Sewing Clothes With Upholstery Fabric

Maybe you’ve experienced this: you’re looking through fabrics at the fabric store (either online or in person) and find one that grabs your attention, only to realize it’s upholstery fabric. Despite this, you can’t help but ask yourself: is it possible to make clothes from upholstery fabric?

Upholstery fabrics can be used to sew garments requiring structured, mid- to heavy-weight fabrics. They can be a fantastic option for coats and jackets since they are often stain-resistant, a feature you want in outerwear. The prints on upholstery fabrics are often larger than those on garment-weight fabrics, making them ideal for creating a fashion-forward garment with an eye-catching print.

Be sure to keep a few things in mind that SewingWithEase notes for you when using upholstery fabric for your next sewing project.

Key Takeaways

  • Upholstery fabric can be used for sewing structured garments like coats and jackets due to its mid- to heavy-weight and often stain-resistant properties.
  • It’s suitable for fashion-forward garments with eye-catching prints.
  • Upholstery fabric is designed for furniture, thus it’s durable, potentially water or stain-resistant, and can be made from various fibers including natural and synthetic ones.
  • Examples include cotton canvas, wool tweed, faux leather, and faux suede.
  • It differs from garment-weight fabric by being thicker, possibly stiffer, and often having larger-scale prints.
  • Recommended uses include structured items such as tailored pants and jackets, avoiding drapey or loose garments to prevent an unflattering, stiff appearance.
  • Specific suggestions include using cotton twill for pleated skirts and textured fabrics like tweed for tailored blazers.
  • When sewing with upholstery fabric, pre-washing to test for shrinkage, using a larger needle, and carefully trim seam allowances are important steps.
  • Other home décor fabrics like lightweight cottons from sheer curtains or decorative silks can also be adapted for clothing, suitable for casual summer dresses or structured evening wear.
  • The conclusion emphasizes the potential of home décor fabrics for garment making, advising careful selection of the right garment type to match the fabric’s properties.

What Is Upholstery Fabric?

Furniture fabrics, such as upholstery fabrics, are designed for use on couches and chairs. Since furniture is often subjected to heavy use, upholstery fabrics are usually durable mid- to heavy-weight fabrics. To achieve this durability, a fabric can be backed to prevent it from stretching out or treated to make the surface waterproof or stain-resistant.

Fabrics for upholstery can be made from various fibers, such as cotton, wool, linen, silk, polyester, rayon, nylon, and others. Cotton canvas or duck is commonly upholstered on couches, wool tweed, bouclé, linen, and velvet. Due to their water-resistant properties and lower cost, synthetic materials such as faux leather and suede are commonly used in couches and outdoor furniture.

How Does Upholstery Fabric Differ From Garment-weight Fabric?

Sewing Clothes With Upholstery Fabric

The wide range of upholstery fabrics makes it challenging to generalize, but we’ll try. The following are some of how upholstery fabric differs from garment-weight fabric:

The fabric for upholstery tends to be thicker and stiffer than for garments. Many upholstery fabrics are water-resistant, stain-resistant, or designed for heavy use to withstand much abuse.

Due to the scale of furniture rather than the scale of a human body, upholstery fabrics often have larger prints than garment-weight fabrics.

What Types Of Clothes Should You Sew Out Of Upholstery Fabrics?

We recommend using upholstery fabric in structured garments such as coats, jackets, and tailored pants, but there are exceptions to every rule, and fabric choice is very personal. Upholstery fabric should not be used on drapery garments like loose palazzo pants, boxy dresses, and tops with relaxed silhouettes. As a result, our clothes make me look like a stiff, wide box, which is not flattering.

Below are a few specific examples of how we suggest using upholstery fabrics in different types of clothing.

Cotton Twill, Canvas, Or Duck?

Printed cotton fabrics with tight weaves, such as cotton twill, canvas, or duck, are frequently used for cottage-style couches. The array of colorful prints is truly dazzling! These fabrics work well in pleated skirts since they have a stiffer hand. (Avoid using them in pencil skirts or skirts that hug the body; they will look stiff and unflattering.)

Consider pattern placement when cutting out your pieces using a large-scale printed fabric. Sew everything carefully so you don’t inadvertently place a gigantic motif on your lady bits!

The tailored jacket was also made using tightly woven cotton fabric (that was originally a curtain). Materials like this one are perfect for tailored garments because they are easy to press, the stitches disappear into the lightly textured fabric, and they are substantial enough for tailoring.

Water-resistant cotton upholstery fabrics can also be used to make raincoats. Ensure you choose a pattern for a tailored or structured coat, not one supposed to drape loosely. We made this classic trench coat using water-resistant cotton twill (McCall’s 5525, a classic trench coat pattern with all the details).

Textured Fabric Like Tweed, Basketweave, and Bouclé

Solid-colored couches are often covered in fabrics with subtle textures, such as tweed, basket weave, or bouclé. An elegant tailored coat or blazer made from these fabrics would look fantastic.

Because upholstery fabrics are typically quite thick, you must consider bulk when sewing these garments because they are fitted close to the body. Trim your seams wherever possible to eliminate bulk.

You may want to use an upholstery-weight bouclé for a Chanel-style cardigan jacket. The Chanel style below, made out of upholstery-weight fabric, won’t hang nicely from the body, and it wouldn’t hang nicely from the body if you made it out of a lightweight bouclé.

Faux Leather And Faux Suede

Many lower-cost furniture pieces are upholstered with synthetic leather or suede; many are water- and stain-resistant. Among its many uses, Ultrasuede is used in boat interiors because it is so durable! Water-resistant jackets and coats made from faux leather or suede would look fantastic.

Heavy-weight upholstery fabrics are an excellent option for coats and jackets with voluminous and sculptural silhouettes since they add no bulk to the frame, and their stiffer properties benefit the wearer. It would be best if you also remembered that Ultrasuede (and faux leathers and suede in general) is particularly uncomfortable to wear close to the skin, so either make the garment lose (so it stands away from the body) or line the garment with another fabric that feels more comfortable.

If you wear a fitted garment, avoid using upholstery-weight faux leather or faux suede. My first fitted dress, made when we started sewing, was bulky and uncomfortable because it was made from heavier-weight faux leather. Instead, use faux leather or lighter faux suede for these fitted leather garments.

How Do You Sew Upholstery Fabric?

In the same way, you would sew garment-weight fabric. You can sew upholstery fabric. When sewing upholstery fabric, you should keep a few things in mind:

  • If you want to determine whether your fabric shrinks or reacts to washing, prewash a small sample. It is essential to see how a fabric reacts to being washed before sewing it up into a garment that has a surface treatment that makes it water-resistant.
  • When sewing upholstery fabrics, you will need a larger needle due to their thickness and weight. When sewing upholstery-weight fabrics, we use a size 100 needle. Before starting your project, test the needle on a scrap piece of fabric.
  • Be sure to cut and grade your seam allowances—don’t skip this step! Depending on the fabric, you might be able to avoid trimming your seam allowances when sewing with garment-weight fabric, but with upholstery-weight fabric, you can’t. Trimming seam allowances where multiple seams meet is essential—otherwise, your garment will have an unsightly lump!

Can You Sew Clothes Out Of Other Types Of Home Decor Fabric?

We think it would be very easy to sew clothes out of two other home decor fabrics:

  1. Lightweight, floaty fabrics such as sheer curtains and
  2. Fancy silks such as decorative draperies.

Cotton Voile, Eyelet, And Batiste

Summer dresses and tops, such as sheer curtains, can be made from lightweight cotton fabrics. Look for slouchy, loose-fitting silhouettes that are the opposite of upholstery fabric. Floaty midi dresses with ruffles and floaty skirts are often made with cotton eyelets. You could make a lovely sheer blouse using cotton voile.

Silk Taffeta, Jacquard, Matelassé, Dupioni And Brocade

Finally, perhaps the most mouth-watering is the decorative silk typically used in high-end curtains. In addition to their vivid colors and patterns, these luscious silks often feature wild textures and patterns. Next time you are in New York, try visiting the silk brocade department in the apparel Mood Fabrics store and comparing it to the home decor branch of Mood. You’ll see what we mean. The decorative silks in the home decor department typically have more patterns than the garment-weight section.

Use these decorative silks in structured evening wear, such as tailored evening jackets and structured evening gowns (not those flowy, floaty gowns!). During a trip to Tokyo, we found a traditional Japanese brocade that we combined with a modern geometric brocade on Goldhawk Road in London to make this jacket.

When picking a pattern, make sure you choose a jacket that fits quite form-fittingly. By adding additional seams to shape the jacket, we were able to make it more flattering than the first iteration.

Sewing Clothes With Upholstery Fabric FAQs

What is upholstery fabric and can it be used for making clothes?

Upholstery fabric is designed primarily for furniture like couches and chairs due to its durability and mid- to heavy-weight characteristics. Despite its intended use, it can be utilized for sewing garments, especially those requiring structured fabrics, such as coats and jackets. The fabric’s durability, often enhanced with treatments for stain resistance, makes it an appealing choice for outerwear.

How does upholstery fabric differ from garment-weight fabric?

Upholstery fabric is generally thicker and stiffer than garment-weight fabric, designed to withstand heavy use. It may have treatments that make it water or stain-resistant and frequently feature larger prints suited for furniture scale, contrasting with the smaller prints typical of garment fabrics. These differences can influence the choice of clothing projects, favoring structured designs.

What types of clothes are best suited for upholstery fabrics?

Upholstery fabric is best used in structured garments like coats, jackets, and tailored pants. Its thickness and stiffness lend well to designs requiring shape and durability. However, it is not recommended for drapey or loose-fitting garments as it can make them look stiff and unflattering. Large-scale prints in upholstery fabrics can be effectively showcased in such structured pieces.

Yes, different types of upholstery fabrics can be suited to specific garments. Due to their stiff hand, cotton twill, canvas, or duck are excellent for pleated skirts. Textured fabrics like tweed, basketweave, and boucle are ideal for classic tailored blazers or coats. Synthetic materials like faux leather and suede work well for water-resistant jackets and coats. However, the fabric choice should always consider the garment’s design and desired drape.

How should upholstery fabric be handled differently when sewing compared to garment-weight fabric?

Due to the upholstery fabric’s thickness and weight, a few adjustments are necessary when sewing with it. It’s advisable to pre-wash a fabric sample to check for shrinkage or treatment effects. A larger needle (size 100) is often required to accommodate the fabric’s thickness. Trimming and grading seam allowances are crucial to reduce bulk and avoid unsightly lumps in the finished garment. These practices ensure a cleaner and more professional finish.

Can clothes be made from other types of home décor fabrics?

Absolutely, other home décor fabrics, such as lightweight, floaty materials found in sheer curtains or luxurious decorative silks used in draperies, can also be transformed into clothing. These fabrics are suited for different garments, such as casual summer dresses and tops made from lighter fabrics or structured eveningwear made from decorative silks. The key is to match the fabric’s properties with the garment’s design requirements for the best outcome.


To conclude, don’t be afraid to check out the home decor section of your favorite fabric store – you can find beautiful fabrics there. Use the tips outlined above to select the suitable garment to make from the fabric.

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