How to | Choose the right fabric

With so many different fabrics available, it can sometimes be confusing to know which fabric is suitable for your interior scheme and upholstery requirements. Here we talk through the different fabric options as well as recommended end uses.

Go to:

  • 1. Fabric type - from weaves to embroideries, learn about the different fabric types to choose from
  • 2. Fabric composition - help understanding the best fabric qualities to look out for
  • 3. Fabric end use - how durable the fabric needs to be and understanding the Martindale test
  • 4. Consider your current scheme - ensure you opt for a fabric that ties in well with your look and feel

1. The type of fabric

When choosing fabric, first consider what type of fabric you are looking for. We offer a wide range of fabric types from woven to embroidered and linen to velvet. Below are some of the different types of fabrics depicted by how they are made, each giving its own unique qualities to the fabric:


Woven fabrics are generally thick, heavy and strong, thanks to their intertwining threads that give them structure and rigidity. Weaves make great choices for upholstering chairs, sofas, headboards and more.

Shop woven fabric



Whether hand-block printed or digitally printed, print fabrics come in a wealth of colors, patterns and designs giving you countless options for your interior choice.

Shop printed fabric



A plain fabric can be the perfect choice if you are looking for a complementing fabric to go with your current interior scheme. Available in thousands of colors, plains are extremely versatile and can make a statement without the need for pattern.

Shop plain fabric



Outdoor fabrics are specifically designed to withstand the harsh elements of outdoor exposure, including UV rays and rain. Many are stain repellent and wipe-clean, giving you years of wear.

Shop outdoor fabric



A sheer fabric offers some level of transparency, allowing the viewer to see-through the fabrics threads. They can create a beautiful whimsical feel when hung by doors that lead out into gardens but are delicate in nature and best not used on upholstery.

Shop sheers/voiles



Beautiful intricate patterns can be sewn onto a base cloth using a needle and thread to create embroidered fabrics. These delicate fabrics add an ornate touch to pillows, drapes & shades. We suggest avoiding the use of embroidered fabrics on upholstery.

Shop embroidered fabric


Wide width

Ideal for covering larger areas, wide width fabrics generally are 78 inches or more in width. They can be the perfect choice when making drapery as there will not be a need to create a join in fabrics.

Shop wide-width fabric



Common among wide width fabrics; if a fabric states that the fabric must be railroaded to achieve the design, this means that the design runs across the roll from selvage edge to selvage edge, rather than the more standard way of running “up the roll” parallel to the selvage edge. This quality can be very useful when upholstering something like a sofa, as less waste is produced and less cuts/joins needed.


2. The fabric's composition

As well as the way a fabric has been made, the type/composition of the fabric and its qualities can also be a deciding factor when determining which fabric to choose. Here are some fabric compositions to look out for:


This natural fabric is a favorite among interior designers thanks to it effortless look. It is breathable, drape-able and has exceptional temperature regulating properties. It is also an extremely comfortable fabric, great for upholstery.

Shop linen fabric



Sumptuous velvets tend to be hard wearing with a high martindale score, meaning they are fantastic choices for upholstery but can also provide beautiful heavy drapery for keeping warmth in rooms and bringing luxury and opulence to interiors.

Shop velvet fabric



For a classic statement fabric, suede or faux leather is a fantastic choice. Whether you lean into the fantastic imitation qualities of faux fabrics or prefer the uniqueness of suede, both can create timeless pieces.

Shop suede/faux fabric



A cozy and soft fabric, wool is most commonly used in more traditional schemes. It is durable, water repellent and well-insulating. 

Shop wool fabric



Known for its luxurious qualities, silk fabric has a beautifully soft feel and lightweight quality to it. The crease-proof qualities of silk make it a good choice for flowing drapery that instantly adds an elegant touch to any interior. The downside of silk is that it is a delicate fabric and should be kept away from water or sun exposure which can cause lasting damage. It can also show wear and tear quicker than other fabrics so keep that in mind when choosing a fabric.

Shop silk fabric


Many of the fabrics we sell have multiple qualities to them, meaning you can combine your schemes requirements to find the perfect fabric choice. For example, Carnival Performance fabric by Christopher Farr Cloth is a linen that has been designed for outdoor use. Meaning it has all the qualities of a linen while also having the durability needed to face outdoor exposure.

3. The fabric's end use

One of the main considerations when choosing the right fabric for your scheme, is to think about your project’s end use and consider how durable the fabric will need to be. While we stock a huge range of fabrics that are suitable for multiple end uses, some fabrics are more versatile than others.

Fabric that will be used for drapery or roman shades can be thin and light such as linens or sheers, as it will not have as much wear or friction against it regularly. Whereas fabric for upholstering a headboard or chair will need to be thicker and heavier to ensure it can last against continual use.

Martindale score

Most fabrics we sell have their durability tested using a rub-test commonly known as the Martindale test, this is where a machine continually rubs against the fabric with an abrasive piece of cloth, in a figure eight motion. The machine counts how many rubs it can withstand before a change in appearance in the fabric can clearly be seen (yarn break, piling, holes). The number of rubs is then provided as a Martindale score.

At Jane Clayton, you will notice that all fabrics are already labelled with their usage within their product details section, making it easy for you to know if a fabric is durable enough for your end project.

A Martindale score only offers information on the durability of the fabrics, it does not however consider the way a fabric will react to UV rays, chemicals, or water.

Wyzenbeck score

If you have looked into a Martindale score, you have probably also come across the Wyzenbeck score too. This is another version of a rub test that involves rubbing along the weft and warp of the fabric, whereas the martindale test is a figure-eight rub.

Both tests are equally as valuable and act as great indicators for fabric durability.

4. Consider your current scheme

Once you have thought through the type of fabric and the end use, you can then have fun with colors, pattern, and texture.

Think about how a fabric will enhance your interior scheme; does your home have an art-deco inspired style? Then perhaps adding a metallic fabric will enhance the glitz and glamor. English countryside cottages tend to lean towards a cozy lived-in feel, so wools and boucle’s would work perfectly. On the other hand, modern architecture is often accompanied with large windows to allow maximum natural light, therefore linens and silks will add a touch of luxury whilst keeping the airy feel.

Different shaped rugs

We hope this article has been helpful in guiding you towards choosing the right fabric. We always recommend that you order a few samples when choosing fabrics, allowing you to see the true color and texture of your chosen design. We offer 5 free samples, which can then also be used to create moodboards or schemes for your project.

If you are still in need of assistance, please don't hesitate to get in touch with our Customer Service team