Fabric Characteristics

Textiles, fibres and weaves in fabrics have specific uses and benefits. They can be functional and also beautiful, patterned or plain. Fibre is the basic substance used which is turned into a yarn or thread and in turn is either woven or knitted together.

Fibres used for textiles come from three sources:

  1. Natural Fibres
    These are from animals and plants and include wool, silk, cotton, linen, hemp, angora and mohair.
  2. Synthetic Fibres
    These are made from chemicals and include nylon, polyester, acrylic, polyamide, kevlar and vinyl.
  3. Manmade Fibres
    These are made from natural sources, but have been chemically altered to make acetate which is a substance used to make fibres for cloth


Upholstery fabrics are made of heavier fibres than other fabrics. Fabric needs to be tactile (feel good when sitting on them), not too rough or too heavily textured. It needs to be durable for long lasting wear and tear on your upholstery.

Upholstery Fabric Construction

A tightly woven fabric will be a harder wearing fabric. 

It is best if the fabric does not have floating threads. If a fabric with floating threads is used on a sofa it will pull apart and therefore break the yarn or threads more easily lessoning the stability and durability of the fabric. 

Fabric stability is essential for easy ongoing care and maintenance.

Abrasion Resistance

This is the measure in a test that simulates the wear and tear of a fabric in a rubbing motion. The rate given to the fabric then indicates the number of ‘rubs’ that the thread can sustain before breaking down or starting to degrade. The higher the rating number, the better the fabric performed in the test.

Fabrics that are classed with a ‘Heavy Commercial’ label must have a rub count of a minimum of 40,000+. Fabrics with a ‘Heavy Domestic/General Commercial’ label must have a rub count of between 20,000 - 40,000. Fabrics with a ‘General Domestic’ label must have a rub count of 15,000 – 20,000. 

This is a very useful tool to have when choosing fabrics, knowing that the higher the abrasion rating number is, the better the fabric performed in the test and therefore the more durable and harder wearing the fabric will be for you.

It is not recommended to go below a ‘General Domestic’ fabric for any upholstery used in general daily domestic use.

Light Fastness

This is the resistance that a fabric has to light and fading as a result of sun and too much light. If the fabrics are overexposed to sunlight they can fade and wear. It is important to look for fabrics that have a built in resistance to this. Manmade fibres are the most resistant to damaging rays.


All fabrics expand and contract depending on the temperature and humidity and some are more affected than others. Mildew thrives in damp environments on natural fibres such as cotton, linen, silk and also some regenerated fibres such as viscose. Polyester and acrylic fabrics have the greatest resistance to mildew.

There are many fabrics to look for that offer the above attributes when choosing the right one for you. Halo fabrics by Warwick are some of these. They are woven to precise specifications for colour fastness, stain resistance, abrasion tested, mould/mildew and insect resistance. We highly recommend these for upholstery use.

Visit your local At Home Furniture and Homewares showroom to see for yourself the extensive range of fabrics on offer. You are sure to find the perfect match for your new sofa.