A Beginners Guide to Upholstery Patterns and Stripes

Upholstery Fabric

Upholstering furniture with patterned or striped fabric adds a unique touch to your DIY project. However, it's not as simple as just slapping it on. Understanding how patterns flow across your furniture piece is crucial for a professional finish. 

Purchase Sufficient Fabric
Unlike plain fabric, patterned or striped fabric requires extra consideration. You won't always be able to align pattern pieces snugly against each other. To ensure you have enough fabric to work with, buy approximately 10% more than your estimated requirement. For larger patterns, consider adding even more fabric to accommodate proper alignment and adequate meterage.

Armchair in striped fabric

Planning Stripe Placement
When working with stripes, it's common to center the dominant colour of the stripe. Typically, stripes run vertically from top to bottom, or from back to front. Horizontal stripes are less conventional but can still be used creatively. Take your time aligning horizontal stripes to ensure even distribution across the furniture piece as they can be tricky to keep straight.

Planning Patterned Placement
For patterned fabrics such as florals etc, center the most prominent motif when placing pattern pieces. An insider tip for the inside back of a chair is to position the motif slightly lifted, about 2 or 3 centimeters above the center. This subtle adjustment actually enhances visual appeal and perception of symmetry.

Achieving Symmetry
Maintaining symmetry is essential when working with patterns. Take extra care to ensure that patterns align seamlessly across seams and edges. At the edge of each fabric panel mark the center. Do this by folding the fabric in half, centering your motif. To mark the center, make a small snip in the fabric, or use a marker, chalk or pin. 

Sewing striped fabric seam

Seam or Join Matching
When sewing fabric pieces together, or pay attention to seam matching. By match patterns along your joins it will create a seamless appearance. This may require precise cutting and pinning to align patterns accurately, but take your time and use pins, skewers, clips or paper staples to hold your fabric together as you sew.

Nap Direction
Nap refers to the texture or pile of the fabric, created by fibers that lay in one direction. Upholstering with the nap direction in mind ensures a consistent look across the furniture piece. This means, always cut your patterns in the same direction, even stripes! Ignoring the nap may result in some panels of your chair looking like a different colour, texture or sheen. 

Take Your Time
Upholstering with patterned fabric requires patience and attention to detail. Take your time during each step of the process to ensure a professional-looking result. Rushing can lead to misaligned patterns and uneven fabric tension. Make good use of center lines, chalk and pins to get an accurate result. 

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