FABRIC FLARE (The Basics.)

Hi Elsie here.

You would not believe how many people do not know the basic differences and properties of fabric.

This is absolutely vital in knowing which fabric to use in what situation.

Fabrics 101.


Is from the cotton Plant.


  • Comfortable Soft hand.
  • Good absorbency.
  • Color retention.
  • Prints well.
  • Machine-washable.
  • Dry-cleanable.
  • Good strength.
  • Drapes well.
  • Creases easily.

Most times it is mixed with man made polymers that make it crease less = Poly cotton for example.

Poly cotton can also some in textured form to look like velvet.


Sweet Bay Ivory_Green Roomset(3)

Plain died cotton and Sanderson printed poly cotton.


POLYESTER                                                                                                                                       (There are more man made fibres but you will see this mostly)

Man made. Chemical process.


  • Polyester fabrics and fibres are extremely strong.
  • Polyester is very durable: resistant to most chemicals, stretching and shrinking, wrinkle resistant, mildew and abrasion resistant.
  • Polyester is hydrophobic in nature and quick drying. It can be used for insulation by manufacturing hollow fibres.
  • Polyester retains its shape and hence is good for making outdoor clothing for harsh climates.
  • It is easily washed and dried.
  • Not easy to die.
  • Liable to pill.
  • Static problems.

In recent years the process for polyester has massively improved to produce very convincing faux silk. With none of the downsides to silk.



From Sheep


  • Is dull in colour due to it not reflecting light.
  • Warm.
  • Insulates.
  • Highly absorbent.
  • Returns to shape when crushed.
  • Rubs away so ideal to use with other fibres.
  • Shrinks. Can be modified to combat this.
  • Vulnerable to moths.
  • Absorbs dirt.
  • Easy to die.
  • Inherently fire retardant.

Makes great upholstery fabric and is being used more and more in blinds and curtains.

Harlequin Wool.

harlequin-delphine-wools-and-textures-2 Harlequin wool. Delphine.




linen plant

 linen 2

  • Absorbent.
  • Withstands High temps.
  • Lustrous yarn.
  • Very strong.
  • Creases easily.
  • Shrinks.
  • Flammable
  • Blends well with other fibres.

linen-curtains-with-oak-floor1 prod1159311_S14

I love the natural look of linen, the creases  don’t bother me, it is nice feel. Being used more and more in modern designs to soften everything off.


By product of the silk worm.


  • Strong filament.
  • Elastic and resilient.
  • Refracts light, lustrous appearance.
  • Insulates.
  • Easy to die.
  • Watermarks easily.
  • Rots in sunlight.
  • Fades in sunlight.
  • Creases.

Can be mixed with other fibres  to reduce downsides. Must be interlined to help protect and drape. I would also recommend treating polyester like a silk.

Silk is luxurious and beautiful . Most designers love it.




Embroidered silk GP & J Baker Larkhill collection


These are the basic ones you will encounter. When looking through fabric samples the fibre content is normal on either the back of the sample or in the the back of the book or hanger.

When looking for upholstery fabrics please ask for the “martindale”, this is the rub test that tells you how durable a cloth is. I would personally not use anything under 20 thousand rubs for a domestic item of furniture. Anything over 40 thousand is normally considered to be contract standard. There are also two levels of fire retardancy required for upholstery items. One level for domestic and crib five for contract.


  • Brocade = Figured silk or velvet with silver woven into it to create a design.
  • Chenille = Tufted, velvet yarn. Has a pile.
  • Cisele velvet = Velvet in which some of the loops are left uncut, to form a pattern.
  • Damask = Reversible figured fabric.
  • Jacquard = Figured fabric woven on jacquard loom.
  • Lampas = Figured fabric, with supplementary weft woven over the main warp and ground weft.
  • Moire = Ribbed fabric which is folded in two, then put between two metal rollers, leaving some of the ribs flattened, giving a watermark effect.
  • Ottoman = Silk fabric with broad, flat rib.
  • Panne = Velvet with longer pile and lustrous finish.
  • Shantung = Wild silkworm silk, with uneven finish and poor lustre.
  • Tussah= Silk from oak fed worms.
  • Chintz = Was originally glazed calico textiles, initially specifically those imported from India, printed with designs featuring flowers and other patterns in different colours, typically on a light plain background.


When looking for a fabric. LOOK at how it hangs, or ASK the designer how it drapes.                            A good designer will guide you but if they don’t it is important to ask.                                                 How will this work on short / long curtains, blinds? Does it need specialist lining.                              What are the characteristics of the fabric and are you happy with these?

Ultimately the choice of fabric is THE CLIENTS and not the designer’s. The designer makes SUGGESTIONS only. Too many clients try to push ALL the responsibility onto the designer and likewise some designers do not point out all the pros and cons of a fabric choice.

WORK with your designer to help create a look you are happy with.                                             LISTEN to what they say to help you make the choices that suit you to help create a stylish home that works with you lifestyle and needs.


Again there is a lot more to it than above, but here there is enough to get you started.

For a more comprehensive look at fabric types, I strongly recommend looking at Fabric and Curtain History on  www.classicalgenesis.wordpress.com. It is a wonderful guide and jam packed with information.

That is all for now, hope you enjoyed. 

Thanks for reading.

Elsie . D. Wolfe

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