Home Decorating Fabric- The industry

What is home decorating fabric?

On its simplest level home decorating fabric is any fabric used in the home for decorating it. But today’s home decorating fabric has very specific properties.

The most obvious one is the width of home decorating fabric. Most is 56″ – 60″ wide. This will cover the one section of a back of a sofa, without having to piece it. More about this later. The second thing about home decorating fabric is that it is meant to be USED. It has passed stringent tests, so it can stand up to the daily abuse that fabric goes through. And the third thing is most home decorating fabrics have been treated to withstand stains and water.


Fabric companies spend a lot of money on producing the fabric used in the home. They have designers and laboratories. They make predictions on what will be wanted, what will sell, get the designers to come up with patterns, and have them produced. Basically a fabric company puts themselves on the line with money spent. A fabric company exists to sell fabric. If a fabric does not move, they are stuck with it. They need to move the product to stay in business.

What happens is this. The company comes up with a pattern. They do a short run, of about 1000 yards. That is 10 football fields long, if that helps with understanding the amount. A bolt is around 60 yards, so that is about 15 – 16 bolts. After this the fabric is shown to the furniture manufacturers. And this is the real deal: the furniture manufacturers drive the fabric industry. The fabric industry is totally dependent on what they want. If they like the pattern, and order it it has been well received. And the company goes forward doing a large run of 4 – 6,000 yards.

At this point the reps get the samples. They jump in their cars and go out and about showing the samples to their customers. Or, in the case of Brick House Fabrics they kindly ship them, being so far from the madding crowd.


But, if the fabric is a dud, the rep still gets the samples, and shows it around; the company hoping it will sell to someone. So, I see the dud, but like it, and buy a bolt. And here is what is important for the sewer. I don’t KNOW that it is a dud. The rep may not even know that it is a dud. He may not be watching it on the company level to see how well it is moving. So, you, the buyer, buy it from a store, the store sells out, they go to re-order it, and it is out of stock at the company, and has been dropped, with no plans to rerun it, as it was a dud. You are miserable as you need two more yards to finish your project, while the company is just glad to get out of it!

A good example of this is the woven ikat fabric. I love this fabric, because it is a woven pattern that mimics as closely as anything I have seen, a true ikat.


Indigo Blue Ikat Fabric


But, what happened with this is a case scenario for what can happen. The ikat fabric came out. It was produced in indigo, denim, and brown. And it had a very large scale. I chose the indigo, as it was the closest thing to real ikat fabric. It sold fairly well, and I bought more of it, through my rep. He mentioned that the upholstery people did not like the scale. So, the company resized it, and redid the fabric. Great, I said… send samples! Well, they came. And I hated it. The colors were black with brown, and red with brown…ugly. And while still a woven, it was a hard, unpleasant fabric. I was not interested in it at all. So, I go to buy more of the original indigo ikat, called the company, and they were out of it. There was one color left, denim, which I bought. But, the fabric had been discontinued, because it had not met the criteria of the furniture industry.

At this point you are wondering why a rep can’t keep one informed of changes in the status of a fabric. I know one rep, when starting with the company had over 800 accounts. A few years later the company consolidated territories, some reps losing their jobs, others getting twice the territory. I asked that rep recently how many accounts he had. He did not know. Some accounts had closed, while others had opened. There is no way a rep is going to remember that I bought a couple of bolts of a fabric a couple of years ago, and let me know when it is being discontinued! Often the rep is not informed when a fabric gets put on a short list. I tend to find out when I go to re-order, and then am told, if I remember to ask, if it is still running, versus the company having stock left of what turns out is a discontinued pattern!

While some companies will run a fabric for years, most fabric patterns have a life, at the company level of three years. So, if you see an old magazine, with the fabric of your dreams in it, it may be difficult to find.


buy enough for your project!

With today’s economy you can NOT count on a fabric being around for years and years!

Sometimes a fabric company will reproduce a pattern in a different colorway, on different fabric. This saves them money, as they already have the pattern in their archives (Yes, fabric companies have libraries.). The well loved Garden Tureen was reproduced as Tureen Garden.


Garden Tureen



Everyone loved the Garden tureen pattern. The big majolica bunny, complimented by the squirrel was a hit. It was produced in three colors- deep red, honeydew green, and silvery beige. The background was a damask woven ground cloth that just gave it an incredible lift. Because of the weave, the colors of the fabric changed depending on how the light hit the fabric.


Garden Tureen

showing the damask weave of the ground cloth.

The company reran the pattern a few years ago. It was reproduced in persimmon, yellow, and beige. Unfortunately it has nothing in common with the older fabric, except for the pattern.


Tureen Garden

has fewer colors and is on a plain ground cloth.

When talking with the company rep he said it just came down to the dollar. To run it on the damask ground would nearly double the cost of production. But, the new rendition of Garden Tureen lacks umph; it is just a bit blank looking.

Buy enough fabric for your project!


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