My Cart


Free Shipping on U.S. Orders over $100

What to Know About Upholstery Fabric

What to Know About Upholstery Fabric

Did you find a gorgeous antique chair that needs a makeover? Do you have a couch or ottoman that’s looking worse for wear? Are you redoing a room and trying to coordinate existing pieces of furniture? Then it might be time to learn how to upholster furniture! While upholstery can seem daunting and time-consuming, it’s absolutely a skill you can master at home. Taking the DIY route for upholstery gives you the freedom to customize your furniture to your exact tastes, allowing you to mix and match any furniture shape you want with your favorite upholstery fabric.


Fabric Upholstery Guide

Fabric is a huge decision when you reupholster. You want to choose an upholstery fabric—not just any fabric—so it stands up to daily use, stains, kids, pets, and more. You want this project to last! So, here’s everything you need to know about upholstery fabric before you choose one for your home decor sewing project.


Factors to Consider

Before you start your DIY upholstery project, you should take some time to think about what needs you have for your upholstery fabric. Here are a few factors to consider.


Furniture Use

How much will you use the piece of furniture that you are about to upholster? There is a big difference between the decorative armchair you keep in the guest room, your dining room chairs, or your family room sofa. Upholstery for furniture items that will be used daily needs to be durable enough to handle a lot of wear and tear.

It’s also a good idea to consider who will sit on the furniture. Do you have kids with sticky hands and a habit of spilling food and drinks on the couch? You may want fabric in a color that will hide stains, and that will be easy to clean in your washing machine. 

Will your cat or dog have access to the furniture? Sharp claws can leave scratches in some fabrics, and pet hair will be extra visible on contrasting fabric colors. Think about who will use the furniture and how much they will use the furniture to help guide your upholstery fabric decision. You want to choose kid-friendly upholstery fabrics and pet-friendly upholstery fabrics.


Fabric Upkeep

Upholstery fabrics have unique maintenance needs depending on the material or blend. Ask yourself: how often do you want to clean this furniture? Have you budgeted for the expense of getting a finicky fabric professionally cleaned? Some fabrics will require more upkeep than others, so decide now if you prefer an easy, utilitarian fabric you can throw in the wash or if you are willing to put in more work for a more high-maintenance candidate.


Home Décor

Now for the fun part: coordinating your soon-to-be reupholstered furniture with the rest of your home décor! This choice is very subjective of course, but since a DIY upholstery job will probably last for several years, you may want to choose a more timeless color or pattern for your upholstery fabric. Neutral colors will be more versatile should you want to change up your other decorations later. 

On the other hand, one of the major reasons to learn how to upholster your own furniture is that you can choose a color or pattern that you wouldn’t be able to buy from a store. So if you really have your heart set on a sofa decked out in rainbow paisley fabric, go for it! Just remember: patterned fabrics will be more difficult to line up correctly on your furniture, and won’t work well on curvy pieces.


Types of Fabric

After you decide how your upholstery fabric will be treated and used, it’s time to find a fabric that will best match those needs.


Cotton Upholstery Fabric

Cotton upholstery is a good choice if you want something comfortable and affordable. While cotton is less likely to wear out or pill, it does eventually fade and it can get stained or wrinkled. Canvas is strong and can withstand a fair amount of use. You will most likely want to Scotch Guard anything that’s cotton and will be used in a dining space.


Linen Upholstery Fabric

Linen is a fabric better suited for formal areas that don’t get a lot of use. It’s a tough fabric that is less likely to pill, but will fade easily. If linen is stained you’ll need to hire professionals to clean it or else the fabric can shrink, so this is a poor choice for homes with children (or clumsy adults). Want something in between cotton and linen? Try a cotton linen blend for the best of both worlds.


Silk Upholstery Fabric

Silk is a luxury, high-maintenance upholstery fabric. Dirty silk upholstery should only be cleaned by professionals, so proceed with caution if you have pets or plan to use the furniture frequently.


Wool Upholstery Fabric

This fabric is about as tough as they come and is unlikely to show signs of use like pilling or wrinkling. However, it can stain easily if it hasn’t been treated for stain resistance, so check for that before you buy. You also want to choose wool that is a partial synthetic blend or else you risk felting.


Polyester Upholstery Fabric

If you want a tough fabric that rarely wrinkles and can easily be cleaned, a polyester blend is a good choice. Be warned, however, that polyester wool blends tend to have particularly bad pilling problems. 


Olefin Upholstery Fabric

Olefin is a great choice for indoor or outdoor furniture because it resists fading in the sun and resists mildew. Cleaning is easy with a simple wipe down.


Acrylic Upholstery Fabric

For frequently used furniture, acrylic is a great choice. It’s durable and unlikely to fade or wrinkle. There is one caveat: when it comes to pilling, there is a significant difference between low-quality and high-quality acrylic, so choose the latter unless you want to spend all your time picking pills off your furniture upholstery fabric.


Do you feel like an upholstery fabric expert now? We hope you found some useful information and feel ready to start your upholstery project. Feel free to share your progress with us on Instagram by using #thelittlefabricshop and/or tagging us!



Connect with our latest news by signing up here.