Fabric Types

When shopping for fabrics, you’ll find a vast array of different patterns, textures, thread counts and fiber contents to select from. Ultimately, the choice will come down to two broad categories: natural fabrics and synthetics.

Natural Fabrics

Cotton

A natural fiber that provides good resistance to wear, fading and pilling. Cotton 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 is wise to apply a stain-resistant finish.

Leather

For those who enjoy the look of leather, it is one of the most reliant upholstery options. Leather is a sturdy material that can with stand heavy use, it is easy to clean and often develops more character and smoothness with time. However, color can fade when exposed to direct sunlight, so consider this when making your selection.

Linen

An elegant, beautiful, durable, and refined luxury fabric. Linen is the strongest of the vegetable fibers and has 2 to 3 times the strength of cotton. Not only is the linen fiber strong, it is also smooth, making the finished fabric lint free. It does wrinkle easily but also presses easily, however, constant creasing in the same place can break the linen threads over time. If using in a high traffic area, be sure to seek out thicker, more durable varieties.

Silk

A beautiful, delicate fabric that works best for formal furnishings that receive little wear. Silk must be professionally cleaned if soiled.

Wool

Sturdy and durable, wool and wool blends offer good resistance to pilling, fading, wrinkling and soiling. Generally, wool is blended with a synthetic fiber to make it easier to clean. Blends can be spot-cleaned when necessary.

Synthetic Fabrics

Acetate

Developed as imitation silk, acetate resists mildew, pilling and shrinking. That said, it offers only fair resistance to soil and tends to wear, wrinkle, and fade in the sun. Not a good choice for furniture exposed to everyday use.

Acrylic

Developed as imitation wool, it 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

Made from ultra fine polyester fibers, Microfibre fabrics are durable and pleasant to the touch. It is also the material that is most likely to withstand sunlight. Microfibre is extremely comfortable, resistant to stains and abrasions, comfortable in all climates, and extremely durable. Most stains can be lifted easily by mild soap and water, making this an ideal choice for families with children or pets.

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 furniture used by children.