Types of Fabrics

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Fabric is one of the most widely used materials in furniture manufacturing. From natural fibers to synthetic ones, fabric can be found in just about any colour or texture. Silk and Linen are generally found in formal uses, because they are delicate and stain easily. Cotton, on the other hand, is very resistant to wear and fading, used for more hearty purposes or pieces that will see a lot of use. Sturdy and stain-resistant cotton blends are popular for furniture that is family-friendly. Wool is another durable option, frequently blended with synthetic fibers to help reduce the chance of felting. Nylon can be blended with other fibers, to make a strong upholstery fabric, resistant to stains and wrinkling.

As demand increases for new and improved resources, the materials used in furniture manufacturing have become increasingly diverse and innovative. It’s no wonder consumers spend hours picking out furniture from wood to glass, there’s no shortage of materials to choose from. The variety on the market today has offered the public an endless list of options to suit every purpose and design taste.

Some commonly used fabrics for making upholstered furniture are acrylic, cotton, nylon, Polyester. Acrylic is a fiber with a soft wooly feeling; fair resistance to sunlight, Cotton has fair resistance to sunlight and is also an ideal fabric for everyday use furniture, Nylon helps to prevent water from sneaking through the holes between the fibers. Polyester has fair resistance to water and fire as well, Rayon has high absorbency and when blended with Polyester, it makes for a piece of great upholstery fabric.


Synthetic fabrics for upholstery are often the first choice for furniture that gets a lot of use. These fabrics are durable and stain resistant. Polypropylene is loosely woven and requires latex backing. It has a tweedy, bulky appearance. Nylon is known for its strength, resistance to sunlight and easy care. The fabric has either a silky appearance or wool-like texture. Another popular synthetic fabric for high use furniture is microfiber, a tightly woven fabric that is a combination of nylon and Polyester. Its resemblance to natural suede and the availability of many solid colors has made it a popular choice for upholstery fabric.

Cotton and Linen:

Cotton fabrics work well on upholstered pieces that get minimal use and are not in the vicinity of direct sunlight. This natural fiber is less stain-resistant than blends or synthetics. Linen, with its beautiful texture, adds a designer touch to any room. Used for upholstery fabric, linen might be too fragile for heavy-use pieces of furniture; it also can fade and disintegrate with constant exposure to sunlight. Linen is one of the more expensive upholstery fabric choices.


In the past, leather upholstery fabric probably conjured up a picture of a dark paneled library or den. However, leather is often the upholstery fabric of choice for sofas and chairs in all rooms of the house. You can select from many designer colors besides the old standby, brown.

Fabric Blends:

Fabric blends are popular as they offer beauty and durability. Add a synthetic fiber to cotton and the fabric becomes more durable, colorfast and stain-resistant. Wool is often teamed with polyester fibers to upholster heavily used pieces of furniture. Luxurious silk blended with a synthetic fiber creates a more durable fabric that retains the original beauty of the silk.

Natural Fabrics:

Natural fabrics come from different sources. Cotton and linen come from plants. Both fabrics are cool, soft to the touch and comfortable. They are highly absorbent, breathable, and can withstand high temperatures. Damask, gingham, velvet, and tapestry are suitable for upholstery whereas satin and percale are ideal for tablecloths and bed linen. Pima cotton, muslin, and lawn are thinner fabrics making them more suitable for curtains, drapes, valances, blinds, and tablecloths.  For centuries silk has had a reputation as a luxurious and sensuous fabric, one associated with wealth and success. Silk is one of the oldest textile fibers known to man. The Chinese have used it since the 27th century BC. Silk has a rich look and touch to it. It has superb texture and luster. Brocade, damask, and taffeta are ideal for tailored curtains, pelmets, and cushions, whereas organza is the most suitable for drapes and bed skirts. Wool comes from fibers of animal coats, such as sheep, goats, rabbits, alpacas, and llamas. Woolen fabrics are warm, have a soft feel and fuzzy surface, very little shine or sheen and will not hold a crease. They are heavier and bulkier than other fabrics. Tweed, tartan, and mohair can be used for upholstery fabric, curtains, and pelmets, whereas jacquard tapestry is only suitable for upholstery.

Man-made Fabrics:

Nylon, polyester, rayon, viscose and acrylic are manmade fabrics. They are manufactured either as 100% synthetic or are blended with natural fabrics. The blends have a more natural feel to them, are easier to care for and have better fall than the natural ones. Most of the fabrics available in the market are blends. Blends hold their shape and do not need much maintenance. They are colourfast and are washable at home.
Micro fibres are now very popular in the garment and upholstery industry. Their popularity can be attributed to their strength and durability and to their ability to repel moisture. Well-known families of micro fibres are ultra-suede and faux leather. They are highly durable as well as luxurious and imitate real suede and leather very well. These fabrics have revolutionized the furniture and textile industry. They are any designer’s first choice; they are Ideal for upholstery, curtain and drapes, pelmets, swags & tails, tiebacks, valances and blinds.

You can get the million-dollar look by spending a fraction of that and still let your children and dogs run amuck on the sofa. After all, all you have to do is wipe it clean and it will be as good as new.


Textile manufacturers have created some synthetics to imitate natural fabrics. Rayon imitates cotton, linen or silk, acetate imitates silk, and acrylic imitates wool. Micro fibre has a similar feel to suede leather, but is less likely to stain.

Final Tip

Choose fabrics by gauging the style of room and type of furniture. For highly trafficked areas or children’s areas, vinyl, micro fibre and polyester provide more durability and ease in cleaning. For fancier, less frequented areas, silk, linen or wool is better. Wear and tear is a fact of life and is not really avoidable with use, but exercised care will minimise it.

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