Type of fibre: Can be made with natural cotton (the more eco friendly option) or with synthetic fibres such as polyester or acrylic resulting in an increased amount of durability. Very similar to velvet, is elastic and durable with notable thermal properties. First known to be manufactured in France in the early 1700s.
How is it manufactured: Cotton comes from cotton plants and is economic to produce as well as very versatile. Chenille is made by inserting short lengths of cotton yarn thread (called the pile) between 2 core yarn fibres and then twisting them together. Because the threads are combined it makes this fabric very durable and strong. The edges of the piles stand at right angles to the yarn core creating a shimmery ‘look’ from various angles.
Common use in interior design: Mostly employed as a decorative fabric such as upholstery, carpets, quilts or for window treatments. The thread runs vertically so curtain decoration looks effective due the graceful way it folds. A positive element of using Chenille in window treatments is reduced energy costs, as it is a warming fabric as well as having a thick density. This makes it a beneficial curtain for keeping out bright daylight. Chenille is easily dyed and available in a wide assortment of colours and patterns.
Fabric Care: Chenille threads can be pulled easily so it is important to be careful and prevent scratches to the fabric. Small stains can removed with a wet cloth, but mostly it is recommended to dry clean Chenille fabric as it is prone to shrinkage.
Type of fibre: Velvet was originally constructed from the natural fibre – silk. However these days it is far more common for synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester and viscose to be used in the manufacturing process. Velvet made from natural fibres is rare. Synthetic fibres are favoured as they are less expensive and far more practical.
How is it manufactured: Velvet is woven on a distinctive and specialised loom that spins two layers of the fabric simultaneously. These two layers are then detached by being ‘sliced’ apart and wound onto rolls. Velvet is made from the vertical yarns, whilst velveteen is from the horizontal ones. Velvet has a dense tufted pile which feels soft and luxurious to the touch and gives off a visual sheen. Whilst velveteen is usually made with cotton and is supple but not nearly as dense and smooth as velvet, making it the lesser expensive option.
It is hard to pin point exactly when velvet was invented, with many assuming this fabric goes back to nobility within eastern culture, however it was after the 1400s that the fabric vastly rose in popularity within Asia and Europe.
Common use in interior design: Fitting for curtains, cushions and furniture upholstery. Velvet has great acoustic and thermal qualities. A luxurious and dramatic appearance as well as tactile feel.
Fabric Care: Velvet cannot be washed however small stains can be blotted with a wet cloth, otherwise dry cleaning is recommended.
Type of fibre: A natural fibre grown on different breeds of sheep that covers most of their body. The earliest accounts of wool used as a fabric goes way back to 4000 BC.
How is it manufactured: Obtained during sheep shearing in which the woollen fleece is cut off the animal. After a washing process the fibres are subject ‘combing’ in order to prepare it for spinning. Combing involves the wool being placed through metal ‘teeth’ in parallel lines, removing any imperfections and resulting in a soft, smooth and fluffy fleece yarn. These pliable wool fibres are then spun into a yarn on a machine and subsequently wrapped around bobbins, cones or commercial drums. Wool can be combined with a variety of other fabrics included linen and silk which assists in reducing any shrinkage.
Common use in interior design: One of the most commonly used fabrics in the home, seen in cushions, throws and rugs. Available in a variety of patterns and textures therefore it can be used in a wide range of interior styles, such as traditional, contemporary or country rustic. Well applied in curtains as it is a warm, sturdy and a comforting fabric that is eco-friendly and reduces energy costs by providing great thermal and acoustic insulation.
Fabric Care: Dry clean only. Naturally stain and wrinkle resistant.
A natural fibre manufactured in a similar process to wool, however cashmere is made with goat hair, specifically a rare breed of goat in Mongolia and China. These goats are selected as they have very fine, warm and soft hairs that can produce one of the most luxurious, silky fabrics in the world. Cashmere provides better warmth insulation than wool, yet is far lighter and softer with its thin texture and can be used within interiors for soft furnishings such as cushions and throws, adding cosy elegance to a space.
Type of fibre: A natural fibre that comes from the skin of an animal such as a cow or horse.
How is it manufactured: The animal skin (cowhide/ horsehide) is manufactured into a leather fabric by the process of ‘tanning’. Tanning involves soaking the hide within a large drum in a chemical substance that blocks decomposition and inhibits any bacteria from ruining the material as well as providing a stable, flexible fabric. After this, the hide is placed in a ‘sammying’ machine in which moisture is removed and the leathers are ready to be quality inspected.
The use of leather as a fabric goes back to the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians in early 1000 – 4000 BC.
Common use in interior design: Appropriate for headboards, seating upholstery and cushions as it is flexible, breathable and warm, as well as available in a variety of natural grain and dyed colours. A unique material as every animal hide is dissimilar from the last. A hardwearing fabric it can be used for flooring as it ages well with heavy traffic (often it is actually more desirable to have a rustic worn leather ‘look’). Negative attributes of using leather involve the fact that you are restricted by the size of the hide and it is a controversial material as some see it as cruelty to animals.
Fabric Care: Leather can be easily cleaned with a natural cleaning detergent or vinegar and a damp cloth to remove marks and stains, and then a dry cloth to buff the finish.
Type of fibre: A man-made fibre constructed from polyester. Manmade Fibres are natural fibres that have been regenerated and chemically treated so that they resist shrinking and creasing.
How is it manufactured: Polyester is made from chemicals and these ‘polymer’ threads are woven together and subsequently brushed to create a fuzzy surface, similar to the underside texture of a real leather hide. A resilient fabric due to the polyurethane foam that averts any piling or fraying that is seen in woven materials. Faux suede, also known as ‘Ultrasuede’ is a more recent fabric invented in the 1970s in Japan and is an animal friendly alternative to real leather.
Common use in interior design: Often seen as a preferable alternative to real suede as it is inexpensive, animal friendly, unrestricted in size and durable. Sometimes used for wall coverings, but often used for furniture upholstery as it resembles natural leather well and is practical, flexible, supple and stain resistant. However faux suede does not age as beautifully as real suede.
Fabric Care: Real suede can be hard to clean as it stains and water will damage the material, but faux suede has a stain substance applied and therefore can be cleaned easily with water based solutions.
Type of fibre: One of the smoothest and strongest natural fibres, derived from the cocoon of a silkworm. One of the oldest known fabrics going back to 2000 BC with members of nobility and emperors in Ancient China using silk as a fabric.
How is it manufactured: The cocoons are placed in boiling water to dissolve the sericin that binds the cocoon together, a successful method as it does not damage any of the threads inside. These threads are then careful removed from the cocoon and wound onto a reel. There are various twisting methods which in turn produce a different silk thread. The sericin will be washed off the material which is then ready to be bleached and dried before dying. There is the practise of ‘spinning’ where the threads are unwound and placed flat onto a bobbin. They are then woven together by linking two sets of threads either at right angles, at a warp angle (fabric runs up and down) or a weft (fabric runs across horizontally).
Common use in interior design: Silk is very luxurious, strong and robust yet also a delicate, soft, shimmery fabric. It is suited to curtains as it drapes beautifully and has endless colour and pattern possibilities due to fabric dying and digital printing. Silk is not suited for upholstery as it has limited elasticity and can fade over time especially in direct sunlight.
Fabric Care: If washed normally, silk can shrink so it is recommend to delicately hand wash in cool water with mild cleaning products. The fabric should not be wrung out, but instead lay the silk down flat and leave to dry naturally. Alternatively it is possible to dry clean silk fabric.