Part 1 – An Introduction to Natural Fabrics: #AuNaturel #NoFilter

Rows of Textured Fabric in Neutral Colours

Have you ever walked into a fabric showroom and wondered about all the colour and texture choices? Maybe you’re buying new curtains but can’t decide between silk or linen? Or is one of your goals to have a more eco-friendly home? We’re here to answer your questions! Below is an introduction to some of the most common natural fabrics, their characteristics, best applications, and areas to avoid.

Fabrics play an essential role in the Interior Design industry and are applied through various applications such as upholstery, window treatments, wallcoverings, bedding, carpets and rugs, and more.

Before we get into it, we wrote Part 2 where we go over synthetic fabrics, and in Part 3, we talk about fabric standards and regulations as well! 

NATURAL FABRICS

Like its name, natural fabrics come from a natural source derived from plants, animals, and minerals. These fabrics can be further classified under cellulose, protein, and mineral fabrics.

COTTON

Cotton is a cellulosic fabric that is derived from the seed hairs of the cotton plant and has been around for centuries. It’s relatively inexpensive and can be easily dyed making it ideal for many uses. It’s one of the most durable natural fabrics on the market. 

Natural Fabrics

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CHARACTERISTICS
Cotton is versatile, breathable, and naturally hypoallergenic meaning it won’t irritate sensitive skin and is great for hot and cold temperatures. It’s soft and has no static cling but has the tendency to shrink. This fabric is prone to fading and wrinkling over time and gets dirty easily. Cotton has low elasticity but is resistant to pilling. The wear durability of cotton depends on the weave and the finish.

CLEANING
Be careful around cotton as it’s highly absorbent. If you spill coffee or another liquid, make sure to dab the area with a dye-free cloth and a bit of water, and mild dish soap. Dab the area until the stain is no longer visible to the naked eye then wipe with a damp cloth.

BEST APPLICATIONS
Bedding as it’s naturally cooling allowing for a comfortable sleep.
Window Treatments for an affordable and casual look.

AVOID
Carpets and Rugs as cotton absorbs liquids and can stain easily.

LINEN

Linen is made from the fibers of the flax plant and is woven into a lightweight yet strong fabric and is sustainable as it takes up a small amount of ecological footprint. When untreated, linen is biodegradable. Linen textiles are some of the oldest in the world.

Photo by Pexels.

CHARACTERISTICS
Linen has poor elasticity making it wrinkle easily and won’t withstand heavy wear but is resistant to pilling and fading. Linen has the tendency to resist colour so you’ll find this fabric in neutral colours such as ivory, beige and gray. It’s a popular fabric in the fashion industry as it’s lightweight and very breathable making it a great option to wear in hot summers.

CLEANING
Maintenance is key with this type of fabric. If you end up with a stain on your linen sofa, you can clean the area with lukewarm water. With water, dabbing is the only form of cleaning you should be doing. Use a wet cloth and gently dab away at the stain.

BEST APPLICATIONS
Pillow covers, table cloths, lamp shades, curtains, and bedding.
Wallcoverings as linen is naturally stiff meaning seams/edges won’t curl up.

AVOID
Upholstery as linen lacks resilience, and flexibility and is susceptible to abrasion. 

SILK

Silk is obtained from fibers spun by silkworm larvae making it a protein fiber. It’s a luxurious, classic fabric often used for bedding and window treatments. Silk’s origins can be found in China, its history and impact are attributed to the Silk Road, a network of ancient trade routes.

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CHARACTERISTICS
Silk is naturally delicate and tends to stain and wrinkle easily so it’s best to use on small-scale applications. Alternatively, you’ll find silk used in high-end residential design like wallcoverings, decorative upholstery, and drapery/sheers. When used for window treatments, a lining is typically applied. It’s highly breathable, has a natural luster, and takes dye well meaning it comes in vibrant colours.

CLEANING
You’ll need to take extra care around silk. If in doubt, you can opt to see a professional cleaner. For curtains/drapery, hand wash in lukewarm-cool water with mild laundry detergent. Never twist or wring, swish the fabric around gently.

For upholstery, use a soft cloth, blot, and work in small areas with a mix of cool water and mild laundry detergent. To prevent water stains from settling, use a hair dryer on cool air.

BEST APPLICATIONS
Low traffic and small-scale areas such as a bedroom, cushions, decorative pillows, or as an accent piece.

AVOID
High sun exposure areas as silk will degrade in direct sunlight.
High traffic areas such as every day, heavily used furniture.

WOOL

Wool is obtained from the fleece of sheep, however, goats, lamb, and alpacas can also be used. It’s one of the best natural fabrics and is often blended with other fabrics. Wool has a rich texture that makes it a luxurious fabric. Having a wool sofa in your home elevates the level of sophistication while also making it a great spot to get comfy.

Photo by Pixabay.

CHARACTERISTICS
It’s highly durable and inherently water resistant due to the oils in the animal’s skin. Wool is hypoallergenic, flame retardant, and has self-extinguishing properties making it a versatile fabric for numerous applications. Wool is resistant to pilling and wrinkling and holds its shape well making it great for drapery and upholstery.

CLEANING
Wool is a very absorbent fabric and speed is essential for cleaning. If you get it in time, the stain should disappear using a clean towel lightly damped in water. Never scrub away a stain on wool upholstery, make sure to wipe in circular motions while working inward making your way to the center of the stain.

Regular cleaning is key for wool fabrics. Under normal conditions, an overhaul cleaning should be taken once every six-twelve months combined with regular cleaning. Make sure to vacuum regularly to avoid dirt and dust buildup.

BEST APPLICATIONS
Carpets and rugs, winter bedding, and upholstery.

AVOID
Placing near a surface that is rust prone as wool is porous and will absorb the rust stain.
Placing near direct sun exposure as colour vibrancy will fade.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Natural fabrics like silk, wool, cotton, and linen, while beautiful, are typically more fragile than synthetic fabrics. These fabrics are more susceptible to damage from factors like wear and tear, staining, and fading from sunlight.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use natural fabrics as everyone’s lifestyle is different and with care, your possessions should last. These fabrics are a great choice for those who are looking for sustainable options or for those who prefer natural over synthetic fabrics for other reasons.

Natural fabrics won’t check the boxes off for everybody so if you’re looking for something that’s more durable, colourful, and resistant to elements, then read Part 2 where we go over synthetic fabrics, and Part 3 where we discuss fabric standards and regulations. Thanks for reading!