Fabric 101: Types of Fabric and Yarn Explained

Selecting fabric can be one of the most exciting steps when it comes to starting a new project. It can also be one of the most challenging with all the different types of fabric on the market. We have compiled a brief rundown of the basics of fabric, including terms you might see when browsing our fabric selection. 

 

The Raw Material

The raw material, either natural or manufactured, that forms the basic element of fabrics and other textile structures is called fiber. Individual fibers are spun together to make yarn. This yarn is then woven into fabric.

 

Textile yarn can be made with natural fibers from substances such as wool, silk, cotton, or linen. Yarn can also be made with synthetic (or man-made) fibers created from a variety of substances like acrylic, nylon, or polyester. Most Sunbrella upholstery fabrics are made from 100% Sunbrella Acrylic.

 

All Sunbrella fabrics are manufactured with Color to the Core™ technology. This proprietary process means each foundational fiber is saturated with color and UV-stabilized pigments. Once saturated, the proprietary fiber is spun into yarns which are then woven into our long-lasting performance fabric. Color to the Core™ technology ensures years of beautiful living with color that stays true over time, maintaining the strength and integrity of the fabric through years of cleaning, wear, and exposure to the elements. 

 

Types of Upholstery Fabric

The different types of upholstery fabric include cotton, linen, chenille, leather, polyester, polypropylene, acrylic, and nylon. Upholstery fabric can be constructed from one type of yarn or a blend of yarns. Choosing the correct upholstery fabric will ensure the longevity of your furniture.

 

Common Terms To Know 

Blue and green floral fabric swatch, Sunbrella Sensibility SpringBlue and green floral fabric swatch, Sunbrella Sensibility Spring
Sensibility Spring
Geometric pattern fabric swatch in shades of blue Sunbrella escape denimGeometric pattern fabric swatch in shades of blue Sunbrella escape denim
Escape Denim
Blue floral pattern fabric with white background, Sunbrella Calm LaurelBlue floral pattern fabric with white background, Sunbrella Calm Laurel
Calm Laurel

 

Jacquard - A jacquard is a fabric has a design or motif woven into the construction of the weave. Jacquards come in an array of designs like florals, stripes, chevrons, or geometric patterns, to name a few.

 

White textured fabric swatch, Sunbrella Momento SnowWhite textured fabric swatch, Sunbrella Momento Snow
Momento Snow
Grey textured fabric swatch, Sunbrella Nurture SmokeGrey textured fabric swatch, Sunbrella Nurture Smoke
Nurture Smoke
Light grey textured fabric, Sunbrella Hybrid SmokeLight grey textured fabric, Sunbrella Hybrid Smoke
Hybrid Smoke

 

Boucle – Boucle yarn is yarn made from a series of looped fiber. Boucle fabric is fabric woven from boucle yarn. Derived from the French word meaning “curled” or “ringed,” boucle yarn produces a fabric with a knotty, chunky texture. 

 

Textured grayish brown melange fabric swatch, Sunbrella Blend CoalTextured grayish brown melange fabric swatch, Sunbrella Blend Coal
Blend Coal
Tan and grey striped melange fabric, Sunbrella comfort pebbleTan and grey striped melange fabric, Sunbrella comfort pebble
Comfort Pebble
Textured beige melange fabric, Sunbrella Blend SandTextured beige melange fabric, Sunbrella Blend Sand
Blend Sand

 

Mélange – Two or more fiber types (or the same fiber type) of different colors spun together into yarn. Mélange yarns produce a fabric with a heathered texture. 

 

Blue striped fabric swatch, Sunbrella Direction Dew fabricBlue striped fabric swatch, Sunbrella Direction Dew fabric
Direction Dew
White textured fabric with grey slub yarn, Sunbrella Frequency Parchment fabricWhite textured fabric with grey slub yarn, Sunbrella Frequency Parchment fabric
Frequency Parchment
Blue striped fabric swatch, Sunbrella Sail Away Denim fabricBlue striped fabric swatch, Sunbrella Sail Away Denim fabric
Sail Away Denim

Slub – Slub yarn is yarn spun with intentional irregularities in diameter – some sections of yarn are thicker and some are thinner to add texture to the woven fabric.

 

Pattern vs. Print

You may recognize the terms patterned or printed when it comes to fabric designs. Many fabrics will feature a printed design, where a color or colors are applied to the face of the fabric to create the design.

 

This contrasts with a pattern design where the colors of the design are woven into the fabric using various yarn colors. The main benefits of woven pattern fabrics are the texture and dimension this process provides. Printed fabrics tend to be flat, and prints can fade easily in the sun. Woven Sunbrella fabrics provide dimensional texture and offer UV resistance for color that stands up to the elements and wear and tear for years to come.

 

Learn More about Sunbrella

At Sunbrella, we pride ourselves on creating high-quality performance fabrics and products that provide comfort for your coziest spaces, color retention for years of enjoyment, cleanability for all of life’s messes, and strength that lasts.

 

Now that you have a better understanding of fabric types be sure to read our guide for How to Sew with Sunbrella Fabric and What is Performance Fabric? to learn more about the benefits of Sunbrella. 


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