Decorator Fabrics 101
Learn information about the different fabric types and which ones to use.
E-mail This Page to Your Friendsx
A link to %this page% was e-mailed
Styles and Patterns
Chintz: The style originally hails from India and was brought to the West by the British raj. Chintz is a highly polished, rather thin, brightly colored calico cotton fabric. Popular for upholstery and slipcovers.
Cretonne: A plain-weave fabric with both printed floral motif and angular shapes for people who can't make up their minds about what they like. Often used for chair coverings and curtains.
Damask: A glossy Jacquard weave (a Jacquard weave is made with a Jacquard loom, which was invented Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801) that has a flat look on the pattern itself but a glossy look for the background. In silk, rayon or linen, it's often used for draperies and upholstery.
Gingham: A relatively inexpensive fabric that usually has a checkered pattern. Looks great as a dining tablecloth in Italian restaurants or on kitchen or nursery windows.
Grosgrain: A silk with a ribbed appearance.
Herringbone: A regular geometric pattern consisting of two slanted rows that form a "V" shape on the fabric. This menswear look has become popular in upholstery.
Moiré: For some reason, the French liked fabric with water spilled on it just like your kids do. Moiré is a "water-marked" fabric (an effect now produced by cylindrical presses) with vertical "cathedrals" (lines that look like the peak of a cathedral).
Mohair: Angora goats' hair. Sometimes used for throws and pillows.
Satin: This one dates from the 14th century. It's believed to be named after the Chinese town of Zaitun, though no one knows where Zaitun was. Satin was originally a glossy silk fabric with a dull back, but the look can be reproduced in rayon for the cost-conscious.
Tapestry: Tapestries were originally developed in the Middle Ages as a form of insulation, as the walls at the time had pretty low R-values. Tapestries helped to block the wind coming in through the chinks in your basic castle's mortar and later developed into a brocade type of weave with ornamentation.
Ticking: Ticking is a striped cotton fabric traditionally made in black and white but also seen in blue/white and red/white. It's used for mattress covers and informal curtains and coverings.
Toile de Jouy: Literally meaning "fabric of joy," toile is a French fabric with a pattern that's somewhat naïve, featuring country scenes of a solid black, red, gray or blue against a cream-colored background. Toile is often associated with cottons.
Ultrasuede: An advance in technology, ultrasuede replicates natural suede (the underside of leather) but resists stains much better than the highly absorbent suede. Second-generation ultrasuedes are the more affordable microfibers that are less dense in terms of fiber count and therefore more affordable.
Velvet: A pile that's cut at uniform lengths to create an even overall surface. Very durable and great for heavy flowing draperies.
Mark McCauley is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers and author of Color Therapy at Home (Rockport Publishers) and Interior Design for Idiots (Great Quotations Publishing Co.).
Make your own felt from wool and shape it into a unique bowl with these simple steps.