Ask Design Mom Week: Upholstery Fabric

June 5, 2008

Ask Design Mom Question:
I saw your post about Joel Dewberry fabrics, which made me think you might be a good person to ask this question of.
I want to have a chair recovered and looked at a local fabric shop for fabric. Since then, I’ve seen much cuter stuff online, but I’m wondering how I know what type of fabric I’ll need. For chairs, do I need to get something labeled “upholstery weight”? Thanks for your insight! — Kate M.

Design Mom Answer:
I love this question, Kate. Because I want to know the answer as well!

The fabrics I come into contact with are generally labeled “fashion weight,” “quilting weight,” or “home decor weight.” So, whenever I’ve tackled an upholstery project, I’ve headed straight to the giant rolls of decorator fabric and looked for labels like “Home Decor Weight” or “Upholstery Weight”.

But frankly, I don’t know what technically qualifies fabric as good-for-upholstery. Is it Width? Thread count? Thickness? Materials? All of the above?

If anyone out there would like to take this opportunity to instruct Kate and myself, please do so. : )

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1 jessi June 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm

I’m no fabric expert, but I am a lifelong sewer and familiar with a variety of textiles. Home decor weight or upholstery weight fabrics are generally thicker (I think they are made with thicker fibers) and more tightly woven than quilt weight fabrics. They hold up better over time by showing less wear and tearing less easily. They also usually come in wider widths, making them more practical for large projects. Incidentally, Joel Dewberry recently released a home decor weight line called Ginseng. See it here:


2 Jenny @ Cheeky and Swank June 5, 2008 at 5:02 pm

I couldn’t tell you how much fabric you need, that depends on the chair, but I can tell you about some of the fabrics. I use quite a bit of these fabrics for my home and baby stuff. The Joel Dewberry fabrics (pictured) are a lighter quilting weight. They are a high quality 100% cotton, but I would be a little hesitant to put it on a chair. Joel Dewberry is coming out with a new upholstery weight fabric any day now. The “Ginsing” Line.
Two others are Amy Butler’s “Nigella” Line
and Anna Maria Horner’s brand new “Drawing Room” line. It’s kind of bright, but I love it.
This is a great blog too.
There are so many new fun fabrics out there that I can hardly contain myself. Tons of great designers. Hopefully this will help a little.


3 Anonymous June 6, 2008 at 9:28 pm

upholstery weight is a more durable fabric. fabrics are put through testing by a machine that rubs it and determines when it wears through. the higher the rubs the more durable. upholstery weight fabrics tend to have high “double rub” counts. drapery weight fabrics (or fabrics made for apparel use) are usually thinner and hang better and therefore have low double rub counts. that being said, interior designers often knit back or acrylic back drapery weight fabrics to make them more durable and therefore appropriate for upholstery use. you can send your fabric to a backer that will apply a knit or acrylic back to the fabric at a per yard cost. hope that helps!


4 Anonymous July 9, 2008 at 6:04 am

Can anyone tell me what a good rub count is for fabric. I’m looking at two fabrics right now. One says it exceeds a 15,000 double rub count. The other says it exceeds a 30,000 double rub count. I guess that the higher the number the more durable. But is there a really big difference in terms of home use between 15,000 and 30,000? I happen to like the pattern with the lower double rub count, but worry about the durability. The fabric will be used to upholster a living room sofa and chair. Thanks for any insights.


5 banke March 31, 2011 at 4:29 am

This should help you understand it better


6 Bill September 20, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Okay, so you go to the fabric store find some fabrics that you left, and I wonder if your appropriate for your project.

since my expertise is upholstery Ipretty much stick with that, upholstery fabrics are pretty much going to be any fabric that is in the 54 inch range. That is anything it’s 52 –58 should be upholstery fabric.

When dealing with fabric set our about 48 for my understanding, these are usually clothing fabrics. In general, these are lighter weight fabrics and usually aren’t suitable for furniture and heavy use.

so in general terms, I tell my customers for the most part any fabric that is around a 54 inch width should be just fine for their project in upholstery.


7 Bill September 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm

sorry I meant to say like, a fabric you like, not a fabric you left.


8 RACHEL August 11, 2012 at 4:44 am

Thanks bill this tip really helps and have noted it down in my little black book of tips, i am studing Interior Design at college and its tips like this that are invaluable when considering on buying fabrics. many thanks from Rachel


9 david Blunt March 3, 2013 at 4:17 am

I have a thick material loose cover “headboard, Bed sides and foot rest” all sections sewn together to form one item. Due to poor dry cleaning, the bed head part has shrunk “a bit” so that it has split along the seam. I am advised that it requires a professional quilting machine to cope with the 1 – 1.5 cms thickness of the folded material. Any ideas as to where I should go to find a professional with such equipment and ability to repair and also strengthen some of the other weak points? I am in Essex/London.


10 Butch October 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

If the fabric is quite thick, you can probably repair it with a curved upholstery needle using an invisible stitch…use hand sew upholstery thread.


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