Choosing upholstery fabric

When doing upholstery projects for DIY-Divas, I often receive enquiries as to what is the best fabric to use for particular projects. Upon choosing fabric for upholstery, you should be aware of its durability, cleanability, and resistance to fading. Here are a few tips to guide you in choosing the right upholstery fabric.


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Consider the project
Before you rush out and buy fabric, first note how your upholstered project will be used... Sofas, chairs and ottomans that are more for show than for daily use will only be subject to moderate amounts of wear, and for these projects you can look at less durable fabrics. Where pieces will be subjected to daily heavy wear, these need to be covered in tough, durable, tightly woven fabrics.

Natural fabrics

While linen is reasonably hard-wearing and washable, this fabric is best suited for formal living rooms or adult areas because it wrinkles easily. However, linen does resist fading. Linen and linen blends remain as in demand as ever for all types of upholstery projects.

As a natural fibre, cotton is an all-round favourite for upholstery. It resists wear, doesn't fade easily and is available in various textures and thickness. Damask and brocade weaves are formal; canvases more relaxed and durable.

Cotton blends
Depending on the weave, cotton blends can be sturdy, family-friendly fabrics. However, a stain-resistant finish such as Scotch Guard, should be applied for everyday use.

More expensive than cotton, wool blends offer good resistance to fading, wrinkling, and soiling. Wool fabrics are generally blended with a synthetic fibre to make it easier to clean.

Because of the variety of colours and styles, silk is used for decorative or accent furniture, or upholstered furniture for adult areas. Silk must be professionally cleaned if soiled.



Synthetic Fabrics

Developed as a more affordable alternative to wool, this synthetic fabric resists wear, wrinkling, soiling, and fading.

Normally blended with other fibres, nylon is one of the strongest upholstery fabrics. It is resilient; doesn't readily soil or wrinkle, but does tend to fade.

This is a good choice for furniture that will receive heavy wear. It has no pronounced weaknesses. Use for outdoor furniture, as this fabric is sunproof.

Polyester is blended with other fibres to add wrinkle resistance, eliminate crushing of napped fabrics, reduce fading and increase strength.

Rayon / Acetate blend
Developed as an imitation silk, linen, and cotton, rayon and acetate are often blended to create fabrics with a luxurious, silky appearance. This blended fabric can withstand mildew and shrinking, but offers only fair resistance to soiling and fading, so it's ideal for decorative or accent furniture but not for furniture that will get everyday use.

Synthetic blends

Vinyl and pleather
Easy-care and less expensive than leather, vinyls are ideal for busy family living and dining rooms. However, durability depends on the quality of the vinyl or pleather.

Tips for selecting upholstery fabrics
To test the wrinkling crush a handful of fabric tightly in the palm of your hand. Release to see if the wrinkles are retained. As a rule, the tighter the weave or the higher the thread count, the stronger the fabric. Don't confuse drapery fabrics with upholstery. Drapery fabric simply won’t endure everyday use the fabric will unravel, or holes will start to appear.

Check that 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. 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 repeat pattern, make sure to order extra fabric for matching up. 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. You can use fabrics to add colour and design to every room. Today there are so many different selections available to match every room style and décor. Be daring, put your heart in your home, create warm spaces that put your family and friends at ease.