Upholstery fabric is fabric or textiles used for furniture. What is upholstery? Upholstery is the physical act of stuffing seats and furniture with webbing, padding, springs, foam, or cushions into frames and covering it with upholstery fabric to make furniture. This type of work is very niche and needs to be done by a professional. The problem when it comes to upholstery fabric is what upholstery fabric is the best for my furniture? In this blog I want to give some background on upholstery and the fabric used to recover furniture today.
The word upholstery comes from the Middle English word upholder, which referred to an artisan who help up their goods. A person who works with upholstery is an upholsterer. An apprentice upholsterer is often called an outsider or a trimmer. Nowadays they usually just call them an apprentice upholsterer. Historically, upholstery used materials such as straw and hay, animal hair, coconut husks, burlap, linen, wadding, and anything else upholsterers can shove into a piece of furniture to make it comfortable.
In 18th century London, upholders constantly served interior decorators. These decorators were often used by the mid-upper to upper-class individuals to decorate their homes and estates. Today, interior designers work with upholsterers to satisfy their client’s needs. Usually, the interior designer has a full space she is designing for her client.
In today’s market, there are several different ways you can go about purchasing upholstery or furniture. One of the more favorable upholstery purchasing options is to go through a furniture retailer. Furniture stores can be found in every town. Some of them represent either one or several different furniture manufacturers depended on their store. It’s easy to find furniture stores on Google by searching “furniture stores near me”.
Another option is to update your old furniture with new fabric and stuffing. There are local upholsterers who can restore anything from heirloom pieces to your everyday sofa or couch. These professionals have gone through an apprenticeship or education in upholstery. The best way to find one near you is to go on Google and type in “upholstery near me”. If you choose to go with a local upholsterer, you’ll probably need and idea of what fabric you want to reupholster your outdated furniture.
Choosing Upholstery Fabric
Luckily, you will have so many different upholstery fabrics to choose from. You can buy them locally from a fabric store, direct from the upholsterer, online, catalogs, the list goes on. You can buy direct from a furniture manufacturer or the upholstery manufacturing mill themselves. In today’s market, there are numerous ways of buying upholstery fabric.
Upholstery Fabric is easy to come by but making the best upholstery fabric decision for your furniture is sometimes a best guess situation. Upholstery fabric can be one type of fiber or a blend of many. It all depends on the design and aesthetic you are looking for in your upholstery. Below is a list of the upholstery fabric fibers and what they are made of.
What is upholstery fabric made of?
Upholstery fabric can be made from any yarn or thread that is woven or knitted into a textile. Fibers such as cotton, linen, wool, hemp, polyester, polypropylene, nylon, acrylic, and rayon are strung on looms and woven, or knitted, into upholstery fabric. You can use one type of yarn or various combinations of yarn to weave or knit upholstery fabric.
Upholstery fabric, once woven, is then backed with a latex, glue, or other textiles to add stability to the fabric. This helps with durability and abrasion resistance in the long term. Some upholstery fabrics are not backed because they are woven for slipcover fabric. Without a backing, fabric can stretch and move better than fabrics that have a backing to them. Fabrics with backing will resist stretching and slouching when permanently upholstered to furniture.
After the upholstery fabric is woven and backed, it’s folded or rolled onto a roll. Back in the day, folding was the original way to store fabrics. Soon after, rolling them on rolls was found to be a better process because there was less creases when it came time to upholster the fabric on furniture. Nowadays, upholstery fabric is still stored on rolls, or bolts, that range in the amount of yardage stored on them. Typical rolls of fabric are 50 yards, but some companies consider a roll to be 30 yards. It all depends on the weaver of the fabric.
Upholstery Fiber Types
Cotton– a natural fiber preferred for its breathe ability and budget-friendly reputation.
Cotton is great for those wanting the soft feel but is susceptible to fading and stains easy.
Wool– has a great texture and feel, this natural fiber is great for keeping its shape on furniture. It is less resistant to stains, so the majority of the time is treated with a stain treatment.
Linen– just like the other natural fibers, it is less resistant to stain. It is a great choice for printing designs on and heirloom pieces.
Silk– Very high end and costly, silk is strong, soft to the touch but should not be upholstered on everyday use pieces.
Polyester– a synthetic fiber is known for being a little easier to clean than natural fibers. Polyesters were some of the first synthetics used for jacquard fabric type weaving.
Rayon– added softness when added to other natural and synthetic fibers but is not very durable in the long run
Acrylic–a synthetic fiber that is very durable with colorfast and light fastness ratings higher than natural fibers and can be cleaned. Great for heavy use and was first used for outdoor upholstery fabric.
Nylon– Synthetic fiber known for a higher abrasion resistance. Can be used on everyday use upholstery.
Olefin– Extremely durable, synthetic fiber, colorfast, used in heavy use everyday upholstery. Olefin is my fiber of choice because it doesn’t have to be treated to be stain resistant. Olefin, chemically, contains no dye sites for stains to set in or take. Revolution is made of olefin and is our preferred fiber for upholstery fabric. Olefin was also the first marine carpet and upholstery fiber. It resists fading and is a great choice for outdoor furniture fabric.
Thank you for reading my blog on upholstery fabric. I hope the information has been informative about upholstery fabric, where to buy modern upholstery, and what fibers are used in woven upholstery fabrics.