Upholstery Fabrics

Links to articles about upholstery fabrics and working with upholstery fabrics are below

Pattern Matching

Types of Fabric Pattern Matching

matching on a sofaUpholstery fabrics come in a variety of patterns and designs, such as plain, all over designs, stripes, plaids, bouquet designs, geometric, random, continuous stems, or even a mixture of several of these. Many upholstery materials do not require any matching, while others won't look good if they aren't matched. Still other fabric patterns can look good matched or unmatched. Whether the upholsterer matches those fabrics will depend upon the client's preferences. The amount of matching done by the upholsterer will depend upon the upholsterer's skill level (For more information about upholsterer types, click here ), the size and type of the actual pattern, the shape and dimensions of the furniture, the client's preferences, and the costs involved. In some cases, pattern matching can add considerable yardage and extra labor costs to the upholstery job.

Levels of Pattern Matching: Some Upholsterers only match those areas that show from the front. Other upholsterers may do various levels of matching, some may match all seams and joints all around the sofa. Upholsterers generally do the level of matching that they are comfortable with, or proficient with. When getting estimates and comparing prices, ask what type and level of matching they do. Keep in mind that the higher level of pattern matching an upholsterer does, the more planning and work it takes and the higher the price. Also consider, what are your expectations and desires about pattern matching? What is your budget? Are your expectations within what you are willing to pay? If you have any concerns about the quality or level of matching you expect, ask to see some of the upholsterer's work or to see some pictures.

Unmatched. specify using fabrics than don't require any matching of fabric patterns. These include fabrics that are plain, such as tweeds, or "all-over" type of prints, or random type patterns.

Vertical Stripe: Generally refers to fabrics that have vertical bands of solid color. We match stripes vertically as much as reasonably possible. (some stripes may not be fully matched in some instances.) Welts will not be matched but can be made out of one of the stripes, or colored or floral parts of the fabric or The welts can be made out of different fabric.)

Vertical Pattern: We Match patterns vertically (keeping each pattern in the same center of pattern) as much as reasonably possible. (This is not a waterfall or flow match) (some patterns may not be fully vertically matched in some instances.) Welts will not be matched but are just made out of various parts of the pattern of the fabric or can be made out of different fabric.)

Horizontal Stripe Chair


Horizontal Stripe Generally refers to fabrics that have vertical bands of solid color. We match stripes horizontally as much as reasonably possible. (some stripes may not be fully matched in some instances.) Welts will not be matched but are to be made out of one of the stripes, or colored or of the fabric or can be made out of different fabric.)


Center Pattern ..... Center patterns as much as reasonably possible. Patterns will be centered on each piece and on the runners, as much as reasonably possible, as determined by the upholsterer. (in some cases some patterns may not be fully centered.) Welts will not be matched.

Waterfall (or Flow Match) Refers to (as much as reasonably possible) to patmat1dhave the fabric pattern flowing continuously from the top of the sofa, down the front of the inside backrest, down to the cushions, over the front of the cushions down the skirt clear to the floor.

The picture shows a sofa where each cushioned seating area is treated as an individual waterfall match. The patterns of each section are aligned to be at the same height on each cushion, but the pattern does not flow across the cushions sided to side.

Other waterfall type matches may flow from top to bottom (as explained 10campbellabove) but the pattern will also flow across the cushions and seams side to side. Click on the picture of the bouquet design loveseat to see the other pictures which show how the Engel Pattern Match Sofa pattern flows both from top to bottom and across the seams side to side all around the loveseat. With that said, not all seams and divisions will be matched in all directions.


When ordered, we match patterns as much as reasonably possible. (some patterns may not be fully matched in some instances.) Welts will not be matched. If requested Welts can be made out of a different fabric.

scanaPlaids refer to patterns that have solid bands of color going both vertically and horizontally. Some other patterns can also fall in the plaid type of patterns, such as fabric having small patterns (circles, squares, diamonds, bouquets, etc.) going both ways. As an example, the loveseat used in the "Waterfall" pattern above is also a "plaid match" of a sort. The bouquets run vertically and horizontally, the same as a plaid.

During the reupholstery process, when ordered, the pattern is matched both ways as much as reasonably possible. Some of the plaid stripes may not be fully matched in some instances. Welts are not matched but should be cut on the diagonal or can be made out of different fabric.

Determining Yardage : For info about figuring yardage, go here .

See Links below

Estimating Fabric for a Pattern Match


How do you estimate yardage on a large patterned fabric?

First, You need to find out if the fabric is railroaded or not. If the fabric is not railroaded, then you will have to cut the pieces with the top of each piece going up the roll. For this article, it is assumed that you will be cutting the fabric up the roll. If the furniture is a sofa, and if it only has one cushion, you will probably have to put seams on both sides of the cushion, on the cushion boxing, on the Inside Back and on the Outside Back. You need to talk over with the client whether they want the sofa a.) seamed in the middle, or b.) centered the fabric on the sofa and seam it along the outside edges of the fabric. Lately my last customers have preferred to have option b. However, this is a personal choice best left to your client.

Measuring by the ruler

In figuring out how much fabric to or, my basic guideline is to add 1/2 repeat to 1 full repeat at the beginning of the roll for possible shipping damage and for an allowance to align the center the one piece on the fabric where needed.Then measure and write down the sizes of all the pieces, allowing your normal "non-matching" stapling allowance all the way around. (I generally allow at least 2"-3" on a stapled edge (except allow 1" on the top edge attached with a tack strip). 

If you will be ordering a contrasting fabric, then you might also measure every piece of cording and allow at least 6 or 8 inches to the length so that you can figure how much yardage needed for the welts. Don't bother about matching the welts. I generally cut the welts out of scraps, try to cut them out an are that has a muted part of the pattern. Another option is to have client order a fabric that resembles the background for the cording.

When you have your finished list of measurements, you can just do a rough calculation. First determine whether you will be able to cut each piece out of 1 width or 2 widths of fabric. Except for very small furniture, most of your cut pieces will be over 27" wide. The means that every cut piece will need at least a full pattern repeat. If any piece is cut piece is taller than the pattern repeat, then that piece will take at least 2 repeats in height. In addition, those pieces that are over 54" wide (and less than one verticle pattern repeat) need 2 widths of fabric and will require 2 verticle pattern repeats each. If they are taller than the pattern repeat then they would need 4 verticle pattern repeats each. When figuring the height for pattern repeat, don't include your stretcher cloth allowance as part of your verticle height on the Inside Back or Inside Arms. (Sometimes that would cause you to figure additional verticle pattern repeats.)

For example, if your cushion is 23" deep by 72" wide, your fabric is 54" wide and your pattern repeat is 35" high by 24" wide. Your 23"cushions are shorter than your 35" verticle repeat, then your cushions would need one verticle repeat high, but would need 2 cut-widths per side, which is 4 cut-widths. Remember you need one pattern repeat high (35") for each cut width. Now, if you want to pattern match the front boxing of the cushion, you will have to also treat it like you did the side. Even though it might only be 4 to 6 inches tall, you will still need a 2 cut widths for it. So, we have 2 cut widths per side times 2 sides + 2 cut widths on the front boxing = 6 pattern repeats. (6 repeats X 35" repeat =  210 inches = almost 6 yards for the cushion itself. (A note should be said here that sometimes the boxing can be cut out of the extra part of the repeat (35" - 23" = 12"), but that is not always possible, so we won't include that option here.) the side boxing and the zipper pieces can usually be cut out of these or other scraps.

When you have added up all the needed verticle pattern repeats, multiply them out, including the fabric allowances, and divide by 36 to get the approximate number of yards estimated.

Eyeball Measuring

Once you have mastered the above Measuring by the Ruler, you can do it mostly with your eyeballs. Examine each piece with your eyes (Eyeballing) and mentally assess how many verticle repeats it will take. If it is close, go ahead and measure that piece.  With a little practice, you can often do some rough yardage figuring in your head, while writing down your figures on your notepad. 

Final Allowance

Then I would allow another 10% to 20% of extra fabric for "Whatever". You never know how many times I used that "extra fabric" because I forgot to incude something, or made a mistake. The basic guideline here is to order more than you think you need. The larger the verticle repeat of the fabric, the larger the allowance that you should have. If there is one or two flaws in the fabric, and/or if you mess up a repeat or two, you could run short of fabric.

Some Final Thoughts

If I want to just do a quick estimate, using this method I will just I can just quickly count up all the vertical pattern repeats, multiply how many yards (while adding the allowances mentioned at the beginning and the bottom of this article. this will give you a rough idea of how many yards that you will need. Then, don't forget to charge extra for the extra time on your labor.

Then you might be thinking, "This is going to take a lot of fabric! This is going to cost a lot!, etc." When I give an estimate that is going to be very expensive, I also give at least one or two lower cost estimates (fabric with no matching, etc.) that I include with my expensive estimate. (My Excel Estimate form has up to 4 columns where I give the comparative estimates side by side. When I present it to them I point to the column that give the price for the service requested. If I sense any sign of the price being too high, then I also point out their other options.



Matching Floral Print At The Seam With Pins

Matching Floral Patterns

Author's Note: this is a time consuming way to match patterns. I have since learned an easier better way. Hope to write about that in the future.

I read about this method in a sewing book once. Have been using this method ever since.
The following instructions go with the slide show, basically, you:

This picture shows two fabric pieces which have been placed sided by side. The pattern on the two pieces overlap by a few inches. Note, on picture (which you can see better on IMG 1616 of the slide show) I've placed two vertical lines (near the center of the picture) on the fabric only to show where the pattern lines up, DON'T draw a line there on your fabric.







Fold one end under by about 2" and iron a crease along the edge.




- This step is Optional - Sometimes the crease at the fold doesn't show up very well. If this is the case: Using a pencil, marker, etc. draw a line at the center of the underside creased (careful that you don't use something that will show or bleed through the fabric). This line will help you when you are sewing the fabrics together.







Here's where you match the patterns: Carefully and precisely align the folded fabric over the top of the other fabric







Space pins close to the edge of the fold every inch or two. Here you are pinning the matched patterns in place. Lean the pin sideways to get the tops as low as possible .

Take the edge of the top fabric and lay the whole fabric on top of the other, exposing the underside of where it is pinned.

Pin the fabric edges together about 1/2" from the fold. Put the pins close together, almost like making a seam with the pins. You are staying just far enough from the creased fold to allow the space for the sewing machine foot.


When finished pinning, fold the top fabric back over, exposing the topside pins.

Remove those pins on the top side.

Take fabric to the sewing machine. Sew along the crease/mark. Careful to sew "EXACTLY" on the line.
Remove pins. (you can remove them as you sew)


When finished sewing, check the alignment of the fabric.

Trim the back side of the seam to have about 1/2" to 3/4" seam allowance.

Lay fabric face down on a padded table.

Pin each end of the seam, stretching it tight.

 Iron the seam allowances flat, each on it's own side.

Turn over and inspect. These two pictures show both a wider view and a close up view of the matched seam, which runs vertically through the middle of the blue flower



Another way, similar to the above, use Elmer's purple glue instead of the pins.
Sewing matching repeats


Matching Stripes in a Corner

Stripes at Corner Seams

  There are probably numerous thoughts about and ways to join the stripes at the Inside Back (IB) to the Inside Arm (IA) corner, and each of them may have merit. This is how I'd probably do it.

    You will want to center all the stripes at the center of the sofa, and then match the stripes outwards from the center.

Sew the Seat and IB Together First
     To get the stripes to fit correctly at the IA-IB corner, I'd fit and sew the Seat and Inside Back (IB) before I did the IA. On this type of sofa, you could probably seam the seats at either the center or at the legs. If if was a plain or all-over pattern fabric, I'd join it at the legs. However, since this is a stripe, I would suggest you put one seam in the center of the IB and seat top. (Cut 2 full width fabric pieces for both the seat and the IB.) When you sew the fabric together in the middle, take care to put the center seam at the edge of the stripes. You should be able to sew the fabric panels of both the IB and seat so that the repeat pattern of  the stripes continues and looks consistent  from one side of the seams to the other. 
     After sewing, then go ahead and attach the seat fabric to the sofa. When centering the seat, don’t use the seam as the center, but use the stripe next to the seam as the center. This will allow the stripes at the IB-IA corners to match on both sides of the sofa.

Then Join the Arms
   At this point you should have the two halves of the IB sewed together, use a couple staples to tack the fabric in place (so that the IB fabric doesn't move) while you are fitting the IB. (Line up the center carefully before tacking, and use the same center as you did on the seat, the stripe next to the seam)
   To fit the IA to the IB, I would suggest that you find the center of the curve (where the inside back (IB) meets the inside arm (IA) from top to the bottom and then reposition the seam so that it follows the center of the curve. Then line up your stripes so that the stripes on both the IA & IB look the same. You will need to fold seam edge of  the IA fabric enough so that it matches the IB stripes. This is the way I’d match the stripes at the IA-IB corner:


Matching a Non-Reversible Plaid


When reupholstering a piece of furniture in a plaid, the upholsterer tries to match all the stripes in both directions. However, when working with a non-reversible plaid, this becomes especially challenging. An uneven plaid has the non-reversible horizontal and vertical stripes. This means the plaid stripes won't match at any joints when the fabric has to be put on upside down. Then the challenge begins,"How do you match a plaid when the stripes don't match upside down?" In addition to that, because the upholsterer thinks that all the stripes should match in all directions, he/she may also think that the client expects the stripes to match in all directions. This makes a challenging job a lot more stressfull.

First thing that you have to do is "Get rid of unrealistic expectations!" You can't do what is not possible. You are stressing out over what you expect, but which isn't possible. Perfectionism will stop you every time.

Now, what can you do. I like to do some planning and prep work before I start a challenging job. This would involve thinking out and laying out what can and what can't be done. Once you've done the layout work, and the writing (as described below) you'll have a better idea of what can be done, and how to present it to the decorator.

Yes, you can match the stripes, but not in the way that you would like to. First you have figure out what is possible. On the fabric pick out the most dominant vertical and horizontal stripes. Use them as your center. (sometime you will use a particular stripe as the center, and sometimes you will center between those stripes. Now unroll the fabric enough so that you can fold it to put the upside down edges against one another. Line up your chose dominant stripes and see how they align upside down. Then try moving the alignment one way and the other so see what stripes might look best when matched upside down. Do this on both the vertical and horizontal stripes.

Once you have how the pattern might line up upside own, then I would lay the fabric on the sofa on the various challenging spots, taking pictures as I go. Unroll fabric enough, and fold it, so that you get a semblance of how the inside and outside arms will flow together. What I mean by that is, for example, lay the fabric over the inside arms and then unroll the fabric enough so that you can put a piece of the fabric on the outside arms, pin both in place enough so that you can get some pictures. Do this all over the sofa at each place where two fabrics will come together.

Next, write up a clear description of what you can do and what you can't do with the fabric on the sofa. Perhaps say something like, "Front of sofa and top of cushions will match, but outside arms, etc. won't match." The writing should be specific enough to tell what you can do can't do, but vague  enough so that it will give you some leeway. Once you have it written up, I might have the customer or designer sign it. But even if you don't have her sign it, it will help you to talk more confidently when you talk with the client or designer about what you can and can't do.

Once you have an idea of what is possible, I would call the customer or designer and have her come out to you shop to see the fabric and the sofa. show her the pictures and explain the situation. If necessary or if helpful, lay the fabric on the sofa as you did previously for yourself. Tell her what is possible. Ask what her thoughts are. Work out the details of what the job will be. Write down what the two of you agree upon. Be realistic with her. don't agree to do anything that isn't possible. (The advantage of doing all the prep work explained above is that you'll be better prepared in discussing the job with the designer. You'll also have a better idea of what you can and can't do so (hopefully) you won't get yourself in a bind by promising something that isn't possible.)

Plaid Matching

This 10 minute video is a rough draft of part 1 of a Plaid Matching video. You may watch this short video in Full Screen mode by clicking on the Full Screen button (with the 4 arrows) at the bottom right of the video.

Plaid Match, Starting Point

Here is a clarification of the starting point in plaid match. (This article includes some additional points that weren't made clear in the video.) The plaid in the video is a mirror image or reversible plaid. As I explain further in this article, the basic premise for the video and this article is for using this type of plaid. A one-way plaid would have similar instructions, but would have some differences. Those differences won't be included in the first version of this article.

For a Full Plaid match of a reversible plaid, the center of the cushion boxing has to be the starting point. It is important that the cushion be reversible and that the pattern be centered in the middle of the boxing, both horizontally and vertically. However, the challenge , is that it is important that the seat base is finished and solid before the arms are matched to the cushion. However, the plaid fabric for the deck can't be aligned until the pattern placement of the arms have been determined. Consequently it is recommended that you first rebuild the deck (including springs, padding, etc.) first. Then cover the deck with a lining fabric so that all the padding is compressed and held in place. Then you can cut, sew, & stuff the cushion and position it on the covered deck. With the finished cushion in place, you can then align the pattern on the inside of the arms.

It kind of goes like this (after the fabric has been totally removed

When matching a plaid, I recommend that the frame, springs, and padding of the sofa or chair be rebuilt (if needed) before doing any fabric alignment

Next would be to apply a lining fabric on the inside of the deck, inside arms, inside backrest and cushion(s). The idea here is to make sure that all the padding on the inside of the furniture be held firmly in place by the lining and that the lined cushion fits correctly. On sofas with multiple cushions, cut the foam (or other filling) of all the cushions, apply the dacron or other wrap and make the lining cover. Stuff all the cushions in the lining covers, and put them all in place on the sofa before proceeding. The assumption here would be that all the inside is padded and held in place with the lining fabric, including the cushions. And, there will be no additional padding (or anything else) will be added to the inside of the chair or sofa once we start matching and applying the fabric.

I generally make a cutting layout of the fabric before proceeding, but that won't be included in this article at this point.

Before Proceeding, please read the article on Making Upholstery Prototypes.


Cutting the fabric: When you cut the fabric, add one pattern repeat to both the height and the width of every piece. This will allow you to position each piece as needed to match the pattern.



















Using Welt on a Patterned Fabric

I'm putting this message here in response to the question in an email. A lady sent me a picture of her fabric and asked about welt with her fabric. whether or not you use a welt is purely a matter of personal opinion. some people like welts, some down. For the purposes of this message, I will assume that you will be using a welt. For  the small diamond shape pattern that  your picture showed, if you a welt, I normally cut the welts about 1 1/2" wide. For your type of pattern, I'd cut the cording width so that the middle of the 1 1/2" width is the area between the small diamond shaped dots, like this: [img]/drupal/system/files/u1/PatternedWelt.jpg[/img] The idea is that when you are sewing the welt (by putting the welt inside the welt strips and folding the welt strips in half) is to have NO dots on the top of the sewn welts. It is very difficult to keep those dots perfectly on top of the sewn welt, and the dots would look bad if the dots were off center at the top. So it is better to have the area between the dots as the center of the welt strips. If you are using a home sewing maching, and if you are using a heavy weight upholstery fabric, it would be easier to sew the fabric if you don't have a welt. I would suggest that you cut a few scraps of your fabric and sew some seams with the welt. This might answer your question. Stephen

Stain Removal

Stain Removal 

Some good sources for how to remove stains

How To Remove Blood From Carpet

Laundry Stains 101

Working With Difficult Fabrics

How do you handle difficult fabrics. Look at the links to various articles below.

Loosely Woven Fabrics without a backing

How do you work with a loosely woven fabric that has no backing, that easily unravels?
When we ask this question it mainly applies to sewn edges. If you are just covering wraparound dining seats that have no seams, then there isn't much of a problem. All the edges will be stapled in place, so the edges can't unravel.

Now, what do we do with a fabric where we have to keep it in place when we cut it, sew it, and after it is on the furniture? There at least several things that can be done. 

Serging: Some fabrics can be helped by serging around the edges. Cut the fabric at least 1/2 inch larger all the way around the to-be-sewn edges. Then run those edges through the serger at the correct edge.

Spray Backing: There is a product (perhaps there are more) called Sprayway No Fray Spray. (Test on a sample first). Turn your fabric over and spray along all the to-be-sewn edges and allow to dry. Depending on the situation, sometimes it may be advisable to apply several applications, letting it dry between each time. With each application the spray stiffens the fabric and makes it easier to sew and less likely to unravel. (Be sure to use with plenty of good ventilation. Read the health hazards on the label)

Have a Backing Applied to the Fabric. Here is what Custom Laminations has to say about their process:

The purpose of Knit backing of upholstery fabrics involves permanently bonding a knitted poly/cotton fabric backing to the back of fabrics in order to add resiliency and durability while eliminating seam slippage.
KnitBac™ is our Performance Process of knit backing for upholstery fabric. A knitted poly/cotton fabric backing is laminated (or bonded) to the back of your fabric to make the fabric backed product more durable, resilient, and stronger.
By applying the knit backing upholstery process to fabric, it can add longer life to the fabrics and increase the wear while keeping a soft hand.
Upholstery fabrics that can benefit from knit backing including cottons, silks, polyesters, chenilles, and other types of fabrics so check with us to see if our Knit backing upholstery fabrics process works with what you have in mind. Because chances are — it does!
Our knit backing upholstery fabric process makes these lightweight fabrics such as silks, cottons, and chenilles more suitable for upholstery use. Knit backing provides a luxurious feel to fabrics while increasing wear resistance for longer life. In addition, variations in the fabric such as creases, wrinkles, and distortions are minimized by our knit backing upholstery fabric process thereby enhancing the fabric’s visual appeal.