If you’re decorating for the first time, or simply replacing some outdated items in your home, it’s likely that one of the largest components will be fabric of some sort. Perhaps you’re using your DIY skills for the transformation, or alternatively, working with a decorator who will outsource the sewing details. Either way, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into when selecting yardage for the new look. Take a walk down the home decor aisles of your favorite fabric store with eyes open.

Weights

Home decor fabrics come in a variety of weights, and the selection depends on their end use — from soft, flowing nursery curtains to rugged den upholstery.

Feel the variety of home decor fabrics, from wispy sheers to tightly woven denims, faux suedes and shiny silks. All can be used for home decor purposes. So be clear on the intended use before shopping, and look for weights that seem to fit the project.

Finishes

Unlike fashion fabrics, home decor fabrics are frequently treated with finishes to improve their durability. Check the labels on the end of the bolt or roll for a detailing of the special treatments. Common finishes include stain resisters (such as Scotchgard or Teflon — great for tablecloths), water-repellent treatments or, for outdoor use, UV-resistant finishes.

Some applied finishes affect the fabric care instructions, so double-check the label for particulars. Also note whether the finish is permanent or needs to be reapplied after cleaning.

Surface texture

There are many options in surface textures on home decor fabrics, and knowing the end use will help you make the right choice. Items that will get constant use, such as pillows in the family room, will wear longer with flat-finish surfaces, as opposed to loops (which snag) and pile (which can wear thin). Shiny silks with long thread floats are easily snagged by not only humans, but pets, too, so reserve those for areas out of reach. Basic rule: Always consider the fabric’s intended purpose.

Backings

Also, unlike garment fabrics, some decor offerings have backings to make them more durable. In some instances, a light layer of foam might be noticeable on the underside for insulation (common with drapery fabrics), or thin layers of batting or other padding can often be found on upholstery yardage.

Design repeat

All print fabrics have a design repeat — that distance from where one motif repeats itself along the fabric length during the printing process. It’s more obvious in some fabrics than others, and with large prints, the repeat can be up to a yard. Some home decor fabrics list the repeat on the fabric edge; on others, you’ll need to measure.

Why is the repeat important? You might need extra fabric to match the design if you’re making something large, such as slipcovers or drapes. The fabric store clerk will be able to help you figure the pattern repeat and can assist with determining how much extra fabric might be needed for the project.

Width

Home decor fabrics are almost always wider than most garment-sewing fabrics due to their very nature. This makes for fewer seams that require pattern matching (and thus additional yardage).

You might find similar fabrics in both the fashion area and the home decor area, with the latter being wider. (Note to garment sewers: Nothing says you can’t shop for fabric in the home decor section of the fabric store and perhaps score a wider version of your silk or faux suede at substantial savings.)

Home decor fabrics, depending on the type, are generally 45 inches up to 110 inches wide.

Care

Be sure to read the care instructions on all fabrics before buying. Depending on the use, some pieces might be washable; others might require dry cleaning. Still others might only be spot cleaned or cleaned by professionals. It’s always good to know what you’re getting into as far as care expense.

Selvedge cues

The edges of woven fabric are called selvedges, and on home decor fabrics, they offer detailed clues about colors used in the fabric print — each circle is a screened color. If you’re in doubt as to what colors go with what, take a cute from the selvedges for colors included in the print that can be possible coordinates.

A background print color can easily become the neutral in your room’s color scheme.

Groupings

Most decor fabrics are part of a single assortment printed by the manufacturer that offers ready-made coordinates. For example, a grouping might have three to five prints in varying scales and some solids and/or stripes in varying weights and fabric types, suitable for draperies, curtains, pillows and/or upholstery. If you’re shy about pattern mixing on your own, stay within the grouping for sure success.

If you’re buying fabric from a name-brand company that also has ready-made items, you can coordinate what you make with something purchased. For example, Waverly sells fabric and sheets, pillows, wallpaper and paint.

Mood

Before you go fabric shopping, know the mood you want to convey in the room. Is it traditional or contemporary? Is it formal or casual? Different fabrics evoke different moods. Ticking is definitely casual, while brocade is unquestionably formal.

Special ordering

Many stores have some home decor fabrics in stock and offer hundreds of others by means of special order, delivered within a few days or weeks. For special-order fabrics, you’ll be seeing reasonable-sized swatches of the goods on what’s called a header card — a cardboard hanger with details of the fabric fiber content, width, finishes, etc. Some stores will allow you to check out the header cards and take them home to see how they look in your room before you place your order.

The big purchase

Because most home decor items take a large amount of yardage, it’s important to make the purchase all at once to ensure matching dye lots and reduce the need for piecing or added seams. Be sure you’ve determined accurate yardage requirements, and buy a little extra if you’re not sure, or if you plan to make accessories such as pillows, furniture arm protectors, etc.

— Reporter: gwizdesigns@aol.com

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