Upholstery Covering Materials

Upholstery Fabrics

Drapery Fabric for Upholstery?

Generally decorating fabrics come in at least three varieties, Drapery, multipurpose (which can be used for either drapery or upholstery, and upholstery. For this article I'm focusing primarily upon the idea of using drapery specific fabrics (such as shiny polyester and rayon) for upholstery. 

Drapery Fabric Is Not Meant For Upholstery
Here are some of the reasons I don't recommend doing a job in lightweight drapery fabric.

  1. The fabric was not constructed for upholstery use. It is not meant to have hundreds of pounds of human weight sitting on it. Rather, it is meant to hang lightly on the window.
  2. Most lightweight drapery fabrics don't have enough body (thickness and stiffness) to be able to evenly pull the fabric. It is difficult to pull the fabric evenly enough to have a smooth stapled edge.
  3. The fabric usually has a lot of little pull marks at every staple (no matter how many staples you put in)
  4. Some areas of the upholstery cover require that you pull the fabric tightly, thereby putting a lot of stress on the fabric. This can cause some of the seams to rip loose.
  5. Since the fabric doesn't have an upholstery backing, the seams can sometimes easily unravel.
  6. With such a thin AND a shiny fabric, many little bumps (cotton seeds, etc.) show through the fabric.
  7. Since the drapery fabric has a weaker thread weave, the fabric is likely to have a very short lifespan.

With that said, sometimes, if you are very careful, some jobs can turn out tollerable. But it's a matter of doing an awful lot of extra work (that you don't get paid for) to have the job turn out mediocre at best.

If you feel that you must
 With that said, if you are dead set on using smooth and shiny polyester or rayon type fabrics for upholstery (which I don't recommend), here are a few suggestions.

  1. I would STRONGLY suggest that you require the client to provide you with ample EXTRA fabric to practice on.
  2. I'd STRONGLY recommend that you cover the furniture in an undercover using muslin or lining fabric before covering it with the drapery fabric. The undercover will take a lot of the stress instead of the stress going to the covering fabric. The lining will also help to minimize the staple pull marks.
  3. Using some of that extra fabric, I'd suggest that you do some practicing and make an upholstery prototype.
  4. Make sure you use a new needle when you sew the fabric. Use a very small sized needle. The big upholstery needles can catch the thread and pull the weave of the fabric causing runs in the fabric.
  5. Use a smaller weight of thread.
  6. Be open and honest with the client before you start, telling about the challenges of working with drapery fabric. (puckering seams, pull marks at each place you staple, etc.) Put these explanations and disclaimers in the contract.
  7. I might suggest that you use a regular straight-stitch sewing machine (or a home sewing machine) with a zipper foot. The walking foot sometimes doesn't work very well on such thin fabrics.
  8. Use a fray reducing product, such as Sprayway No Fray Spray (which you can probably get from your supplier), along the outside edges of the backside of the fabric. Test it on a scrap first to make sure that there is no staining or bleedthrough. If it doesn't bleed through, spray it on the backside and let it thoroughly dry before sewing. I use this product on any fabric that might unravel, or that is very flimsy. Besides helping to minimize fraying, it also gives the edges of the fabric a little more body so that it is easier to sew.
  9. If you will be stapling this fabric, turn down the pressure on your air compressor when you are stapling the drapery fabric. It is very easy for the staples to go right through the thin drapery fabric.
  10. OR cover the furniture or cushion in lining first before covering it in the drapery fabric.

Environmentally Friendly Upholstery Fabrics


 Environmentally Friendly Fabrics

   Environmentally Friendly Fabrics

Interior Furnishing Supplies

  • Appleseed Wool Carpet Padding
    • Suppliers
    • Environmental Home Center: "Our traditional carpet padding makes good use of coarse wool, a resource that otherwise would be wasted when the soft undercoat is processed for apparel."

Environmentally Friendly Building Materials

  • Environmental Home Center in Seattle: "We are your most complete source for green building materials—simply the highest-quality choices with the added benefit of being healthy and resource-efficient. Our environmental building supplies include non-toxic paint, natural carpets, sustainable wood products, energy-efficient insulation and people-friendly cleaning supplies."

Environmentally Friendly Products for the Home

  • Ikea: "IKEA wants its products to have the minimum impact on the environment. And for these products to be manufactured in a socially responsible way." Products for the home, cooking, animals, etc.

 Eco Friendly Children's ...

Third Party Certifiers

  • Scientific Certification System>:  "SCS offers evaluation and certification services to a broad range of manufacturing sectors including wood products, building materials, carpet/flooring, paints/finishes, furniture, and cleaning products, among others."
  • Green Seal: "Green Seal is an independent, non-profit organization that strives to achieve a healthier and cleaner environment by identifying and promoting products and services that cause less toxic pollution and waste, conserve resources and habitats, and minimize global warming and ozone depletion."

Upholstery Fabric Durability

this article is in the beginning stages. To start with, this will just contain links to references to later be used in the article.


Possible Articles,copied for Google Search

"Hospital fabrics assist in protecting and promoting health - Fabric ...


“We want fabrics that are cleanable, durable and fire retardant. ... Roberge prefersupholstery fabrics that exceed the base durability level (60,000 double-rubs) at ....memo with this bottom line: “Review of current scientific literature reveals no ..."


ACT Performance Guidelines | Sina Pearson Textiles


The ACT Performance Guidelines were developed to make specifying fabric easier. ... An explanation of the symbols, application and test method follows below. ... installations where upholstery fabrics rated at 30,000 double rubs should be ...


Abrasion testing « O ECOTEXTILES


Nov 18, 2009 – I mean, you can buy a fabric that has a 1,000,000 WZ test result – it should ... of the Southern Regional Research Laboratory, “results indicate that increases in ... how well a fabric will stand up to wear and tear in upholsteryapplications. ... Textiles website states that “double rubs exceeding 100,000 are not ...


Interior Design Reference Manual: Everything You Need to Know to ... - Page 15-16 - Google Books Result

David Kent Ballast - 2010 - Architecture

Some ofthe more important tests for fabrics are listed here. ... Some upholstery fabricscan withstand hundreds of thousands of double rubs... Samples of a textile material are exposed to ultraviolet light in a laboratory testing device at specific ...


Fabric testing | fabric durability | upholstery fabric | rub tests (a blog


Apr 20, 2010 – What's the “rub?” (Wyzenbeek vs Martindale) Aesthetics, comfort, durability – a needed balance when choosing an upholstery fabric!



Determining Yardage

Figuring the amount of fabric for any given sofa or chair is not an exact science. There are so many different fabric patterns, sizes and styles of furniture, and skill levels of upholsterers that all affect how much fabric any item will take. At best, determining how much yardage something will take is a guess. Sometimes the upholsterer guesses correctly, and sometimes he can be way off. So, the trick is, to guess high enough to make sure we have enough fabric for the job, but to not have an excessive amount of fabric left over.

One more accurate method of determining yardage yardage is to go out and measure the furniture, then do a layout of all the furniture cover pieces, figureing in the sizes of pattern repeats, cut sizes and fabric width. However, this is very time consuming. Unless the client is will to pay for this service, this is not an option. Generally, the cost of the precise estimate would be better served in just making sure we guess high enough to have adequate fabric to do the job.

Pattern Repeats: Generally, many fabric patterns are based upon what I call "the rule of 27", which means that many patterns are created in some multiple of 27, such as 3", 9", 13 1/2", and, of couse, 27".

Upholstery Leather

Upholstery Leather.

After Receiving yet another call by a client wanting leather (and having to tell here about the expense of leather), I went on the Internet to find out more information. I've heard about "split leather" before, and wanted to find out more about it. The Question I had in my mind; "Why does upholstery leather cost so much, and yet the new furniture stores can sell leather furniture so inexpensively?"

I did this "Google Search on Leather" and came up with this web page:

The Leather Controversy  

"Some essential  information and advice for those contemplating purchasing leather upholstered furniture: 

"Split leather", "bi-cast leather"(or just plain "bi cast"), "reconstituted leather", "corrected grain", "full grain", "aniline", "pigmented" - just some of the  terms used within the leather industry but not generally explained to the furniture buying public ..... "

Using Leather

Using Leather in Upholstery

This drawing* shows how the different parts of a leather hide are used in upholstery. The A Section of

Section A

  • Seat Tops
  • Inside backs
  • Cushion bands
  • Other sections that get more use or stress

Section B

  • Outside arms
  • Outside backs
  • Hidden bands
  • Other parts the receive little or no flexing

The Flank

  • Outside backs
  • Non-wearing surfaces

Flank fibers generally run in one direction (side to side). When stretching the flank, first stretch in in the direction of across the hide. If you stretch if the other way first, you may crack the surface.



  (*info and drawing taken from the Hoch & Selby Upholstery Catalog, page 44.)

Leather Information

Tandy Leather Guide Information of how leather is graded and labeled

Ever wondered how ">Hides are turned into leather"?

Here is more About Leather .

Here is yet some more info about Leather

Here is "How to Care for Leather "

Also, see this "Leather Terms Glossary "

Here's an article telling about leather used on Leather Upholstered Furniture

and another article on How to Choose Leather Furniture

Here is a Leather Encyclopedia

Leather Information

Upholstery Vinyls