How To Choose the Right Upholstery Fabric

Patterns, solids and prints, oh my! Feeling overwhelmed from trying to find the perfect fabric for your upholstery makeover?

DSC - Fabric

There are lots of fabric choices out there today, from natural fabric like cotton to man-made fabric such as rayon. We hope this blog post will help you make the right fabric decision and ultimately make the right statement in your home.

What to Remember When Looking for a Fabric with Durability and Style

Where will the furniture be located, in a well traveled area or in an area exposed to direct sunlight? Furniture pieces subject to daily heavy wear need to be covered in tough, durable, tightly woven fabrics with high an abrasion factor, with at least 15,000 double rubs, for upholstery fabric. For more information on abrasion factors, click here.

Another thing to remember is the fabric should compliment the style of the furniture and add to its character. You will also want to be aware of the room size as you don't want to choose an overwhelming pattern for a small space. Make sure the fabric fits the mood of the room too, is it warm or cool? Don't choose a fabric just for its color, be sure to use something fitting for the room and atmosphere. Always remember you must love the fabric. Since you are spending time and money on your upholstered piece, make sure you find fabric you will enjoy for many years to come.

How To Choose the Right Fabric Type

When shopping for fabrics, you’ll find a vast array of different patterns, textures, abrasion factor and fiber contents to select from. But your choice will come down to two basic fabric types: natural fabrics and man-made fabrics. Let's look at the options:

Natural Fabrics

DSC - Cotton FabricCOTTON

durable, easy to clean

This natural fiber provides good resistance to wear, fading and pilling, but is less resistant to soiling and wrinkling.

COTTON BLEND

sturdy, family-friendly

For everyday use, it’s a good idea to apply a stain-resistant finish.

LEATHER

very forgiving, easy to clean

This tough material comes in many colors and finishes and develops more character and softness with age.

LINEN

stays clean, absorbs moisture

This fabric is best suited for formal living rooms or adult areas because it soils and wrinkles easily. While it won't withstand heavy wear, linen does resist pilling and fading.

DSC - Silk FabricSILK

delicate, soft

This fabric is only suitable for formal areas. Must be professionally cleaned if soiled.

WOOL

water repellent, 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. Blends can be spot-cleaned when necessary. Wool is warm in the summer and cool in the winter.

RAMIE

stain resistant, absorbs moisture

Ramie fibers are one of the strongest natural fibers, a great eco-friendly alternative to using synthetic fibers or non-organic fibers.. Ramie can be up to 8 times stronger than cotton and is even stronger when wet.

DSC - Hemp FabricHEMP

wrinkles easily, durab

Hemp is processed to separate the fibers, then woven into fabric. It is linen-like in hand and appearance. Hemp provides warmth and softness of a natural textile but with super durability.

Man-Made Fabrics

ACETATE AND TRIACETATE

imitation silk, tends to wear

Acetate resists mildew, pilling and shrinking. On the other hand, it offers only fair resistance to soil and wrinkle and fade in the sun. Not a good choice for furniture you will use everyday.

ACRYLIC

resists wear, lightweight

Developed as imitation wool, acrylic resists wrinkling, soiling and fading. Low-quality acrylic may tend to pill excessively in high-wear situations. Better-quality acrylics are manufactured to resist pilling. (Sunbrella is a good example of acrylic durability.)

DSC - Microfiber FabricMICROFIBER

durable, easy to clean

Microfiber fabric is lightweight, highly absorbent and does not stain or wrinkle easily. Microfiber fabrics that are electrostatically charged can pick up small particles, such as dust, without the use of cleaning solvents, and leave no lint behind.

NYLON

soil resistant, durable

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 does tend to fade and pill.

OLEFIN

durable, fashionable

Use olefin if your furniture is likely to receive heavy wear. The fibers have low moisture absorption, but they can wick moisture and dry quickly. Olefin is abrasion, stain, sunlight and chemical resistant.

DSC - Rayon FabricRAYON

durable, wrinkles easily

Developed as an imitation silk, linen or cotton. Rayon is the oldest manufactured fiber. Rayon is made from wood pulp, which is passed through spinnerettes to form filaments. Recent advances have made high-quality rayon very practical for upholstery.

VINYL

easy to care for, less expensive than leather

Vinyl is a practical choice for busy family rooms and children’s furniture.

What Is a Fabric Grade?

You may have to decide on a fabric grade. Fabric grades typically range from “A” on the less expensive end, to “F” on the pricey side. Depending on the manufacturer, the grade of the fabric can vary. Intricacy of the weave, fiber content, construction and performance are all variables. But it’s important to note that grade is NOT an indication of quality or durability. It’s just an indicator of how expensive the fabric was to make. The trick is to read the details on the fabric card attached to the swatch and to make your decision accordingly.

Visit our Resource Page for some online fabric stores and other fabric outlets in the Charlotte, NC area to get you started on the right path.