Upholstery Glossary

All the terms you need to know about upholstery.


Bias-cut: Cut from one corner of a fabric to the opposite, diagonal corner. Checks are often bias-cut to tweak their personality. Some fabrics will drape differently when cut on the bias, and this treatment can require substantially more yardage.

Colorway: The range of colors or color combinations available for a specific fabric. The style of a print can change dramatically in different colorways.

Deck: The flat platform under an upholstered chair's seat cushion, usually covered in plain fabric. The deck should be firmly resilient, and you should not be able to feel the springs.

Fabric backing: The extra layer applied to certain fabrics, such as chenille, for upholstery applications. Without backing, they will stretch and sag. Look for fabrics marked "upholstery weight" or "all-purpose."

Gimp: A tightly woven fancy trim that resembles a braided ribbon. On upholstered furniture, gimp is most commonly used to conceal tacks where fabric meets an exposed wood frame.

Ground: The background color of a printed fabric. Depending on the density and scale of the pattern, the ground is not necessarily the dominant color.

Interlining: The fabric sewn between the inner foundation covering and the outer upholstery. It stabilizes lighter-weight upholstery fabrics and improves wear.

Pattern match: The layout of fabric pieces so that pattern flows unbroken across seams and cushions. Done well, seams will be nearly invisible. Large-scale patterns may require substantially more yardage.

Railroading: Cutting fabric on the cross grain, usually to avoid seams in large upholstered pieces. Fabric is also referred to as railroaded when the pattern runs horizontally off the bolt. Fabric with directional patters or pile (such as velvet) should not be railroaded.

Repeat: One complete cycle of a pattern in a fabric or wallpaper. A textile with a large repeat will require substantially more yardage to upholster a piece than a solid fabric, particularly when applied to a sofa.

Selvage: Tightly woven edges that prevent fabric from fraying on the roll. The selvage must be cut away for many fabrics to drape smoothly.

Tight-back: Having no loose or semiattached back cushions. This style of upholstery looks tailored but can be less comfortable for lounging and is harder to clean than loose cushions.

Up the roll: Applied to furniture with the pattern or pile running vertically and the fabric cut on the straight grain. The opposite is railroading, in which the fabric is run sideways.

Warp: The threads that run vertically in a length of fabric. Looms are strung with warp threads that are interwoven with weft threads.

Weft: The set of yarns running horizontally to and interlaced with the warp to produce a woven fabric. Also called filling.

Welting: A fabric-covered cord that is sewn into an upholstery seam. Welted edges define the silhouette of a piece of furniture and strengthen the seams. Patterned fabric is typically bias-cut for welting. Smooth welted seams are a sign of quality upholstery.

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