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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  1. You can learn to choose appropriate upholstery fabric with help from the post here. Good post

  2. Nice blog... thanks for sharing with us..