Using Thin Fabrics for Upholstery

Occasionally a client will see a piece of clothing or drapery fabric that they would like to have put on their furniture. Sometimes the low price was so appealing that they found it irresistible.  If you have found what you consider to be the perfect fabric, but it is a thin fabric, here are some things that you need to consider.
Whenever using thin fabric there are additional charges for the extra labor, the lining fabric and other charges.

Here are some of the considerations to think about when you have or saw a thin fabric:

Uneven Padding

Many cotton and other paddings tend to have seeds or other tiny bumps or unevenness in them.  Cotton or other padding often has some variation in color in the padding. Lighter weight fabrics tend to show every bump and unevenness in the padding. Plain lighter colored fabrics tend to show more. The imperfections are tiny or the color is close enough that when using normal weight upholstery fabrics that they don't show. However, those imperfections can show through thin (and especially light colored) fabric unless extra steps are taken.
Heavier upholstery fabrics smoothout and hide any imperfections in the padding without any extra thought or planning.

Need Under Lining

Consequently, if the fabric is thin, and/or unstable, and/or semi-transparent, and/or the padding is not smooth, we may recommend, or require, that the chair first be covered with a heavier lining fabric, such as draper lining. This smoothes out the padding, is a consistant color so no variation show through the thin covering fabric. (See extra costs below)

Sewing Characteristics

Our commercial walking foot sewing machines are specially designed to sew on medium to heavy upholstery fabrics. When used on some light weight fabric they tend to gather and pucker along the seams. In addition, the heavier needles can snag and pull on the thin threads or yarn of the fabric.

Stability - Unraveling

Pick at an edge of the fabric (that is loose and unfinished) Does it easily unravel? If so, the edges might need to be serged or otherwise stabelized. (Extra cost involved.)

Pull Marks

When laying the fabric over the padding and stapling it to the frame, the staples often leave tiny "pull" marks at every staple. On heavier fabrics this is not a problem. To minimize those pull marks we can first cover the furniture in a thicker lining fabric. This lining will take the pressure off the cover. The cover is pulled just tight enough to hold it in place, thus minimizing any tendancy to leave the pull marks where it has been stapled.

Opaque or Transparent?

Some fabric are nice and heavy and have a sturdy backing on them. Many lightweight fabrics are slightly or semi-transparent, which require special handling. How can tell if your fabric is somewhat transparent? If you have a piece of the fabric, lay down a black or very dark object on a white surface. Now, cover that dark object with the fabric. Does the object show as darker through the fabric? Another way you can tell is hold the fabric up to a light and if you can see the light through it. If the fabric is semi-transparent then the chair will needed to be covered in lining before upholstery. (see below for the extra cost).

Weak Fabrics

Thin fabrics, such as clothing fabrics, or drapery fabrics weren’t designed to hold up 100 lbs or 200 lbs or more. Thin fabrics aren't very strong and can rip very easily. These make them more of a challenge to work with. That is one reason we may suggest or require the under lining.

Poor  Durability, Won’t last long

Whenever you see “that perfect fabric”, step out of today and ask yourself, “What will that fabric look like in 5 years, or in 10 years. If the furniture will be used much at all, it will have a very short life.

Extra Costs  Involved.

If we do accept a job that uses thin fabrics it is with certain conditions.
There is an additional labor cost to apply the lining fabric and there is also the additional cost of the lining fabric and any shipping or transporting charges.
In addition, many of the lightweight fabric are semi-transparent and some of the supplies that are used in upholstery are darker and will show through the fabrics. This causes extra work to hide those supplies from showing through.
Depending upon the fabric and the style of the chair, the additional labor costs could be add half again or as much as the upholstery labor costs, in addition to any extra charges for pattern matching or other services.

With this in mind, we reserve the right not to work in any fabric or under any conditions.