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The Nature of Fabrics

All fabrics can generally be categorised into either Natural or synthetic.

Natural fibres like Cotton, Silk and Wool come from plants and animals. These are popular for many reasons including absorbency and eco-friendliness. While synthetic ones such as Polyester, Microfiber and Acrylic are made from chemical compounds. These tend to resist stains and fading better and are more durable. The two may be combined to achieve a stronger weave.

Comparing the Pros & Cons of a fabric according to your specific needs and use can help you make the best choice for your space and style.

Let's have a little look at a few popular options...


A key characteristic of velvet is its dense pile. It is also known for creating a cosy and luxurious atmosphere in any space. When treated with proper care and maintenance velvet furniture is very hard wearing.


.Instantly adds dimension & glam to an interior as colours have more depth due to the way the fabric subtly picks up light.

.It is soft & cosy with a classic, timeless style.


.Can attract pet hair, bits & dust so requires more regular cleaning.

.Think about placement as too much sunlight can weaken the fibre.

.Velvet crushes or ruffles when stroked or sat on, this can add character but think about the look you are going for as well as the location and amount of use of the fabric.

Tip: For the neatest look brush the pile in the same direction all over. Steaming can help release deeper imprints.

For daily use a synthetic velvet is less susceptible to marking, fading and crushing.


This is a popular choice for its comfort, laid-back appearance and breath-ability - keeping the fabric cooler.

This works great for removable covers on cushions, sofas etc allowing them to be cleaned easily. It is also hypo-allergenic meaning it's resistant to various pollutants and micro flora.

But it is not as durable as the thin fibres wear more easily, creating wrinkles, stretching and hitching as well as absorbing dirt and spills quicker - so expect a no secrets, lived-in look.


. Removable, light & breathable

.A smart casual look.

.Fairly resistant to fading and piling


.Not great for heavy use - Poor elasticity means it can wrinkle/scratch.

.Soils easily - Needs professional cleaning.

.Doesn't do so well in humidity.


The most common, natural fabric. Its quality depends on the length of the fibre, Longer = Stronger.


.Comfortable, breathes well and is easy to clean.

. Resistant to fading and wearing problems - great for daily use.

.Reacts well to dye for variety and many uses.


. Very absorbent - Can shrink easily & wrinkle.


Most commonly from sheep, other special types include mohair(goat), angora(rabbit) and alpaca.

It is incredibly warm and dirt resistant - thanks to the lanolin oil from the animals. It is also fire resistant without chemical treatment but it can shrink if incorrectly washed and can be itchy. It is often mixed with other fabrics to improve its strength and endurance and is more resistant to piling and fading.


. Reacts well to treatment & dying

.Soft & warm

.Dirt & water resistant - Durable.


High maintenance - can be itchy and prone to piling.


Known for its shine and soft texture silk is delicate and luxurious. It is one of the oldest and expensive fabrics - spun from the cocoons of silkworms. Depending on the method used for extraction some may find this troublesome and not for them.

It needs to be treated with more care and is not great for rough treatment but with its natural shimmer and lustre it looks beautifully strong and is very comfortable.

A great choice for formal areas. Other examples of silk fabrics include chiffon and crepe.


. Can last longer if taken care of properly

. A smart and luxurious look

. Wide variety of patterns and colours available



.Not good for areas with children, pets or direct sunlight.

.Requires dry cleaning.


This fabric is great for upholstery and is very comfortable. Types include; Cowhide, Top-grain, Split-grain and Suede.

It lasts longer due to the strength of the material and is more scratch resistant and cleaning is not a problem - A good choice for homes with pets and children.

It may wear under a lot of use and pressure but it's not a problem if you don't mind some character to your furniture.

BE AWARE - Being an animal, a cow hide can come with natural scratches and scars from the cow, It can scratch up and stretch - it is skin after all. If you do not want this you need to go for a ‘corrected-grain’ or a leatherette.

POSITIONING: If possible, avoid keeping too close to radiators or in strong sunlight, as it can dry out the hides and cause wrinkling (like it would to us) and eventually, without regular maintenance it can crack or peel.

At Sofa Rooms we will almost always make leather cushions with a secondary fabric on the back, to allow the cushion to breath and prevent it from becoming a ‘whoopee cushion’.


.Smart look.

.Easy to Clean & Stain resistant.

.Hides scratches and ages well - good for busy use and more comfort over time.

.Doesn't absorb smells and odours.



.Difficult to repair if ripped or severely stained.

. Natural marks and scratches may be present

.Can get hot and sticky, wrinkle and peel - consider placement.

.Hair and skin oils can transfer easily so regular cleaning maybe an on-going task.

Leatherette, Ultrasuede and Microfiber are great choices if you have pets.

You should look for wear and stain resistant fabrics such as solution dyed acrylics and blended polyester if you are seeking durability.


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