Monday, September 14, 2009


MICROFIBER is NOT a single fiber type like polyester, rayon, nylon or acetate (all of which can be manufactured as microfibers), and not all microfibers are good candidates for upholstery. The term "microfiber" refers to how fibers are made and are recognized as those of less than 1.0 denier.

A denier rating is defined by mass or weight, not diameter, and is the numerical equivalent, in grams, of 9 kilometers (5.5 miles) of a continuous filament of a given fiber. Most microfibers range between 0.5 and 0.8 denier. Silk is approximately 1.25 denier and a human hair may be as much as 100 times thicker than a microfiber filament. Any synthetic fiber can be made into a microfiber though polyester and nylon are the most common and many modern microfibers may be a blend of different fibers.

Microfibers exhibit the characteristics inherent to the fiber (eg. polyester, nylon, rayon, olefin) with the unique additional characteristics that make microfiber so popular. The thinness of microfibers allows more fibers to be twisted together to create threads which in turn can be woven very closely together. This capability is what allows microfiber to exhibit water and/or stain resistance because the moisture cannot penetrate the fabric's density. The increase in density adds to the abrasion resistance while the fiber thinness accounts for the pleasant hand (feel) of the fabric.

Suede fabrics account for most of the upholstery microfiber fabric and are generally what consumers think of when they think of microfiber. Most of these are finished to resemble suede leather by a process known as sanding where the fabric passes over a series of rollers covered with an abrasive material developing a low pile on the surface. Ultrasuede, a more expensive suede microfiber, is developed through a complex process of ironing, curling, cutting and needle-punching into a soft felt-like fabric which is then impregnated with a special adhesive binder.

When shopping for upholstery microfiber, look for fabrics that are nylon or polyester or a combination thereof. Rayon microfibers may have a tendency to stretch and acrylic may pill.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

4 Considerations When Choosing Upholstery Fabric

Who, What, Where and Why of Upholstery Selection

When purchasing upholstered furniture, you will make two major decision that directly affect the longevity of the piece. The first is where to purchase determining the quality of the inner workings of your piece. The second is the upholstery fabric you choose to use.When selecting fabrics for use in your home it is important to understand realistically how different fabrics will perform.

This is a process I call the "Who, What, Where and Why" of upholstery selections.
WHO will use your space? Will this piece be used by a family with growing children? Are there pets in the space?
WHAT will you use it for? Will this fabric be used on dining chair seats? Will it placed on a sectional in a family room? Perhaps an ottoman?
WHERE will you use your piece? Will it be exposed to a great deal of sunlight?
WHY all these considerations?

All of these factors are directly related to the fiber content and weave of the upholstery fabric you choose. A wrong decision at this time may greatly diminish the life span you hope to get from your piece.

  • For durability choose fabrics some synthetic content. Synthetics tend to have excellent abrasion resistance and can increase the abrasion of natural fibers when used together.
  • Polyester and nylon have great dimensional stability and will not stretch. Used alone or in conjunction with natural fibers will help your seat and back cushions maintain their shape and resiliency.
  • Fabrics with some cotton or rayon will grab moisture from the air counteracting the static effects such as hair clinging sometimes experienced by synthetic fabrics.
  • Cotton and rayon fibers easily absorb dyes and are offered in a beautiful array of colors but are also very susceptible to sun fading. Polyester is more difficult to dye limiting the color choices but is relatively sun resistant.
  • Tight weave fabrics work best with animals since their claws usually cannot penetrate the fabric. Micro denier (microfiber) suede cloth is the most cat resistant.

A reputable furniture consultant should be able to guide you through this process ensuring you that your fabric selection is best for your application.