Your Ultimate Guide to Decorating with Fabric by the Yard
In the world of decorating, designers and décor connoisseurs alike would appreciate a go-to fabric by the yard resource for all their project needs. Why not? Home fabrics are versatile and can quickly and easily alter a room’s look and create a kaleidoscope of color and texture.
Brief History of Fabric
Textiles have been around for a very long time. In fact, it is one of the oldest art forms ever recorded, with a 5,000-year history to back it up! And throughout this very long history, fabric has been used by every civilizations around the world—from Asia, to the Mediterranean, to Europe — as an integral part of their day-to-day lives as well as bigger and grander cultural celebrations.
If you think that fabric by the yard is important to the modern design community, consider this! Traders and merchants from various countries and past centuries have been bartering fabric by the yard (or whatever kind of measurement) forever. They’ve been trading fabric long before money even existed!
Eventually, fabric artisans, had a hard time keeping up with demand. Luckily during the industrial revolution of the 18th century, inventions for mass production helped change this and more people gained access to fabric.
Now that fabric is available in abundance, many take it for granted. But even now, new styles are emerging and better techniques are being created. New forms of thread are still being invented and more convenient machines are being invented. Fabric’s history continues to evolve and prosper, even after 5,000 years!
If you’re interested in a timeline of fabric history, Threads in Tyme traces history back to 9000 BC.
Choosing a Fabric by the Yard for Your Home
Home fabrics’ sole use is for home décor. Its generally different from the fabric used for making clothes, with a slightly heavier weigh and thickness, so that it can take the wear and tear of everyday living. Decorator fabric can be grouped further into 2 distinct categories: drapery and upholstery.
1. Drapery fabric
Also called multi-purpose fabric, it can be used for many kinds of design projects. Its a medium-weight fabric whose designs can be plain, printed or embroidered. Some of the projects that can be created using drapery fabric are curtains, pillows, and accessories. If you find choosing drapery fabrics is daunting, this guide from Lee Brown will simplify things for you.
2. Upholstery fabric
Upholstery fabrics are usually heavier and thicker. The material is often stiffer as well which makes it great for more heavy-duty furniture like couches (so that they don’t wear out or tear easily and can last longer!) If you want to know which type of upholstery fabrics are good to work with, you can check out this article from Cynthia Bleskacheck. There, you will also a find a list of fabrics that might be particularly challenging for your home decor projects.
Of course, you can opt to use upholstery fabric for pillows and accessories, and vice versa. But the success of the project will depend on the details.
Surface Texture and Maintenance
A huge variety of fabric textures have emerged because of the multitude of ways fabric can be created. This is great for design enthusiasts. The possibilities are endless! All of these different textures and looks will have a big impact on how your projects turn out. The best part is experimenting with mixing and matching various fabrics together in your space.
If you’re looking for something that packs a punch try going for applique. With this technique, a small layer of fabric is cut into a unique shape and sewn by hand (or machine, sometimes!) onto a larger piece of fabric. That’s why this fabric by the yard has a wonderful texture to it but looks a little bit flatter.
Another technique you can look into is fabric painting. Using fabric paint allows you more freedom to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Velvet Finishes is a fabulous paint line that can be used on smooth fabrics. It creates an ultra matte velvet paint finish. You can choose to go solid with only one color, or create any pattern you can imagine with as many colors as you wish. Painting is a super easy way to update an old chair, for instance.
Patchwork has its own history and creativity. The different pieces of fabric are sewn together to form a single, larger fabric. And don’t think it automatically has to look countrified. It all depends on the prints, patterns and inticacy of the shapes. Embroidery has a lot of texture from the threaded patterns that are sewn onto the base fabric.
Other common techniques for embellishing fabric include: quilting, Adding trim, lace or piping, smocking, beading and sequins, printing and dyeing methods. Items that normally serve a function may also be used as embellishment. For example, buttons can be placed anywhere on the piece. Want to break the rules? Zippers can be sewn on unzipped or used as piping. Seriously – you can do whatever your creative heart desires!
Good read here>> One Yard Wonders: Fabric History & Manipulation Techniques
In our article, One Yard Wonders: Fabric History & Manipulation Techniques, we discussed some modern variations of traditional techniques and provided inspirational ideas demonstrating these fabrics in home decor projects.
Home Decor Fabric Care
To maintain the beauty and wonder of these fabrics, you must care for them accordingly. The usual detergent and water routine can be extremely harmful to these amazing works of art. But, don’t worry! There are ways to keep them both clean and beautiful. Our post on Caring For Designer Upholstery Fabrics is a good guide!
Obviously, harsher chemicals like could lessen your fabrics quality though it may get them clean. Tumble machines might do this as well due to the incessant rolling and spinning that the fabrics go through. You can check out Jolie Kerr‘s article on de-staining home fabrics to learn which kind of machines to use and to decode some upholstery wash labels. Hot water can make some fabrics (like cotton and linen!) shrink. There are times when you might want to use a steamer to dampen your pieces gently and a hair dryer to quickly dry the dampness.
Don’t worry about accidents as long as you remember that the key to cleaning out your fabrics is by doing it gently. You can use a soft-blowing vacuum when needed. Just be mindful of any loose decorative items or embellishment that might get sucked in. And If you spill something on your upholstery, get a towel and gently dab; never scrub!
If you’re not so sure about cleaning your fabrics yourself, it might be best to consult a professional.
Fabric isn’t just found in one part of the world. In fact, the best kinds of fabric are scattered everywhere and it’ll take years to track them all down. If you want to experience authentic fabric shopping, try visiting shops when you travel to different places. You’ll see how different cultures create an array of wonderfully unique and awe-inspiring pieces. Fabric by the yard has never been this exciting, trust us!
Good read here>> 10 Exotic Fabrics from Around the World
Jet to beautiful Central Asia and look up suzani textiles. Take your time in absorbing the elegant floral and fruit designs from this amazing embroidery. If you’re ever in Morocco, don’t miss the chance to watch their women weave the highly sought after Moroccan Berber rugs.
South East Asia
A textile trip to South East Asia will get you to discover the wonders of the traditional prints such as Japanese yuzen and shibori. Both are perfect for all your oriental-themed rooms! A little further south in the small island of Basilan in the Philippines, you can witness the tribespeople weaving yakan from bamboo fibers, abaca, and pineapple.
For the rest of global regions, check out The Globetrotter’s Guide to Fabric By The Yard Shopping. The post features not only global shopping meccas for home fabrics but also some great, helpful tips.
Wherever you go, chances are there’s a special fabric waiting for you there! And when you discover it and bring it back home, you’ll always have great stories to tell. Sometimes you’ll discover a fabric and it’s so beautiful, you just can’t let it go– even if you don’t need it. Our advice is to just get it! Before you regret it!
Shopping for Fabric by the Yard
Unlike before when customers only have a handful of fabrics to choose from and had to wait months on end before a merchant visits their port, shopping for fabric has become a whole lot easier. The world is more globally connected and we can visit hundreds of designer fabric stores without even leaving our bedroom!
In Starre Vartan‘s article, Looming Large: Beautiful Textiles Around the World, you can find 10 color and history-rich home decor fabrics that you can seek out when you travel globally.
Good Read Here! >> The Globetrotter’s Guide to Fabric By The Yard Shopping
Thanks to modernization and the invention of the internet, we can learn so much more about home decor fabrics, how to choose the perfect one, and where to shop. Just type in your query in a search engine and you have thousands of sites to choose from.
Good Read Here! >> Fabric By The Yard: Secret Addresses & Resources!
If you want to go a bit more old-school, physically going to fabric shops will be a dream for you. You can walk through rows and rows of bolts of fabric, touching and looking! As chain fabric stores and some mom-and-pop shops downsize or close, it can be harder to find reputable fabric shops. In some places, though, the fabric shop is the destination you’ll want to go to. So we’ve compiled a list of secret fabric stores from around the world! Shhh, it it’s our little secret..
In the same post, we’ve also cited awesome books and magazines specializing in home decor fabrics. These are great ways to learn something new (and they look great on coffee tables, too!).
Decorating with Fabric
There are hundreds of ways to decorate your room with fabric, and it can be overwhelming. Choosing the fabric you want and planning on how to use it can be nerve-wracking because it can only go two ways. Either you create a wonderful mix of patterns that make your room scream of personality or you scream out in frustration because everything is clashing horrendously. Here are some tips to avoid the latter:
1. Look for Inspiration in What You Already Have
First things first, check out the furniture you have on hand and plan from there. Basing the type and color of pattern you’re getting from the pieces you’ll be using will ensure that it’ll work together by the end. Creating a color palette will definitely help you out.
2. Find the Right Balance Between Solids and Prints
Mixing pattern and print can be intimidating, but it is one of our favorite things. You can mix any number (although you might start with three to see how you feel!). Remember to make the room work for you. Pick some colors from one print and find some additional prints with similar colors. Mix big patterns with small. Mix florals with checks. Or stick to a geometric theme in a variety of sizes. You get the picture…
3. Repurpose Your Fabrics
Fabric can be used in many ways throughout the year. Your can maximize the use you’re getting from specific fabrics by changing their purpose with the season. A large, beautiful piece of printed fabric, simply hemmed, can become a tablecloth or a bed throw, depending on your mood. That’s a great way to spruce up your space! This Moroccan Knot fabric, for instance, works well on a dining table, a side table or draped across the corner of a couch. (Why not add some colorful tassels to the corners to make it even more special!)
4. Use Fabric as an Accent
Fabric doesn’t necessarily need to be the key piece in your decorating. You can always use it to accessorize and liven up your décor subtly. You can use rough-edged ribbons of fabric as napkin “rings” for a party, and larger squares can be made into napkins. Make a pillow. Cover the seat of a wooden chair. Fabric is so versatile that it can definitely transform the way your party looks.
Good Read Here! >> Choosing Fabric For Boho Luxe Rooms
The Language of Fabrics
If you’ve been wanting to explore fabric by the yard in depth, there are buzzwords that fabric suppliers and home decorators use that are important to understand. Here are some words to learn to keep the language of fabric from being a barrier.
This isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, but understanding these terms may make you feel more confident about getting your home fabric by the yard.
Boucle – A fabric with a looped, textured surface that is woven or knitted using fancy “boucle” yarns. Loops inherent in the yarn protrude from the surface of the fabric in an all-over irregular manner to form a loop pile on the surface of the fabric.
Crewel – Design that typically outlines flowers, vines, and leaves, in one or many colors. Modern weaving technology and inventive designers create traditional “crewel” looks with weave effects alone, without the use of embroidery.
Crocking – The tendency of excess dyes to rub off. Yarns and woven fabric can be rated for both wet and dry crocking.
Damask – Reversible fabrics that are characterized by a combination of satin and sateen weaves. The design motifs are typically distinguished from the ground by contrasting luster. Damasks are similar to brocades, but flatter. Used mainly for curtains, draperies, and upholstery.
Jacquard – Intricate method of weaving invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the years 1801-1804, in which a head motion at the top of the loom holds and operates a set of punched paper cards, according to the motif desired. Damasks, brocades, brocatelles, and tapestries are examples of woven jacquards.
Matelassé – A rather soft, double cloth or compound fabric that give blistered, puckered, quilted, or wadded effects depending on the cloth construction used.
Moiré – A textile finish which creates lustrous or dull effects on the surface of a woven fabric. The effects are achieved when crushed and the uncrushed parts of the fabric reflect light differently in a rippled or watermarked, pattern. Used for coats, dresses, draperies, bedspreads, light upholstery, and luggage lining.
Ogee – Is curve shaped somewhat like an S, consisting of two arcs that curve in opposite directions so that the ends are parallel.
Olefin – A synthetic, man-made fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is any long-chain synthetic polymer composed of ethylene, propylene, or other olefin units. Two major categories of olefin are polypropylene and polyethylene.
Wyzenbeek Test – An abrasion testing machine used in ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests for fabric abrasion resistance. This is a great test for determining how long your new sofa fabric might last in your kid-friendly family room. Check how many “rubs” the fabric has been tested for.
Want something more comprehensive? >> The A-Z of Fabric By The Yard.
Fabric has such a long and wonderful history that continues today, and you’ll always find something special to fall in love with. If you’re read this far, can we assume that you already love fabric? Now get out there and confidently start buying some more!