What Is Railroaded Fabric?

The term railroaded refers to the way the fabric pattern is woven at the upholstery fabric mill. As demonstrated by the image shown below, observe the way the stripes run on the roll. The same layout option will apply to any directional pattern.

Looking at the image below, the regular or left sofa has the fabric pattern running up the roll which is the normal way upholstery fabric is milled. The pattern or in the case of a velvet, the grain, would run up/down the roll of fabric. The sofa on the right has fabric that is milled "railroaded", meaning that the fabric is woven so that the pattern or grain is situated so that the top would be from one side of the fabric to the other side as showin in the picture.

As you can see from the image below, normal fabric or non railroaded fabric can be applied so the patterns runs vertical or horizontal across your sofa. The same can be done with railroaded fabric so you may ask your self: Why does it matter then?

There are times when the common 54" or 60" width of fabric is not enough to run the span of a piece of furniture. For instance if you have a very long cushion that exceeds the width of the fabric, instead of putting in a seam or two you could try to find a railroaded pattern and you could run right across with no seams. The same would apply to sofa backs as well. Sometimes it is more efficient to cut fabric that is railroaded even if you don't have a large span because the pattern may be unusual and difficult to match.

Some upholstery fabrics can be railroaded even if they are not specifically woven that way. A cotton, plain tweed, and vinyl may not have an "up" or "down". In the case of vinyl fabric it does not matter which way you use it unless it has a pattern. Even if a fabric has a pattern it may be able to be railroaded, it depends on the fabric. For instance a geometric "square" or "diamond" could be situated regular or railroaded, you have to have a look in each direction and see if the look changes in some way. Chenilles and velvet usually cannot just be turned sideways as a makeshift railroading, however allot of chenilles and velvet do come railroaded for this very reason.