The Ultimate Fabric Glossary to Help You Find the Best Furniture

Choosing the right furniture for your home can be very tricky when you need to balance utility and aesthetics perfectly. The upholstery of the furniture influences the appeal it has to the buyer. But, besides the aesthetic, you must also consider the functionality of the fabric. Keeping all these in mind, you might be wondering what the best choice for your home is.

This post is a comprehensive glossary of various fabrics and related terms which will assist in shopping for upholstered furniture wisely.

General Upholstery Terms

When you walk into a furniture store and start looking around, often guided by a store representative, you realize that you are unable to keep up with the terminology they use regarding different furniture pieces. The following are some general terms that are widely used for different fabrics. These terms are associated with the cutting, making, and weaving of the upholstery and can help you to deduce its durability and structure.

  • Bias-cut- The fabric is cut diagonally from one corner to another. Checkered fabric is usually cut this way to tweak its personality. Certain fabric types drape differently when it is cut on the bias. However, this method of cutting the material requires more yardage, which in turn, adds to the price of the upholstered furniture.
  • Colourway- The range of colours available for a certain material is called the colourway. For example, if you are checking a canvas sofa in a certain colour and like the sofa design but not the colour, you can ask the store representatives regarding the colourway available for the canvas to find an agreeable shade.
  • Fabric backing- Certain fabrics like chenille tends to stretch and sag over the years. To prevent this, a layer of backing is attached to the fabric before it is used for any furniture. The backing materials usually have various properties that make the furniture more functional.
  • Ground- Many buyers like printed upholstery for their sofas and divans. The basecolour of the material that serves as the background of the prints is termed as ground. The ground is not always the dominant colour and depends on the density and scale of the patterns.
  • Interlining- Often lightweight upholstery fabric is stabilized using an additional material that is sewn between the inner foundation and the outer material. This method is called interlining. Furniture made with interlining is usually more durable.
  • Tight-back- This is particularly applicable for sofas and upholstered chairs. When there are no loose or semi-attached cushions, the construction method is called tight backed. While this looks more tailored, but it can be less comfortable and more difficult to clean compared to other furniture with detached cushions.
  • Welting- A cord covered with the material and sewn into the seam is called welting. The furniture silhouette is defined and the seams are strengthened using this method. Smooth welted seams are observed in furniture made from high-quality upholstery.

Upholstery Types

Buyers often do not recognize the different upholstery types available by name. This can be confusing when you go to a furniture store as you will not be able to convey the exact thing you want. The following are popular upholstery for different furniture items like sofas and upholstered chairs.


Leather Furniture

There is a wide variety of leather in terms of its grade, treatment, quality and price. Broadly, leather is categorized into four types, namely:

  • Full-grain leather which is made from the whole animal hide and not just layers of it. the natural marks and imperfections are left intact and enhance the texture of the material. It is the most expensive, thickest and highest-quality of leather available.
  • Top-grain leather is the second-best quality you will come across. It is manufactured from animal hide.
  • Corrected-grade leather is natural leather that is treated and processed to remove the imperfections so that it has a uniform appearance.
  • Split leather is made from the underside of the hide or the drop split. An artificial surface layer made from bi-cast leather is laminated on the surface.


This is an extremely strong natural fibre made from flax. It is noted for its soft, smooth and lustrous surface texture along with extreme durability. It is naturally resistant to pests like moths, piling and abrasions. Linen is often blended with cotton to create a more elastic variation of the upholstery. This is a popular choice of fabric for dining chairs, and tufted armchairs.


Velvet Furniture

It is a luxurious and heavy material distinguished by its thick, short and lustrous pile. Velvet can be made from natural as well as synthetic material and has a rich colour. It is relatively difficult to clean but is extremely durable and luxurious. This is a popular choice for button-tufted headboards and accent chairs.


Usually upholstery-standard cotton is blended to make it more durable and stylish. It is generally blended with polyester, linen, nylon, etc. the blend is usually highly tough and resistant to soiling and wrinkling. Look for furniture made from cotton blend upholstery that contains 45 to 60 percent cotton.

The above-mentioned upholstery cutting and fabric types are the popular choices among buyers. Keeping the names of various material types and related technical terms in mind, will make the search for the perfect furniture much easier for you.

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