Guide to Choosing Decorator Fabric Types

Decorator fabrics are the latest option for finishing a surprising number of surfaces. For instance, some are using fabrics to accent walls rather than painting them. You can also cover an entire dresser with fabric instead of painting it.

Unusual fabrics are also popping up in conventional places as slipcovers, window treatments or accent pillows. These fabrics are often chosen for their looks rather than their durability or ease of care, which can make caring for them a challenge.

Choosing Decorator Fabrics
As you're planning your next decorating project, it's worth taking some time to evaluate the many fabrics available and the ways they can be used. If you find some that you like, compare their care needs and durability to your family's lifestyle to make sure you're getting something that will last for years to come.

The first thing to remember about cleaning and caring for decorator fabrics is that while there are general care instructions for certain types of fabric, that doesn't always work for every grade of that fabric. The best way to be sure you are caring for your fabrics properly is to check the manufacturer's label before purchase.

Types of Decorator Fabric

Burlap is a fairly inexpensive fabric that adds a rustic, old-fashioned look. Some common uses include creating decorative throw pillows, slipcovers and cushions. Burlap has an open weave and a rough surface, so it's not the most comfortable fabric for sitting. It's also prone to fraying over time and can be a magnet for cat claws. When it comes to cleaning, burlap does not do well in the washer. It is known to shrink, shred or fill the washer or dryer with a great deal of excess lint. For small areas, it can be wiped down with a soft cloth, wet with a mild soap such as dishwashing liquid. When dealing with larger areas, it is best to dry-clean burlap or have it professionally cleaned by an upholstery cleaning service.

Canvas is a great alternative to burlap if you want something that's more durable and easier to clean. Canvas also is fairly inexpensive, costing just a few dollars per yard. With its tight weave, canvas is a more comfortable choice for slipcovers and pillows. Canvas resists fraying and you can throw it in the washing machine as long as any dyes used are colorfast. 

Cotton chenille is soft to the touch and often has raised patterns. Cotton chenille is used in everything from decorative throws to pillows, and even quilts and robes. It adds a touch of elegance and sophistication that's appropriate for more formal settings. Chenille can be machine washed on the cold cycle and tumble dried on the cool setting to prevent wrinkles. Chenille is a mid-priced fabric with a tendency to develop tears or runs if it's poked with anything sharp.

Denim can be used to create a number of items when you want a country or cottage look. It's great as a slipcover or upholstery material. It also can be used to create throw pillows, cushions, drapes, braided rugs and more. Denim is a real bargain with an average cost of just a few dollars per yard. It's also one of the most durable fabrics available, taking on a softer feel with use. Denim can be machine washed, dry-cleaned or cleaned with an upholstery steam machine. If you're machine-washing denim, be prepared for the dye to bleed the first few times it's washed.

Faux leather is being used in many of the same ways as denim. This fabric has a masculine, outdoorsy quality that's good for a rustic or country feel. Some types of faux leather can be wiped clean, which is great for households with children. Check the label carefully, as some faux leathers are dry-clean only or need to be professionally cleaned. Always check the labels before purchase to be sure you are ready to deal with the type of care your faux leather decorator fabric requires. Like chenille, faux leather lives in the midrange of home decorator fabrics.  

Sheer decorator fabrics are great for use as curtain panels or decorative cloth coverings to accent furniture. They can also be used as decorative edging for throw pillows, blankets and more. Sheers are generally cost-effective and add a classic Victorian feel to a room. Although sheers are durable, the open weave is notorious for attracting dust bunnies and stray pet hair. Sheers will also yellow from exposure to cigarette smoke. Some sheers must be washed by hand, while others can be machine washed or dry-cleaned, so check the label to find a fabric that fits your preferences.  

Silk is a very delicate decorator fabric that adds exotic elegance to formal rooms. The grade of silk determines the price, and higher grades are among the most expensive decorator fabrics available. Silks can be used as curtain panels, pillow covers, cushion covers and slipcovers, or simply draped over furniture as a decorative accent. Although some silks can be machine-washed, most must be hand-washed and air dried or dry cleaned to prevent permanent damage to the fabric. As with chenille, small tears in silk can become growing problems, so it's best to keep silks away from anything sharp. 

Tassels, trims and fringes are great for accenting a variety of items. They can be used to trim the edges of a curtain panel, pillow or slipcover. They also can be added to furniture edges, lamp shades and more. Many of these are dry-clean only. Pricing can be very cost-effective, but these also can get very expensive as you choose larger, more intricate designs and fabrics.  

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