Finishes and Fabrics : A Guide to Skirts

We have seen a huge range of skirts come through our workshop this year, and we think they may be back to stay. To help you choose the best style of skirt for your furniture we’d like to clarify some of the different terminology and types of skirts.

There are a few things which are relevant to all types of skirts, and are worth a moment of thought.

Firstly, the location of your future sofa or armchair. We normally make our skirts to sit well on solid flooring, so there’s not much of a gap between the floor and the skirt. If your furniture is going on carpet however we might need to make the skirt a little shorter, depending on the pile length of your carpet.

Fabric type plays a huge role in skirts. Is it going to sit well? A plain, medium to heavy weight linen is the perfect material to make a skirt out of, it drapes beautifully, it’s not too thin as to excessively wrinkle or pull, and not too thick that it might look clunky with heavy seams and joins. Any mid-weight upholstery fabric is good, just not too thick, or too thin.

A plain, non-directional fabric is ideal for skirts because it can railroaded (fabric is taken along the entire roll, rather than the usual direction, along the width). This means there does not need to be seams or splits in the skirt, which can look quite obvious depending on your fabric. Patterned fabrics or velvet can’t really be railroaded, so sofas in these fabrics need to either have at least one seam, or split in the skirt.

It’s quite common to see a line of self piping along the top of a skirt join, this is a lovely little detail. Let us know if this is something you’re interested in.

There are a few different types of skirt, which we’ll run through below.

Straight Skirt on an Elmstead sofa

Straight skirt

Pictured above is our standard style of skirt, and probably the most common kind you’ll come across. This is a straight skirt, sometimes called a flat skirt, with corner kick pleats; this refers to the split in the corner with another layer of skirting behind.

The main thing to note about a straight skirt is the drop height. That’s where it attaches to the piece of furniture, our standard drop is part way down the seat platform. We frequently also make high drop straight skirts. Almost all of our TP range have this kind of skirt, which is pictured below.

High drop straight skirt on a TP Classic chair

Waterfall skirt on an Elmstead Downback Armchair

Waterfall skirt

The waterfall skirt is a very elegant, seamless skirt that is also called a dressmaker’s skirt due to its highly tailored nature. This skirt falls from the top of the seat platform in one single piece. Furniture with a waterfall skirt is tightly upholstered around the upper arms and back, and loosens into a skirt towards the bottom of the piece, with each face consisting of a single panel of fabric. These are quite tricky to make as there’s very precise upholstery involved.

These kinds of skirts can look very similar to loose covers, and we often see loose covers mistaken for upholstered skirting.  Loose covers can sometimes look just like a waterfall skirt, or they can be more relaxed and drapey. Loose covers do have the added bonus of easy cleaning and washing, perfect for a busy family lifestyle.

A Linen Loose cover on a traditional Elmstead sofa

Now, onto the more novel (or perhaps just interesting!) of skirts...

Bespoke ruffle skirt chair and footstool

Ruffle skirt

We do actually see a few of these skirts, sometimes also called a gathered skirt for obvious reasons. The ruffle skirt is soft, frilly and feminine, but also can give a very classical feel to pieces, in contrast to the flat, simple and modern straight skirt.

 Pleated skirt on a bespoke sofa

Pleated skirt

The best of both worlds, a pleated skirt mixes flatness and structure with the interest of regular folds. A pleated skirt can come in many variations, depending on the direction, recurrence, and type of pleat. There’s a lot of scope within pleated skirts, but they do take a little while to put together and this will be reflected in the price.

We hope you learned a little something about skirts today, thanks for reading.