There are five different styles/category of fabric that form the foundation for the vast array of curtain and upholstery fabrics you see on the market today.   Each fabric style outlined below has its own unique characteristics and are produced using different techniques.  Some of these fabric types will be well known to you like plain and printed fabrics, while others less so.

You may be wondering why cotton and linen for example are not included here – this is because they are a type of composition that falls within one of these categories below.   

Here we give you a high-level overview of the styles of fabrics available to you for your home interior or commercial interior project.

PLAIN: Plain fabrics are characterised by simple weaves and textures not showing any complex design. 

Simple weaves are for instance – hopsacks, twills, herringbones and satins.  Common fabric compositions used for plain fabrics include natural fibres (cotton, linen) as well as synthetic fibres (polyester, acrylic, etc.)

Plain interior fabrics take on a simple and paired back aesthetic.  Ideal for a minimalist décor, you can complement plain fabrics with more textured and tactile textiles for added interest to your home décor.  

PRINTED: Printing is the process of applying coloured designs and patterns to a woven textile. One or more colours are applied to the fabric in specific parts only, using thickened dyes to prevent the colour from spreading beyond the limits of the pattern or design. In quality printed fabrics, the colour is bonded with the fibre so as to resist loss of dye from washing and friction (crocking).  Printing is an ancient textile manufacturing technique of which there are five print production methods you can use:

Burn Out Printing: A process which uses chemicals, rather than colour, to burn out or dissolve away one fibre in a fabric. The purpose is to achieve a sheer design on a solid or opaque fabric. The chemicals used during production can make this fabric sensitive to ultraviolet degradation when hung in direct sunlight.

Digital Printing: Rapidly becoming a popular and commercially viable printing method due to its flexibility, precision and consistency. With this new printing technique it is now possible to print any design, even with photographic detail, onto fabric. There are no restrictions in the amount of colour that can be used.

Engraved Roller Printing: The printing method used for the majority of fabrics worldwide. The colours are printed directly onto the fabric. There must be one roller for each colour used in the print. The more colours used, the better the print definition and depth of colour. The number of colours used is printed on the left hand selvedge of a fabric along with the brand.

Hand Block Printing: The oldest form of printing. Print designs are created by transferring dyestuffs onto fabric with the help of wooden, linoleum, or copper blocks. Artisans hand craft individual blocks to carry each different colour in a design and perfectly match block placement to create the all-over design.

Transfer Paper Printing: Generally used to print onto polyester/cotton blend fabrics. The printing technique is transferring a printed design from paper to fabric via heat and pressure. Print definition is generally excellent.

Printed fabrics are widely available and allow you to create interesting design concepts when mixed together or paired with other styles of fabric.

EMBROIDERY: Embroidery is ornamental needlework to decorate fabric and mainly produced by programmed embroidery machines. A wide variety of thread types can be used, with either silk, cotton, viscose or polyester being the most commonly used. The design work can also incorporate other materials such as pearls, beads and sequins.

The art of embroidery has been found worldwide and several early examples have been found dating back to 5th–3rd century BC.

Embroidered textiles are commonly used for drapery and accessory application due to their delicate nature.   If you are looking to create a beautiful or intricate detail in your interior scheme then look no further than an embroidered fabric to achieve this.

APPLIQUÉ: Appliqué in reference to fabric, refers to a needlework technique in which cut out fabric designs are created and sewn onto or applied to a larger piece of contrasting fabric. Most appliqué are now produced on modern embroidery machines where both the stitching, detailing and trimming are achieved mechanically by following a program.

Applique fabrics are identifiable by their stunning embellishments quite often seen on quilts and blankets and is seen in many different cultures.  Suitable fabrics for appliqué are durable and those that won’t easily fray.  Applique is a stunning way to elevate fabric with shapes or add dimension and interest whether going for a maximalist look or creating a statement element in a room

JACQUARD: The term jacquard indicates how a pattern is woven, not the specific pattern itself. 

Jacquards are intricate fabrics woven on jacquard looms, a machine which was invented by Joseph J.M. Jacquard in 1801- 1804. Jacquard looms are able to weave any pattern or design, with the loom’s patterning mechanism allowing control on any interlacing of up to several hundred warp threads.

A jacquard style of fabric sees the pattern and colours incorporated into the weave instead of being printed or dyed onto the surface of the fabric which makes them durable, less resistant to wrinkling and pleasant to touch. Traditional jacquard fabrics are brocades and damasks. 

In summary, interior furnishing fabrics can fall into one of these five basic categories with some being suited to either curtains for the home, commercial settings and/or sofa upholstery fabrics, cushions, or accessories.

We encourage you to read our next article on fabric constructions where you will learn about common fabric qualities (constructions) for home textiles or commercial interior design application – available next week.

Thanks to James Dunlop for this informative article.