HOW TO CHOOSE AN UPHOLSTERY FABRIC

Gosh, there are sooo many GORGEOUS textiles out there now that sometimes it’s impossible to know where to start. I’ve recently been perusing the internet and found some fantastic independent designers bringing out fabrics suitable for upholstery.

Back when I started my night class in Upholstery I used to bring in old 70’s twill curtains and upholster with those, and I still use a lot of vintage fabric in my upholstery, but it’s not always possible to use 50’s and 60’s textiles because it’s difficult to find them unused off a bolt for larger chairs, and because these textiles are irreplaceable so any mark on them and it’s a total recover. That said I have a lot of vintage fabric chairs in my house that have stood the test of time, but I do occasionally find myself screaming “GET AWAY FROM THAT CHAIR!!!” to my two boys. 

I’ve complied a list of three important questions and a summary of good textile websites I’ve bought from recently. This is more of a subjective DIY guide than a professional account (as there are regulations to consider if you are doing upholstery professionally dependent on age of chair and whether its for a home or public place)

1.  What is the furniture being used for?

Think about it’s use. Is it going in the lounge and being used everyday to watch TV? Is it going in a bedroom, where in all likelihood it will be used as a dumping ground for laundered clothes (we’ve all got one!). Is it just being used as a lid for something where it will never be sat upon?

I always advocate upholstery weight fabrics for high use furniture because you don’t want them wearing out or tearing before the year is up. The difference between a general cotton fabric and upholstery weight is its thread count. Upholstery weight fabrics are thicker and more tightly woven and thus more durable. If you are unsure about it’s thread count, just ask if it’s an upholstery weight fabric. If you go into John Lewis for example, they will be able to tell you what their upholstery fabrics are. If you are looking online there will most likely be a reference to it’s thread count  (you’re looking for a high number!)

I found this little guide to types of fabrics which may be of use. This is an American website, but all of these are found in UK. The only thing I would add is Ofelin is a good fabric to use for garden furniture, from what I have read (although I have never used it).

Another question I get asked is – Is it ok to use a quilting fabric, such as a Cotton Lawn for upholstery? Well, I certainly wouldn’t use one if the item is being used as a seat (such as a dining chair), but I don’t see why you can’t use one for a decorative lid on a box. There are so many fabulous prints for quilting!

 2. Where is the Chair being situated?

Linked to the question above, but my answer is definitely from experience! You can spend hundreds of pounds per metre on beautiful Designers Guild and Zoffany fabric, but if you are thinking of putting it in a high use area with a 1 and 3 year old then expect it to get marks on it! Also, from experience, I have literally flinched when friends have come round with their little ones and they are clambering all over my chairs. You have to ask yourself – is it worth it? I will use these fabrics in my house, just not for the next few years!

 3. What is your style?

I have found myself popping fabric houses in style boxes – for example, if you’re your style is country cottage and vintage, then you’ll probably like Sanderson fabrics.  If you like clean lines and have a lot of visual artefacts, you probably want to go plain and modern and Bute fabrics and Camira are ideal for a fresh modern look. Think about your style and search those terms in google “new york apartment style” or “vintage home style”. I find pinterest and google images a good place to start because then you get an immediate visual interpretation.

Here are my links to fabric houses by style:

 Top 3 Fabric Houses for Luxury

http://www.zoffany.com
http://www.designersguild.com
http://www.osborneandlittle.com

Top 3 Fabric Houses for Modern Pattern

http://www.romo.com
http://www.stjudesfabrics.co.uk
http://www.prestigious.co.uk

 Top 3 Fabric Houses for Florals

http://www.sanderson-uk.com
http://www.cathkidston.com
http://www.harlequin.uk.com

Top 3 Fabric Houses for Plain

http://www.camirafabrics.com 
http://www.butefabrics.com
http://www.harristweedshop.com

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About Vicky Grubb

Once a kitchen table Upholsterer, now a fully fledged tutor, author and hoarder of vintage fabrics. My Upholstery studio is based in Bournemouth, Dorset, where I live with my husband and two tinkers.

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