Everyday we receive dozens of questions about fabrics.
"Is this fabric suitable for upholstery use?"
"What does the cleaning code 'S' mean?"
"What does it mean when a fabric has been discontinued?"
"Can this fabric be used outdoors?"
Among these questions, we also get quite a few... interesting ones.
"Can patent leather be used for swim shorts?"
"If I set this fabric on fire, how quickly will it burn?"
"Can you send me samples of camouflage fabric for use as a wedding dress?"
I can't explain everything in this article but I would like to address some of the more popular questions that get asked.
Drapery vs. Upholstery
The best way to tell if a fabric is suitable for upholstery use is to check its abrasion rating. An abrasion rating is a series of tests (usually Wyzenbeek or Martindale) that determines how many "rubs" it takes before a fabric begins to wear. The higher this number the more durable and long lasting your fabric will be. If there is not an abrasion rating listed on your fabric it usually means it was not tested to be an upholstery fabric and therefore is better suited for bedding, pillows, panels and draperies.
Each fabric is manufactured with a cleaning code. this code determines what kind of stain removal method is best for your particular fabric. The codes are as follows:
"W" - Means to use a water-based or mild detergent solution and spot-clean. Use the foam only of a water-based cleaning agent to remove overall soil or stain. As most household cleaning solvents are harmful to the color and life of a fabric, cleaning by a professional is recommended.
"S" - Means to use solvent only and spot-clean in a well-ventilated room. Using a professional cleaning service is most recommended.
"SW" - Means to use either solvent or water-based cleaner. Use the foam only of a water-based cleaning agent or pure solvents in a well ventilated room. Using a professional cleaning service is most recommended.
"X" - Means vacuum only.
How Fabric is Measured
Although this may seem like a no-brainer to a designer, we get asked a lot how fabrics are measured. A typical yard of fabric is the width, let's say 54", by the length 1 yard (or 36"). Although the widths of fabrics may vary, the length, one yard will always remain the same. One of the few fabrics that does not abide by this rule is leather. Leather fabrics are priced by the square foot and sold by either the half hide or the full hide. Hides will vary in size (depending on how large the animal was). A good rule of thumb when converting yards to square feet? 1 yd = 18 sq. ft.
A discontinued fabric is a fabric that is no longer being carried by the mill that once produced it. A fabric can become discontinued for many reasons.
1.) It wasn't a good seller
2.) It is old
3.) The mill went out of business
4.) The mill can no longer get a hold of the pattern, yarns, dyes etc.
A good majority of our research requests are for discontinued patterns. Although we do not carry most discontinued patterns, we are sometimes successful in locating comparable fabrics. We have also found that Pattern A may be discontinued from Manufacturer A but may still be available from Manufacturer B.
Outdoor fabrics are hugely popular and because of that we receive a lot of questions about them. Outdoor fabrics are those fabrics that can withstand UV exposure and weather. Each fabric that is suitable for outdoor use will have a UV Rating which lists how many hours a fabric can be in direct sunlight before fading will occur. No fabric is fade-proof and most manufacturers suggest covering or bring inside outdoor fabrics when not in use. Outdoor fabrics are also usually treated with some sort of Stain & Soil Repellent Finish. Fabrics suitable for outdoor use are usually very easy to clean, simply spot clean, and therefore hold up better to outdoor elements including pollen, dirt and rain. Another important rating to look for is whether or not it is Mold and Mildew Resistant. This is important because of weather elements that outdoor fabrics will face. You want a fabric that once wet, will dry quickly so that mold and mildew will not have the ability to form in or on your fabric.
Each fabric type requires different care and maintenance but with the right tools and information you can make any fabric last and last.