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How to choose sofa fabric

Interior décor

Are you buying new custom-made seats or getting your old seats re-upholstered? What fabric to use is one of the major decisions to you will be faced with. Buying fabric can be intimidating and more like a “pata potea” affair since you don’t know what the end result will be. There are several colors and textures to choose from. Here are a few tips for getting it right.

Consider ages of occupants

Upholstery fabric should suit its intended use and state of the surrounding. Age of the home’s occupants matters a great deal. For instance, an older couple with no kids can go for more delicate fabrics and whites whereas younger couples with children are best suited for darker coloured fabric.

Choose the right fabric

If your furniture is traditional, neutral tones in cotton and linen will be your best bet. Brighter pops of solid colour bring forth a contemporary feel; prints and random tribal prints are best for the bohemian loving eclectic.

For short-term use or occasional chairs, you can choose light to medium-duty fabric. If you are getting fabric for long-term and everyday use, heavy duty is best. You want to look for tightly woven fabric that feels like it can withstand daily sitting on, laying on, staining and getting wiped or cleaned often.


Damask is a reversible pattern fabric from cotton, chenille, silk or wool with the pattern formed by weaving. Damask pattern has an embossed look. Damask fabric is luxurious and gives a sophisticated look to any sofa or drapery.


Linen fabric is best suited for formal living rooms with a French country feel, also for slipcovers. Linen is durable, fade-proof and doesn’t pill. However, linen is easily creased and doesn’t take soiling very well. Linen is delicate and needs to be cleaned professionally. Avoid Linen if you have young children.



Molfin, which is popularly referred to as Molfino, is a warm, rich, tightly woven fabric. It closely resembles linen weaving but is heavier and softer to touch. Locally, it is referred to as towel fabric. Molfino works well on sofas, chairs and curtains. It’s available in all major fabric stores in array of colors.


Jute also known as burlap, hessian or gunny cloth. I have a feeling this is where the word “gunia” came from. There are different grades of jute; the quality depends on the thread count. There are several colors of jute as well.


Chenille means caterpillar in French and the fabric is woven to look like a caterpillar’s fur. Chenille is elegant and is stronger than other fabrics. Chenille fabric can look different when brushed in different directions. It is best used on sofas and accent chairs but not for drapery.


Cotton doesn’t pill and fade easily. The weaving pattern on cotton will determine how durable it will be. Tight weaving in a canvas pattern will last longest.


Leather is strong, durable, easy to clean and ideal for homes with pets and kids. Leather is not very easy to come by locally. Leather lasts and wears well. Leather is easily damaged by sharp objects.

Faux-leather and vinyl


Faux leather, leatherette and vinyl are all artificially manufactured to mimic leather. They do not last as long as real leather. This fabric range is easy to clean but gets damaged. The cons for this family of fabric are that they get uber sticky when humid or super cold during colder months.

Suede and suede alternatives

Suede is a type of napped leather. Suede is made from the underside of skin and has a plush feel as compared to leather. Suede dirties quickly and easily absorbs liquids. Suede alternatives are more resistant to dirt and easier to clean. Alternatives that are locally available are suedette, micro-suede and soft suede. Micro-suede is best used for drapery but not upholstery.


Velvet is created from silk and is the most luxurious of all fabric hence the term “smooth like velvet”. Velvet is expensive to buy and maintain and not an ideal fabric for everyday use. Velvet works well with Victorian style furniture. Cotton and synthetic velvets are also available but less luxurious.

Canvas and brushed canvas

Canvas is best used outdoors for patio and garden furniture. Brushed canvas is an alternative for indoor upholstery using canvas.

PHOTOS: Michelle Langi

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