Fabric Selection

Fabric Selection

Housing the largest fabric library in the UK means our customers are never short on choice and all furniture can be fully customised.

Fabric design and texture can drastically change the style and appearance of furniture, which is why the Alter London showroom offers masses of rich fabrics as well as plush imaginative textures to choose from. Fabric temptation includes products from brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Designers Guild, Chase Erwin, Ralph Lauren, Camengo, and Colefax & Fowler.

With so many rich fabrics to choose from, selecting can be delightfully overwhelming and a little daunting, in particular trying to understand which fabrics upholster well.

However, there is no need to worry. Together with the Alter London in-house design team, we can find the most suitable fabrics, patterns, textures and colours for any interior project.

Some aspects of choosing upholstery fabric might seem pretty obvious such as selecting a colour, which is usually the single biggest factor in fabric selection. However, while colour is important, here are some other factors that should be considered first.

Fabric Durability

Sometimes durability is an issue and sometimes it isn’t. Every project is different, and often even pieces within the same project have different requirements. Fabric Wearability Code is an intriguing name for standards developed by the government to provide a guideline to tell if a fabric is strong enough for your needs. You can find fabric wearability codes on manufacturers’ swatch samples shown in stores.

Fabric strength is determined by how it rates on the double rub test, which is a back and forth motion that approximates the wear and tear that comes from someone sitting down or getting up from an upholstered seat.

3,000 double rubs equals one year’s worth of use.


HD or Heavy Duty

If a fabric holds up to more than 15,000 double rubs it is classified as heavy duty. It will be stiffer and thicker than most fabrics, but fortunately there are some also some new blends in this rating. They can be supple and soft enough so that it is hard to tell. HD fabric would be a good choice for family room furniture.


MD or Medium Duty

Medium duty fabric can withstand 9,000 to 15,000 double rubs. Usually, the closer the fabric get to 15,000 the stiffer it is. Medium duty fabrics are versatile and can be used for many purposes, and in family rooms as well as living rooms.


LD or Light Duty

A fabric that can take anywhere between 3,000 to 9,000 double rubs, is classified as light duty fabric. These fabrics can withstand one to three years of regular use and are generally very delicate. They are suitable for pieces that get only occasional use, such as sofas that only get used when guests arrive, or an occasional chair that is used more for its looks than any functionality.


DD or Delicate Duty

Delicate duty fabrics with 3,000 double should only be used on furniture that is purely decorative, or in pillows.

Woven patterns hold up longer than printed ones, as do higher thread counts and tight weaves. Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch of fabric, and denser fabric lasts longer.


Fabric Style

Each fabric has its own style, so choose one that will look good not only in your home but also on the sofa you are choosing.

  • Your fabric choice should approximate the style and character of the piece it is covering. For example, a traditional fabric would look better on a traditional style of frame. That said, if you have an adventurous sense of style and know how to merge two seemingly discrepant ones together, go for it.
  • Some fabrics appear casual, while others look more formal. Choose a fabric that echoes the theme that you have established throughout the project.
  • Consider the scale of the pattern. It should be appropriate to the size of the furniture it is covering, as well as the room size. A large bold, pattern might work better in a larger room, while a more muted or smaller one might be a better choice for a smaller space.

Special Considerations

There are some other factors that you should consider before you make a selection. And these have to do with the environment in which you’ll be placing your couch. Does your room get a lot of sun, or is there any dampness? Are there pets who share the furniture with you? Does anyone suffer from allergies?

  • Fade Resistance: Consider if your fabric is fade resistant especially if it will be placed in a room that gets plenty of sunlight, or will be placed close to a window.
  • Mildew Resistance: Look for fabric that is mildew resistant if you live in a humid climate that fosters mildew.
  • Allergies: Consider fabric such as microfiber for certain allergies because it is lint free and does not attract dust.