Ever stood in the fabric store or at the upholsterers and stared at rolls and rolls of beautiful fabric or pages and pages of samples that are each more attractive than the one before? Deciding on what fabric to choose for your upholstery projects can be a real challenge, and I got stuck on whether I should choose microfiber or chenille fabric for my couch upholstery.
Both these fabrics are stunning and come in a range of colors, patterns, weaves, and textures. But which is best for covering a sofa? Microfiber or chenille fabric? I debated the merits of each with the team at Kovi Fabrics; our verdict was surprising.
Upholstery Fabric for a Sofa: Microfiber Versus Chenille?
Firstly, before we get into the pros and cons of microfiber and chenille fabric, it is essential to know just what you require from sofa upholstery fabric.
Upholstery fabric for a sofa needs to be strong. A sofa will see a lot of use. People not only sit in it, but they tend to get up and sit, move around, and shift around frequently while sitting on a sofa. All that movement can be rough on upholstery, so the fabric fibers need to be extra strong.
The thickness of fiber is not always an indication of strength, and it comes down to the tensile quality of the fibers.
Microfiber has a particularly thin fiber that is also incredibly strong. Because of this strength, microfiber is recommended as upholstery for pet and child-friendly homes.
Chenille fabric is also made from the same polyester fibers as microfiber, making it a strong upholstery choice.
In addition to the fibers being strong, a good upholstery fabric needs to be rub-resistant too. Each time someone sits on a sofa, their body rubs against the fabric. Therefore, fabrics are rated according to how many double rubs (forward and backward) it takes before they rub through. For your sofa, you should aim for a 15,000-25,000 rub rating.
Given that chenille fabric and microfiber fabric are both made from polyester, they feature similar durability and rub resistance. The difference will come in when comparing the weight and thickness of the chosen upholstery fabric.
Fabric needs to be soft enough to be comfortable. Hard upholstery may be durable, but it won’t be comfortable and may remind you of sitting at a government office instead of your home.
While you want a fabric with some give and softness, you should also aim for a tight weave like microfiber or chenille fabric that will stretch but bounce back into shape (if you measured correctly).
Microfiber has better flexibility than chenille fabric, and it also retains its shape better. Chenille fabric tends to sag if it isn’t used with a backing material when upholstering sofas.
There is nothing worse than finding out your newly reupholstered sofa has discolored after a little bit of sunlight and in no time at all. Fabrics have different color qualities. Some are great at giving you unique dye properties, but these may also fade quickly in strong UV light.
Other fabrics are more durable in their colorfastness, resisting fade and wash-dilution, making these easy to care for. Microfiber is a great colorfast upholstery fabric. I discovered that chenille fabric is also suitably colorfast for upholstering a sofa.
Whichever fabric you choose to upholster your sofa, be sure it is stain-resistant. Sofas are social places where you wine and dine and eat pizza in front of the TV, so make sure you can clean the upholstery easily.
While microfiber and chenille fabric may seem to be similar as they are made of the same basic material, microfiber is much more superior in stain resistance and cleanability. Chenille fabric has a more textured finish that tends to hold stains more, and cleaning is complicated as pigment from stains may linger on the raised surface.
Since you’ll be rubbing against your sofa each time you flop down for some chill time, it is important to buy a fabric that will remain perfectly stretched without piling and pulling.
Pilling is when individual fibers catch on something, drawing that fiber out of the weave, creating ugly mini-loops that compromise the fabric quality. Pulling usually happens when the fabric sags and isn’t correctly tensioned.
Of the two fabrics, I found microfiber to be less likely to show piling or pull. Chenille fabric, despite being strong, can show piling when one of the raised fibers catches on something.
Lower density chenille, which is also lower quality and thinner overall, is more likely to suffer surface damage. Chenille fabric tends to be thinner due to the surface treatment, which means it also pulls when not reinforced by a stronger backing fabric.
When you choose your upholstery fabric for your sofa, you want to choose something that has resilience to it. The fabric needs to be an overall winner in terms of care, quality, strength, durability, and colorfastness.
My Initial Verdict on Microfiber vs Chenille Fabric
After the initial information on the two fabric types, I was happy to choose microfiber over chenille fabric as microfiber is more durable, shows better color retention, cleans better, and doesn’t require backing. But then I wondered why chenille fabric was still a popular choice for upholstery and whether I had missed some crucial information.
Unique Properties of Chenille Fabric
Chenille fabric is a popular upholstery choice due to the range of textures and patterns that it can be woven in. It offers great variety and design options to create a special look and achieve a luxurious finish. While microfiber is available in a smooth or brushed finish, there are some limitations to how many different textures it is available in.
With the range of surface qualities that chenille fabric offers, it is possible to create stunning nubby surface textures, fuzzy looks, and longer piled textures. This is great for a designer sofa that is both luxurious and low on maintenance.
Chenille hides pet hair quite well, though it may also seem to attract hair into the fluffy surface fibers. Microfiber repels pet hair since the tighter weave is more resistant to penetration by hair and nails.
Depending on the surface qualities of chenille fabric, you may find that pet claws can hook on the raised fibers and textured loops that give chenille such an unusual finish.
Upholstering your sofa with chenille when you have a cat that loves to scratch can end up making that plush pile sofa become more and more fluffy and ragged. Microfiber, which is more resistant to hooking, is a far better choice then.
Final Choice: Chenille Fabric Versus Microfiber
In the end, I opted for microfiber as I have two beautiful Persian cats that will definitely ruin a plush sofa cover. However, if you have no pets or if your pets are trained to sleep on the floor, you would do well with chenille fabric as upholstery for your sofa.
Keep in mind to opt for a thicker quality chenille and stain-proof it with a product like Scotchguard. If you go for a slightly thinner or lighter chenille, increase the strength and reduce pulling by adding a backing support fabric. Whichever upholstery fabric you choose, Kovi Fabrics has a huge range, great advice, and the best contacts for a professional sofa upholstery project to succeed.