Fabric Tips #11: Mohair Velvet – How To Store

Alpaca-wool can be made into luxurious alpaca velvet
Image via Wikipedia – Alpaca Wool can be made into luxurious alpaca velvet…if you can find it

How to store Velvet.

The same instructions apply to all velvets.

Some background first: As an interior designer you buy and handle many fabrics. You may have wondered why some fabrics come in rolls of up to 100m whereas other come in much smaller lengths. Is this because of their value? The likelihood of them being sold quickly enough? Or perhaps longer lengths of some fabrics would be just to heavy for someone in a warehouse to physically carry or indeed too heavy for a courier to carry? Or perhaps it’s something to do with the thickness of the roll?

Well there is some truth no doubt in all of these reasons and others to. But one very important consideration with a velvet and especially with a Mohair velvets is the weight of the fabric and the weight of the fabric ON ITSELF. Because velvets have a pile they are thicker and heavier than other fabrics as they contain more material; similarly some velvets such as many mohair velvets have a dense pile…again more fabric and more weight.

There comes a point when the sheer weight of the roll of fabric becomes too much for the pile of the first part of the wrapped fabric on the roll and the inherent weight of all the fabric can cause damage to the pile. So velvets and especially mohair velvets have smaller lengths on the roll. Sometimes 25m but sometimes also 40m and 50m per roll.

So the length of fabric on a roll will be impacted by the weight of the fabric per linear metre AND the fact that a pile fabric can be more affected by added weight than other fabric.

So, how to store.

1. Store horizontally

2. Store with no other, external weight applied to the fabric.

3. Covered up to avoid exposure to dirt and dust i the air  -especially if stored for long periods

Typically you will find that many of our velvets come to you in special containers where the velvet is on a roll and suspended by special cardboard ends in the boxes. For small volumes of velvet on a single roll there is often no need for these special containers. Where the velvets are supplied in suspended roll containers it is safe to store the velvet in this form. Ideally youwould have a horizontal racking system for rolls of fabric as lengths can easily be cut off as and when you need them but cleary most interior designers do not have this facility.

The safest method of course is to let your supplier hold the stock and order cut lengths from them. It de-risks you damaging the fabric. Unless of course the supplier can specifically reserve entire rolls just for you, you would have the potential problem of dye lot or batch variation of colour with many fabric dyes. There would normally be a charge for an additional service such as this.

Upholstery Linen – Sourcing Luxury Upholstery Linen in the UK

Upholstery Linen
Upholstery Linen

Upholstery Linen is notoriously difficult for interior designers to source. Sourcing linens for curtains is easy enough but often linens are not woven with sufficient strength to score Martindale results that are high enough to warrant using the fabric for upholstery.

Some suppliers can be a little evasive and will quote the weight of the linen as a measure of the linen’s quality. The implicaiton being that the higher the weight the better suited the fabric will be for upholstery. There is some thuth in that implication but you cannot say for certain that a high weight linen is inherently suitable for upholstery. Get the Martindale!

Most KOTHEA luxury upholstery linens have inherent Martindale rub tests of around 20,000 rubs with one range further strengthened to 85,000 rubs for contract usage – 20,000 Martindale being eminently suitable for domestic upholstery.

Furthermore when buying upholstery- (or curtain-) linen you need to know whether or not it will shrink when washed. Linen ALWAYS shrinks. So what you have to find out is whether or not it has been pre-shrunk before you buy it. A common way of pre-shrinking linen is through the sanforisation process.

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Here are the details of our new 2011 upholstery linens that are named Recline, Relax and Restful. We have many others, these are just the new ones:

Name: Recline

Usage: Luxury Contract Upholstery

Colourways: 24

Width:   135cm

Comp:  54% Li 35% Co 11% Pa

Weight: >350g/m2

Notes:   Martindale >85,000

Request Samples

Name: Relax

Usage: Luxury Domestic Upholstery

Colourways: 24

Width:  135cm

Comp: 100% Li

Weight: >265 g/m2

Notes:   Martindale >15,000

Request Samples

Name: Restful

Usage: Heavyweight Luxury Domestic Upholstery

Colourways: 4

Width:  135cm

Comp: 100% Li

Weight: >470 g/m2

Notes:   Martindale >45,000

Request Samples

Black Velvet – Even Better Italian Silk Velvet In Black

Black Velvet – only to be enjoyed by those who appreciate that black is the new black! KOTHEA have a range of velvets with shades of black colourways in most of those velvet collections.

Black Diamond” is the colourway name for the Italian Silk Velvet (100% Silk Pile) with the code 777-108-900.

You can get black silk velvet samples here from KOTHEA if you are a trade professional. Just click the link.

KOTHEA velvets are the best in the market. We only sell top market fabrics, mostly to top European Interior Designers and Architects. Here are some more bits of technical information on our black Italian Silk velvet fabric:

Width: 140cm

Composition: 100% Silk Pile

No repeat, plain.

Abrasion: Martindale 20,000.

Available from stock, normal delivery within 5 days.

Minimum Order length: 2m

What is fabric sanforisation, sanforised, sanforising?

interior design oxford rogue designs
Image by rogue-designs via Flickr

Sanforising is a finishing technique for already woven fabric.

Interior Designers do not need to know the detail of exactly what happens. So, in brief, the process is usually associated with cotton fabric and often also with shirting fabric. The idea behind sanforising is to pre-shrink the fabric. Clearly any shrinkage after the fabric has been made up may cause problems and Interior Designers DO need to be aware of that!

When sanforised fabric is subsequently made up into curtains or used on upholstery the naturally occurring effects of fabric stretching are reduced, but like many natural fabrics some further shrinkage could occur.

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Click To Read More Interior Design Articles

As a general rule: more tightly woven fabrics tend to shrink less.

The sanforisation process involves stretching and heating damp fabric over a series of rollers

Cashmere Throws – Luxury Refined From KOTHEA

Cashmere is the most exclusive wool practically available for interiors use. It is sometimes called Pashmina, and a few other things, but essentially Cashmere is what the wool really is and it rarely comes from Kashmir!

There are one or two wools that are possibly ‘better’ (ie warmer or softer) but they are extremely expensive (such as Vicuna). They are SO expensive and ‘rare’ that you will never come across them in reality unless you work in a very niche area of the fashion fabrics market. I have never even heard about such fabrics being available for interiors use, let alone seen or touched them. Although I would imagine it would not be dissimilar from cashmere!

Which brings me back to Cashmere Throws.

Maybe you already have a Cashmere Throw, or possibly a Cashmere scarf. They feel wonderful. It is not just marketing hype either, there are a variety of technical reasons why the Cashmere yarn makes fabrics that are warmer and softer to the touch than any other woolen yarn.

Yet there remains a huge variation in price from one Cashmere throw to the next. Why?

We have struggled to answer that question ourselves. Cashmere Throws can retail at £2,000. Yet the quality is only very good. Scarves too can easily cost several hundreds of pounds (and upwards).

So we are about to release Cashmere Throws that are better than everyone else. We are using: higher quality, thicker yarns than anyone else; sourcing our own designs, qualities and colours from the best mills.

I can guarantee that if you put one of our throws next to any competing alternative you would always choose a KOTHEA Cashmere Throw. We would even let our competitor choose the criteria that they wish to compete on! We are SO confident that our throws win on all counts.

Or you could go and buy one for £2,000 from somewhere else and be unsure that you have the best.

The Cigarette & Match Tests BS 5852

The Cigarette & Match Tests BS 5852 are fire retardancy tests for residential upholstery. This document is intended to be read by interior designers and as such you do not need to understand the details of the tests. Interior designers must, however, ensure that they comply with the associated British Standards by ensuring that the fabrics they specify are fit for that purpose.

You can download this document by clicking on the pdf icon.

  1. If you are sourcing furniture for your client then the vendor of the furniture needs to provide you with appropriate information to prove compliance.
  2. If you are specifying fabric for furniture to be made up, then you need to ask the fabric supplier for the fabric’s compliance to the standards and/or arrange fire treatment.
  3. You will need to ensure that you have specified the appropriate fabrics for the visible and non-visible parts of the furniture.
  4. You will need to liaise with your upholsterer to ensure that any additional materials such as foam and fabric lining are adequate.

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The cigarette and match tests fall under BS 5852. The test(s) involve the fabric being exposed to different ‘ignition sources’ essentially simulating possible real life causes of domestic fires. The ‘ignition sources’ are ways that the fabric could plausibly be burnt. There are 8 different sources/types of combustion but you only normally need to deal with sources 0, 1 and 5.
Source 0 = Cigarette (smouldering cigarette)
Source 1 = Match (simulated match)
Source 5 = Crib. (Wooden crib or Crib 5)

Source 5, or Crib 5 as it is frequently know as, is usually a contract standard for upholstery. In contract upholstery you might also come across BS 7176 which determines specific risk or hazard areas that your fabric is being installed into. In simple terms, BS 7176 covers all 3 of the above tests. Furthermore, whilst Crib 5 is the highest standard of the 3 tests it does not follow that a fabric which passes Crib 5 will also pass the cigarette and match test – even though it is likely to.

Exceptions, Mandates & Exemptions

  • Fabric is exempted if it is 75% by weight of cotton, silk, viscose, wool i.e. 75% natural fibres. A FR inter-liner must also be used to keep the exemption.
  • Furniture MUST IN ALL CASES pass the cigarette test. No exceptions.
  • Cigarette Test will be undertaken using standard foam – this presents a worst-case scenario.
  • For fabrics that do not inherently pass the required test then treatments are usually available, often where the back side of the fabric is coated with a fire resistant substance not affecting the look and feel of the fabric
  • For already made-up furniture, we doubt that it is possible to treat it retrospectively to pass the tests. However it may be possible to prove that the fabrics that have already been used are in fact compliant.

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Vicuna Silk Velvet (Vicugna) – Better Than Cashmere Silk Velvet?

Silk Velvet Fabric Upholstery Fabric Martindale Rub TestCashmere Silk Velvet is one of the world’s most luxurious fabrics. But is it THE most luxurious? Now this is a good question! and a little tricky to answer.

Perhaps the most expensive yarn is from the vicuña (vicuna, vicugna), which is a camel-like animal found in the high alpine areas of the South American Andes. Whilst not an endangered species it is a rare animal and difficult to farm as it tends to escape!

Cashmere yarn comes from the cashmere goat and other goats such as the pashmina goat.

Cashmere and Vicuna have an outer layer of hair which is coarse and rough but protective for the animal. This is the guard hair. Underneath the guard hair is a warm layer of much, much softer hair. This underlayer consists of hollow-fibred hair that is an excellent insulator. The vicuna has the finest of these fibres of any (resultant) wool anywhere in the world.

About 400g of yarn can be produced from one Vicuna compared to 150g from the Cashmere goat, the latter being a smaller animal. There are many more Cashmere goats in the world and I suspect this is why Cashmere is relatively affordable – as it is produced in much larger volumes in a more competitive market.

As an indication, a Vicuna scarf would cost in excess of US$1000. As far as I know, it is not produced in sufficient quantities to be available in a suitable form for interiors use (I could be wrong). But if it were it could be woven with silk to produce THE MOST EXPENSIVE AND BEST woollen silk velvet in the world. A further problem is that the Vicuna fibre can readily be damaged when dyed, again making significant production quantities problematic.

Now, as much of the Cashmere yarn produced comes from China, Australia and other countries…in fact just about anywhere other than Kasmir! it strikes me that is an opportunity waiting to happen for some illustrious, economically-minded, goat breeder out there with friends in the textiles industry. If the production problems could be overcome I could see that there still would be a market for an interiors fabric retailing at in excess of GBP800/m  (US£1300/yard) – albeit a small one.

Mohair Velvet, Silk Velvet: How to upholster using it

Silk Velvet Upholstery Fabric TextileMohair Velvet and Silk Velvet buyers consider this: You have just invested a considerable amount of money in a high quality silk velvet or mohair velvet. Are you really considering upholstering with it yourself. Use an experienced upholsterer who, to be brutally honest, should not need the instructions that follow.

Some velvets are woven with a nap others are not. It is not a problem either way. If there is a nap you need to know which way it goes as that affects the process of upholstering. When you run your hand down the mohair velvet or silk velvet the smoothed direction indicates the direction of the nap. Remember this, it is important.

I’m assuming that you have already checked that the fabric is not damaged and that each piece is from the same dye lot.

The nap should be upholstered downwards for:

– the back;

– the seat; and

– side surfaces.

The nap should be upholstered from the outside inwards for:

– arm rests.

How do you flip your cushions? Top to bottom or left to right?

Most people flip from top to bottom. It is therefore standard upholstering practice to upholster the front and the back the opposite way. IE when they are flipped over the nap is the same.

You should use a layer of wadding between the foam and the fabric. The wadding can be either cotton or synthetic it does not really matter but check with any fire rating requirements. Again check that you are using the right kind of foam but HR foam or cold foam are both fine.

However if the pile is vertical then we advise the additional use of a cotton slip-cover.

Going back to the foam for a minute we advise that you use white wadding. In certain circumstances it is possible that grey wadding will ‘bleed’ causing marks on your beautiful Mohair Velvet. For example this may be caused from moisture used in the cleaning process.

Always use wadding on the arm rests as a protective layer to help eliminate ‘sharp’ edges. Using wadding on arm rests will thus reduce wear and tear considerably.

For the piping never use synthetic piping cord, always use cotton piping cord. As with the arm rests this will reduce wear and tear by eliminating the ‘sharper edges’.

Again to reduce wear and tear also use the length of the fabric to make the piping. this will look better as well.

Happy Upholstering

KOTHEA 2010 Fabric Collections

Finally! Our summer collections have been decided and we will begin to introduce the new designs and colourways throughout the remainder of this year. We have been inundated with new work in the first part of this year causing our blog posts to be curtailed and our ‘spring’ collection to nearly be an autumn/fall collection. Not that we really do seasonal collections in any case.

I will return later in another post to KOTHEA’s awesome sales figures for the financial year just finished. Most surprising, especially considering we are in the midst of a recession. We had our best ever year and by quite a large margin.

We expect some coverage of the new collections in World of Interiors and Elle decoration but, again, more on that at another time.

Where can you see our collections? Well, we are as elusive as ever but we are starting to digitize some images to our flickr feed (click the images on the right or here). The flickr update is ongoing, there is information on flickr now but some of the images are not final and some images do not have full associated descriptions / product details but we are woking on that this week. Our usual clients will receive the new collections in due course starting in late summer; if you need them more urgently for pressing projects of course we will be happy to oblige. Please get in contact in the usual way.

Not all are in production yet but most sampling is available now.

As a very broad summary we have:

1. New colours of several existing ranges including faux leather;

2. More velvets including patterned and crush;

3. Striped, double-width linens;

4. Upholstery weight linen; and

5. A few more interesting one-off designs in limited colourways like the one heading up this blog post.