Photo Image:DesignSponge

Right out of the gate let me state that I did NOT write this article. I found it here. It seems to be a vague site with some other articles about recliners, but this fabric information was so perfect, I just have to let you see it. Again, I did not write the article.


Patterns, solids and prints, oh my! Today, fabric choices include cloth, leather, and many new high-tech synthetics. Here’s how to choose a fabric that will make the right statement in your home.

Nothing has a greater effect on the look of upholstered furniture than the fabric. It’s the most visible indication of fashion and quality. It’s also the part of an upholstered piece to show soil and wear fastest.

So how do you select a fabric that has the style, durability and feel that you want? It’s all in knowing what to look for, and what questions to ask. First, we’ll point out some basic decorating and shopping considerations, and then we’ll look at the differences between fabric types.

Things To Consider When Selecting A Fabric

Style – First, the fabric should be appropriate to the style and character of the piece it is covering. A traditional frame will usually look best with a more traditional fabric style. Second, the scale of the pattern should be appropriate to the room size. As a rule, large repeating patterns look better in larger rooms. Also consider whether the fabric color is warm or cool, and be sure it’s the right “mood” for the room the furniture is going into.


PhotoImage: DominoMagazine

Color – Color is probably the number one reason people select certain fabrics. But certain color fabrics may not be the best choice for durability and stain resistance. If you have small children, you’re probably better off choosing a color that won’t show dirt easily.

Durability – Will the furniture be in an area of the house that receives the heaviest traffic? Pieces subject to daily heavy wear need to be covered in tough, durable, tightly woven fabrics. Generally, fabrics that have their pattern “woven in” will wear better than printed fabrics.

Thread Count – The higher the thread count, the more tightly woven the fabric… and the better it will wear. Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch of fabric.

(I’m interjecting a a little helpful info about thread count from Squidoo.)

What is Thread Count?

Thread Count is the number of threads per square inch. The higher the thread count, the softer and more lustrous the fabric, and the more durable and less prone to shrinkage. Anything above 180 is usually considered to be a good quality sheet.


OK, back to the article…

Always store bed linens in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. Avoid storing linens in plastic bags or boxes as natural fibers need to “breathe”. This will keep them aired and preserve their longevity.

Fade Resistance – Will your furniture be exposed to constant direct sunlight? To reduce the chance of fading, see if your choices include fabrics that are sunlight resistant.

Tailoring – Fabric covers should be pulled tightly, without snags or unwanted tucks or dimples. Patterns such as checks and plaids should be aligned and matched.

(This is upholstered with a pleated skirt I got from Goodwill. I fused a backing to the fabric since it was an apparel weight wool blend.)

Form & Fiber: A Look At Different Fabric Types

When shopping for fabrics, you’ll find a vast array of different patterns, textures, thread counts and fiber contents to select from. But your choice will come down to two basic fabric types: natural fabrics and synthetics. Here’s a quick look at some of your options:

Natural Fabrics

Cotton –This natural fiber provides good resistance to wear, fading and pilling, but is less resistant to soiling and wrinkling. Surface treatments and blending with other fibers often compensate for these weaknesses. Durability and use depend on the weave and finish. For example, damask weaves are formal; canvas weaves such as duck and sailcloth are more casual and durable.

Cotton Blend – Depending on the weave, cotton blends tend to be sturdy, family-friendly fabrics. For everyday use, it’s a good idea to apply a stain-resistant finish.

Leather – Perhaps the best all-around upholstery fabric ever! This tough material comes in many colors and finishes, and develops more character and softness with age. Very forgiving and easy to clean.

(The right weight of leather is surprisingly wonderful to use for upholstering.)


Photo Image:

Linen – A great, fresh look. 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. Must be professionally cleaned to avoid shrinking.

Silk –This beautiful, delicate fabric is only suitable for formal areas. Must be professionally cleaned if soiled.

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. Blends can be spot-cleaned when necessary.


Acetate – Developed as imitation silk, acetate resists mildew, pilling and shrinking. On the other hand, it offers only fair resistance to soil and tends to wear, wrinkle, and fade in the sun. Not a good choice for furniture that will get tough, everyday use.

Acrylic – Developed as imitation wool, and resists wear, wrinkling, soiling and fading. Low-quality acrylic may tend to pill excessively in high-wear situations. Better-quality acrylics are manufactured to resist pilling.

Microfibre – A term used to describe a new category of upholstery fabrics with a velvety, suede-like surface. Made from ultra fine polyester fibers, Microfibre fabrics are durable and pleasant to the touch. Excellent value, durability and cleanability.

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 – A fashionable, durable choice for furniture likely to receive heavy wear.

Polyester – Rarely used alone in upholstery, polyester is blended with other fibers to add wrinkle resistance, eliminate crushing and reduce fading.

Rayon – Developed as an imitation silk, linen and cotton. Rayon is durable, but can be prone to wrinkling. Recent advances have made high-quality rayon very practical for upholstery.

Vinyl – Easy to care for and less expensive than leather, vinyl is a practical choice for busy family rooms and children’s furniture.

A Word About Fabric Grades

As you’re out shopping, you may find yourself faced with a choice of fabric grades. Grades typically range from “A” on the less expensive end, to “F” on the pricey side. Grades vary from one upholstery manufacturer to another, and are based on variables like intricacy of the weave, fiber content, construction, and performance characteristics – all factors that affect the wholesale cost.

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.

A Good Fabric Is Always In Fashion

Regardless of color, fiber, thread count or grade, upholstery fabrics should always be chosen to serve your needs, both fashionable and practical. There are countless choices out there, so don’t settle for anything you’re not in love with.

Most important, be sure to pick a fabric that you can truly LIVE with. And, if you grow tired of it in a few years, remember that virtually all upholstery can be re-covered!

(I might add here that once you learn how to upholster, you can reupholster it yourself!)