When deciding if you are going to re-upholster a piece of furniture, fabric is a big consideration. And although I just love fabric shopping, the racks of fabric samples can be daunting especially if you don’t know what you need. There are few things to consider when you are looking for upholstery fabric. One the the most important things to do is to figure out how much fabric you need to buy, because that will be a big factor in the total cost. Most fabrics come in 54″ widths and are purchased by the yard or by the meter. Some upholstery fabrics are “double wide” (108″), giving you double the fabric per yard, but there is ususally less selection of double wide fabrics to choose from. Here is a yardage chart that can be used to estimate how much you will need for certain piece of furniture. They are just estimates but it is a good guideline to use. That being said, it is always a good idea to talk to your upholsterer once you have the choices narrowed down to a few fabrics, just to confirm how much you will need.
If you are reupholstering a couch and it has a pattern you definately want to look at at using railroaded fabric. Railroaded means the pattern goes side to side of the roll instead of up the roll. In order to be able to use one piece of fabric across the back of a sofa or couch (without having a visbile sewing line), you would have to use railroaded fabric. Here is a little picture demonstrating the difference.
Another factor to consider is wearbility/durability. Fabrics with a high thread count (#of threads per sq inch) tend to be thicker and more durable. Or choose a fabric with 20,000 rub count or higher. Good fabric stores will have a section of upholstery weight fabrics or have staff that will be able to tell if it can be used for the piece you have in mind.