January 28, 2014

Finding Fabric for Upholstery Projects

I did a lot of research (a ton of research, actually) on upholstery fabric for the three pieces of living room furniture I'm redoing this winter. I've only ever sewn quilt blocks and a few random pieces of clothing, so upholstery fabric was pretty foreign to me.

I'm still not an expert, but here are a few tips I learned during my explorations of the upholstery fabric world:
  • Make sure you use upholstery-grade fabrics on furniture. Many "home-decor" fabrics are only intended for light-duty curtains or throw pillows, not furniture. If you take the time to reupholster something, you're going to want it to last a while.
  • Related to the above statement, find out how many double-rubs a fabric is rated for, if possible.You can sometimes get away with "medium-duty" fabrics, but "heavy-duty" fabrics generally have at least 15,000 double rubs.
  • Avoid fabrics that "crock". I had to look this term up after seeing a warning on a fabric at Joann Fabrics. Fabrics that crock have a tendency to release excess dye. That means they can stain clothing and pretty much anything that rubs up against them. They can even stain the plastic parts of a sewing machine. I can't imagine any reason someone would want to use this type of fabric, so I'm not even sure why it exists.
  • If ordering fabric online, order swatches if possible. Often, the colors on your computer screen, do not match the real-life colors. For example, I've ordered three swatches of what appeared to be coral fabric (see below) and all three turned out to be more orange in living color. Textured fabrics can also look very different. For example, I found three different textured dark gray fabrics online that I liked, so I ordered swatches. When they arrived, they all looked like cheap commercial carpeting
  • Keep an eye on how much of your fabric is in-stock. More than once, I ordered swatches of fabric, only to have that fabric sell-out BEFORE the swatches even arrived at my door. 
  • If your heart is set on a certain fabric, but it is out of stock, check with the company to see if it will be restocked. Companies can't always restock fabrics, but often they can. Ask them what date the fabric will be back in stock so you can keep an eye out for it.
  • If your budget is tight, check out websites like www.fabric.com and www.fabricguru.com. All of the fabrics I picked out from these sites were less than $15/yard (with many being about $8/yard). Most upholstery fabrics at chain fabric stores (like Joann Fabrics) are at least $30/yard. Designer fabrics can be well over $70/yard! As far as I can tell from all the swatches I ordered, the fabrics from these discount websites are perfectly good quality.
  • Take advantage of coupons and discount codes. You can pretty much always get 40 to 50% off coupons for Joann Fabric. Sometimes they also have 10 to 15% off your total order coupons and you can often get free shipping coupons. Similarly, websites like www.fabric.com occasionally have discount codes for free shipping.

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