Is there a more accurate way to experience the visual and tactile texture of a fabric? Could you also please offer some suggestions for displaying my showroom samples?
SOLUTION: The answer to your first question is not to use small samples for making critical decisions. The true look, feel, performance, "hand" and texture of a fabric can be experienced only through a large sample, one that is at least 18 inches wide by 24 inches to start. The ability to first see how a fabric drapes and reflects light is a strong contributing factor to the success of any window treatment, pillow, tablecloth or upholstery piece.
Fabric suppliers usually are more than willing to send a large sample for client approval. Many suppliers offer larger samples for your showroom as part of their product sample line.
Pattern repeat, color and hand of a fabric can only be judged with these larger samples. The hand is defined as how the fabric feels, folds and moves. A stiff hand would describe a fabric that usually is heavier, more rigid to the touch and harder to drape. A soft hand usually is a fabric with more flexibility such as a sheer or a lightweight cotton. The weave and construction of a fabric also contributes to its hand.
The only way to show and examine a large pattern repeat is with a large sample along with the supplier's specifications for a particular fabric. Usually the pattern repeat information will be located on the sample or in the sample book. Many fabric suppliers offer additional information in their catalogs that might be included with your individual sampling program.
Clients enjoy seeing actual samples of fabrics as they would appear in a drapery, pillow or piece of furniture. If room allows, a small vignette in your retail showroom is a great way to display samples. Large fabric samples are the most ideal way to display a fabric supplier's line.
Choose a wide array of design and styles to feature in your showroom display. And remember to change your displays often. Outdated fabrics will not go over well with the savvy client.
Here are a few more tips and suggestions on making the perfect fabric choice:
• Remember to view the fabric under the actual light and in the actual room it will be used.
• If more than one light source is available in the room, view the fabric using all light sources.
• Place the fabric up against the wall it will be located on.
• View the fabric using an evening-hours light source.
• Confirm with the supplier an actual "cutting for approval" taken directly from the roll from which the fabric will be cut.
• Always record the dye lot number from the fabric roll. Ask the client to approve the actual cutting with his or her signature.
• Remember to avoid small swatches whenever possible.
Sharon L. Anderson has more than 20 years experience as a professional interior designer in both commercial and residential design. She has taught at numerous colleges throughout California and currently is an educator at Moorpark college in southern California. She is a published author and frequent public speaker.