When you are shopping for fabric for a new window covering or upholstered furniture, you’ll find hundreds of books of fabric samples, each with dozens of choices to consider. Some will be great for your window or chair, and some just aren’t the right choice. Check with your or the store’s designer—she’s a valuable resource for pointing you to the right sample books. Once you begin looking, you’ll notice all kinds of information on the back of each fabric sample. You’ll find details about the fabric’s design, its durability, other factors that relate to how long the fabric will look good, and cleaning. Let’s focus on the fabric construction and its suitability for your project.
Is the Fabric Suitable for Curtains or Couches?
It’s obvious what some furniture and drapery fabrics are good for. You’ll quickly realize that sheer fabrics, for example, are for curtains, not for upholstery. Some fabric suppliers will specify the best uses of the fabric right on the label, or sometimes they list what it is not suitable for. It may say “not suitable for upholstery” or “suitable for heavy duty upholstery” or some other designation. That will give you a clue as to whether you can use it for furniture or whether you should reserve it for window coverings or accent pillows.
But most labels don’t specify, so how do you tell if it’s good for your project? The easy answer is “check with your designer!”
Upholstery and Drapery Fabric Design and Fiber Content
Along with where a curtain or furniture fabric is made, fiber content will be listed on the label. Fiber content is only one indicator of how a fabric should be used. You may think that synthetic upholstery fabrics, for example, are more durable than natural fibers, such as silk and cotton. But fabric construction can often be as or more important than content when predicting durability. Take a close look at the sample. How fine are the threads? How tightly is the fabric woven? Loosely woven fabrics won’t retain their shape as well as closely woven fabrics. Are there threads that seem to “float” on top of the fabric to help form the pattern? Long threads may snag on a chair but can be fine for curtains. Is the pattern woven in, printed on, or surface embroidered? All these factors affect how the fabric will wear and whether it is suitable for your family room curtains or your living room couch.
When in doubt about a curtain or upholstery fabric—and you’ve heard me say this before—check with your designer.