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Upholstering 2 Chairs For My Living Room #2: Fabric - What's the big deal?

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Blog entry by MarkTheFiddler posted 01-25-2014 09:11 PM 1037 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: My Thoughts Before Beginning. Part 2 of Upholstering 2 Chairs For My Living Room series Part 3: Measuring the Chair Body »

So what is the big Deal about upholstery fabric. What do I need to know? Is there a top, left side, right side and bottom. Is it stretchy, is it velvet, is it thin, is it thick, is it heavy, is it slippery, is it clothing fabric, is it drapery fabric, is it upholstery fabric, is it, is it and is it?

In this part of the blog, I’ll answer some of those questions. I’ll focus a lot on the fabric I selected. And then I’ll just answer your questions as they come up like – Is this a good fabric? How many yards do I need to buy?

I hope it helps!

-- Thanks for all the lessons!



10 comments so far

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MarkTheFiddler

1848 posts in 912 days


#1 posted 01-25-2014 09:31 PM

I’d like to give you a very quick guide toward upholstery fabric.

1) Do not use drapery fabric.

It may look OK but it’s not designed for durability AND THAT is the least of it.
Drapery fabric tends to be stretchy. If I don’t pull with the exact same tension, I’ll get waves in the upholstery. Those are inconsistent ripples across what should be a smooth tailored surface.
Drapery fabric is not made for staples. A staple can grab a thread in drapery fabric and pull it out of alignment. It creates flawed stripes. That’s the good news – the bad news is your staple my just slice right through that fabric like a knife.
Drapery fabric does not hide bulk – at all. If your padding is not perfectly consistent, you will see little bumps all over the place.
Drapery fabric is semi-transparent. That sort of speaks for itself doesn’t it.
I have more and more. Just don’t get it.

Cotton prints might be an exception but it a reverse notion. You are talking about an upholstery fabric that can be used for drapes. But that is the key – upholstery first.

2) Do not buy fabric that frays easily. Have you ever cut the legs off your blue jeans? You get a bunch of string hanging and you have to keep pulling them off until you end up with that bit of fluffy threads. When you shop for fabric, take a look at the end of the fabric. If there is already substantial fraying, just say no.

Guess what – I covered 98% of the no-no’s in 2 bullets. ;)

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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MarkTheFiddler

1848 posts in 912 days


#2 posted 01-25-2014 10:20 PM

What did I get?

It’s a polyester cotton blend that is semi durable. You don’t want it in the Den or on your favorite easy chair.

I really want to talk to you about the repeat of the fabric because it will really effect how I have to think about the fabric.

If you can follow the yardstick, I placed the edge on top of a gold line. The distance to the next gold line is 7 1/4 inches. That is the horizontal repeat.

So what? At 7 1/4 inches add about 20% to your yardage estimate.

The vertical repeat is about one inch. I say about because I really don’t care. It won’t mess up my life and I may make a few decisions based on that small repeat later but it will not be a decision that wastes a lot of fabric.

So what? At 1 inch repeat – Don’t add anything to your yardage estimate.

Is there a top and bottom? Hmm.. I did a quick edit on my photo to show you if there is a top and bottom.

It’s a mirror image. The pattern changed direction like you would expect. If the pattern seemed to continue through then there would not really be a top or bottom – sort of. Any how – The fabric will change direction as I roll it over an arm. Sometimes the arrows will be pointing up and sometimes down. It knocks precision matching right out of the picture.

So What? I know that I can’t match perfectly and either I live with it – OR – Choose another fabric. If up/down the mirror image just seemed like a continuation and you wanted to take advantage of it, add 10% to yardage estimate.

Is there a left and right? Take a look at another edit.

The bottom of the pic shows the normal run of the fabric. The top right of the image shows yet another mirror image. The mirror image and the bottom do not match up. There is a right and left to the fabric.

So What? I know that I can’t match perfectly and either I live with it – OR – Choose another fabric. If the left/right mirror image just seemed like a continuation and you wanted to take advantage of it no need to add yardage.

Of course there are tons of things to think about with this fabric like how will I prevent the furniture from looking chaotic? – That’s a big one actually but I’ll show you how I handle it later.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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MarkTheFiddler

1848 posts in 912 days


#3 posted 01-25-2014 10:27 PM

Did you know that there is a definite top and bottom to velvet? Huh? It looks like one solid color.

Take your hand and actually pet the velvet in a long stroke down (or maybe up) the length of the fabric. Does it feel smooth or rough? Ok – no fair – You need context. Pet it the opposite direction. NOW you can feel a difference. That’s called the nap. The nap should feel smooth in the downward direction and rough in the upward direction. If you don’t consider that when you upholster you’ll get some interesting results. The velvet will look different colors if you run it in opposite directions because the nap direction catches the light differently.

Something to think about.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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MarkTheFiddler

1848 posts in 912 days


#4 posted 01-26-2014 12:52 AM

Did you know that upholstery fabric is 54 inches wide?

That is a most of the time measurement. Sometimes I see 56 inches. When you get a yardage quote, they are basing it on 54 inches.

Sometimes you will see 60 inch wide upholstery fabric. It is the real thing. It just wasn’t intended for your furniture. It was made for your car. ;) There are some other 60 inch wide fabric out there. Be wary. If they are thin – they just might have been made for cubicle walls. You definitely don’t want that.

Sometime you will see 40 to 48 inch fabric. You need to suspect that it was one of 2 things:
A) Not upholstery fabric.
B) Made by hand.

Some of the ‘made by hand fabric’ is ok to use but I wouldn’t ever do my first project in one of those. They are real finicky and you practically need to double the yardage you use.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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lightweightladylefty

2710 posts in 2436 days


#5 posted 01-26-2014 06:16 AM

Mark,

We ran across some very wide upholstery fabric that we used to reupholster the church pews in a 100-year-old country church (don’t remember if it was 72” or even wider). I think it was $1.00/yard if I remember correctly. It made for an affordable fix for the dirty, mismatched slipcovers. That’s the only fabric I’ve ever bought that wide besides nylon netting.

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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GrandpaLen

1576 posts in 996 days


#6 posted 01-26-2014 02:54 PM

Mark,

We LJs are to verying degrees, familiar with the durability, or lack of, the different types of wood finishes and each has their proper uses.
What considerations went in to your fabric selection for your ‘Living Room Chair’ project?

If I’ve asked this question, out of order and you are going to cover it later, just tell me to …wait for it. :-)

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

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MarkTheFiddler

1848 posts in 912 days


#7 posted 01-26-2014 04:10 PM

Howdy Len,

I’ll answer it real fast so you can skip my story if you like.
1) It matches my color scheme.
2) Most importantly – thrift.

Now a little more detail. This fabric at one time retailed at $30 to $50 a yard. Not because I ever saw the price. I’m just giving opinions.

The weave is very tight and bonded to the back side. It has a very high thread count.
When I pull the fabric diagonally, there is very little stretch.
The dye is extraordinarily intense compared to lesser fabrics. You’ll have to do some side to side comparisons to try and see what I am saying.
When I pet the fabric, my calloused hands don’t catch anything. It feels luxurious. This is no knock off.
The fabric has a tiny amount of fraying – maybe a thread or two at the cut edges. That’s good.
This is what I expect from a high quality thin fabric.

Now the thrifty part requires a story.
Years ago – I entered a local thrift store. They were trying to unload the 100 yard bolts of material. I bought 5 of them for 32.50.
I used bits and pieces of that fabric for all kinds of things. I even upholstered a couch in it. (not pleased)

Well – I was sitting on over 450 yards of this stuff – regretting that I bought it and had to store it when I decided to try my luck at a swap. I remembered a close out fabric place in Dallas and hauled the whole batch down there. They sell fabrics that have been discontinued for some reason or another. Even though I drop by fairly often, they hardly ever have anything worth buying – but this time – they did. Talk about luck!

I offered them the bolts of fabric for a $100 dollar swap. The owner said yes very easily then spoke with the sales clerk. She said – go take a look.

Well I picked out this fabric and that. It was about $3 to $4 a yard but well over $250 worth. I just wanted to check yardage before deciding. The clerk checked yardage for me and I started thinking about how to maximize my $100 credit. She asked “Do you like all of these?” Yes I do. She said “Done”.

They gave me over $250 in credit in the end.

Now I speak of just this one fabric with over 20 yards. At the low retail estimate – It sold for $600. I still have other bolts of fabric and I already upholstered a large sectional in other choices.

Remember my original cash outlay? $32.50.
It took a lot of shopping around but I thoroughly enjoyed that part as I met contacts here and there.

That is the biggest “Boast” I can think of but the truth be told, It’s not MY boast. The man upstairs was watching out for me. He knocks it out of the park when he steps up to bat for you.

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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GrandpaLen

1576 posts in 996 days


#8 posted 01-26-2014 05:27 PM

AH HA!! ...material ‘Gloat’ ...you suck. :-)
Don’t ya just love the Barter System??

O.K., durability, I got it, oak vs. pine. Costs a little more but the right material for the purpose.

Thanks.

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

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MarkTheFiddler

1848 posts in 912 days


#9 posted 01-30-2014 11:08 PM

LW – The widest I have seen is 120 inches. They keep it on 60 inch bolts. I have only seen very thin and sheer fabrics for large drapery panels. I’ve only seen that a few times.

The 72 inch wide upholstery weight fabric is way cool – You have seen something I never have. I have to add it to my fabric bucket list. ;)

-- Thanks for all the lessons!

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lightweightladylefty

2710 posts in 2436 days


#10 posted 01-31-2014 06:18 AM

Mark,

I had some of that upholstery fabric left so I went out to the shop and measured it: 74” wide. It seems like a really strange width. Maybe that’s why I found it at a liquidator so cheap.

L/W

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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