Get The Look: How To Choose The Perfect Fabric For Your Custom Sofa
Jun 08

Upholstery Mistakes: A Cautionary Tale

As someone who has been down the road of reupholstering furniture, I can tell you that choosing the right fabric is no easy feat. In fact, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes along the way. Let me share a story that will really drive home the importance of doing your fabric research.

About five years ago, I was scouring Craigslist in search of the perfect pair of vintage swivel club chairs to reupholster. Finally, I found them – the chairs of my dreams! Giddy with excitement, I headed to the local fabric store, determined to find the perfect material. That’s when I laid eyes on a remnant bolt of blush Ralph Lauren silk velvet. It was love at first sight. The fabric was expensive, but I couldn’t resist. I mean, how hard could it be to work with, right?

Well, let’s just say that silk velvet and I didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye. The upholsterer warned me that it was a “tricky” fabric, but of course, I brushed it off. Fast forward a few weeks, and the chairs were ready for pickup. That’s when the upholsterer dropped the bomb – that beautiful silk velvet was not nearly as durable as I had hoped. It was prone to staining, crushing, and general wear and tear.

As I quickly discovered, silk velvet is a high-maintenance diva of a fabric. In the five years since, I’ve become a pro at strategically draping throw blankets to hide the inevitable stains and crushed areas. Lesson learned: when it comes to reupholstery, the fabric you choose can make or break your investment.

The Quest for the Perfect Fabric

Fast forward to earlier this year, when I scored the perfect beaten-up vintage Baker sofa for our living room. I knew we’d be reupholstering it, and I was determined not to repeat my past mistake. This time, I was going to do my homework and find a fabric that would stand the test of time.

I headed to the showroom of one of my favorite fabric houses, Fabricut, and started browsing their selection. As I perused the options, I kept a few key criteria in mind:

Performance Fabrics

A “performance fabric” is one that has been specially treated to be more durable and easy to clean than your standard upholstery material. The challenge, however, is finding a performance fabric that still has that high-end, luxurious look and feel.

Abrasion Resistance

One of the key tests for upholstery fabrics is the “double rubs” count – a measure of how many back-and-forth motions the fabric can withstand before showing visible signs of wear. For a frequently-used piece like a sofa, you’ll want to look for a fabric with at least 15,000 double rubs, if not higher.


Let’s be real – stains happen, especially on a well-loved sofa. That’s why it’s so important to choose a fabric that’s easy to clean. Look for materials that can be spot-cleaned with water-based agents, rather than requiring professional dry cleaning.

Fabric Composition

Not all fabrics are created equal when it comes to things like durability and maintenance. Within the velvet category alone, you’ll find polyester velvets, cotton velvets, silk velvets, and more. Each has its own unique properties and care requirements.

The Winning Fabric

Keeping all of these criteria in mind, I honed in on three different dark, warm green velvet fabrics from Fabricut. I brought the swatches home and held them up against the sofa, taking note of how the color and sheen looked in different lighting conditions.

My ultimate winner? The Fabricut Baird in Olive. This luxurious velvet ticked all the boxes – it had a high double rubs count, was easy to clean, and had that rich, inviting look I was going for. Plus, the olive tone complemented the vintage vibes of the sofa perfectly.

We’ve now been using our newly reupholstered sofa for over a month, and I can happily report that the Baird fabric has exceeded my expectations. We’ve had a few minor spills, but they’ve lifted easily with a damp cloth. The upholstery still looks as good as new, with no visible signs of wear or crushing.

Putting It All Together

If you’re in the market for a custom sofa and wondering how to choose the perfect fabric, let me share a few more insights I’ve gleaned from my reupholstery journey:

Consider Your Lifestyle

Think about how you and your family use your sofa on a daily basis. Is it primarily for lounging and relaxing, or do you have little ones or pets who might be a bit rougher on the upholstery? That will help guide your fabric selection.

Pay Attention to the Details

Don’t just look at the overall appearance of a fabric swatch – dig into the specifics. Check the double rubs count, read the care instructions, and understand the composition. These details can make a big difference in the long run.

Get Creative with Texture

While velvet is a classic choice, don’t be afraid to explore other textured fabrics like boucle, chenille, or even performance-grade microfiber. These can add visual interest and durability.

Embrace the Unexpected

Sometimes the best fabrics are the ones you wouldn’t expect. That blush silk velvet I fell for? It may have been a misstep, but it taught me to keep an open mind and not be afraid to take a risk.

At the end of the day, choosing the perfect fabric for your custom sofa is all about finding the right balance of style and substance. With a little research and an eye for quality, you can create a piece that not only looks stunning, but stands the test of time. Happy fabric hunting!

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