Fabric Differences

 Which Fabric Should I Use?

I don’t mind a client bringing their own fabric to have me construct drapes or cushions or whatevers.  BUT often I am asked to use fabric that is not the correct quality or type suitable to the design. So,, for all you gals who want to find your own fabric, you should be aware of a few differences between fabric types. Each category has a specific purpose and while we can sometimes use one type of fabric for another, most often these fabrics do not cross the lines very easily. So, when you are out looking for fabric start in the correct department.  Just as you would not expect an inexpensive, indoor paint to look good and last as an outdoor paint, do not expect a fabric not intended for drapery to look as good as most drapery fabric. These are some of the main differences, by no means all the differences:

Quilting Fabric: usually 100% cotton, usually 45” wide. Usually fairly tight weave. 

These fabrics are very thin compared to most drapery fabric and therefore, in order to use them as drapery, they require special linings. The cost of the fabric itself can be quite expensive and because it is so narrow, more is needed for drapery and coupled with the interlining the cost can quickly approach that of a substantial drapery fabric. And it can shrink so pre-washing is a must if you want to wash the finished product.  Imagine ironing 15 meters of cotton.  

Upholstery Fabric: The easiest distinction here is that the design on upholstery fabrics runs across the bolt, from one edge as the top,  to the other as the bottom.  (Think ‘bouquets of flowers side by side  across the back of a sofa’). This is called railroaded.   Upholstery fabric often has a backing, it often feels slightly ‘sticky’ to  the touch and is usually  heavier than drapery fabric.  It doesn’t drape well and  is not usually  washable  and sometimes is  not dry-cleanable either. 

Drapery Fabric: The design runs up the bolt.  ( Think  ‘bouquets of flowers running up a very tall drape’) The fabric is usually 54 inches wide and it can be as light as a sheer (see-through) to  as  heavy as a  velvet.  Most drapery fabric is dry-cleanable, some is washable and a lot  of it has cotton or linen as part of the content. Depending on the weight it can sometimes be used for light upholstery, slipcovers and bedding.  

Fashion Fabrics: Almost everything else. Really. There are so many fibers and combinations it would be impossible to list them all . Some fashion fabrics, like fine wool blends, work well in the drapery world, and denim and canvas are great for slipcovers, but these are 100% natural fiber fabrics.  Some silks, velvets and corduroy’s  are great for cushions and things but they are not meant to take the abuse upholstery fabric will and usually have a much shorter life span. If the fabric has a viscose or rayon content it may stretch or sag. If it is a stretch fabric it is probably unsuitable for most home decor applications.

Now, having said all that, a decorator I knew used screen door mesh to construct drapes for a hair salon. I have used $6.00 per meter silk from a Sari shop for drapes.  I have used black denim for slipcovers that was initially intended for chefs jackets.   And I made a Grade 12’s grad ‘skirt’ out of 10 meters of embroidered drapery sheer.  Once again, if in doubt, please ask. I take phone calls and I’ll even go shopping with you. 

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