The colour, pattern and texture of the fabric you choose will give the furniture much of its character and influence the impact it has on its surroundings. Consider the use and location of the upholstered item before you choose the fabric, and whether it will have light or heavy wear. For instance, it is certainly not a good idea to cover a chair in white cotton satin if it is intended for use in the children’s room. Fabrics are subject to safety standard, for example British regulations require that all top covers for upholstery must be fire retardant, unless the furniture pre-dates 1950.

Fabric Description
Brocade Made in silk originally, but now in cotton and man-made fibres. Usually floral patterned with a rich sheen on the surface. With the tendency of the satin threads to tear – this is best suited for furniture subject to light wea
Hide (leather) Treated cow or buffalo is available dyed in many colours. Rub-off hides imitate an antique surface. Suede, the inside of the hide, treated and shaved to an even surface, tends \to age quickly
Chintz A heavy-glazed cotton, the glaze tends to wear off in time. The fabric can be patterned or plain. Not suitable for everyday wear, so generally used in bedroom upholstery
Cotton A natural staple fibre, cotton is made into many different types of fabric. It is very versatile and can be woven or cut into a pile, plain-dyed or printed with patterns. It often produces a characteristically crisp effect. It is also used to back other fabrics
Linen Made from flax plant. It is often mixed with other fibres to give it additional strength. Is usually woven and can be plain-dyed or printed with patterns
Matelasse Is a very similar fabric to Brocatelle but has a flatter weave
Damask A self-patterned fabric with raised designs on a satin background. Used for a variety of types of upholstery
Pile fabrics Velvet, velour and chenille are still made in cotton or silk. Synthetic versions, however, tend to be more hard wearing and more easily cleaned. Natural or synthetic, these fabrics can be plain-dyed or embosse
Moquette Has a looped pile and designs are plain or patterned. It is a very hardwearing fabric made in wool, cotton or synthetic fibres, and is often used in public areas with heavy use
Brocatelle Similar to damask, but with a quilted look on the surface, it is made from cotton and rayon.