What is Railroaded Fabric?

Rairoaded Fabric Feat

What does Railroading refer to when used to describe Upholstery Fabric? It’s a term you might run across when buying fabric for a home decor project, and here’s what it means in upholstery lingo:

It refers to the orientation of a fabric’s pattern or nap (directional weave) on the fabric bolt.

Most home decor fabrics that you’ll run into are oriented ‘up the roll’, like this:

Railroaded fabric made simple


In some fabrics (this is less common), the pattern is oriented to accommodate wide applications, such as upholstery on a long sofa – without seams. This is called a railroaded fabric, and is identified with a graphic like this:

'railroaded' fabric vs 'up the roll'

If we use a striped fabric as an example, the railroad reference becomes obvious (like ties running crosswise to the tracks):

striped fabric looks like railroad ties

Here’s that same striped fabric shown with the pattern running up the roll:

striped fabric will not fit across the sofa back without a seam

Feel free to share this handy infographic, and sign up for our mailing to list get home decor tips, do it yourself upholstery tricks and more!

fabric buying tips infographic

Find inspiring fabric design ideas on Upholstery Arts’ Patterns for Upholstery Design on Pinterest.

About the Author

CarlaHey there! I'm Carla Pyle. I love the stories that our furniture tells. For me a picture of my Granddaddy Milton's green upholstered arm chair brings to mind the vivid rhymes & colors of 'The Cat in the Hat' and his soft low voice in the telling. I love too that there is always an element of nature in furniture - the warm-toned curving grain of a walnut leg or the reflection of life in a mid-century chrome piece. The best part of teaching & sharing natural upholstery is that it ties all of these things together. Stories - of individual experience and of the planet - help us build happy & healthy homes.View all posts by Carla →

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