Textile design is the creative and technical process by which thread or yarn fibers are woven together or interlaced to form a flexible, functional, and decorative cloth or fabric which is subsequently printed upon, dyed or otherwise adorned.
Furnishing fabrics include: upholstery fabrics, window furnishing (curtains, drapes, blinds), soft floor coverings, fabric wall coverings, and accessories such as cushions and throws.
One of the most important features of any design is the choice of the fabric and materials used to cover the upholstery, fabricate window coverings, and create the accent pieces within a space. The selections of these fabrics and materials can make for a visually successful space or one of total mediocrity.
The success of a room’s interior design critically depends on the selection of the quality of the materials for the application. Color, being one of the more recognizable traits, can present challenges when it comes to deciding where specific colors should be placed. Pattern, equally important to color, actually plays a more critical role when it comes to relaying a consistent style within a space. Then there are the less discernable qualities of fabrics, that if not recognized and understood, can lead to serious problems in the areas of appearance, upkeep and maintenance.
The” weight” of the fabric often became the key to its use. Heavily embellished wools with intricate and colorful threads would be used on upholstered pieces, while thinner linens and silks, often embroidered with silken accents, would hang from the windows.
The way the window covering was designed would dictate the type of fabric that was most appropriate. The curve of a piece of furniture, the size of its back and seat might also dictate the weight of the fabric and the size of its pattern. One quality of fabric that is rarely even discussed in today’s designs, except by knowledgeable and expert designers, is a quality called the “hand” of the fabric. The “hand” of a fabric refers to the way a piece of fabric feels against your skin. It is an important element when it comes time to decide what material should be placed on a large, comfy sofa or a small armed side chair. It also relates to the way the fabric feels between your fingers and your thumb. Interestingly enough, it plays to a combination of physical, physiological and psychological factors; not only how the fabric itself feels, but how it makes you feel, too!
Similarly, the “drape” of a fabric is key when it comes to selecting materials that would be considered for a window covering. When everyone was installing swags and jabots, a heavier, more substantial “drape” to the fabric, would give the swag and jabot more form, able to stand up to the curve of the swag and the folds of the jabot. Today, the “drape” of the fabric plays a key role when the design of a window treatment consists of two stationary panels, that simply frame a window. The question will then pertain to how will the selected fabric “fall.” If you want the panels to be more structured in appearance, the “drape” of the fabric should have more substance and body. If you want the panels to be more fluid, soft in appearance, or ethereal, the drape of the fabric chosen should also reflect those qualities.
If you know a few things about the types of fabrics before you get started you can choose with better confidence. Of course for truly great interior designing will have to rely on experienced, designers with good tastes and reputation.
UPHOLSTERY VS CURTAIN WEIGHT:
Furnishing fabrics are often marked with either UPH (upholstery weight) or CTN (curtain weight) - these are divided into 2 separate categories online. What do they mean?
You can generally use curtain fabrics for cushions also, some heavier cottons I would even say you could use for kitchen chairs etc as they can be spot cleaned but they will not last as long as a fabric that is designated upholstery.
Generally if you see a mix, you will be getting the best attributes of the fabrics listed rolled into one.
When selecting a curtain color, think about whether you want your window curtains to blend in with the decor or be a focal point for the living room. If you elect to have them play a more muted role, select curtains that are similar to the wall color or trim color of the space.
Natural Light: In or Out?
One of the first considerations for curtain fabric should be the amount of light the room gets and whether you want to let the light in or block it out? If you want to block out light, try a heavy fabric with a tight weave or a blackout curtain fabric, like the Jessica fabric collection.
Blackout Drapery Fabric
It’s also common to want your window treatments to provide some insulation against the cold. A heavier weight fabric with a tighter weave will be better at keeping the cold out than a sheer or open weave fabric. Blackout fabrics often feature insulating properties as well. You can up the insulation factor of any fabric by adding a flannel interlining to the back of the curtains. The interlining will also protect the fabric from UV rays of the sun and add more body.
UV Rays & Colorfastness
The sun’s rays can be really harsh on fabric. You don’t generally think about interior fabrics needing to be UV resistant, but curtains can see a lot of sunlight streaming through the windows. That’s why we recommend thinking about the colorfastness of the fabric you choose for curtains.
This isn’t an issue in every window, so you’ll want to think about your home, which direction the windows face and how much natural light they let in, and decide if this is a concern for you. In general, south-facing windows will see the most sunlight during the day.
If UV exposure is a concern, look for curtain fabrics with UV protective qualities. Solution-dyed and vat dyed fabrics will be the most colorfast and printed fabrics the least. However, you can always add a drapery lining to the back of the fabric to protect the decorative fabric itself from UV rays. Curtain lining is also great for making fabrics a little more opaque and for adding more body for fuller looking drapes.
abric Width & Repeat
Large-scale pattern Jennifer Adams Home Henley Henna Red
Especially when on a budget, it’s important to consider how many yards of a given fabric your curtain project will require. Fabrics with a thinner width or large repeats could mean you’ll need to do more seaming in drapery panels and order extra fabric to pattern match.
Typically, you want to use the length of the fabric as the length of the curtain so you might need to seam two or more panels together to get the appropriate width for your window. If your fabric has a pattern, note the pattern repeat. For the best looking shades you’ll want the patterns to match at the seam point, and a large pattern repeat can mean you’ll need to order extra fabric to get a good pattern match.
So keep in mind, when selecting fabrics for a design project, the color, pattern, weight, hand and drape, are all important traits that can make or break a room’s overall appearance as well as it comfort factor. And the quality of those fabrics is all too apparent in the overall success or failure of a space.
How to Choose the Best Upholstery Fabric for Your Sofa (or chair, chaise lounge, bed headboard)
First, consider how you live and who will use the piece - sofa/armchair? This will help guide you on the type of material to choose. You may love the look of a silk velvet, but it will quickly get destroyed in a house with kids or pets. Pieces in high-traffic areas, such as family or living rooms, will need durable fabrics and easy maintenance, while furniture that doesn't get as much wear and tear, such as a bedroom settee or headboard, can utilize any type of fabric.
A common mistake people make, is not considering how a fabric or leather may age over time. Check the label and ask questions at the showroom to find out about the material’s content and cleaning needs, then think about how much maintenance you’re prepared to do to protect your selection. How will it look in five years? Will you still love the leather as it develops a nice patina from everyday living? Will you vacuum the upholstery fabric regularly? Will you close the drapes when away or not using a room to avoid some of the fading that naturally occurs from exposure to sunlight?
The Best Upholstery Fabrics for Homes with Kids and Pets
Today’s engineered textiles look increasingly like their natural counterparts, but can withstand wear and tear much better. And many natural fabrics are nearly as durable. It all depends on what you choose.
There are plenty of upholstery materials that match good looks with durability. Homes with children and pets—and maybe red-wine lovers—consider the easy care of a faux suede or the durability of an indoor-outdoor fabric. Consider also slip-covered upholstery (popular with Asians); and distressed leather is great—you don’t have to worry about the occasional scuff or scratch. If you have a busy household, stay away from delicate or textured options, like silk, which could pull and aren’t as forgiving when it comes to stains.
How to Pick a Luxurious Upholstery Fabric
If messy children and pets aren’t a worry, then you can really flaunt your freedom and choose things like fluffy Tibetan wool or Belgian linen, Mulberry silks and the like. While linen is very durable, in lighter colors it doesn’t offer the level of stain resistance that a kid-friendly household might need and may not have a crisp, wrinkle-free look after a lot of lounging.
Consider the type of chair you are upholstering be it a chaise lounge or a wing chair. If you’re upholstering a curvaceous piece, stick to solid-colored fabrics. Patterns or textures with a distinctive direction may not upholster well. A pattern that looks great on a bolt of fabric may not look great once it is cut up and put back together on a sofa, particularly if it's a tricky, ornate shape. Take the size of the furniture into account, too. Consider larger pieces, such as a sofa, in a rich solid color or classic neutral so you won’t tire of it over time. Liven things up with smaller pieces—for instance, a great statement chair in a bolder shade or pattern. Think about the other furnishings in the room as well—especially the other upholstered pieces. You'll want to make sure the colors, textures, and patterns compliment each other
An easy way to be sure you’ll like an upholstery material on a certain chair, and like how it feels when you sit on it, is by going with something you see in the store. If you fall in love with a fabric that’s not shown on the floor, ask for a swatch, if a sample length is not possible, you can drape over a furnishing to get a better idea of how it will look. If you go with a custom option, make sure you see a large swatch of any patterned fabrics so you see the full motif and its complete color palette. A little due diligence will help you avoid any big disappointment when the piece arrives.
You're not limited to the fabrics in the store, especially if you have a regular expert upholsterer. Consider unconventional materials such as vintage blankets or kilim rugs for example. You might get a great conversational piece if you pair a bold choice of fabric on a traditional piece such as a wingback chair or camelback sofa.
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