Tips to help you choose the right fabrics for the application

Understanding double-rub abrasion counts & other cool stuff about fabric wearability.

Double rub abrasion counts, often called Wyzenbeek counts or double rub counts are a way to measure the abrasion resistance and durability of a fabric. One back and forth motion counts as one double rub.  Another test to measure wear is a Martindale test which is measured by a figure 8 rub.  These testing methods are meant to mimic the “wear and tear” of everyday use. As a general rule of thumb, a fabric’s rub count is a good testament to the recommended usage and application but make sure to ask about the specific job and make recommendations accordingly.   

Although abrasion ratings are important, they aren’t the only factor to consider when choosing upholstery for a project. Below are many other factors we take in to consideration when helping you choose your fabric.

Pilling:  Just because a fabric has high abrasion, doesn’t guarantee it won’t pill. A fabric pills when another fabric rubs against it, loosening some of the fibers and forming a ball. This can be resolved with a shaver, however, it might require more maintenance than your client bargained for. 

Seam slippage:  Some fabrics with lower seam slippage will loosen when pressure is placed on the seam. This doesn’t make the quality of one better or worse. Quality manufactures have a good understanding of fabric weave constructions and will take steps to prevent seam slippage.  A fabric can be backed or double seamed during fabrication.

Breaking strength:  Some fibers, such as silk, aren’t strong enough to withstand pressure and will split with minimal use.

Tear strength: This is the measurement of how easy a fabric will tear once the fabric has been compromised.

Traveling: Fabrics that have a pile on both sides, like chenille and some velvets, may not be backed. For these types of fabrics, backing is necessary when the fabric is used on a cushion or anything that isn’t tightly upholstered. Without backing, the pile will rub against the cushion and “travel,” making the cushion appear unkempt. This can be avoided by adding a light backing to the fabric, or covering the cushion with a smooth fabric made of cotton so the pile can’t grab onto the cushion and travel.

Dry and wet crocking:

Dry:  Dry crocking is the tendency of dye to rub off of a fabric when rubbed against a porous surface. Dry crocking is most common with deeply saturated colors and in fabrics made with all-natural fibers.

Wet:  Wet crocking occurs when dye rubs off of a wet fabric when it is rubbed against a porous surface. This could be problematic for spot cleaning.

Color fastness to water and light:

Color fastness to water. This is the measure of a color’s resistance to running off of the fabric when immersed in water. Take color fastness into consideration for bedding, pillows and other items that may require washing from time to time.

Color fastness to light. This measures the performance of fabrics exposed to light. Although direct sunlight will fade any fabric, color fastness to light measures the rate of fading. This is key for window treatment or any fabric that will be exposed to natural, or in some cases even unnatural, light. Typically, natural fibers such as linen, cotton and silk will rate low and fade relatively quickly in direct sunlight, while synthetic fibers like polyester have the best ratings.

Get the right fabric for the right job, by understanding abrasion and these additional ratings, you will make the right choices for your project.