A contemporary lounge chair or sofa attains its contemporary’ status by having the right combinations of ‘form’ and an expertly upholstered, quality finish. Here we will just look at upholstery and, in particular, silk velvet upholstery fabrics.
Contemporary furniture is designed to be striking, with the better examples typified by great craftsmanship. Consequently you will find many designers and upholsterers specifying fabric such as that sold by leading fabric houses including Kravet, KOTHEA and Donghia.
A velvet fabric is one where the fabric is made with very many tight loops of yarn. A cutter then chops off the end of every loop leaving yarn that ‘points’ upwards, tightly packed together. Often you will have encountered this type of fabric in theatres and cinemas – more so now in private theatres. The length of the remaining yarn can vary and this is called the pile; it could be a few mm or several mm long. The longer the pile the more likely it is to ‘fall over’. This, by itself, is neither good nor bad. It depends on what you prefer. The direction in which the pile falls is called the ‘nap’ and when upholstering a high quality craftsman must understand how to correctly work with the nap.
The nap can show some of the side of the individual strands of yarn and the sides can be more reflective than the cut ends. Thus, often, velvets have ‘shine’. Shine also occurs with wear as the pile becomes compressed, exposed and rubbed/polished with usage. People often, incorrectly, associate this solely with ‘silk velvet’ but that is not necessarily always true as many velvets can show more shine with age.
So we have learnt a little about how velvet is made and how it wears. Where does the silk come in?
Well, velvet can be made from many yarns. Cotton, viscose, mohair, linen or sheep’s wool. Silk is a natural substance spun by a silk worm. Silk is commonplace but varies tremendously in quality. Often silk is combined with other yarns to increaser its strength or to achieve other properties. For example one of our most luxurious fabrics is a silk and cashmere velvet. The resulting mohair velvet fabric feels great AND also has much improved durability properties. Cheaper silk will degrade much more rapidly.
So, typically, silk velvet is mixed with other yarns and often has a shine. This makes it great for contemporary furniture