Textured stain resistant fabric by fibreguard on a sofa in parma

The advanced guide to interior textiles and furnishing fabrics

  • November 7th, 2022

Interior furnishing fabrics are an essential part of any business. They are used in homes and offices to give comfort and make a place look beautiful.

There are many types of furnishing fabrics available in the market today, each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The following article will help you understand the different types of interior furnishing fabrics that you can use in your home or office.

Wool upholstery and furnishing fabrics

Wool is a natural fibre that has been used for thousands of years. It is known for its durability, warmth and comfort. It’s also known for its ability to breathe, keeping you cool in the summer but warm in the winter.

Wool is a great choice for upholstery fabrics because it has a beautiful texture and can be dyed in any colour imaginable. Wool can be easily cleaned using a professional dry-cleaning service or home care kit.

The downside of wool is that it can be quite expensive compared to other fabric options, such as cotton or polyester, and equally difficult to maintain. Because it's a natural fibre, wool can become damaged with use over time if not properly maintained. Also, if you live in an area with high humidity levels, the wool may not be ideal because it tends to absorb moisture which can lead to mildew growth over time or even mildew stains on your furniture pieces if they are left out in the rain for too long.

Using silk as a furnishing fabric

Silk has been around for thousands of years and has been used in many ways throughout history. It was first produced in China around 3500 BC and was used as an imperial garment because it was considered extremely valuable due to its rarity. It was also used as currency in some parts of Asia until the 20th century due to its value, even though it is not a precious metal or gemstones like gold or diamonds are considered today.

Silk is the most luxurious fabric that you can use in your home. It is soft, smooth, and elegant. It is also durable to last many years without any problems. It is a great choice for upholstery because it is easy to clean and maintain. The only issue is that it can be expensive, mainly if you use it as an upholstery fabric.

It is a precious and expensive fabric, which makes it an excellent choice for any interior furnishing, especially curtains. The fabric can be sewn in different styles and patterns to match your décor. It is available in various colours and designs and has a beautiful texture that makes it look elegant and high-end.

However, it needs special care to avoid fading, wrinkling or pilling.

Silk also has a beautiful drape when used for curtains. It has a lovely sheen, which can be accentuated by adding a light backing fabric behind the silk. The right backing will give the silk more body.

All about using cotton as upholstery fabrics

Cotton fabric is one of the most versatile textiles in any interior design project. It comes in different colours, patterns and textures, making it easy to find something that will suit your taste.

The first thing you need to know about cotton fabric is how it is made.

Cotton is usually made from the seed pod of a plant called Gossypium hirsutum (also known as upland cotton or Mexican cotton) or Gossypium barbadense (sea island, Egyptian, Pima, and extra-long staple (ELS) cotton.). Gossypium hirsutum is the most widely planted kind of cotton: about 90% of all cotton production in the entire world is from this species.

The seeds are then cleaned before they are boiled in water to release the fibre from them. This process is known as ginning, which helps remove any impurities present on the seeds after harvesting them from the field.

Once the fibres have been separated from their seed pods, they are bleached using chemicals like chlorine gas or oxygen bleach to become white enough for clothing manufacturing or for making upholstery fabrics for furniture covers.

Finally, cotton is soft to the touch—the perfect bedding material! Cotton is easy to clean and doesn't wrinkle easily, so you don't have to worry about ironing your sheets and pillowcases before putting them on your bed.

However, pure cotton is not ideal for upholstery because it wrinkles and stains easily. Therefore, it's usually blended with other, more durable fibres.

Facts about nylon fabric constructions used as a furnishing textile

Nylon is a synthetic fabric that is popular in the furnishing industry. Nylon is reasonably priced, strongly durable, and versatile that it’s used as a furnishing fabric across all secrets, from hospitality to healthcare. It has amazing elasticity and is also lightweight. It dries quickly after washing. It’s also used in many upholstery blends for furniture fabric: nylon upholstery almost always comes in a blend, combined with fibres such as wool, to make them more durable.

It was first invented in 1935 as an inexpensive material for women’s stockings, which up to that point, were usually made of 100% silk, which we’re sure felt luxurious but was also very pricey.

Unlike natural fibres like wool or cotton, nylon isn’t a spun fibre and is made as a continuous filament polymer. This gives it great tensile strength, so it holds its shape better than natural fibres, cotton or wool. Nylon is popular, especially for decorative fabrics like curtains, rugs, and carpets.

Pros and cons of using viscose fibres in soft furnishing fabrics

Viscose is created by converting naturally occurring cellulose into a high-quality yarn and was originally sold as synthetic silk due to its buttery soft handle and subtle sheen. Known worldwide by different names, the term viscose is widely used in Europe, whilst rayon is more common in America.

Viscose furnishing fabrics are semi-synthetic rayon fabrics produced from wood pulp, beech, pine, eucalyptus, and bamboo. In 1892, British scientists Charles Frederick Cross, Edward John Bevan, and Clayton Beadle patented the viscose production process, and the first commercial viscose rayon was widely available by 1905.

There was a common mistaken belief that viscose fibres aren’t suitable for upholstery application, but this is only the case if the fibres are of irregular, low quality.

However, due to its unrivalled soft, luxurious handle and subtle sheen, it's outgrown its previously questionable reputation.

Like nylon, the fabric's durability is improved when high-quality viscose yarns are blended with natural and synthetic yarns. When used in fabric constructions with a lavish pile, it acts much the same as velvet and, like velvet, will likely shade and relax over time.

Fabrics that contain viscose can have the same fabric dye processes, finishes, and printing applications as other natural fibres. As a plant-based fibre, viscose is not inherently toxic or polluting, but its production is still an energy, water, and chemically intensive process.

What does ‘semi-synthetic fibre’ mean?

Viscose is a natural fibre regenerated from cellulose fibres extracted from trees.

It's also a synthetic fibre, made from substances in a factory rather than found naturally on plants or animals. Therefore, it’s described as a semi-synthetic fibre.

Semi-synthetic fibres are made from natural raw materials with a naturally occurring long-chain polymer structure. Biochemical processes only modify them. Types of semi-synthetic fibre:

  • Acetate
  • Artificial silk
  • Rayon (viscose)
  • Tencel

Polyester as a furnishing fabric: a guide

Polyester is probably the most well-known synthetic fabric in the world.

Let’s look at the science: polyester fabric is a synthetic material made from the polymerization of petroleum-derived ethylene glycol and purified terephthalic acid, which melts down to produce molten Polyethylene terephthalate, otherwise known as PET.

Polyester fabric producers push this fluid PET through a spinneret to form semi-crystalline fibres woven together to create polyester fabric.

These semi-crystalline polyester fibres have high abrasion resistance, making them durable and easy to clean.

Polyester furnishing fabrics are available in a wide range of colours and patterns. Like other synthetic textile fibres, polyester fibres are extremely robust, meaning they don’t tear, stretch, or pill easily like cotton, wool, or other biological fibres. This strength means polyester clothing can easily handle abrasion from machine-washing and doesn’t require special care. The durability of polyester fabric has made it especially popular for outdoor clothing.

Modal furnishing fabrics

Modal fabric is a cellulose fibre from the soft wood of beech trees. Modal fibres are used in clothing, furnishing fabrics, and other decorative accessories that require a soft touch. Modal fabric is called a “high wet modulus rayon,” meaning it’s a type of rayon that’s stronger when wet and doesn’t lose its shape. The production process for modal fabric is almost the same as that for viscose. Still, the fibres used in modal fabric production undergo more handling, making the final product stronger, lighter, and more breathable.

Modal is commonly considered an eco-friendlier alternative to cotton because beech trees don’t require much water to grow, and therefore the production process uses about 10-20 times less water.

Used extensively in the fashion industry, modal fabrics are used in furniture, upholstery, drapes, bed sheets, curtains, carpets, bathrobes, towels, and home decor, like other soft and luxurious fabrics. It’s an ideal choice for indoor interiors such as curtains or bedding, where you want fabrics that are soft but also durable.

Flame-resistant fabrics for furnishing

Fire Retardant (or FR) properties ensure that the fabric does not propagate the spread of flames and assists in containing or slowing the spread of fire should one start. Many countries worldwide have their FR standards that must be met to ensure that public spaces such as hotels, retirement homes, medical facilities and cruise ships are as safe as possible for their guests and residents. Each FR standard worldwide has a different and specific test method creating complexity within the furnishing fabrics industry.

Most 100% polyester items have FR properties which can be either inherent to the yarn or achieved through applying a special FR finish.

Certain textiles do naturally resist fire better than others. For example:

  • Wool is generally considered the most fire-retardant natural fibre, as it is difficult to ignite and may extinguish smaller flames.
  • Silk also burns slowly, is difficult to ignite and may self-extinguish under certain circumstances.
  • Acrylic, polyester, and nylon are fire-retardant fabrics, as they catch fire at much higher temperatures than natural fibres. – FR-One: The Ins and Outs of Fire Retardant Fabrics

Worldwide furniture standards measure the fire-retardant properties of upholstered furniture through testing such as Britain's BS 5852.

FibreGuard fabrics comply with a range of fire-retardant standards such as; CAL 117, FMVSS, NFPA 260, BS58852 source 0, and more. FR compliance varies from collection to collection, and requirements vary from country to country, so please refer to the fabric sample for applicable standards. Refer our Quality Standards page for complete information on our FR mechanical textiles testing.

High-performance furnishing fabrics: it’s your choice

It is essential to consider the material you choose for your interior and the environmental impact. We have compiled a list of the most popular fabric types in this article and hope you feel more confident about making your next purchase!