Up-and-coming Fabric Designer, Zoë Etter, was recently commissioned by KOTHEA to update our linen ‘Alpha Boucle’ upholstery fabric for S/S 2017 to incorporate new elements for the luxury market. The muted fabric features the addition of embellished and tufted yarn in simple linear shapes which are designed for a smart, contemporary look for the home.
The refined designs are aimed at clients who want a simple, durable style that is visually effective. The soft colourways combined with the rich textures offers flexibility for a statement upholstery that is classic in style with a modern edge. Most suitable for chairs and soft furnishings, the fabrics’ 3D look is inviting, and remains comfortable whilst giving a luxurious feel.
Abstract shapes, bold lines and textures typify most of Zoë’s design work, whether it be for fashion or interiors. Photography strongly influences the start of a project and is always at the heart of her work. It is predominantly inspired by natural forms which are interpreted through mark making to create bold patterns and textures. Her most recent collection is based around neon florals for the festival-goer.
Another recent project focuses on strong monochromatic designs inspired by the Cornish coastline, which are ideal for creating a graphic look for warmth and interest in a room.
Zoë can be contacted for private commissions directly on email@example.com or through zoeetter.tumblr.com
We have seen many instances of clients re-upholstering sofas and chairs when really it was not needed.
In the specific example of leather what has often happened (ignoring cuts) is that the surface or finish has been damaged; scuffed, if you like.
Leather is well able to last the test of time if cleaned and maintained well, however even the best-kept sofa is prone to the occasional accident – the rogue popper on trousers, a buckle on a dog collar or perhaps over zealous friends of your children, not your children of course!
The image above shows a sofa definitely in need of re-upholstering. This one has most certainly seen very much better days. However an errant scuff to your beloved sofa could perhaps often be completely repaired simply by applying a dye. Other noticeable issues that you could have with your sofa could include patchy areas of fading, a degree of cracking or perhaps even burn marks. All of these types of visual damage are potentially able to be repaired with a little love and care.
A professional upholsterer will be able to undertake leather sofa repair quite easily. However the option also exists for the DIY homeowner to use professional materials to perform a, hopefully, similar standard of work.
Such materials would include dye but also chemicals that can remove any grease/oils and then add a pigment and other chemicals that can ‘fix’ the pigment in place.
A similar scenario applies to car leather repair in your beloved automotive friend. Perhaps as a prelude to selling a car you want to rejuvenate the leather or, again, make some minor repairs. Whilst a home sofa might get more use than your car leather the rigours of twisting around and getting in and out of the car may, in fact, make it more liable to get damaged and sometimes we all might be guilty of possibly not taking as much care with our cars as we do with our homes.
A contemporary lounge chair or sofa attains its contemporary’ status by having the right combinations of ‘form’ and an expertly upholstered, quality finish. Here we will just look at upholstery and, in particular, silk velvet upholstery fabrics.
Contemporary furniture is designed to be striking, with the better examples typified by great craftsmanship. Consequently you will find many designers and upholsterers specifying fabric such as that sold by leading fabric houses including Kravet, KOTHEA and Donghia.
A velvet fabric is one where the fabric is made with very many tight loops of yarn. A cutter then chops off the end of every loop leaving yarn that ‘points’ upwards, tightly packed together. Often you will have encountered this type of fabric in theatres and cinemas – more so now in private theatres. The length of the remaining yarn can vary and this is called the pile; it could be a few mm or several mm long. The longer the pile the more likely it is to ‘fall over’. This, by itself, is neither good nor bad. It depends on what you prefer. The direction in which the pile falls is called the ‘nap’ and when upholstering a high quality craftsman must understand how to correctly work with the nap.
The nap can show some of the side of the individual strands of yarn and the sides can be more reflective than the cut ends. Thus, often, velvets have ‘shine’. Shine also occurs with wear as the pile becomes compressed, exposed and rubbed/polished with usage. People often, incorrectly, associate this solely with ‘silk velvet’ but that is not necessarily always true as many velvets can show more shine with age.
So we have learnt a little about how velvet is made and how it wears. Where does the silk come in?
Well, velvet can be made from many yarns. Cotton, viscose, mohair, linen or sheep’s wool. Silk is a natural substance spun by a silk worm. Silk is commonplace but varies tremendously in quality. Often silk is combined with other yarns to increaser its strength or to achieve other properties. For example one of our most luxurious fabrics is a silk and cashmere velvet. The resulting mohair velvet fabric feels great AND also has much improved durability properties. Cheaper silk will degrade much more rapidly.
So, typically, silk velvet is mixed with other yarns and often has a shine. This makes it great for contemporary furniture
As a designer consider that there would be minimum quantities imposed by the manufacturer to cover special setup and organisational costs. Such fabric would not be wanted by anyone else and so you would have to buy the fabric by the roll – anything from 20m to 200m. So, although possible, we generally advise against it.
There are also more detailed reasons. From a manufacturing point of view it is very hard to guarantee a match to the colour you have – some dyes are better than others, so fabrics TAKE dyes better than others. Sometimes you know the exact original colour and other times not. Sometimes the fabric you are trying to match to might have a pile – so even if you workout a textile pantone colour, what exactly are you measuring? The fabric will look differently coloured from different angles.
The fabric you have may well have faded since purchase and there will be colour tolerances in what a manufacturer can produce from new. You would also have to consider that new and old would wear and fade differently – so there are many sources of ‘error’ or colour variation. Therefore our experience (from other manufacturers it’s the same) is that an exact match is rarely achieved and then the client/manufacturer relationship could be spoilt and a lot of time wasted by both parties.
Silk Velvet really is one of the great upholstery velvets. It looks great, it feels great and it can be up to the job if your upholstery velvet is chosen wisely.
If your last and only experience of a velvet was sitting on one in the cinema then you really haven’t lived!
Firstly let’s look at silk velvet’s suitability for upholstery. It can have a Martindale Rub Test result of over 20,000 – so it CAN be readily suitable for many upholstery uses.
Composition. Just because it is sold as 100% silk can be misleading and not necessarily relevant. Is this 90% silk velvet better than that 100% silk velvet? You just can’t answer that by simply looking at the composition.
A silk velvet that is sold as being 100% silk may in fact be a 100% silk velvet pile and 100% cotton backcloth. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. If it is the look and feel of the silk that you are looking for then maybe it’s best to just consider the pile (assuming the backcloth is up to the job of course). One of our fine silk velvets has a 100% pile and then a backcloth of silk and cotton – with the cotton being added for strength and the overall silk content being 90%. Compare this to our Italian Silk & Cashmere Velvet which has a 70% silk + 30% cashmere pile.
Next look at the silkiness or the shininess. If you are looking for a silk velvet you will usually want a shine.
Consider too the length of the pile. Again, there is nothing inherently good or bad about a long or short pile. A shorter pile may be more rigid and upright and that could be a characteristic that you are looking for. Alternatively, a longer pile will probably lay better in one direction – and you may well want that characteristic.
The weight of the fabric in grams per metre is often used as a measure of quality. That is not always true and could, for example, easily be distorted by a heavy and poor quality backcloth.
My personal preference would be to get my hand on a sample; feel it and look at it. What I look for and prefer is a slightly more rigid and consistent pile with a very dense weave. I would look carefully at the country of manufacture. I prefer an Italian velvet (mainly because it sounds better!) but if not Italian then I would certainly only consider a velvet produced in mainland western Europe. But don’t copy me, have the confidence to choose what you like – you are going to have to live with it. I would now choose my upholsterer carefully; many years ago a velvet-covered chair came back for me from a local upholsterer and the pile was not running in a consistent direction…it didn’t look great (read ‘awful’). So don’t, like me, assume that all upholsters know what they are doing with velvets, they patently don’t all know. I would then read our guide to upholstering with velvet – a designer’s worksheet and armed with a bit of knowledge quiz your upholsterer carefully.
Recently we have had some detailed enquiries about how to upholster with the fine upholstery faux leather that we sell. KOTHEA are certainly NOT expert upholsterers and those questions should be aimed at your professional upholsterer.
Having said that here is a video (below) by Christopher Nejman showing some techniques for faux leather upholstery.
For more information about our faux leather products and colours click <here> or use the links on the right.
Cotton of medium fineness and medium staple length.
Natural hair from the alpaca, or animal from which the fibre alpaca is obtained. Angora
Hair fibre from the angora rabbit.
Fine, soft,plain weave fabric. Originally linen, now other fibres, eg cotton. Blend
Combination of two or more different fibres within the same yarn. This can be for cost, properties and/or appearance. Birds-eye
Colour-and-weave effect where the pattern shows small, uniform spots. The reverse side of a flat jacquard weft knitted fabric where the yarns are arranged to show minimum amounts of each colour in an all-over pattern. Bouclé yarn
Fancy yarn showing an irregular pattern of curls or loops. Bourrelet
Non-jacquard double jersey weft knit structure made on an interlock basis showing horizontal ridges on the effect side. Brocade
Figured woven jacquard fabric, usually multicoloured, much used for furnishings. Buckram Plain weave fabric, generally of linen or cotton, which is stiffened during finishing with fillers and starches. Uses include interlinings and bookbinding fabrics.
General term used for plain cotton fabrics heavier than muslin. These are usually left unbleached, area made in a variety of weights, and are often used for making toiles. Cambric
Lightweight, closely woven, plain weave fabric, usually made from cotton or linen. Canvas
Strong, firm, relatively heavy and rigid, generally plain woven cloth traditionally made from cotton, linen, hemp or jute. Cavalry twill
Firm woven fabric with a steep twill showing double twill lines, traditionally used for riding breeches and jodphurs. Chambray
Lightweight, plain weave cotton cloth with a dyed warp and a white weft. Cheesecloth
Open, lightweight, plain weave fabric with a slightly crêpey appearance, usually made from carded cotton yarns with higher than average twist. Chenille yarn
Fancy yarn produced by weaving a leno fabric and cutting into warp-way strips so that each strip forms the yarn, which has a velvety, caterpillar-like appearance. Chiffon
Originally a very lightweight, sheer, plain weave fabric made from silk. Now can also be used to describe a similar fabric using other fibres. Chiné yarn
Originally a 2-fold yarn, one black, one white, giving a regular two colour effect. Term now used to describe any 2-fold, two colour yarn. Chintz
Closely woven, lustrous, plain weave cotton fabric, printed or plain, that has been friction calendered or glazed. Much used for curtainings and upholstery. Coir
Natural vegetable fruit fibre from the coconut. Colourway
One of several combinations of colours used for a particular fabric. Corduroy
Wove, cut weft-pile fabric where the cut pile runs in vertical cords along the length of the fabric. A number of different types are found, ranging from pincord (very fine cords) to elephant cord (very broad cords). Crepe Fabric characterised by a crinkled or puckered surface, which can be produced by a number of methods. 1. woven fabric where short, irregular floats in warp and weft are arranged to give an all-over, random pattern within the weave repeat. 2. woven or knitted fabric where the crêpe characteristics are achieved mainly by the use of highly twisted yarns, which in finishing develop the crinkled, puckered appearance of a crêpe. 3. fabric where the crêpe effect is produced in finishing by treatment with embossing rollers, engraved with a crêpe pattern, which impart a crêpe effect onto the fabric through heat and pressure. Crêpe de chine
Lightweight, plain weave crêpe fabric, made with highly twisted continuous filament yarns in the weft, alternating one S and one Z twist, and with normally twisted filament yarns in the warp. The crêpe effect is relatively unpronounced. Crepe yarn
Spun or filament yarns that are very highly S or Z twisted used for the production of crepe fabrics.
Lightweight, printed, all wool plain weave fabric. Doupion (or Dupion)
Silk-breeding term meaning double cocoon, used to describe the irregular, raw rough silk reeled from double cocoons. Drill
Woven twill fabric with a similar structure to denim, but usually piece-dyed.
E Egyptian cotton
Type of cotton characterised by long, fine fibres.
Lightweight, open-textured fabric made in plain weave a simple leno weave. Georgette
Fine, lightweight, plain weave, crêpe fabric, usually having two highly twisted S and two highly twisted Z yarns alternately in both warp and weft.
Variation on plain weave, where two or more ends and picks weave as one. Sometimes called basket weave.
I Indian cotton
Type of cotton characterised by relatively short, coarse fibres. Interlining
Fabric used between the inner and outer layers of a garment to improve shape retention, strength, warmth or bulk. Interlinings may be woven, knitted or nonwoven, and can be produced with fusible adhesive on one surface.
J Jacquard fabric
A fabric woven on a jacquard loom, where the patterning mechanism allows individual control on any interlacing of up to several hundred warp threads or a rib-based, double jersey weft-knit structure which shows a figure or design in a different colour or texture. Jacquard fabrics are sub-divided into flat-jacquard and blister fabrics. Jersey
General term used for any knitted fabric. Jute
Natural vegetable bast fibre, the plant from which the bast jute fibre is obtained.
Coarse fibres present in varying amounts in wool fleece. Usually white, black or brown and can be used to give decorative effects in some wool fabrics. Knickerbocker yarn
Fancy yarn characterised by random flecks or spots of differently coloured fibres.
Fine, plain weave fabric, traditionally of cotton on linen. Linen
Natural vegetable bast fibre obtained from the flax plant. Lambswool Wool from the fleeces of lambs (young sheep up to the age of weaning). Lamé
A general name for fabrics where metallic threads are a conspicuous feature.
Square-hole, warp knitted net. Merino Wool
Wool from the merino sheep, which produces the shortest and finest wool fibres. Mohair
Natural animal hair fibre from the angora or mohair goat. Moiré
Fabric which shows a moiré or wavy watermark pattern. This is produced by calendaring, usually on a fabric showing a rib or cord effect in the weft direction. The moiré effect can be achieved by embossing with a roller engraved with a moiré pattern, or by feeding two layers of fabric face to face through the calendar. the effect may be permanent or temporary depending on the fibres and the chemicals used. Moquette
Firm, woven warp-pile fabric where the pile yarns are lifted over wires, which may or may not have knives. Withdrawal of the wires will give a cut or an uncut pile. Used for upholstery, particularly on public transport vehicles. Mousseline
General term for very fine, semi-opaque fabrics, finer than muslins, made of silk, wool or cotton. Muslin
Lightweight, open, plain or simple leno weave fabric, usually made of cotton.
N Narrow Fabric
Any fabric that does not exceed 45 cms in width (in the UK). In the USA and Europe, the accepted upper width is 30 cms. Ribbons, tapes, braids and narrow laces are included in this category. Natural Fibre
A textile fibre occuring in nature, which is animal, vegetable or mineral in origin. New wool
Fibre from a sheep or lamb that has not previously been used. Alternative name for virgin wool. Nylon
Man made synthetic polymer fibre. Alternative name for polyamide.
Lightweight, plain weave transparent fabric, with a permanently stiff finish. Organza
A sheer, lighweight, plain weave fabric, with a relatively firm drape and handle, traditionally made from the continuous filament of silk yarns. Now often made using other fibres.
Man made synthetic polymer fibre. Pure Silk
Silk in which there is no metallic or other weighting of any kind, except that which is an essential part of dyeing.
R Raw Silk
Continuous filaments containing no twist, drawn off or reeled from cocoons. The filaments are unbleached, undyed and not degummed.
Woven structure where the maximum amount of weft shows on the face. The smooth effect is enhanced by using filament yarns and/or lustrous fibres. Satin
Woven structure where the maximum amount of warp shows on the face. The smooth effect is enhanced by using filament yarns and/or lustrous fibres. Silk
Natural animal protein fibre obtained from the cocoons produced by silkworms. Silk Noil
Very short silk fibres extracted during silk combing that are too short for producing spun silk. These fibres are usually spun into silk-noil yarns. Slub yarn
Fancy yarn characterised by areas of thicker, loosely twisted yarn alternating with thinner, harder twisted areas. Spun silk
Staple fibre silk yarn produced from silk waster which has been largely degummed. Synthetic
Describes a substance which has been manufactured by building up a complex structure from simpler chemical substances.
Plain weave, closely woven, smooth, crisp fabric with a slight weftways rib, originally made from continuous filament silk yarns. Now often made using other fibres. Terry-Towelling
A woven warp-pile fabric where the loops are formed by applying a high tension to the ground warp and a very low tension to the pile warp. Beating-up does not occur on every pick, so that when a pick is beaten-up it causes the other picks to be moved into the main body of the cloth, at the same time forming the pile loops on the face and back of the cloth. Thrown Silk
Yarn twisted from continuous filament silk.
Cut pile weft or warp knitted fabric. Velvet
Cut warp-pile fabric, in which the cut fibrous ends of the yarns from the surface of the fabric. Many effects are possible, e.g. the pile may be left erect, or it may be laid in one direction during finishing to give a very high lustre. Viscose
Man made natural polymer regenerated cellulose fibre. Voile
Plain weave, semi-sheer, lightweight fabric made with fine, fairly highly twisted yarns. Originally made from cotton, now other fibres are sometimes used.
Lofty sheet of fibres used for padding, stuffing or packing. Wet spun
Describes man made filaments produced by wet spinning, where the dissolved polymer is converted into filaments by extrusion through the spinneret into a coagulating bath of chemicals, causing the filaments to solidify.
Minimally patterned, plain and simple patterns matter when you choose designer fabrics for your interior design scheme. It’s not just the ‘important’ stuff you have to worry about; it’s all the stuff.
Design after design. Pattern after pattern. Squashed into corners. Covered ceilings. Hung on walls. Something here, something there… OK you might have certain pieces that take centre stage in your grand design but you also have to set the stage with the backdrops, the reflected light, the subtle blend of auxiliary textures.
To a certain degree, if you must, you can compromise on the backdrops. It’s great having a silk panelled wall, relatively inexpensive and good to the touch. Not so good when it fades at differing rates in the exposed sun-lit areas of the room.
So when you choose designer fabrics yes you should be wowed by the colours, designs and textures BUT you should also be wowed and interested in the technical properties. Your clients might initially thank you for a great looking job. They won’t thank you if it starts to fall apart. they may well have already paid you at that point (so you’re OK right?) but will you then get recommended to their friends…probably not. It is so, so easy to make this kind of mistake.
So try faux silk rather than silk. It looks and feels pretty much the same but can be excellent in terms of non-fading.
So try faux leather. A wide variety of finishes and qualities are available and many are great for wall covering (!) as well as upholstery. Great to cover chairs or a bar in a restaurant but also in your kitchen as they can relatively easily be cared for and cleaned. If you love leather you might find that your upholsterer might not love that choice as you are working with hides of varying sizes, whereas with faux leather you are working with a fabric available by the metre.
Here are some additional pointers to consider when you are making a curtain using a velvet. Remember that a velvet is just a type of fabric and the fibre(s) that the velvet is made from is important.
So for example, we would always recommend that you line a curtain. This gives a superior appearance but also reduced the amount of light going through the fabric hence limiting as much as possible the effect of any fading.
If the velvet has a pile that can be flattened in one direction then we would recommend that you have the pile going downwards for SHINY velvet fabrics and PATTERNED VELVETS.
If however you make up the curtain with the pile upwards then this will deepen the colour so you could make the curtains this way for cotton velvets and Trevira Velvet and Mohair velvets.
These are general guidelines and it is not necessarily wrong if you make up the curtain ‘the other way’ just so long as you understand the implications to the finished look and performance of the material.