How to Choose Upholstery Fabric

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Upholstery fabric options.

When you’re about to start an upholstery project, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which fabric to use. With all the options available it can be hard to know which fabric would be a good choice. You’ll obviously want to take the color and style into account so your piece matches your home, but you should also consider if the fabric is strong enough to be stretched for upholstery and how the fabric will wear over time. In this video, Sailrite® blogger Nikki talks with Cindi, our resident upholsterer, to talk about what to consider when choosing an upholstery fabric.

Let’s take another look at a few of the considerations we discussed in the video.

What are the double rubs?

Double rubs are an abrasion resistance measurement from a test called the Wyzenbeek Test. The test simulates people sitting on furniture by rubbing cotton duck over a fabric. Each pass forward and back is one double rub. For a family room, you’ll want to use a fabric with at least 15,000 double rubs. You can read more about double rubs in our guide "What Are Double Rubs and the Wyzenbeek Test?" (300100XHT).

Do you have kids or pets?

Kids and pets are hard on furniture. If you have small children or pets that sit on the furniture, you’ll want to look for a fabric that can stand up to a lot of wear and tear. A cleanable fabric like Sunbrella Upholstery, which is stain resistant and can be treated with bleach, would be a great choice for a family with messy kids. As Cindi says in the video, fabrics with a “hard finish” are good for pets. Look for fabrics that don’t have a loose weave or any fibers that could be pulled by claws. The example fabric from the video is P/Kaufmann Flash, which is an animal print fabric with a sateen feel and shine and a slick finish.

Where is the piece in your house?

Where the upholstered piece is going to live in your home and how you use that room is another important consideration to make. You want to choose a fabric with more double rubs that feels heftier for a family room, but you could pick a lighter, more delicate fabric for a formal sitting room that doesn’t see as much traffic. This could also influence your color choice. Darker colors will hide dirt better than lighter colors.

When you're ready to start your next reupholstery project, be sure to browse our selection of upholstery fabrics right here at Sailrite.