Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Choosing Appropriate Upholstery Fabrics for Period Decorating: Part III

How can I determine durability of a fabric if the Wyzenbeek or Martindale rating is not available?

What to look for: 
Fabric Construction
Fabrics with tighter weaves and higher thread counts, like denims and twills, are more durable. (Plus fabrics with tighter weaves are generally easier to clean.) Woven fabrics are generally more durable than printed fabrics. Fabrics woven from yarns that are the same size and strength (known as a balanced weave) last longer than fabrics woven from a combination of thick and thin yarns.

What to look for: Types of Fabrics
Dense plush fabrics like velvet (especially velvets with high percentage wool mohair and linen content) and high-end chenille will withstand abrasion very well.  Leather and some of the new micro-fibers are also very durable.

Flat surface fabrics like some damasks, brocades, satins and silks that have long yarns on the surface, are also subject to higher wear and lower abrasion ratings.

 What to look for: Fabric Content (Fibers)
Whether a fabric is made from natural or manufactured fibers is not enough to determine durability. (For more about fiber content, see our FAQ: Natural vs Synthetic Fibers). 

Summary: Fabric Durability
Durability is the result of a combination of factors. If the number of double rubs (Wyzenbeek) or Martindale rating is not available, your interior decorator or reputable experienced seller of a fabric should be able to provide an informed and professional judgment regarding the appropriate use of a particular fabric.

Although durability is a very important factor to consider when investing in fabric for your home, there are other considerations. To be continued...

To learn more about fabric terms and types of fabrics, see Historic, Vintage & Reproduction Home Decorating Fabrics -- A Musically & Otherwise Punctuated Glossary of Home Decor Textile Terms

Other considerations when choosing fabrics or your home

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Choosing Appropriate Upholstery Fabrics for Period Decorating: Part II

What makes a fabric durable?
Durability of upholstery fabrics is determined by multiple factors including the fiber type(s), how the fabric is woven, the design of the furniture, how the fabric is finished, maintenance requirements and type and frequency of usage.  

Commonly used Fabric durability tests and standards
 When considering durability ratings, terms you will find include Wyzenbeek and Martindale. These names refer to the two tests most commonly used to rate durability. In addition to testing abrasion (double rubs), these performance tests also consider seam slippage, pilling, crocking, tensile strength and usage, but they are neither comparable nor equivalent as the results do not correlate.

Heavy duty, for example, is a Wyzenbeek rating of at least 15,000, while a Martindale rating of around 12 to 18 is considered heavy duty.

In North America, the Wyzenbeek test is usually used. This consists a machine that pulls actual samples of the fabric tight rubs them with an approved fabric (usually cotton duck) in a back and forth motion. The number of double rubs counted before yarn breaks occur or noticeable wear is recorded is the abrasion rating.

In Europe, the Martindale test is used more frequently. In the Martindale method, the approved fabric may be worsted wool or cotton duck. and instead of back and forth, the fabric is rubbed in a figure 8 motion until wear is detected.

More about Fabric durability
In addition to yarn breakage, types of wear may include pilling and crocking.   

Pilling is when small fuzzy balls or nibs are formed on the surface of a fabric. This may be a normal part of wear but some fibers and weaves are more prone to pilling.  Fabrics made of angora, cashmere, and wool that have short or loose fibers are more likely to pill, as you may already know from having that happen to your favorite sweater.

Some manufactured fibers such as acrylic, nylon or polyester also have a tendency to pill. Most pilling is a result of friction which loosens the fibers. Loose fibers will tangle and form “pills.” Pilling can also be caused by improper cleaning.

To avoid pilling, look for tightly twisted yarns and fabrics with tighter weaves.

Crocking is the term used to describe what happens when dye from one dry fabric rubs off onto another dry fabric. Crocking occurs most often with linen, cotton and polyester fabrics dyed with black, blue or red pigments since more saturated colors make it a lot harder to remove all excess dyes during finishing of these fabrics.

There are other factors and treatments that can affect durability and may be added to increase the strength and durability of a fabric.  A latex backing applied to loosely woven fabrics, for example, will stabilize the yarns, minimizing their ability to rub and resulting in longer wear. To be continued...

To learn more about fabric terms and types of fabrics, see
Historic, Vintage & Reproduction Home Decorating Fabrics
-- A Musically & Otherwise Punctuated Glossary of Home Decor Textile Terms

How can I determine durability of a fabric
if the Wyzenbeek or Martindale rating is not available?

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Choosing Appropriate Upholstery Fabrics for Period Decorating

Choosing Appropriate Upholstery Fabrics for Period Decorating: Part I

We have written extensively about which types, colors and styles of fabrics are appropriate for certain historical period decorating styles (See the tab above to link to them).  This blog provides more general information about Upholstery Fabrics that you will want to consider when selecting your interior decorating fabrics.

Many of us restoring or adapting historic homes will want to use vintage or antique furniture that will likely require re-upholstering. Others may want to purchase new reproduction furniture, but may want to purchase their own fabric in order to use a more appropriate or higher quality fabric than the manufacturer may offer.

Upholstery Fabric durability
There are many different types of fabrics suitable for historically appropriate home décor use. Whatever your decorating style, it is important to know some basic facts in order to be an informed consumer and select the fabric best suited to your needs. Some fabrics last longer than others and will withstand more wear and tear while others are suitable only for uses that do not entail a lot of use.

When choosing upholstery fabrics for interior decorating one important thing you will want to consider is durability or strength, which is determined by standard industry testing methods. When thinking about durability the first thing most people consider is abrasion

It is important to remember that abrasion is only one of several factors that contribute to a fabric’s long term performance, but abrasion ratings are a standardized and commonly used way to measure and indicate performance so we’ve decided to start with those.

Fabric strength or durability is rated by “rubs,” which is literally a test that determines fabric strength by rubbing the taut fabric back and forth (a double rub is once in each direction) to simulate the wear a fabric would get from someone sitting on and getting up from an upholstered seat. 

In general, North America uses the Wyzenbeek test to determine durability. A rating of 3,000 double rubs is considered to be equivalent to one year of use as upholstery.

A fabric rating of 3,000 to 9,000 double rubs is considered light duty. Light duty fabrics are suitable for upholstery if the piece being upholstered is mainly decorative or only used occasionally, such as when guests visit or a chair that is more of a decorator accent and does not get regular and consistent use. 

Fabrics rated from 9,000 to 15,000 double rubs are considered medium duty and are versatile and appropriate for use in many rooms that get typically average use, such as a living room or family room.

If a fabric is rated 15,000 double rubs, it means it is considered heavy duty for upholstery use.  This is what you need to look for if the piece you are upholstering gets daily and heavy use or if you have pets or active children who will also be using it.   

For a fabric to be rated “commercial” it must have a rating of at least 30,000 double rubs.

If the double rub rating of a fabric is not available, there are other things you can do or look for to find out if a fabric is appropriate for your intended application.
That, dear readers, will be the topic of our next two posts.

What makes a fabric durable? More about Fabric durability testing.Types of tests.
How can I determine durability of a fabric if a “rubs” rating is not available?

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Friday, February 24, 2012

The Interior Design Daily

Wow! Thank you Greer Peachey!

Three of our Historic Decorating Articles
Are Featured in Today's issue of

The Interior Design Daily

Check it out!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The # HistoricDecor Daily

The # HistoricDecor Daily 

New Edition Today...

For Old House Restorers 

with a Sense of Humor...
Take a Break,
Share Your Stories, 

Commiserate with Others
and Subscribe 

Monday, January 30, 2012

I am pleased (and proud) to announce that I am now a member of the Board of Directors of  the Homer Historical Society:
Charles (Chazz) Spina, proprietor of Restoration Fabrics andTrims and owner of a historic 1880 Victorian home has been named to the Homer NY Historic Society Board of Directors. Historic Homer, located in Central New York, has a long and illustrious history including significance in the civil war and suffragist and abolitionist movements.
Chazz's passion for preservation and considerable knowledge of historic periods are a welcome addition to the Historic Society Board members. One of his first tasks will be to help identify and create a catalog of the historic society's collection. Chazz, a specialist in historic period decor will also be providing period needlepoints and fabrics for restoring some of the furnishings in the Society's holdings.
So I thought I'd take this opportunity to tell you a bit about Homer, NY.

The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation
The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation
by Francis B. Carpenter of Homer NY

Although a small town, Homer has played an important role throughout its history due to its residents' notable involvement in the Civil War, politics, Suffragist Causes and the Abolitionist movement. Famous Homer residents include Amelia Bloomer, who not only revolutionized women’s clothing but also was a prominent figure in gaining women’s right to vote. Francis B. Carpenter, the artist, called Homer home and his house is still here. Carpenter painted The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, which hangs in the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC.

Homer is also the home town of William Osbourne Stoddard, who was Abraham Lincoln's secretary in the White House and played an important role in the dissemination of the Emancipation Proclamation, and of private investigator Eli DeVoe, who foiled an assassination plot against Lincoln before his first inauguration. The last three have made Homer a Mecca for Lincoln scholars while other visitors come to follow the underground railroad that stopped at the homes of many influential Homer residents and clergymen.

(You can read more about Homer’s triple connection to Abraham Lincoln in a wonderful book Lincoln's Gift from Homer, New York: A Painter, an Editor and a Detective by Martin Sweeney, Homer town historian and Lincoln scholar.)

So, as you can see, Homer has a lot to be proud of in terms of its history, historic homes and a Main Street with its wonderful historic Village Green, an opera house that now needs restoration but in its heyday boasted appearances by Mark Twain, among others.
Many of these buildings are in dire need of preservation -- and we stand to lose more than just the buildings. There's a lot of history and a sense of civic pride that I hope to be able to help the Historic Society of Homer rekindle and keep alive.

The Original Cardiff Giant
Homer also has a more infamous claim to fame. It is the hometown of David Hannum, a, um, er, businessman and hoaxer. He was immortalized in a book by Edward Noyes Westcott in 1898, who changed "Hannum" to "Harum" (to protect the guilty?) and later in a stage adaptation (1915), radio series (1936-1950) and a film, David Harum, starring Will Rogers. Amazingly, The Cardiff Giant hoax Hannum perpetuated as the head of a syndicate of five men spawned a rivalry with PT Barnum and became one of the most famous hoaxes in history. The 1869 "discovery" of a supposedly "petrified man" 10 feet in height, was so famous in it's day that Mark Twain (A Ghost Story) and L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz series) wrote about it.

The Cardiff Giant and the copy P. T. Barnum had made when Hannum wouldn't sell him the original, are still on display - the first at the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, NY and the latter at Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

This has turned into a longer and more meandering entry than I intended, so let me conclude for now by returning to the original reason for this post and summarizing thusly:
It is my hope that, The Homer Historic Society, through displays, educational programs, and similar endeavors and in working with similar preservation-minded area groups such as the local Landmark Society and Cortland Historical Society, can play a significant role in garnering support for preserving our heritage.
I am honored to be part of this wonderful group of concerned and caring citizens and very pleased to contribute to this wonderful community and I hope to help the Homer Historic Society bring the past alive to enrich the present and inspire the future.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Optimizing Energy Efficiency in Victorian Houses

 When we think of old Victorian houses, the image that comes to mind is often a drafty and overly-expensive energy-eating buildng. Although it is true that the Victorians did not have the technology available today, they did have a lot more comfort and awareness of environmental factors than they are often given credit for.

The Victorians were particularly expert at taking advantage of natural ventilation and air flow to increase comfort. Used properly, the "old ways" are still surprisingly effective because old houses, for all intents and purposes, used "historically green" architecture, building methods, and interior decorating. Read more.