How to Choose the Perfect Upholstery Fabric for Your Furniture

Choosing the perfect upholstery fabric means striking a balance between durability, style, ease of maintenance, and your budget. It’s a decision that directly impacts how your furniture looks, feels, and functions over time. Understanding the key factors involved will empower you to make a confident choice that will bring both style and longevity to your home.

Durability is crucial for furniture that sees frequent use. Fabric types differ greatly in their ability to withstand wear and tear. Thread count (the number of threads per square inch) is one indicator of fabric strength, while double rubs (a test simulating someone sitting and standing on the fabric) offer industry-standard durability ratings.

Style is where your personality shines through! Color, pattern, and fabric texture contribute to the overall look and feel of your furniture, and the wider décor of your room. Consider whether your goal is a bold statement piece, a classic backdrop, or something in between.

Upholstery maintenance varies depending on the fabric. Some fabrics require professional cleaning, while others are treated for stain resistance and are more DIY-friendly. Understanding your lifestyle – pets, kids, etc. – is key here. Finally, cost plays a role. From budget-friendly options to high-end designer fabrics, knowing the price range and square footage needed will guide your search effectively.

How do I prioritize durability in upholstery fabric?

Durability is essential if you want your furniture to look great for years to come. Let’s dive into the factors that determine how well upholstery fabric stands up to everyday life:

  • Thread Count: This indicates the density of the fabric’s weave – a higher thread count generally implies a stronger fabric. However, remember that fiber type plays a significant role as well.
  • Double Rubs: This industry-standard test simulates wear and tear like someone sitting and standing on the fabric. Look for upholstery with a double rub rating appropriate for your furniture’s intended use. For heavy-use pieces like sofas, aim for at least 15,000 double rubs.
  • Fabric Type: Natural and synthetic fibers each have pros and cons. Natural fibers like cotton and linen are breathable and often beautiful but can be less durable than options like performance fabrics, which are engineered specifically for longevity.
  • Abrasion Resistance: Tests like the Wyzenbeek and Martindale methods measure a fabric’s resistance to abrasion and pilling. You can often find this information on a fabric’s specifications.


  • A high-traffic family room sofa might benefit from a tightly woven microfiber fabric with a high double rub rating.
  • For a formal dining chair used less frequently, a luxurious but more delicate linen blend could be appropriate.

Choosing a durable fabric may allow you to reupholster less often, saving both money and resources in the long run.

How do I match fabric to my style?

Upholstery fabric is where your interior design vision comes to life! Consider these factors when finding your perfect stylistic match:

  • Interior Design Style: Do you lean towards traditional, modern, boho, or something else? Certain fabrics are naturally associated with particular design styles. For example, a classic Chesterfield sofa might look stunning in rich leather, while a mid-century piece could pop in a textured boucle.
  • Color: Color theory plays a significant role in setting a room’s mood. Warm tones create a cozy feel, cool tones feel more spacious, and neutrals provide a versatile foundation.
  • Pattern: Patterns add visual interest. Consider scale – a large pattern may overwhelm a small armchair, while a subtle geometric can beautifully enhance a spacious sectional.
  • Texture: Upholstery fabric isn’t just about visuals; it’s tactile! A plush velvet adds a touch of luxury, while a woven linen provides a relaxed, natural vibe.


  • A minimalist living space might benefit from the clean lines and neutral color of a textured linen-blend fabric.
  • To add a bold touch to a vintage armchair, consider a vibrant velvet or a patterned brocade.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match fabrics on furniture within the same room for a curated, designer-inspired look.

What’s the best way to care for upholstery fabrics?

Caring for your upholstery correctly is key to its longevity and ensures it always looks its best. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Cleaning Codes: Most upholstery fabric will have a cleaning code tag (often “S,” “W,” or “SW”). These codes indicate the recommended cleaning method – solvent-based, water-based, or either. Always follow these guidelines!
  • Professional vs. DIY: Some fabrics, particularly delicate ones, are best left to professional cleaning services. Others can be spot-cleaned at home with the appropriate products.
  • Stain Resistance: Many fabrics are treated with stain-resistant finishes, making spills easier to manage. Consider this feature if you have children, pets, or the furniture will be in a high-traffic area.
  • Sunlight: Many fabrics will fade over time with sun exposure. Consider the location of your furniture, and potentially use drapes or blinds to filter harsh light.


  • A microfiber sofa with a stain-resistant finish might only need occasional vacuuming and spot cleaning with a mild detergent.
  • Delicate silk upholstery on an accent chair might require periodic professional cleaning to maintain its beauty.

It’s wise to test cleaning products on a hidden area of the fabric first.

Modern living room with a bold orange velvet sofa

Cost: How can I find the perfect fabric within my budget?

Upholstery fabrics range widely in price, influenced by factors like fiber content, manufacturing processes, and brand name. Here’s how to find beautiful and functional fabrics while staying on track with your budget:

  • Fabric by the Yard: Upholstery fabric is generally priced by the yard, so be sure to factor in the square footage needed for your project. Online calculators can help you determine this based on your furniture’s dimensions.
  • Sales and Remnants: Keep an eye on sales at fabric stores, both online and brick-and-mortar. Remnants (smaller lengths of fabric) can be fantastic for projects like accent chairs or throw pillows.
  • Comparing Grades: Many fabrics come in various grades, similar to how paint or carpet does. Higher grades might offer superior durability but come at a cost premium.
  • Balancing Factors: Sometimes, investing in a slightly pricier, high-performance fabric may pay off with increased longevity. Consider the long-term value rather than just the immediate costs.


  • For a budget-friendly refresh, consider using a durable cotton canvas fabric on dining chair seats, taking advantage of sales or remnant pieces.
  • To reupholster a beloved sofa, you might splurge on a luxurious fabric you’ll enjoy every day for years to come.

If you’re reupholstering, factor in any labor costs if you’re hiring a professional, as this will also impact your overall budget.

Where to Find Your Perfect Fabric

  • Online Retailers: Sites like Canvas Etc: boast vast fabric selections, allowing you to compare choices easily. Filtering options by features (fiber type, durability rating, etc.) can streamline your search. Here are our line of products for uphostery fabrics.
  • Local Fabric Stores: These are great if you want to feel the fabric in person and get expert advice. Don’t hesitate to ask for samples to take home and compare in your room’s lighting.
  • Interior Designers: If you’re overwhelmed or working on a large project, an interior designer can help you source exclusive fabrics and create a cohesive look for your space.

Seeking Inspiration

  • Design Websites and Blogs: Get inspired by how others use fabric! Sites like Pinterest and home décor blogs offer a wealth of ideas for different styles and furniture.
  • Fabric Swatches: Request swatches or purchase small cuts of fabric that pique your interest. See how they look in your space at different times of day before buying yardage.
  • Showrooms: Furniture showrooms are a great way to see the latest trends and feel various fabrics on fully upholstered pieces.

Your Guide to Fabric Success: Key Takeaways

Choosing the perfect upholstery fabric isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. By carefully considering the following factors, you’ll transform your furniture and find fabrics that seamlessly blend with your lifestyle and aesthetic:

  • Durability Matters: Invest time in researching thread counts, double rub ratings, and the strengths of different fiber types. This ensures your furniture piece will endure everyday use for years to come.
  • Style is Personal: Don’t be afraid to express your unique taste through fabric. Color, pattern, and texture all play a role in establishing the perfect mood for your space.
  • Maintenance is Key: Consider your lifestyle honestly. Some fabrics are more low-maintenance than others – factor in pets, children, and the piece’s location when making your selection.
  • Balancing Cost and Value: While budget is always important, sometimes a slightly higher investment in fabric quality means you’ll enjoy it even longer.

Ready to explore the world of upholstery fabric?

Visit Canvas Etc’s extensive online collection From durable everyday options to luxurious statement pieces, we have fabrics to inspire every project. Let us help you turn your furniture dreams into reality!