Fabrics Used in Interior Design
There are three basic aspects that determine appearance and suitability of fabrics for interior use: fibre content, weave, and pattern. Fibres are either natural or man-made. The important natural fibres are cotton, wool, linen, and silk. Although silk has long been considered the most elegant and desirable of all natural fibres, it does not stand up well under direct sunlight and heat and, in general, requires more care than most other fibres. Wool, like silk, is an animal fibre; depending upon its weave, it can be made into extremely strong and beautiful fabrics and is therefore very much in demand for contemporary interiors. Both cotton and linen are made from vegetable fibres and are both durable and pliable. Unless cotton and linen are interwoven with other fibres, however, they are not generally as strong as wools or man-made fibres and tend to be restricted to light-duty interior purposes.
Man-made (synthetic) fibres in the 20th century abound under a variety of trade names, and new synthetics are continuously being developed. Some of the major families of synthetic fibres are glass fibres, acetate, acrylic and modacrylic, nylon, olefin, polyester, rayon, and saran. The chemical composition and processes used in the manufacture of man-made fibres make possible a variety of specific qualities. Some offer strength and elasticity; some offer resistance to fire, stain, mildew, sun, or abrasion; and some offer resistance to moisture and organic agents, others to crushing and wrinkling.
Many fabrics are woven in a combination of two or more fibres in an attempt to improve the appearance or utility or both. Another factor in selecting or specifying fabrics is the touch of the fabric, or the “hand.” Certain fabrics made from man-made fibres seem unpleasant to the touch compared to silk or wool fabrics.
Weaving is an ancient art, and fundamentally there is little difference between the very early handlooms and the power looms found in major textile plants today. The three most common weaves in use are plain weaves, which include basket weaves; floating weaves, which include twill and satin weaves; and pile weaves, which include both cut and uncut weaves. Weaving techniques of lesser importance to interior design include knitting, twisting, forming, and felting.
The pattern of textiles, especially in contemporary terms, is frequently the natural pattern created by the weave of the fabric, although patterns are also created by printing. In traditional textile terms, reference to pattern usually meant a historic style. The history of textiles ranges from early Egyptian and Oriental patterns to the present. Each era has developed fashionable and popular patterns. Contemporary textile designs, for instance, are usually abstract or geometric, but floral and large flowing patterns were also popular in the 20th century.
Colour is one of the most important aspects of fabrics in interior design, inasmuch as the colours of fabrics are frequently the most important areas of colour in interiors. Dye colours can be added to unspun fibres, spun yarns, or woven textiles. Colour fastness is a major concern to interior designers, for faded fabrics can be quite detrimental to an interior.