Fabrics 101

Choice is very important to us at Birchwood Furniture Galleries. When you shop with us, we want you to get exactly what you need for your home. In order for you to do that, understanding the differences in materials and how to choose what’s right for your household is essential. Natural vs Man-made Fabrics Man-made fibres are distinguished from natural fibres such as silk, cotton, and wool. Natural fibres leave the textile manufacturing process relatively unaltered. Man-made fabrics are made of fibres whose chemical make up are significantly modified during the textile manufacturing process. Man-made fabrics can be derived from natural fibres or made only from synthetic fibres that do not occur in nature. Natural fabrics can be put into two categories – more durable and less durable. Durable natural upholstery options will include leather, mohair, linen and wool. Avoid using silk or cotton on upholstery as they tend to break down and deteriorate more quickly. Engineered, or man-made fabrics tend to be more durable than natural ones as a general rule. Examples of these fibres are polyester, viscose, rayon, acetate, acrylics, polyurethanes, and polypropylene. Today’s engineered textiles look increasingly like their natural counterparts, and can withstand wear and tear much better. Technology has come a long way in the past twenty years, so the feel and textures of these man-made fabrics are more luxurious than ever before. Lifestyle Considerations It is important that you consider how your furniture will be used. What is the function of the space it is going in? Everyday use for families with young children or refined sitting area for mature adults? Will animals be in the space or on the furniture? All of these details will play a factor when the time comes to select a fabric. You want to select a fabric that meets the use of your sofa. Delicate fabrics should be applied on accent pieces in the form of toss cushions or bedding. Microfibres, ultra suedes, flannel suedes, viscose and polyesters are great in heavy-usage residential areas and are easy to clean; patterned fabrics can help hide minor stains. Textured fabrics show less wear and tear. A common client need is for fabrics that will stand up to the wear and tear of their children, grandchildren or pets. If this is what you are after, start looking at the fibre content of the fabric samples. This shows you exactly what the fabric is made of, and will help you narrow down your search based on functionality. For this purpose, choose a fabric with a high percentage of polyester content, as it is the strongest and most durable fibre. Check whether the fabric is rated for solvent cleaners or not. Usually, a microfibre or polyester fabric can easily be spot cleaned with a microfibre cloth and water.
Environmental Considerations Something else to consider is the exposure to natural light in the space your furniture will be going into. Does the room have windows with coverings or drapery? If so, are they closed during the sunniest times of the day? Protect your flooring and furnishings properly by making sure all windows have some type of covering that blocks out sun light. Product styles and types vary dramatically in today’s market, and offer anything up to about 90% UV protection. Beyond the window treatments themselves, we like to remind our clients that it is important that you close your drapes or window coverings to block the sun to best protect your furniture. Knowing the amount of exposure to light is important when selecting a fabric because it will impact your fabric colour and material choice. If the room gets a lot of light, it’s smart to avoid bright colours, as  they tend to fade faster. Also, man-made materials tend to stand up to sun better than natural fibres. It’s About You, It’s About Choice! Remember, you are not alone in this process! Our team of design consultants are here to help you and are knowledgeable in home decorating, fabric types, frame styles and space planning. Most importantly, you can take home fabric samples to try out in your space! This is the best way to decide on which choice is for you. You can see the fabrics in the light of your own home and have some time to contemplate your decision. This covers the basics on how to approach selecting fabrics for your new furniture! When faced with the many choices in store, we hope this information helps make the process easier for you.