Smith Brothers offers more than 900 different fabrics, which sounds exciting at first... but when you start to dig
into all those choices, it can start to get pretty overwhelming! While it's great to have options, you may want a little extra help
in finding that perfect fabric for your new furniture—especially considering that there's a lot to fabric beyond what color works
Here is a brief guide to choosing fabric for your furniture.
While this is not an all inclusive list of contents found in upholstery fabrics, these are the basics. Knowing the pros and cons of each
will help you select the fabric for you.
Natural fibers generally feature flat weaves that are ideal for prints. They are softer, and tailor well for upholstered furniture. However,
being a natural product they can fade in direct sunlight, and may be susceptible to pilling.
Pilling is when a fabric begins to develop little balls of fiber on the surface. While undesirable, this
is a natural characteristic of many fabrics. Not all fabrics pill, but it is difficult to predict which ones will. Most pilling can actually
be shaved off with a fabric shaver.
For a textural look, designers make yarns with irregularities, producing the characteristic uneven surface of the finished fabric.
Sometimes, this creates a regular pattern in the fabric once it is woven together, but it can also be a natural characteristic of the
fiber that shows up occasionally in the fabric. Linen, cotton and silk tend to have natural slubs.
Synthetic fibers are made by extruding chemicals into fiber strands. They are more durable and (in general) more resistant to staining and
fading than natural fibers. Synthetic fibers are just as likely to be susceptible to pilling, however.
There are several different ways to turn yarn into fabric.
There are a great many types of patterns in upholstery fabrics, but here are some of the more common terms.
Examples from left to right: floral, stripe, chair pattern, and a body cloth
If you've bought fabric upholstery before, you know that the fabric is often the first thing to show signs of wear and age. Most likely, the quality
and longevity of the fabric is just as important to you as the construction of the furniture itself.
Fortunately there are a number of industry standard tests that a furniture manufacturer can use to ensure that the fabrics they put on
their furniture will last. At Smith Brothers, we use each of the following tests before we introduce any new fabric—though we impose much
stricter threshholds than most manufacturers would allow when we determine whether a fabric passes these tests.
The Wyzenbeek test
If a fabric satisfactorily passes both the Wyzenbeek and the Pilling tests, we allow it to be used on recliners. Fabrics that do not satisfactorily pass
one or both of these tests are restricted to stationary pieces. This is because recliners create a lot more friction and cause fabrics to wear out more
Fabrics that do not pass this rating are not necessarily bad—they just need to be saved for stationary pieces of furniture.
While there really are not any set-in-stone rules for mixing fabrics, here are a few guidelines that may help.
Once you have selected all your fabrics, decide where they should go. Usually, the body cloth goes on the sofa/sectional. The biggest scale pattern
usually goes on a chair and/or pillows. The stripe or smaller scale pattern should go on a second set of pillows, a second chair, or an accent ottoman.
Also, decide if you want to contrast the welt on any pieces of furniture or the pillows or select any decorative fringes or cords.
Check out the Suggested Correlate Groups in our catalog for some great ideas to get you started!
In general, you can put any fabric on any of our frames. However, there are some things to keep in mind about how patterns and
With all of that said, of course, rules are meant to be broken. Sometimes deliberately bending or breaking these rules can create a very eclectic
design that you will love, and that will look great in your home. The choice is yours!