The Definitive Guide to Decorative Fabric

Definitive Guide to Decorative Fabric

Thanks to our handy “Everything there is to know about fabric” guide, you are a budding expert on this textile that is so vital to our everyday lives. But there was one important category of material that we at Beckenstein Fabrics felt deserved its own fabric guide – decorative fabric. The material you need for pillows, upholstery, curtains, or valances varies from what you would typically use for pants, suits, dresses, and shirts in several important ways. Selecting the right one for your project could make the difference between loving your space and cruising the internet for redecorating tips a few months later.

Helpful Fabric Vocabulary You’ll Need to Know

Like any language, it could take years of learning to “speak fabric” before you are fluent. Fortunately, getting familiar with a few key terms can help you understand what you need from your fabric and how to ask for it.

  • Bias cut – Fabric cut at an angle rather than with or against the grain of the fabric. Material cut on the bias tends to have more give and hangs better.
  • Blend – A generic term used to describe fabric that is made of more than one natural or man-made fibers.
  • Bolt – The basic term for a given amount of fabric. The length of the bolt will generally correspond with the width of the fabric.
  • Cut Length – The length of the cut of the fabric. As straightforward as the definition is, your cut length will vary from the length of your finished product. You must take into account hems, headings, repeating patterns, and other variances before determining what your cut length will be.
  • Dye Lot – Bolts of fabric are often dyed in batches resulting in differences between one batch and another. The dye lot lets you know which batch your bolt came from so you can match it with another from the same group.
  • Fastness – How well the dye in the fabric keeps its color when it is exposed to the sun, lighting, washing, or other wear and tear.
  • Lining/Facing/Interlining – Something sewn to the wrong side of the fabric or applied to the cushion before the outer fabric is put in place.
  • Selvage – Fabric edge that is woven to prevent the piece from fraying. Usually found on either ends of the bolt.
  • Slub – An uneven twist of yarn in a place that is either intentional or a flaw in the fabric.
  • Warp – The threads of a fabric piece that run vertically, parallel to the selvage.
  • Weft – Horizontal yarn that runs selvage to selvage.
  • Yarn Dyed – Rather than weaving the fabric and then dying it, yarn dyed fabric is made from yarn that is dyed before it is woven. The most high-quality fabric is yarn dyed.

Upholstery Fabric vs Decorator Fabric

The main difference between upholstery fabric and decorator fabric is how it is used. Decorator fabric is a term an all-encompassing term for the material you would use for upholstering, draperies, bedding, pillows, and projects. Depending on the types of fabric, decorator fabric is often heavier than apparel material you would find in shirts and dresses. Upholstery fabric refers to the material you would use to recover couches, chairs, cushions, and headboards. Although you can reupholster furniture with many types of fabric, typically this material is heavier, more stain resistant, and easier to clean than other decorator fabric.

Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Project

Certain projects call for certain fabrics. While you can do whatever you want with whatever fabric your heart desires, these projects usually call for the following types of fabric.

  • Bedding – Your bed should be a soft an inviting place. While cotton, satin or microfiber sheets are the typical fabrics you find under the covers, your duvet should be made from cotton or linen for maximum comfort and ease of care. Just throw it in the washing machine.
  • Window treatments – The fabric you choose for window treatments will depend on the functionality of the window. If you are trying to block out the sunlight during the day, any fabric can be a blackout curtain with the right type of lining. If you want light filtering during the day, linen, or lace are ideal. Silk, velvet and even polyester blends can make beautiful drapery as long as they are properly lined for protection against UV light.
  • Table Cloths, Napkins, Table Runners – Remember, these items are going to come into contact with food and drinks. Colorfast, cotton, linen or cotton-polyester blends are ideal for table linens because they are easy to care for and stains come right out.
  • Seating – The biggest challenge when selecting upholstery fabric for seating is finding the balance between ease of care, durability, and beauty. Fabrics like vinyl and knit tend to lose their shape over time making them less than ideal options for pieces you want to preserve for long periods of time. Silk, although beautiful, may fade in the light and is difficult to care for should something spill. Nylon, polyester, leather, cotton, linen, wool, or rayon blends make great options for their durability, variety of available colors, textures and patterns, and ease of care.

How to Care for Your Decorative Fabric

How you care for your decorative fabric will depend on the type of fabric you are using for your project. Some can be washed off with mild soap and warm water. Others must be professionally cleaned. Knowing how to determine fabric type will save lots of headache and heartache along the way. Many fabrics have care instructions on the end of the bolt. Others, especially those that are purchased directly from the factory, may be missing care instructions but will have a detailed list of what the fabric contains. Then, based on the blend, you can determine how to take care of the material. If you are in doubt, ask the professionals at Beckenstein Fabrics for advice on how to best care for your decorator and upholstery fabric.

Now that you’re an expert on decorative fabric, come to Beckenstein Fabrics and see what we have in stock and available to order for your next home decor project. Even if you are still confused, our fabric experts are standing by to help you pick the right fabric for you.