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Fabric Materials – a brief introduction

Materials you might consider…


Purple silk close up photo

Traditionally thought of as the height of luxury, this fabric is only suitable for formal areas with light usage – but it looks great though! Must be professionally cleaned if soiled. Don’t sit on it!


A natural choice for upholstery; chairs, sofas, headboards etc. Consider leather, because – although expensive – it can be a wonderfully rugged choice. It also is inherently fire safe. very forgiving, easy to clean.This tough material develops more character and softness with age.


Think long and hard before going with vinyl. It’s usually tough and easy to wipe off, but may not feel good against skin – it will feel cold in cool rooms and stick to skin in warm rooms. Cheap vinyl can split. If you can afford leather avoid synthetic substitutes.


Choose for its resilient, long-lasting properties, and because any stains usually can be removed. For formal rooms, nylon velvet is a surprisingly durable option. Nylon is usually blended with other fibres to make it one of the toughest upholstery fabrics. Nylon is very resilient; in a blend, it helps eliminate the crushing of napped fabrics such as velvet. It does tend to fade and pill.


Cotton is a good choice: It is absorbent, so feels cool in warm climates and it’s just as comfortable in colder climates. Heavier-weight cottons such as canvas and denim wear well. It is durable, easy to clean. This natural material provides good resistance to wear, fading and pilling, but is less resistant to soiling and wrinkling.


This tough fabric wrinkles easily and tends to feel stiff. It’s costly and needs care when cleaned to keep its shape and colour. This fabric is best suited for formal living rooms or adult areas because it soils and wrinkles easily. While it won’t withstand heavy wear, linen does resist pilling and fading. There is, however an exception to the rule – namely Brera Lino by Designers Guild. It’s 100% linen and great for curtains AND upholstery.

Cotton/Linen Blend

Combines the best of both natural fabrics. Often called “union”. A very popular general purpose fabric available in plain and printed varieties. One of the most enduring designs is Linara by Romo.


Close up photo of woollen fabric

Wool is warm in the summer and cool in the winter. Wool and wool blends offer good resistance to pilling, fading, wrinkling, and soil. Wool also needs no fire protection treatment. But it can be a target for moths. Depending on tightness of weave it will repel liquid spills. Our most popular woollen fabrics are by Abraham Moon.

Acrylic Blends

Acrylic blends are washable and resilient minimising shrinkage. Acrylic can create a woolly appearance without the moth problems; however, pure acrylics tend to pill.


Polyester is strong, resistant to wrinkles and it neither stretches nor shrinks. It can pill, but. Is much better used in blends with other fibres.


Commonly descried as a wool, it is in fact a hair from Cashmere goats, and this is what gives it its unique characteristics as compared to sheep’s wool. Cashmere is fine in texture, strong, light, and soft. Garments made from it provide excellent insulation. We supply Cashmere by Johnstons of Elgin.

Cotton blends

Polyester-cotton blends combine the advantages of both of these fabrics These are sturdy, family-friendly materials. For everyday use, it’s a good idea to apply a stain-resistant finish. A great example of this is Vibeke by Sanderson.


This synthetic material comes in various forms and can look like suede. It is not cheap but claims impressive “stay-clean” properties that avoid the use of chemical cleaners.


Often sold as imitation silk, acetate resists mildew, pilling and shrinking. On the other hand, it offers only fair resistance to soil and wrinkle and fade in the sun. Not a good choice for furniture you will use everyday


Originally developed to imitate wool, acrylic resists wrinkling, soiling and fading. Low-quality acrylic may tend to pill excessively in high-wear situations. Better-quality acrylics are now available.


Many fabrics use a clever combination of fibres to achieve the best balance of aesthetic appeal, performance and economy. The trick is to read the details on the fabric card attached to the swatch and to make your decision accordingly.

If in doubt come visit our Dunnington showroom where you can feel these fabrics and get expert advice.