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  • beth swade


Updated: Mar 26, 2023

I'm going to give you an overview of natural fibres main characteristics that may influence whats right for your project... the natural characteristics of the fibre will massively influence the final look of your piece.

A fibre is a thread of a natural or synthetic substance that can then be treated in a certain way, mostly woven (but maybe knitted or compressed) to form a fabric.

By understanding more about these fibres and their natural properties, you know where their strengths and weaknesses are. Often upholstery fabrics will be a mix of different fibres to improve the durability, strength, price or hand feel.


Cotton can be a great option for upholstery, depending on the weave and weight of the fabric, it is a natural fibre and therefore can be organic and have a lower impact than some others, its durability and resistance to pilling are great upholstery pros but its high absorbency can mean it stains easily. Blending cotton with other fibres can offer you the best of both worlds. Cotton-linen blends can give you linen’s crispness with fewer wrinkles, cotton blended with polyester can increase durability and stain-resistance.


The material has a beautiful shine to it and drapes nicely, it has a smooth and luxurious hand feel. If the silk is heavy enough in weight it can be a good choice for upholstery if you are wanting a sophisticated look. Traditionally silk would have been used in upper class homes as a show of wealth. In modern day silk is often bended with other fibres to increase its durability and increase its lifespan.


It’s said to be twice as strong as cotton and have a much quicker drying time and is naturally anti-bacterial. It tends to wrinkle easily so has a relaxed look and wouldn’t be suitable for someone wanting a really crisp sharp finish, it often looks best in a natural laid-back finishes.


In upholstery it is often used in both commercial and domestic settings as it is so durable and hard wearing. Wool is naturally fire retardant so is a great choice for anyone wanting to reduce the amount of FR chemicals that are added to less retardant fibres. It can be combined with other fibres to make it softer and less scratchy. There are so many different looks and finishes you can get with wool depending on the way it is spun, dyed, and woven it’s a really versatile upholstery material. It is often a great choice for mid-century furniture and suits clean lines.


Viscose is a semi- synthetic type of rayon. It was first produced in the 1883 as a cheaper alternative to silk. It has a similar shine and hang. It has a soft cotton like hand feel and is light and absorbent, it takes and holds colour well.

Viscose is made from wood pulp, often eucalyptus, beech, or pine. The reason it is classed as ‘semi synthetic’ is the large amount of chemicals involved in processing it. Whilst its base material is natural often the process is very un-environmentally friendly. Often the trees that are used are not sustainably harvested- causing deforestation. A large amount of chemicals is used in the process as well as toxic emissions left in the air and water around the manufacturing sites. There’s a high level of water used both in the production process and in the growing of trees.

Viscose would often be blended with other fibres such as cotton when being used for upholstery to give it a little more weight and strength.


It can all be a-bit overwhelming all the options, if you would like to discuss fabrics and what might be right for your project pop me an email in the contact box below.

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