dirt as well as being a neutral that can go with many different décor styles.
Consider lighter solid colors to create an airy, inviting mood in a space. Darker colors or patterns are better for hiding dirt and wear. Or you can always select a bright color or a fun, bold pattern to make a statement in your space!
Fabric.com offers over 20K upholstery fabrics online, with swatches available, and free shipping on domestic orders $49 or more. We hope this guide to upholstery fabrics helps to point you in the right direction for your fabric selection. Happy sewing!