RIB FABRICS... Special Fabric Need Special Care

Fabric Construction 101

The most common method of construction for interior upholstery fabrics is weaving. In a woven fabric, yarns are interlaced at right angles in some established sequence or pattern.

The yarns that run parallel to the selvedge or the longer diameter of a bolt of fabric are called warp yarns or ends. The yarns that run crosswise of the fabric are called filling yarns, weft yarns, woof yarns or picks. The terms warp and filling are commonly used in the interior design industry, whereas manufacturers and converters usually use the terms ends and picks.

Visual Interest

Upholstery fabrics can be woven with many different yarn combinations to create various visual and tactile effects. One of the more common weaving variations is referred to as the rib weave.

The rib effect is produced by using heavy yarns in the filling or warp direction (usually the filling direction), by grouping yarns in specific areas of the warp or filling, or by having more warp than filling yarns per inch.

Many rib fabrics make use of filling yarns that are larger than the warp yarns, creating a ribbed surface that runs crosswise (selvedge to selvedge). Comparative size of the ribs in some of the more commonly encountered rib fabrics is one method of fabric identification. The following is a selection of rib fabrics listed in order from fine to heavy rib:

Faille: Lightweight fabric, originally silk, with a small transverse rib.

Rep (repp): Common, plain-woven fabric with distinct ribs (shown below).


Bengaline: Originally produced in Bengal, India. Ribs are larger than those in rep and are equally sized and spaced. This fabric is often finished with a moiré process.

Ottoman: Heaviest of the ribbed fabrics. The large ribs may be of equal size and spacing, or unequal size and spacing (shown below).


A Mix of Fibers

Rib fabrics can be intricate or they can be relatively plain. While reps are very often 100% cotton, many other rib fabrics are constructed with two or more different types of yarns (cotton and polyester, for example).

In fabrics with more pronounced ribs such as the ottoman on the previous page, the finer warp yarns that “float” over the ribs are subject to snagging. Care must be used in order to avoid damage from abrasion, especially during cleaning.

Spotting and Cleaning

As mentioned previously, rib fabrics are created with a wide variety of different fibers. It is, therefore, impossible to generalize about the care of these fabrics.

Routine pre-testing procedures should always be followed before any type of spot removal or overall cleaning is attempted.

Despite recommendations to the contrary, the vast majority of fabrics are wet cleanable with careful precautions such as proper detergents and accelerated drying.

The Experts on Your Side

Fiber-Seal’s worldwide system of fabric care experts stands ready to help whenever we are needed. From maintenance recommendations to in-person assistance for stubborn spots and spills, the professionals of the FIBER-SEAL Fabric Care System create success stories and happy clients every day.