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Fabrics

Recovering a piece of furniture can require a lot of yardage. Most decorator fabrics are 54″ wide. If you select a solid color or textured fabric, it will take less fabric for the project then if you select a fabric with a pattern or stripe.  A single inch difference in the width of the chair can change the yardage requirement by as much as 50%.

It is important before purchasing fabric for your project that your upholsterer has seen at least a photo of your furniture and knows the dimensions. It is equally important that your upholsterer knows the width of the fabric you’ve selected. Lastly, if your fabric has any type of pattern as in a stripe, check, dot, vine or flower, make sure that the upholsterer is aware of the size of the repeat in the design so that they can adjust the yardage requirement specifically for your furniture and fabric.

Using a solid color or all over textured fabric as a base line, your average sofa will need between 18 and 22 yards of fabric. A loveseat usually needs between 14 to 18 yards; a club chair will need 7 to 9 yards and an ottoman about 4 yards. A set of six dining chair can usually be cut from 2.5-4 yards. Patterned fabrics will  increase the yardage requirement by as much as 30%. This will allow your upholsterer to properly center and match the pattern where the seams come together.

Remember that the size and style of the furniture and the fabric that you select will affect the amount of fabric needed.

Our showroom displays over 400 fabric sample books. We have accounts with most of the major designer fabric companies. You can borrow books to view in your own home. We also can order larger fabric samples to help make your selection easier. However, it is not necessary to purchase fabric from us. We do not charge a cutting or COM (Customers Own Fabric) fee.

Finding the perfect fabric to compliment your other furniture, wall color, rugs or your artwork requires patience. Take your time; do not rush into making a quick selection. Settling on a fabric when it is not just right is never a good option.

There are many things to consider when choosing your fabric: color, durability, texture, patterned or solid, size and scale of furniture it is going on, and of course price. 

Luckily today there are so many different choices in not only color and pattern but also the types of fabric such as: Chenille, Corduroy, Crewel, Crypton, Denim/Twill, Grosspoint, Jacquards, Leather, Matelasse, Mohair, Print, Suede, Silk, Sunbrella, Tapestry, Ultrasuede, Velvet, and Vinyl.

We carry sample books from the companies listed below, in addition we can order fabric from a company if you find fabric elsewhere.

Robert Allen Fabrics, Avant Garde,  Barrow, Calvin, Duralee Fabrics, Greenhouse Fabrics, Italian Fabrics, J. F. Fabrics, Kravet Fabrics, Krupnick Brothers, Latimer Alexander, Maxwell Fabrics, Michael Jon Designs, Moygashel Linens, Norbar Fabrics, Pacific Hide and Leather, Pindler & Pindler, Silver State, CF Stinson, Sunbrella, Stout Brothers, Stroheim and Romann, Thibaut Designs, United Fabrics.

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To Reupholster or to Slipcover

Slipcovers vs. Reupholstery. This is a common question at Michael’s. Reupholstery is more costly because all of the old fabric is removed from the furniture. We then re-pad the frame with a new layer of Dacron or cotton and apply the new fabric. Separate zippered covers are sewn for the cushions and the end result is a smooth, tailored like-new piece of furniture.

Slipcovers are less expensive then reupholstering, not because the person doing the work is any less skilled then an upholsterer but because none of the old fabric is removed from the frame, less time is spent on the project.  We cut and sew our slipcovers to individually fit each piece of furniture, similar to having a suit custom tailored for you. We can either fit the cover with a snug or tailored fit which will resemble an upholstered piece the best or we can make the cover looser in fit, more like the “Shabby Chic” look.

The benefit of a slipcover is that you can remove the cover for washing or dry cleaning. The cover can also come off and you can use the original fabric that is under the slipcover. This is any easy way to achieve two “looks” in your home. You can have a dark or heavy fabric for the fall and winter months and then switch to a light colored fabric for the spring and summer.

Slipcovers tend to have a more casual appearance. Even the most carefully fitted cover will not be as crisp and tailored as an upholstered piece.

Some furniture is not appropriate for slipcovers. Leather chairs and sofa’s are not good candidates as the fabric of the slipcover will tend to slip around over the leather.  Furniture with a lot of curves or details like diamond tufting and channels are also not the best candidates as the slipcover will go over the tufting and channels and the results are a bit lumpy looking.

If your furniture needs to have the springs repaired then reupholstery is a better option. Most spring repairs require removing the fabric from the seating area to gain access to the springs. If we are reupholstering the piece, we do remove the fabric but not when making slipcovers. 

If your chair or sofa is in good condition but you don’t like or are tired of the fabric, then a slipcover is a good option.

Slipcovers can be sewn from most of the same fabrics as we use for reupholstery. Heavy mohair velvets, leather or faux leather are not appropriate but we can make slipcovers from cotton, linen, velvet, tapestry and print fabrics.  If you want to machine was your slipcover then we recommend that the fabric be professionally washed, dried and pressed before we make the slipcover. Fabrics that have not been prewashed will require professional dry cleaning so that the covers do not shrink.

A well made slipcover will give new life to an out of date or tired piece of furniture without breaking the bank.

A Collection of Recent Slipcover Projects From Michael’s Upholstery

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Indoor/Outdoor Fabrics

Bright lime green cushions and pillows with a pop of orange are cheery even on a cold grey day

Indoor/Outdoor fabrics are fabrics woven from fibers that have specific inherent properties which make them suitable for outdoor use. These properties include being stain resistant, mildew resistant, water repellant and fade resistant. Most indoor/outdoor fabrics are made from acrylic although polyester is another common fiber.

Our clients are seeking attractive, well designed fabrics that hold up to the elements without sacrificing style.  The solution dyed acrylic fabrics have a good hand, allow for rich colors and are still soft and breathable for comfort.   In recent years, the traditional outdoor look in fabrics is evolving towards an indoor look. We are seeing fewer traditional awning stripes and more dots, tropical patterns, jacquards, geometric designs and even velvet and chenille textures. These fabrics blend well with interior as well as outdoor usage.

Examples of Outdoor Fabrics

Fade Resistance: The key to the popularity of these fabrics is their resistance to fading. The acrylic or polyester fibers are solution dyed. This means that the color is put into the material when it is a liquid. This makes the color an inherent part of the fabric, not something that is added later on.  Most indoor/outdoor fabrics have a guarantee to not fade for 3-10 years depending on the pattern.

Crisp black, pink and white stripes and graphic patterns are an unusual color palette for indoor/outdoor fabrics.

Clean-ability: The clean-ability of the indoor/outdoor fabrics is another key to their popularity. Most of these fabrics are inherently stain resistant. The cleaning instructions are to use a mild detergent and cold water for spot cleaning. If this fabric is used outdoors, it can be hosed off. For stubborn stains or spills, a mild bleach solution can be use without damaging the fabric or the color.

Tips for Cleaning Outdoor Furniture

Uses: There are two basic types of indoor/outdoor fabrics. One is an awning weight, the other is a furniture weight intended for cushions and upholstery. The awing weight is stiff and is best used  for outdoor cushions, boats and awnings. The awning weight is only available in solids and stripes. The basic furniture fabrics include a great selection of solid plain (low texture) canvas’s, a wide variety of  textures more similar to linen types of fabrics as well as stripes, jacquards and tapestry patterns that resemble high end decorator fabrics. There is a limited selection of soft chenille fabrics too.

This chaise lounge sites in a sunny window. Perennial’s indoor/outdoor fabric was the perfect solution to avoid fading.

Trims: There is a good selection of cords, tapes and brush fringes designed to coordinate with the indoor/outdoor fabric collections. These trims are made from the same type of acrylic fibers and have the same characteristics as the fabrics.

The best known brand for these types of fabrics is Sunbrella. Sunbrella was developed in the early 1960’s as an alternative to cotton canvas. The acrylic canvas was originally used for awnings. In the 1970’s the Sunbrella marine fabrics were used on boats and outdoor cushions. In the 1980’s, Subrella introduced a line of furniture weight fabrics and in 2002, Sunbrella expanded into residential fabrics that can be used indoors or outdoors.

Today, most decorator fabric companies have their own line of indoor/outdoor fabrics, many of them manufactured by the Sunbrella company. Michael’s carries the indoor/outdoor fabrics from Greenhouse Design, Robert Allen, Kravet, Maxwell, Duralee, Fabricut, Silver State, Pindler and Pindler, Perennial’s, Norbar Fabrics, United Fabrics, Avant Garde and Stout.

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Cushion Fill

Furniture cushions can be stuffed with latex or poly foam, Dacron, cotton, springs, wool, feather/down blends or a combination of any two

Different types of cushion filling will affect not only how your cushion feels but also how it looks

or more of these products. At Michael’s Custom Built Upholstery, we work with each client on an individual basis to determine what type of filling will best suit their needs. Our goal is to individualize our client’s level of comfort to ensure that their furniture is as comfortable as possible for them.

THE BEST:
• Poly/Down seats cushions have a foam core with an envelope of 25/75 down. The foam provides the support, the down provides the “awww” when you sit down. At Michael’s we custom cut, sew and stuff each envelope for each individual piece of furniture. By using different thicknesses and densities of foam, we can customize the cushion for each client. We can also use a spring insert in place of the foam insert. This produces a cushion with a medium to firm density.

Grey Duck down and feathers blended for cushion filling

• 25/75 Down backs are a solid down cushion. At Michael’s we custom cut, sew and stuff each back cushion for each individual piece of furniture. The cushions fillers are made from 100% cotton down proof ticking and include individually sewn baffles. The baffles keep the down in it’s own section of the cushion providing even support throughout. This also helps to keep the cushions from looking soft or lumpy since the down is separated into areas of the cushion so it cannot settle at the bottom.  This enables us to make a cushion that provides the ultimate support and comfort at the same

Cluster poly fiber is an alternative to down filling, it is also good for outdoor use

THE MIDDLE:
• Foam and Dacron seat cushion are a latex or poly foam with a wrap of Dacron batting. Foam is available in a variety of densities and thicknesses. Foam by itself looks hard and flat. At Michael’s we use a wrap of Dacron or wool to take the hard edge off of the foam and to provide a bit of crown or belly to the cushion. The foam products can be expensive but are also easy to work with and do not require as much labor as a down cushion.
• Foam and Dacron back cushions are created in the same manner as a seat cushion using a softer density foam then one used for seat cushions.

• Dacron back cushions are created using a fabric casing that we cut and sew with baffles in the same manner as the down blend cushions. We stuff the casing with a cluster Dacron fiber. The cluster dacron resembles small soft snow balls. Similar to the down, we are able to adjust the density of the cushion by adjusting how much fiber is put into the cover. The cluster Dacron is a good alternative for down to people who have down allergies. The Dacron is also good for outdoor use since it does not mildew if it gets damp or wet.
THE WORST:
At Michael’s we never use the worst filling combinations but we do a lot of work with our clients fixing and replacing the fill in the cushions on their furniture. We see cheap foam, Dacron inserts with no separate cover, down blends of 5% feather and 95% down (lots of long quills-not very soft and resilient) and the worst combination of all, a combination of a down blend mixed with Dacron.
This Dacron/Feather blend is commonly sold as a “down upgrade” and what we find most unfortunate, is that the clients don’t understand exactly what they’ve upgraded to, it just sounds good. What happens with this type of filling is that the Dacron clumps up, the feathers stick to the clumps and the whole cushion gets lumpy, bumpy and uncomfortable.

At Michael’s you can be sure that we’ll figure out what is in your cushions now and then help you decide what filling we should use to replace the old fill. We will work with you and your budget so that you go home with comfortable cushions made with quality products that will last years of regular use.

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How to Select an Upholsterer

If you don’t live in the San Francisco Bay Area (where Michael’s Custom Built Upholstery is located), here are some tips in selecting a furniture upholsterer.

When looking for a shop to reupholster your furniture, you want to find a business that you feel comfortable working with. Reupholstering your furniture can be a costly project and for most people, one that they’re going to be living with for some time. 

First, I’d ask around. See if you can find a family member, neighbor or friend that has had upholstery work done locally. Ask at local fabric stores or a carpet and furniture cleaner to see if they have a shop they can refer you to. If you are still in the dark about what shop to use, here is what you should expect from a good reliable upholsterer:

     • Ask for a quote in writing. Ask how long the job will take. Most pieces are in our shop for less then 3 weeks. We do not want to store furniture longer then necessary so we schedule our jobs carefully and get the pieces in and out as quickly as possible. Furniture that requires frame or spring repairs, all new filling or wood work may take up to a month. New furniture takes 6-10 weeks depending on the piece.

     • Ask to see some of their work. We have a large photo portfolio but we don’t keep many pieces here in our shop on display. What we do have is ongoing projects in the shop.

Upholsterer working on a partially upholstered club chair

If you were to stop in, I could show you pieces that we haven’t started, pieces that are being worked on as well as finished pieces waiting for delivery. We welcome our clients into our work area (not wandering freely because we have lots of sharp edges and all) but I take people back regularly and show them what we do. You should be able to really look closely at a piece of furniture to check out the craftsmanship.

     • Ask the shop if they remove all of the old fabric. Our shop removes the old fabric (sometimes multiple layers) and then we repad the frame with a layer of Dacron. If needed, we can entirely repad a piece, stripping all the way down to the frame. This is not usually necessary but if a piece has been damaged by water/mildew or pets then we strip away all of the old padding and start new from the frame. We also include wrapping the cushions with a layer of Dacron in our labor price

Antique chair, stripped for spring repair

      • Ask about spring reties and rewebbing. We reweb with jute webbing, going over the existing webbing. Thesprings are then hand tied from above. This involves peeling back the burlap and other padding on the seat deck area. This padding then has to be put back into place before the new fabric is put onto the furniture.

      • There should be evidence in the shop of new filling (foam/Dacron/down). Some shops cut their own foamand make their own down inserts, other shops order their new fillers from an off site company. You should be able to see some new cushions. Ask to see samples of different types of fill. We have samples for our customers to test sit on. If they don’t have samples handy, you should be allowed to try out different fillings on your sofa before you commit to one type.

 

Completed wing chairs in plastic awaiting delivery

• When you look at the finished furniture, you want to look for smooth seams, no unnecessary puckers, bumps or bulges. If there is a pattern of any type, it should match on the front seam of the cushions. Stripes should line up, patterns should be centered.  Completed furniture should be in a protective cover.

Our shop is a bit unusual because we have an office staff with training in interior design. We help our clients select fabric, make style changes etc. Most upholstery shops are run by the owner/upholsterer and while they may be very good at what they do with your furniture, customer service may not be their strength.

 We do our work on site so that our clients can visit their furniture while it’s being reupholstered. If we are repairing the springs on a chair of sofa, I will have the client come in to test sit cushion samples after the repair is finished.  Avoid businesses that are sending your furniture somewhere where you can’t check in on it. You want to make sure that you can either talk directly to the person who will be working on your furniture or talk with someone who is managing the shop (most of my upholsterers were not born in the US) but if you speak Spanish or Mandarin, then you are welcome to speak directly with my upholsterers!

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