Decorator Fabrics 101

Learn information about the different fabric types and which ones to use.

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The Synthetics

Rayon: Here's a synthetic that can hang well, but it can also do some pretty bizarre things for a fabric. Check the fabric contents on window treatments to be sure the rayon content is low or nonexistent. In the summer, rayon absorbs humidity and shrinks upward. It lets back down in lower-humidity months. It's like window treatments on a pogo stick.

Where to Use It: Rayon is fine for window treatments in a very low-humidity area.

Acrylic: Acrylic is colorfast and resists stains well. It also has sun-resistant qualities not found in the natural fabrics, but it's slightly harder to clean than wool, and it can pill.

Where to Use It: Acrylic is often blended with natural fabrics to add durability.

Nylon: Nylon is tough stuff. It says "no" to stains and static electricity and wears well. Nylon is a continuous filament, as opposed to a twist (hence nylon can't breathe, while cotton has a high breathability factor, as air passes through the twist).

Where to Use It: The solidity of the filament makes nylon not particularly comfortable to sit on, as it warms up from body heat quickly, but it's fabulous if you're jumping out of an airplane.

Olefin: Olefin is another test-tube baby with high durability, but it's not so high on style.

Where to Use It: Olefin is great for professional-football stadiums (it makes for swell AstroTurf), but it's not so great in the home-unless you have a need for some indoor-outdoor carpeting.

Polyester: Polyester is what's called a staple yard, consisting of strands bonded together. It's fade-resistant but harder to clean than nylon or wool, and it's not as resilient as other fabrics. The term staple refers to a short length of fiber that's twisted to form a thicker strand.

Where to Use It: It's often used as part of an upholstery blend.

Acetate: Acetate is long-wearing and is less affected by humidity than rayon. Softer than the other test-tube babies, acetate rarely pills and is tough to wrinkle.

Where to Use It: It's good in window treatments because of its wrinkle-resistant draping qualities.

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