A Guide to Upholstery Fabric Types

Upholstery Fabric Types

Choosing the Right Upholstery Fabric Type for Your Space

In this upholstery fabric guide, you’ll learn more about upholstery fabric types and how to select the right one for your space including:

  • Natural upholstery fabric types
  • Synthetic upholstery fabric types
  • Fabric pattern types
  • Choosing perfect fabric type for your space
  • Fabric contents considerations
  • And more

What Is Upholstery?

A soft covering for a chair, sofa, or other piece of furniture is called upholstery. It consists of materials such as fabric, padding, webbing, and springs. The process was developed during the Middle Ages and became more popular during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

There have been a variety of materials used over the years, such as hay, horsehair, and wool. A modern upholstered item uses metal springs and foam to increase its durability. While interior materials may not be visible, they play a major role in the comfort of the piece.

Throughout the years, the fabric of the piece can always be changed — and may need to be done depending on the level of wear and tear. However, opting for high-quality inner layers will help ensure the piece is durable for a long time to come.

What are the most common upholstery fabric types?

Nowadays, there are many options when it comes to different types of upholstery fabric. Choose a fabric for the right situation so your furniture lasts longer. You could use natural fabrics or synthetics. Here are a few of the most popular upholstery fabrics:

Five natural upholstery fabric types list

Natural fabrics are the best choice if you want your furniture to feel soft and less performance-based. There are many types of natural upholstery fabrics, including cotton, silk, wool, leather, and linen.


There is nothing better than leather. No matter what you are trying to convey, it always creates a classy appearance to any item or line. Unlike other materials, leather can combine classic aesthetics with traditional techniques while still maintaining a contemporary design.

Additionally, it is both durable and fashionable. There has never been a time when leather wasn’t in style when it came to upholstery. Whether it’s in your home sofa, office couche or car interiors, it’ll continue to look great for years to come. Investments in leather are both practical and stylish, which makes them excellent financial choices.


It is the way cotton fabrics are woven that gives them their unique appearance. For slipcovers, canvas weaves (ducks or sailcloths) are commonly used, while velvets and damasks can be more formal and elegant. Print fabrics are also popular with cotton.

Cotton’s breathable nature is one of the main reasons why it’s such a great choice for upholstery. Heat and moisture can move away from the skin (or evaporate). Cotton fabrics are also washable, which makes them ideal for slipcovers.


As an upholstery fabric, silk adds a royal touch unlike any other. When it comes to furniture, the covering is typically what makes the first impression. Therefore, securing it with silk is a superb way to make your chair, sofa, or bedding stand out.

Except for some very light sheer fabrics, most silk fabrics are suitable for upholstery. The three most commonly used silk fabrics for upholstery are dupioni, shantung, and linen.


Upholstery fabrics such as linen are classic. Since thousands of years ago, humans have used fabrics made from flax fibers.

In ancient Egypt, linen was even used as currency, according to some historians. In the same way that linen has been around for thousands of years, it feels comfortable, is durable, and is still popular today.

You’ll love sitting on this fabric. Furthermore, linen fabric resists moisture, making it more comfortable both in the summer and in the winter. However, linen is also luxurious in addition to being comfortable.


Natural wool material has so many benefits for use in your home interiors. You can use it to create stunning curtains and home accessories that keep you warm through winters, or as a durable upholstery fabric to keep your furniture looking new.

Natural flame-retardancy and strength make wool fabric an excellent choice. Upholstery and soft furnishings are made from this material. There is also often a natural coating on wool that repels liquid, so it’s easy to mop up spills.

Four popular synthetic upholstery fabric types

Compared to natural upholstery fabric types, synthetic fabrics are more age-resistant. As a hard-wearing and easy-to-clean option, they’re a smart choice for pet owners.

In order to create synthetic fabrics, chemicals and/or natural products are synthesized. We use these synthetic fibers to make fabrics that we use each day.


polyester fabric retains dyes and was an early choice for outdoor upholstery yarn and is often used in combination with other fibers such as cotton. Polyester is a great fiber to blend with cotton for wrinkle-free fabrics.

Olefin or Polypropylene

Upholstery fabrics made from Olefin are also excellent options. Second only to polyester in terms of production is Olefin, or polypropylene. There is no need to use protective stain treatments like Scotchgard since it is durable and cleanable.

Some synthetic fibers can begin to break down when exposed to fluorochemicals. Water bottles, yogurt containers, and tupperware are all made from polypropylene, also known as PP.

Compared to other plastics, polypropylene produces less waste by weight. It is possible to recycle polypropylene almost everywhere in South Africa.


The use of nylon as a single fiber is rare as well. In velvet and chenille fabrics, nylon is great for eliminating napping and crushing when combined with other synthetic or natural fibers. During high sunlight or UV exposure, nylon is susceptible to pilling.


Originally used for outdoor upholstery fabrics, acrylic is a synthetic fiber mimicking wool. If low quality acrylic is used in the fiber, it can pill. Acrylic is good at resisting fading, soiling, and wrinkles.

How do you choose fabric for upholstery?

A good rule of thumb when selecting upholstery fabrics is to think about what you’ll be using the furniture for most often. Take into account your lifestyle and the people who will be using the piece. Choosing the right material will be guided by this information. A house with kids or pets will quickly destroy that silk velvet you love. Furniture in high-traffic areas, such as living rooms or family rooms, will need durable fabrics, while bedroom furniture, such as settees or headboards, may not require as much durability.

When it comes to fabrics and leather, people tend to ignore how they may age over time. Consider the amount of maintenance you’re willing to comply with to protect your choice after checking the label and asking questions at the showroom.

Five years from now, what will it look like? The leather will develop a nice patina over time, will you still love it then? Does the upholstery fabric need to be vacuumed regularly? When away from a room or not using it, will you close the drapes to prevent some of the natural fading caused by sunlight?

Considerations for upholstery fabric types and contents

  • Make sure the fabric you choose does not contain certain fibers if someone in your family is allergic to them. Microfiber, which does not attract lint or dust, may also be a good choice for allergy sufferers.
  • Make sure the fabric you choose for your upholstered furniture is fade-resistant if it will be placed in a brightly lit room.
  • Fabrics that are mildew-resistant are recommended for people living in humid climates.
  • Silk, other delicate materials, and highly textured fabrics should not be used by families with pets. Make sure the fabric you choose is pet-friendly.
  • Tightly woven, durable fabrics are a good choice for heavy-use furniture. Fabrics with printed patterns don’t last as long as fabrics with woven patterns.
  • If you want to choose a fabric that is environmentally friendly, look for fabrics that are sustainable (renewable resources are used to make the fibers), organic (no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or chemical fertilizers are used), or recycled.

What upholstery fabrics are best for kids and pets?

The good news is, there are plenty of upholstery fabric types available today that combine good looks with durability.

You may want to consider a faux suede fabric or Sunbrella fabric if you have children or pets. If you prefer slipcovered upholstery, you can do so as well

Distressed leather is great, too—you won’t have to worry about scuffs or scratches. Avoid delicate or textured fabrics, such as silk, if you have a busy household, as they can pull and are less forgiving when it comes to staining.

You can really flaunt your freedom if you don’t have to worry about messy children and pets. Tibetan wool feels so luxurious, but peanut butter crackers and Belgian linen don’t go well there.

In lighter colors, linen may not offer the stain resistance and crisp, wrinkle-free look that a kid-friendly household needs, even though it is extremely durable.

The luxe fabrics can be used on pillows, which can be swapped out when they’ve seen better days (or a new trend appears).

What are your options when it comes to upholstery fabric patterns?

It can be fun to choose a pattern when selecting a fabric. Among the many patterns available, these are some of the most popular:

  • It’s usually best to use body cloths for larger pieces of furniture since they are solid colors or textures.
  • Flowers and leaves are sometimes included in floral patterns.
  • In oriental teardrop designs, paisleys are ornate.
  • As a form of geometry, squares, circles, triangles, and ovals are included in geometric shapes.
  • A stripe is a vertical or horizontal band that runs across a fabric.
  • In a plaid, horizontal and vertical stripes are intersected by each other.
  • Zebras, snakes, crocodiles, and leopards all have different skin patterns that mimic theirs.
  • Asian, Native American, Indian, and African motifs are incorporated into ethnic patterns.
  • The possibilities for colors and patterns are endless with prints because they are printed onto woven fabric.

Take into account the piece itself

When choosing a fabric, consider the shape of the furniture. It may be difficult to upholster patterns or textures with distinct directions. When you slice up a design and assemble it on your sofa, it might not look as good as it did on a bolt of fabric.

Don’t forget to consider the size of the furniture. The larger pieces of furniture, such as a sofa, should be in a solid color or classic neutral so that you won’t get tired of them. Make a statement with smaller pieces, such as a bolder-colored chair.

You should also take into account other furnishings in the room-especially those that are upholstered. If you want the colors, textures, and patterns to work together, make sure they complement one another.

What is the most durable fabric for upholstery?

It is always advisable to choose leather materials for the ultimate in durability. However, some people prefer something besides leather furniture in their living rooms.

There are many types of synthetic microfiber available on the market today, but synthetic microfiber is considered the most durable. Its ultra-fine fibers are responsible for microfiber’s durability. They create an effective layer of protection because they are tightly woven. Almost all liquids and dirt can be removed from furniture covered with synthetic microfiber fabric.

What type of fabric is best for sofa?

You may choose a fabric based on the style of couch you buy. When you want something unique, you can choose from loveseats, sleeper sofas, and chaises.

Prior to purchasing a sofa, you should also consider your budget. There are many natural and synthetic fabric blends that can be found at very affordable prices. Certain ones, like cotton, are available in a variety of grades that can meet a wide range of budgets. It is more expensive, but leather, linen, silk, and wool would be passed down to future generations for those who are more investment-minded.

Last but not least, you can choose from a variety of colors and patterns. It’s ideal if your couch matches your home’s style. Traditional or regal designs will be characterised by floral and textured prints, while a more contemporary look will use modest, solid, soft colors.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right fabric for your sofa to match your lifestyle. You’ll find something that meets your needs among the many sofa upholstery fabric types available.

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