What is Railroaded Fabric?

As with all businesses and industries, there are many terms used in interior decorating that you may be unfamiliar with.  One very common term you will see is “railroading”.  But what, exactly, does it mean?

Railroading refers to the way a fabric , usually a pattern, is milled.  Normally a bolt of fabric features the top of a pattern going up the roll.  However, a railroaded fabric will have the top of the pattern going aross the roll.  This provides a continuous roll of the pattern, making it possible to upholster a large sofa, cushion or draperies without creating seams or a break in the pattern.  

Most upholstery fabrics are 54-60″ in width and can be purchased by the yard.  If you are choosing a railroaded fabric it may be necessary to purchase additional yardage.  Be sure to talk to your upholsterer before ordering.  Not all fabrics are railroaded.  Solid fabrics without a nap like cotton, vinyl and leather and small patterns may not require railroading.  However, large patterns, stripes and fabrics like velvet and chenille that have a nap often work better if railroaded.

How can you tell if a fabric is railroaded?  If an information tag is attached to the fabric it will indicate whether the fabric is railroaded or not.  If there is no tag, roll the fabric out from left to right and see which way the pattern is facing.  If the top of the pattern is facing up the fabric has not been railroaded;  if the top of the pattern faces sideways the fabric is railroaded.

This can all sound a bit confusing but once you become familiar with why a fabric is railroaded it will make more sense.  If in doubt check with your upholsterer or the fabric store employees.

thi