Apartment Therapy's Guide to
Upholstery Fabric

Last week I wrote the guide to sofa shopping, and this week I am looking at the fabrics that upholster your sofa. If you are going high-end with a custom sofa and need the perfect fabric, are re-upholstering a vintage piece, or just want some insight into what all of those funny characters on the sofa tag mean when you are perusing IKEA next weekend, this is the guide for you.

Choosing upholstery fabric is undoubtedly the most fun part of the furniture buying process, as the options are endless, and having those little samples in your hand can make one feel oh so chic. Aside from the obvious options of color and style, there are a few other things to consider when looking for suitable upholstery fabric, including durability, intricacy of pattern or weave, and fade resistance.

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How to decipher the back of a fabric swatch:

Double Rub Count: The durability of a fabric is best defined by the double rub count, which is tested by a machine that runs back and forth over the fabric until the fabric is worn down. 25,000 double rubs is a great place to start for residential upholstery, while commercial projects generally require fabrics to be over 100,000 double rubs.

Repeat: If you are looking at anything other than a plain fabric, you will want to pay attention to the fabric repeat. The repeat is the distance that an entire pattern will run in the fabric before it repeats again.

Fade Resistance: This is rated on a scale of 1-5, with 1 equaling a high level of fading and 5 equaling no fading.

After Care Symbols: These are best explained in the diagram below.

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Upholstery Fabric Sources:

Low Price Range (under $25 a yard): At this price point, some of the greatest sources are wholesale warehouse shops, often selling out of season or slightly off patterns from higher end brands at great prices. Warehouses selling one-offs can also be found in a city through word of mouth.

Joann’s Fabric and Craft Stores feature select patterns from established fabric houses such as Robert Allen and Waverly.

F&S Fabrics in Los Angeles

Textile Discount Fabrics in Chicago

Mid Price Range ($25-75 a yard): This is a great price point to find a hearty, solid upholstery fabric, and you can always add some high end fabric as an accent.

Kravet is based in upstate New York and has a wide range of fabrics, including great designer collaborations with Candice Olson, Jonathan Adler, and several others.

Fabricut is an Oklahoma based fabric house that prides itself on good quality at a good price, with great stock levels so that you can often have your fabric within the week.

Duralee is always on trend with current styles, and you can find their fabrics stocked in many places across the U.S.

Calico Corners is a retail store that carries a whole range of fabric manufacturers, including Duralee, DwellStudio, Sunbrella, and Ralph Lauren. This is a great place to start to look for variety.

High Price Range (Over $75 a yard)

Designers Guild: The iconic British brand founded by Tricia Guild in 1970. Luxurious textures and deep hues of rich color are defining characteristics of this brand. 

Matteo Home: An American company based in LA that sources the finest quality fabrics from around the world and finishes their products in their factory in downtown LA.

Osborne and Little: A British brand with a long history and a range of fabrics based on unique patterns and rich textures.

F Schumacher: The oldest privately owned fabric house in the world, dating back to 1889, with fabrics gracing the White House and the Supreme Court. It is the place to turn for fabrics to furnish your dream home.

(Images: Claire Bock and American Cleaning Institute)

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