Everything you need to know about upholstery fabrics for your house, outdoor area or office

We’ve put together a guide covering everything you need to know about upholstery fabrics, including what fabric to use for your specific needs and which fabric works best for your house, outdoor area, or office

What are upholstery materials?

Today upholstery fabric is fabric by the metre that we create specifically to be a hard-wearing furniture covering. We use this type of fabric for the seats and backs of chairs and couches, bed headboards, cushions for indoor and outdoor furniture, quilting… and much more.

The choice of fabric is as wide as the types of fabric available, from leather fabric and suede to canvas, linen and silk. We will go into detail about the different types of designer upholstery fabric later.

Right now, just consider what type of fabric there is, and how you can use this fabric to make your furniture more comfortable and stylish.

What makes this type of textile different?

There is a distinct difference between fabric used for upholstery and regular fabrics, which have many uses such as clothing and soft furnishing (curtain fabric, cushion fabric, tablecloths, linen tea towels, serviettes and other interior fabric items).

We create fabric specifically for covering furniture, for a cushion or curtain for the home or office, so it’s sturdier, heavier and a woven fabric.

Eco Upholstery FR fabric - digital print for reloved upholstery using design by Charlotte Beevor
Eco Upholstery FR using design by Charlotte Beevor - Fabric upholstered onto Ercol chair by Reloved Upholstery

Benefits of choosing quality uphostery fabrics

If you’ve read all about woven fabric, you’ll know that the higher the thread count of a fabric is, the more hard-wearing the fabric will be.

The term 'a high thread count' means that the fabric has a tight weave. This makes the fabric able to withstand wear and tear. And that’s what makes it perfect for a couch or a curtain.

Make sure to bear this in mind when choosing your fabric. 

Before you choose this type of material for home furnishing

It’s important to consider exactly what type of fabric you’re after.

For instance, are you reupholstering an existing item in your home, or are you planning to upholster a new item with fabric to make it a statement piece?

Do you need something covered with durable fabric? Something versatile? Stylish? Something that fits in with existing décor or something that will stand alone?

Is the fabric for outside or an interior décor piece?

The more time you take to consider the fabric, the more likely you are to enjoy the benefits of the fabric.

You need to consider where the item is located in your home, whether you have young kids who will be sitting on the couch eating pizza and cold drinks while watching TV, which will affect the fabric, or cats and dogs that tend to cover the couch fabric with fur – or both. 

In these cases you need a fabric covering that is not only durable, but is also easy to keep clean.

Make sure your fabric menu includes the following

The menu for upholstery fabric is long… it must be a fabric covering that resists smells and doesn’t stain easily, and fabric that you can clean quickly to look as good as new. If you use the furniture constantly, make sure you contract someone to cover it in high quality, hard wearing fabric that is able to withstand constant wear and tear.

Custom print on Velvet for Sarah Peterson Design on GPlain armchair
Custom print on Velvet fabric for Sarah Peterson Design on GPlain armchair

4 of the most important points to consider when choosing a textile sample

To give you peace of mind, we’ve put together a list of all the important aspects you need to consider before you choose upholstery fabric UK for your furniture. 

1. Hard-wearing fabric

We’ve already discussed the importance of choosing a hard-wearing fabric. We’ve mentioned kids and pets, but there’s more. Let’s not forget allergies. If anyone in your family is allergic to specific fabrics, cleaning materials or pet fur, you need to take this into account. 

Can you easily remove the cat’s fur from the couch fabric to avoid your child sneezing? Did you choose a fabric that manufacturers sourced and printed on sustainably? If you did, your family won’t be allergic to any of the chemicals used in the fabric’s dyeing and printing process.

Do you use natural and hyper allergenic cleaning products on the fabric? Is your curtain fabric in constant contact with sunlight? In these cases, you need to use a curtain fabric that won’t fade.

To withstand kids and pets, we suggest a really hard-wearing fabric like leather or viscose. And for allergic members of the family, choose a fabric that’s free of lint, perhaps fabric made from one specific microfibre upholstery fabric UK. 


You also need to consider patterned fabric when choosing. Fabric with woven patterns, fabrics with tight weaves and fabric with a higher thread count are all more long-lasting. Printed fabric and fabric with heavy textures wear out more quickly. Make sure the fabric you choose is versatile.

You also should consider the lifespan of your upholstery fabric. Of course, you want the fabric to last as long as possible – a decade at least. Which fabrics are the strongest ones? You need fabrics that can withstand kids bouncing and spilling stuff on them or a curtain that doesn’t fade in sunlight and will stand the test of time.

Synthetic fabrics are the strongest. While natural fabrics are beautiful, rather consider this type of fabric to cover accessories and for soft furnishing like a cushion or curtain. One should cover more durable items with fabric made from a blend of cotton, polyester and rayon, for instance our Bayeux Upholstery fabric

Flame retardant material

Fabric for upholstery that is specifically made to use for upholstery has to be flame retardant.

One of the methods we use to treat this upholstery fabric so that it's flame retardant is with a fire retardant back-coating. This stiffens the fabric somewhat and makes it better for many upholstery applications. 

We call the other method of making a fabric suitable for upholstery flame retardant 'chemical dipping'. Manufacturers use it for fabrics for upholstery made out of natural fibres or fabric that has a high proportion of natural fibres. For this method, you soak the upholstery fabric in the fire retardant substance.

Upholstery cloth such as our Eco Upholstery FR and Waterproof Suede FR meet CRIB 5 ratings for commercial use.

2. Indoors or outside?

You need different types of upholstery products for interiors and for outdoor use. Indoor fabrics have to withstand the wear and tear of living or, if it’s a curtain, the fabric has to look beautiful and be long lasting.

So if you’re choosing fabric for the living-room or playroom, where the kids will be bouncing on the furniture along with the pets, playing games, watching TV and snacking, the fabric needs to be able to withstand all of those things.

How stylish the fabric is, the colour and the patterns printed on the fabric are all your decision. As long as the actual fabric chosen is suitable, the rest is up to you.

Consider the following for outdoor textiles...

When considering outdoor furniture fabric, you need to ask yourself a completely different set of questions. Choosing this type of fabric has different requirements. One needs to specifically treat fabric for outdoor use.

If it’s fabric for patio furniture that’s going to be in the sun, it needs to specially treated so that it’s fade resistant, or it won’t last long. For this reason, cotton and linen fabrics are not ideal for outdoor living.

You also need to ensure the fabric is water-resistant, if you’re planning to leave upholstered furniture outside. If you live in a tropical environment, you need to think about how humidity and mildew will affect the upholstery fabric, too.

Colourful custom digitally printed cushions on water resistant Tentex fabric for Jennifer Fynn

3. Types of upholstery materials – natural and synthetic

There are two types of upholstery products: natural fabrics and synthetic ones. Synthetic fabrics tend to last longer than natural fabrics, but you may prefer the texture of natural fabrics.

So how do you choose between these fabrics? If you wish to choose a natural fabric, linen and cotton fabrics are your best bets. Out of the synthetic fabrics, a polyester blend fabric is usually a good choice, especially for a curtain.

Natural textiles

These fabrics are all made from natural elements.

Cotton fabric

Hard-working quality fabric that is more fade-resistant than most natural fibres. The fabric doesn’t pill, wrinkle or catch alight. Also, it’s cool to the touch, so the fabric is ideal for summer, easy to wash and relatively affordable. This type of fabric is ideal for so many different uses, including a cushion, a curtain and a bedcover.

The most durable fabrics are canvas (more casual option) and damask weaves. The main disadvantage: this fabric tends to wrinkle, which isn’t ideal for a curtain.

 Cotton fabric blends

This type of fabric tends to be less durable. The best fabric blend is between 45 and 60% cotton, which is sturdy and can withstand kids and pets.

If treated with a stain-resistant finish, like Scotchgard, this fabric will be long-lasting.

Linen fabric

We make this very strong fabric out of flax. It is very beautiful to look at. The fabric doesn’t pill and if it’s of high quality, it will be mildew-resistant and anti-microbial (it kills or inhibits bacteria, moulds and viruses).

Because of its fibres, you have to professionally clean linen fabric. So we often use this fabric to upholster furniture for a formal lounge. Don’t use linen fabric outdoors, as it fades easily in the sun. If blended with cotton, linen fabric is more elastic.

Silk fabric

You need to look after this delicate fabric, so it’s best for formal living areas. The fabric’s smooth, shimmery look makes it very luxurious. It’s dust-resistant, but not easy to clean. It fades easily in the sun.

As silk fabric wrinkles easily, you can use another fabric as backing, to make it stronger and more durable.

Leather upholstery fabric

Plush and sumptuous, this natural animal hide is an extremely hard-wearing fabric. Polish the fabric to remove any scratches. It's also very easy to clean. And it doesn’t fade in the sun.

The downside is that leather upholstery materials are expensive, and don’t breathe well, which means these fabrics are clammy in summer and cold in winter. Leather fabrics do, however, have a natural, rich look.

Suede fabric, on the other hand, has a napped finish and is soft and durable. But you need to professionally clean this fabric if you use it to upholster furniture.

Wool fabric

Because of its lavish feel and texture, wool is a popular fabric choice. This strong, hard-wearing 100% animal hair fabric doesn’t fade, crease or pill. When its blended with a synthetic fibre, the fabric is less scratchy and easier to keep clean and its fibres don’t bond together, or felt like our Organic Leve Panama Natural fabric

Synthetic material

One creates these man-made fabrics using various chemical processes. This type of fabric is often more long-wearing than natural fabric, and less expensive, making it the ideal fabric for a curtain, or chairs and couches that are constantly in use.

Polyester fabric

Usually blended with natural fibres (cotton or linen) to make it less likely to crease and fade, polyester is a strong, durable fabric often used for upholstering.

The better the quality, the less likely the fabric is to pill. It’s also very easy to clean, resistant to abrasion and moisture. This fabric is a great choice for family rooms that need hard-wearing upholstery. 

Microfibre fabric

We make this very popular fabric from tightly woven polyester. We then specially treat it to look and feel like suede, but it's a softer fabric and is easier to keep clean.

Microfibre fabric doesn’t fade easily, so you can keep it in a sunny indoor spot.

Velvet upholstery material

Viewing plush velvet, you’ll find that this fabric is soft, smooth and sumptuous. It is made from a blend of various fabrics including silk, linen, nylon and others. When dyed, fabric colours are bright and clear.

This fabric is difficult to clean and tends to crease easily.

Viscose fabric

A man-made fibre created from cellulose extracted from trees, this fabric is much like silk, cotton and linen.

It features a luxurious shiny look. This is why we often choose viscose fabric for upholstery. This fabric is particularly popular when we blend it with other fibres. Viscose, like cotton fabric, is breathable, so it’s cool in summer and warm in winter. It’s also elastic.

Acrylic wool fabric

Basically faux wool fabric, it doesn’t crease or fade and is hard wearing.

Nylon fabric

We usually blend this fibre with others to make into strong and durable upholstery fabric. It doesn’t get dirty easily. However, the fabric tends to fade and pill.

Rayon fabric

A synthetic imitation of silk, cotton and linen, this hard-wearing fabric doesn’t fade easily and is an excellent choice for upholstering family-friendly furniture.

Sunbrella fabric

We also use this fabulous outdoor fabric indoors. Liquid forms pearls on its surface, so it’s easy to clean and very durable. Ideal for families with kids and pets. Best used for outdoors as the fabric is water-, mildew- and sun-resistant.

Vibrant colourful designs printed on Velvet fabric
Pohutukawa - Blue Red by Andrea Alice on Velvet interiors fabric

4. And now for the fun part! 

It’s all about colour, pattern and texture on your fabric! So be brave now that you have all the information you need on this type of fabric. Be creative and add a bold touch. 

Make sure your fabric colour choices are in line with your interior colour scheme, and remember: choose a fabric with a colour or pattern that you’ll be happy to live with for years to come!

The fabric texture is important, too. Family-friendly furniture should be covered in soft, comfortable fabric; it shouldn’t be rough or scratchy.

Some tips from maake’s experts: 

·      Make sure you keep your sofa upholstery fabric in a solid colour. Play with patterns on cushion fabrics, perhaps also occasional chair upholstery.

·      Avoid a fabric with a small pattern on a large couch. In the same way, don't use a fabric with a huge pattern on a tiny chair.

·      Also, rather choose fabric with a small pattern for a small room. And choose fabric with larger patterns for more spacious areas.

·      Florals and other fabric prints are great for soft, rounded chairs and couches.

Check out maake's upholstery choices

Here’s a selection of fabrics we have on offer. Include some of these in your shopping cart now:

·    Bayeux

·    Velvet

·    Heavy Satin FR

·    Eco Velvet

·    Cotton Denim

·    Basketweave

·    Limani Linen

·    Organic Calico Natural

·    Waterproof Suede FR

·    Calico Plain Cotton

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