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New Sofa Covers – Handy Tips and Information to Help You Pick Your Perfect Fabric

In this article:

First things first, one of the quickest and simplest ways to narrow down a wide selection of fabrics is by colour. Look at prominent features in the room where your refurbished sofa and new sofa covers will be proudly displayed. Is there a theme? 

Here is a handy hack, grab some paint charts from a DIY store and circle the colours closest to the colour themes and features in your room. This will allow you to very quickly match up similar colours, and lay contrasting colours next to each other to see what colour groups work well together.

Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two colours you can further whittle down the fabrics for your new sofa covers by once again selecting or eliminating some key features.

Other features to consider when choosing fabrics for your new sofa covers

Natural or synthetic

There are a wide range of fabric types to consider for your new sofa covers. If you have a preference between natural or synthetic fabrics for your upholstery this can help you to hone in on your perfect fabric. 

Brush, pile, weave…

Other material types to consider are the pile, weave, velvet or non-velvet and fabric compositions. Deciding what fabric type you would prefer is very helpful when making a final decision.


Understanding the Martindale Rub Test results of your fabric can also narrow down the selection based on your specific requirements. The Martindale Rub Test is an industry standard abrasion test which is used to measure the durability of fabrics. Check out our previous blog post on durable fabrics which touches on material types and the Martindale Rub Test. Work out what level of usage your furniture gets and use this to guide you on an appropriate level of fabric durability for your new sofa covers.

Pattern or Plain

There is much less to consider when opting for a plain fabric. But don’t let that put you off a pattern! Patterned fabrics make a fantastic statement piece, it just means there are a few more decisions to make. For example, pattern type – do you want a floral pattern? A stripe? Checks? Or something else entirely?

Having a flick through some interior design magazines can help you to get an understanding of current trends and what prints or patterns are available. You can also get some handy styling tips from magazines such as these. 

Pattern overwhelm

When working with patterns there are a few industry terms which you may come across and be unsure of the meaning. Here’s a list to offer some clarification:

What is a pattern repeat?

All patterned fabric has a repeat which is typically vertical. When making something out of patterned fabrics it is essential to allow additional fabric in order to pattern match the widths of fabric. It is usual that a vertical repeat allows you to match the pattern straight across the piece of the fabric to the next piece at the same place, but there is usually some excess in order to line these up perfectly. A typical vertical pattern match is also known as a ‘straight match’

There are different types of pattern match:

A random match is where there is no specific pattern repeat or where there are no match points evident.

A Half Drop repeat is where rather than matching the pattern from selvage to selvage, every other horizontal repeat is ‘dropped down’ one half of its length. This results in the pattern repeating itself on the diagonal rather than the horizontal. A half drop repeat typically needs the most additional fabric.

Railroaded is where the pattern is a horizontal pattern repeat, i.e. the design runs across the width of the fabric rather than vertically up the roll. The width of the fabric is then used to run along the width of a sofa for a seamless effect.

Here’s a great tutorial on the different types of pattern match so you can get a better understanding of what each of them mean.

Other considerations

Does my fabric need to be fire retardant?

It is UK law that all fabrics intended for upholstery must meet the UK domestic or contract fire regulations. Included within these regulations are FR standards. This means any fabric you consider will need to be fire retardant. FR fabrics will have a FR code indicating the fire retardancy. If the fabric you like or have chosen does not meet the regulated standard it may be possible to add a back-coat or use the fabric with a fire retardant interliner.