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Definitive Guide to Upholstery Fabrics

With so many fabric choices available, how do you know which one is right for the furniture piece you plan to have reupholstered? While some fabrics are intended for high-traffic treatment, others are more delicate and meant for appearance and occasional sitting. To avoid selecting the wrong type of material for your furniture, here is a list of upholstery fabrics containing descriptions of durability level and textural features.

Brocade resembles embroidered fabric and frequently presents intensely colored, raised floral patterns. Shuttle-woven and comprised of silks containing silver or gold threads, brocade is meant for "sitting-room" furniture not subject to rough treatment, mainly due to its tendency to snag and erode.

One of the top choices for furniture frequently used, cotton resists fading from sunlight and accepts any shade of dye. Cotton is economical, extremely durable and easily cleaned with soap and water or a vacuum cleaner. Examples of cotton upholstery fabrics include canvas, corduroy and chenille.

Damask patterns are weaved into a fabric that is reversible and with traditional slightly raised motifs featuring geometrically flowing flowers or whimsical animal images. Damask is made from cotton, silk, linen, wool and synthetic fibers such as rayon. However, damask woven with synthetic fibers is more durable than damask made with natural fibers. Therefore, frequently used furniture should be covered with synthetic damask.

Chenille refers to the way this fabric is manufactured rather than the fabric's texture. Made by placing short pieces of yarn referred to as the "pile" between two core pieces of yarn, these yarn lengths are then twisted together, producing chenille's characteristic softness and appearance. Depending on the way light falls on chenille, it's look will vary from matte to iridescent. While sturdy as an upholstering material, chenille will sag and stretch unless proper backing is applied during the process of renovation.

Gingham fabric is the perfect choice for kitchen furniture, commonly found with yellow, blue or red checkerboard background complementing a charming checkerboard pattern. Manufactured using synthetic fibers and cotton, gingham cleans easily and wears well, although its cottony ingredients may cause it to wrinkle more than other fabrics.

As an upholstery material, suede has its pros and cons. Because suede is actually a kind of leather made from a hide's underside, this material gives furniture a rich, sleek, velvety appearance enhancing dens or home offices. However, cleaning suede is not as easy a process as cleaning cotton or gingham. Upholstering frequently used furniture with suede is therefore not recommended. Another type of suede called microsuede is available that is more stain resistant and colorfast than traditional suede.

Although slightly more expensive than other upholstery fabrics, mohair looks and feels rich, lustrous and distinctive. A resilient wool fiber made from Angora goat hair, mohair dyes well and retains warmth, making it an excellent choice for chairs and loveseats.

Reupholstering furniture with durable velvet instantly transforms any piece from plain to vivid and opulent. Velvet not only looks luxurious but feels luxurious as well, capable of turning a sitting room or dining room into a royal chamber. One drawback about velvet is its tendency to become crushed and shabby-looking if frequently used.

Many other reupholstery fabrics are available if none of these suits your needs. Just ask one of Premier Decorator's professionals about additional fabrics, colors and styles in which you are interested.
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