Things to Consider When Choosing a Fabric

When is time to put a beautiful new cover on your favorite chair or sofa, there are many things to consider.

What is Your Purpose for the Fabric?

When  choosing a fabric for your furniture one of the most important considerations is to determine the purpose. 

Do you want the furniture to be a show piece for your living room?

Will the furniture go into the family room where it needs to stand up to a lot of abuse?

Softness versus Durability

While this is not always the case, I've noticed that many times the "soft" fabrics don't last very long. Either the:

  • The fabric wears on you (meaning the threads of the fabric wears on your skin and therefore it lasts longer)
  • OR you wear on the fabric (the fabric is so soft that your usage wears on the fabric so that it doesn't last as long).
  • There is a whole range between these two extremes
  • Not everything may follow these paths.

Many times you have to make a choice between a fabric that you really like (its soft feel, its texture, etc) verus one that will last a long time. There is no wrong choice here. Either way is OK. It's just a personal choice: Do you want to be soft to the touch OR do you want it to last a long time?

To help the fabric to last longer you might:

  • have armcovers, head covers, and slipcovers made
  • have a set of house clothes that you wear around home. If you wear soft clothing, it will not wear on the fabric as much. Compare that to (for example) wearing jeans (especially new jeans) around the house. Jeans generally have sharp cornered pockets, sometimes they have rivets at the corners of the pocket. These sharp edge can gradually wear into the soft fabric.

Determining Durabililty

In recent years some fabric suppliers have been testing their fabrics for durability. They use a test called the Wyzenbeek method, which measures double rubs. The number of double rubs can run anywhere below 15,000 to over 150,000. If you furniture will recieve a lot of use I recommend a Wyzenbeek double rub of at least 50,000, preferably closer to 100,000. If it will only receive light use then a much lower double rub rating could be useful. But with that said, some of the specialty or high end fabric may have a very low double rub rating. Sometimes it may come down to you deciding between a special fabric that you really like (with a low rub rating) or a fabric with a high rating that you may not like as well.

Now, keep in mind, that double rubs are not the only factor in determing durabilitly. Other considerations are color fastness, stain resistance.

Do  Your Own Durability Test

One way that you can help determinie the durability of fabrics is to do a home-done durability test. I'd suggest that you do this test with multiple fabrics at the same time so that you can compare one against another. Start by taking both or all the fabrics and lay them on a hard surface. Then use something hard and dull (like your knuckers, or a utensile handle, etc) and press down hard and rub it firmly on both fabrics. You are trying to see which fabric will be damaged most easily. That in itself might answer some of your questions. Then try a (very small) stain test.Use whatever you have on hand which would most likely be spilled on the fabric, and then try to clean it. If need be, go buy some upholstery spot cleaner. That would be a very small investment to have a good test. You should have your cleaner on hand before you do the stain test.

Plain Bright Colors versus 

Plain bright colors (or even plain white) will help to bright up an otherwise dull drab room.

On the other side, a very plain colored fabric will show strains, soil, and scuff marks very easily. To keep the fabric clean often involves changing one's lifestyle:

  • taking shoes off at the front door,
  • showering and changing into clean clothes when one comes home or comes in from outside.
  • Always being care of how you sit on the furniture.
  • Be very careful if you decide to eat on the furniture.

In contrast, a more subdued fabric with variations in color may give you a more carefree use of the sofa, especially if it is a fabric with a built in stain resistance. Some of those types of fabrics are the Krypton fabrics and the :fabrics from Charlotte Fabrics with the Lifeguard finish on them. Some other types of stain repellants include Scotchguard and Teflon finishes.