How to pick the right upholstery fabric

How can you choose a suitable furnishing fabric for your home?
How can you choose a suitable furnishing fabric for your home?
Are you in the market for a new upholstery fabric? There are many things to consider, so here is a quick guide to help you out with your purchase.

The time has finally come – you can reupholster your furniture! It's super exciting, like upgrading your wardrobe or getting new curtains. You're able to give an old, faded piece of furniture a new look and life. 

However, upon visiting the fabric store, you may find yourself stumped. So many fabrics, so many textures, and so many colours! Where do you begin? How do you know what to look for, and which one would look good in your home? Here are some tips.

What do you have to know about an upholstery fabric before making a purchase?What do you have to know about an upholstery fabric before making a purchase?


The first and foremost choice you'll be faced with is colour. You'll want the new furnishing fabric to match the rest of your interior design, of course.

If you can, bring in a swatch of fabric from your curtains, carpet or anywhere else from your home decor to match. It's best to see two different fabrics side by side in person, if possible. Otherwise, you may have to make do with just a photo of your interior design, but be aware, the lighting may change how you perceive colours.


For items such as sofas, chairs and ottomans, the fabric will come under constant friction. You'll want a hardy material that can stand up to being rubbed each and every day. Fabrics that are woven with tighter weaves are likely to hold up better than plain upholstery fabrics with a print.

If you have a pet, consider how the fabric will attract their fur and any debris they may bring in. Textured furnishing fabrics can be harder to clean, and so, this will need to contribute towards the fabric you choose.

When in a store, run your hand over the fabric, give it a tug to see its elasticity and ask about how the fabric performed in a Martindale test. This is measured in the amount of 'rubs', usually reaching the thousands. It's an indication of how a fabric will perform under high-stress situations, and the more rubs a fabric can withstand, the better. Light domestic use usually sits between 10,000 to 15,000 rubs, whereas furnishing fabrics for general domestic use can reach up to 25,000 rubs.

Fabric maintenance and cleaning

What sort of lifestyle do you have? If you are investing in a decorative fabric, it may require a more specific level of care. Do you have the time to maintain your fabrics?

In order to keep the fabrics of your upholstery furniture looking as new as possible, you will need to spend some time each week vacuuming and perhaps even spot cleaning. It can help to expand the life of the material, especially if you have young children or pets.

Read the care instruction label before you make a purchase to see if the fabric you're interested in requires a high-touch level of care.

Get a swatch

The best way to see if a fabric style is suitable for your home is to get a swatch.

The best way to see if a fabric style is suitable for your home, in terms of colour, texture and durability, is to get a swatch.

That way, you can bring it home and lay it against the piece of furniture you wish to reupholster. Look at the fabric in different lighting situations – morning and day sunlight, under your ceiling lights and also any lamps you may use on a daily basis. You may be surprised at how different the colour of the fabric swatch looks!

Because Charles Parsons are an upholstery manufacturer of commercial textiles, you'll be ordering a big batch of wholesale fabric, so you really want to be sure before you purchase it!

Ask the experts

Still not sure which fabric to choose? Well, there are experts to help with that! Contact the team at Charles Parsons today with any queries you may have.