Upholstery fabrics and textiles come in countless colors and patterns, which suit different styles and preferences. Retail stores offer many of these cotton, fleece, linen, and leather materials by the yard. While textiles are generally used on furniture when it is manufactured, specific fabrics can be applied to older couches, chairs and loveseats as well. Typically a professional will upholster these furnishings for a specific rate. Below you will see a few useful terms that apply to upholstery fabrics and textiles.
Spring Unit – This is essentially a collection of springs that form the foundation of a seat, back, or arm of a piece of furniture. Spring units are used in couches and chairs, and are wired and clipped together.
Holding Tie – Also known as a tough stitch, this is a stitch placed between a spring canvas and scrim. The purpose of this tie is to hold the stuffing tightly in place. Upholsters use a holding tie on various sofas and love seats.
Damask – A tightly woven fabric that is flat and typically has a certain design or pattern to it. This textile is usually made on a Jacquard loom, and can be applied to custom furniture. Damask is available through certain retail stores and wholesale distributors by the yard.
Jacquard – This is a method of creating elaborately patterned weaves in fabric. A mechanical Jacquard loom is used, and design instructions are given by the roller for certain materials like cotton, linen or fleece.
Nubby – A fabric that contains yarns of varying thickness. This textile often looks unique and irregular, but can be used to manufacture different types of drapes, furniture, quilts, and curtains.
You can cover furniture with any type of fabric, but unless its specifically made for upholstery, it won't last long. Upholstery is generally thicker, stronger, and has a higher thread count in order to stand up against high wear and tear.
Natural knits were originally used for furniture, with wool, leather, and cotton being the most prominent. The invention of man made fabrics like rayon and polyester brought about an increase in production. Man made materials have proven to be cheaper to mass produce, thus driving down retail furniture costs. They are easier to sew as well, since they can be produced specifically to be less easy to tear.
Upholstery fabric can also be used to sew curtains and other drapery products. Since the textiles involved are often thicker than cloth used in clothing, they block more sunlight. Even silk and lace can be tightly woven to work in this fashion. Some textiles utilized for furniture are best reserved for only that purpose, like vinyl and leather, since they may be too heavy to hang as curtains. Other textiles like velvet, satin, flannel, and even fleece are thick enough to block the sun's rays, but are still comfortable enough for furniture.
When looking for the right covering for your furniture piece, check with wholesalers and distributors first. You may be able to buy the pattern and type you want at a discount price. Unfortunately, sometimes wholesale purchases are impossible for the average consumer and you must purchase retail. These shops often have the same things available such as nylon, canvas, linen, and fleece as their discount counterparts, but they may also carry specialty pieces only available through this avenue. Certain silks, other high quality pieces, and patterns such as florals, plaids, quilts, and embroidery may only be available at certain stores. Search carefully before deciding what to decorate with.