Antique Classics has learned some valuable information about fabric quality and durability and ways to know what to buy for various applications. We feel it is information worthy of sharing.
Before looking for a fabric that appeals to you it is best to learn these facts before being disappointed that the fabric is not suitable for your needs. We will start with the reason fabric is rolled on cardboard rolls or bolts. This is to keep the fabric from wrinkling and letting you know what direction the material is running. "Up the roll" means that the material is running north to south from the bolt. "Railroading" means the material is running east to west. If you think of a straight line with arrows at both ends then "up the roll" shows arrows facing north and south. If the arrows are facing east and west then this is "railroading". The reason for some fabric running north and south or east to west is because it is suitable for different types of applications.
If you are making window curtains you want the fabric to run north to south so a continuous piece of fabric can simply be cut to the length you need. If the fabric was running east to west then the fabric would have to be sewed together and would have a seam or possibly multiple seams. If you were upholstering a sofa that was 6 feet wide then fabric running east to west would eliminate any seams because one continuous piece of fabric could be cut to whatever length you needed. Fabrics with designs running north to south would probably have to be sewn together otherwise the designs wouldn't look right if turned east to west. If you chose a fabric with polka dots it probably wouldn't matter which way the fabric ran because no matter how you position the fabric it would look the same.
We mentioned curtains and sofas because they lead into the last things to consider. If you are making curtains then durability and fabric stretching wouldn't matter much, but for any other application, stretching and durability are very important! If fabric stretches then a chair or sofa that looks fantastic after upholstering will quickly disappoint after just a few months of use. The fabric that stretches will quickly sag and lose the nice fit that made the piece look so good at first. Buying good fabric means buying fabric that doesn't stretch. Price does not determine good fabric. Even very expensive fabrics of exotic materials can be made to look good but still be poor quality when used in upholstery applications.
The last factor is durability but some common sense is needed here. Manufacturers test their fabrics and provide durability numbers based on" double rubs". They rub the material with an abrasive back and forth to determine its durability. Minor use such as an accent chair can use just about any durability so choose what you like. Here is a chart of industry standards:
Minor use...9,000 to 11,000 double rubs
Medium use..12,000 to 15,000 double rubs
Heavy use...15,000+ double rubs
Common sense applies to what you like the most. If you choose a fabric with durability of 9,000 to 11,000 double rubs then keep in mind that even this lower number is still a very substantial amount of use before the fabric will show signs of wear. If you plan on keeping your furniture updated then you will probably change the fabric before it shows signs of wear. If you have lots of visitors or children then durability is a strong consideration. Common sense and fabric that appeals to you should be the final factors to consider.