If you hear someone bought a vintage furniture item, you probably know that they are referring to a chair or sofa that's at least 40 to 50 years old. However, the term vintage fabric is somewhat more ambiguous. Vintage fabric is not necessarily "old" fabric, though it can be old too. When a fabric is called "vintage," it usually refers to a fabric that's printed in a particular style that was popular many years ago. The fabric's pattern, colors, and design celebrates a bygone era, such as flowers for the 1960s hippie era. Fabric can also be of a good quality that has never been used before, and it's used for upholstery many years after it was woven. This fabric is vintage in the real sense of the word. Knowing which "vintage" fabric type you are referring to will help you decide what you can make with it and how you can use it. Whether the fabric is new with a vintage print or old and authentically vintage, you should still consider what effect you are achieving in using that fabric as upholstery in your home.

What to Look For in Vintage Upholstery Fabric

Vintage fabric needs to meet the basic requirements of upholstery fabrics. Even if you've delved into a trousseau chest and discovered a bolt of fabric your grandmother once bought, it doesn't mean that the fabric is still good enough for upholstery purposes. Check whether the fabric is rub resistant. If the fabric frays or pills, it's a sure sign that this particular vintage fabric isn't going to last long on your sofas. If you are unsure of the fabric integrity (it may have suffered some damp or environmental damage while in storage), it is best to choose a vintage look-a-like fabric that will be safe and durable for your upholstery project.

Consider color fade. Technology has changed dramatically within a few short decades. It's highly likely that the vintage fabric you've discovered may have suffered color fade or is made with dyes that aren't as durable and UV-resistant as the fabrics of today. So how do you choose a vintage-looking fabric for your upholstery projects if your authentically vintage upholstery fabric isn't suitable any longer? Simple!

Consider the pattern, style, and quality.

4 Types of Vintage-Like Upholstery Fabrics

Consider the main features of the era you are trying to celebrate or recreate. Here are a few main vintage types you may consider:

Paisley and Floral Patterns

In the 1800s, paisley and floral patterns were increasingly popular, though the tone of these prints was still mostly earthy-toned. During the first half of the 1900s, flour companies discovered women were resorting to using flour bags for clothes, which is why floral print canvas bags were introduced.

The Art Deco Period

In the early days before the Great Depression, lavish and extravagant prints were popular as architecture and design blossomed. The early 1920s were celebrated with bold geometric prints in vibrant colors.

The Riot of the 1950s

The 1950s was a strange time when pastel pink flowers were as easily offset by black and white chequer prints and bright reds. Think ice cream colors printed on plain backgrounds and 1950s diner colors.

The 1960s and 1970s Hippie Era

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Hippie era reigned supreme. For this vintage look, you can choose bold flower prints in ultra bright colors. Consider unusual combinations and splash out with peacock colors in your home. The more vibrant, the better.

How and Where to Use Vintage Fabric in Your Home

Decide on the era you are trying to draw inspiration from. Your home doesn't need to be stuck in a time warp to make use of vintage fabric. A feature chair can be upholstered in paisley with a muted earthy print to complement the look. Downplay the vibrant red sofa you've bought with some black and white checkered pillows or a drape in pastel shades. The vintage fabric should come to its own right in your home, whether it's real vintage or a vintage-looking print. When upholstering your furniture, consider the lines of the furniture as the overall design should be cohesive for a more pleasing look. Creative combinations are always a possibility too. Match a pre-war embossed velvet with a modern-shaped loveseat, or choose a floral hippie print with a tuxedo-style sofa.

Cleaning and Caring for Your Vintage Upholstery Fabrics

When cleaning a vintage-look fabric, it is important to clean it by following the recommendation of the particular fabric. Microfiber is different from vinyl to clean, and you should stick to the cleaning method that fits the fabric type. For actual vintage fabrics, it is important to treat these gently. Threads weren't meant to last for a century, so take care to air these fabrics well, gently shake them weekly, and avoid scrubbing to clean. Rely on natural cleaning solutions instead of using chemicals that may seriously damage the vintage fibers and dyes of an older fabric. Above all, have fun as you make vintage your own.

Most Popular Vintage Upholstery Fabric

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