The definition of upholstery fabrics is not a myth, nor a mystery nor is it exclusive to certain dog bed brands, it is simply thus:
“Upholstery grade fabric is textiles or fabrics used for furniture and furniture furnishings.”
“Upholstery is the physical act of stuffing furniture, chairs, mattresses with webbing, padding, springs, foam or s=cushions into frames and covering it with upholstery grade fabrics to make furniture”
The process of upholstery began in the Middle Ages to make sleeping and sitting a more comfortable and preferable method of living. During 17th - 19th centuries the method grew in popularity and makers became proficient enough to start businesses ad employ workers to todays techniques of computer generated cutting machines, cad design techniques using outstanding fabrics, textiles, frames, and inner springs to make the best that you can afford.
With any kind of upholstered product be it your favourite cushion, your bed, chair or indeed in our case dog beds it also needs to be robust and have gumption. When we talk about dog beds you also have to think practicality, as we know our four legged friends no matter how dainty or shed free they are, really the muddy puddle situation is never avoidable. We have to think through how will our customers manage daily cleaning and wash day care. There are certain dog beds/parts of dog bed/products that do not need to have an outer cover that is removable but, for practical and easy wash day care it is far easier all round for the outer covers to be fully removable and, preferably with full length commercial zippers, a spare set offering of both the outer covers and inner bolsters, mattresses and cushions is also a more sustainable way of pro-longing the life of your bed.
As an interior designer when, we consider “high traffic areas” for interior decoration we are looking at paint surfaces with wipeable surfaces, flooring to withstand stains, constant footfall and the damage it can cause, furniture made from hardwood and robust fabrics, commercial products moreso, everything in interior decoration takes on a higher bench mark as it has to withstand constant traffic, hard use. This is the same when we consider the design and materials used to make dog beds it is a specialist level. No matter what your marketing spin or strategy is, do not be deceived by dog bed brands that claim complete lasting dog beds against claws and teeth, at the end of the day it is an upholstered dog bed and like it or not, on a daily basis it needs the care that you afford to your own bed pillow or the cushion on your favourite chair and indeed the sofa that you sit on how else do you think it will survive. It is not about “we make the best beds” everything made in upholstery has a purpose and an extent to it’s survival and, when under pressure it will not last if it not cared for.
There are amazing new fabric products on the market for children and pets and in particular I admire Sunbrella, I first saw it at the launch in Chelsea Harbour in 2005, it was fabulous but, hideously expensive, robust, durable, wipe clean, waterproof and, originally marketed for outdoor furniture. Fast forward today this company is leading the way in stunning furnishing uses and has reduced in costs as production techniques and product costs have improved. The fabric feels soft, however, it comes at a price and at trade costs today that is usually circa £75 per meter. A medium box or bolster dog bed takes 3.5 meters of fabric to make the outer covers that would mean that the actual cost of the fabric alone without inner bolsters and mattresses and the manufacturing costs would put this product into a market that would not sustain such a price point especially with the onslaught that we all face with Global suppliers who can as quick as your hat completely copy your product, photograph it and get them onto Amazon or, indeed wholesale trade suppliers in the UK that make their products in Asia and containerise them, the pile them high, sell them cheap market is quite another topic and one all of the small British makers and brands are constantly battling in every product category.
Personally I prefer to source fabrics from Globally renowned fabric brands, they have decades of experience and deep pockets to invest in the latest technology to test and try out fabrics in extreme conditions to give you the correct fabric information and martindale tests. They have UK based experts, sales managers and warehousing and you can get technical advice that is robust and know that the tests that they say they have conducted is correct. They also know that sustainability is key to their future business and constantly re-investing in re-useable threads, fabric and sustainable growing, they look at their own suppliers the ethical business plans that they employ and are actively looking to re-newing their own business plans and future circular supply chains.
Martindale Rub Test Scores
Any kind of upholstery fabric has to have performed a martindale rub test score and from that you can “assume” the use of that fabric for the composition that you are designing it for. The martindale rub test is a mechanical machine that continually rubs a fabric under a frame and rubs 2 small discs of worsted wool or wire mesh at speed against the fabric in a circular motion. When the fabric shows signs of distress or splits the threads and construction of the fabric this is known as the rub test score.The machine takes an image at this point for evidence and records the speed and the amount of rubs.
The Martindale tests in counts of 1000’s the higher the score the higher the strength of the fabric.
Decorative less than 10,000
Light Domestic 10 - 15,000
General Domestic 15 - 25,0000
Heavy Domestic 25-30,000
Commercial 30,000 rub test
I look for commercial useage (but, not fire retardant this is another subject) for all our products not one fabric that we use has less than a 30k martindale rub test and in some of our products we use a high technical grade fabric with Easyclean® stain guarding and a high rub test of over 80k
This brings the story line back to you
What upholstery fabrics should you be looking for when considering your dog bed?
Look for the wash day care recommendations the basic rule for dog beds is if you cannot machine wash your dog bed then it is not fit for purpose. ** Please note: Dry cleaning chemicals are harmful to dogs, cats and small pets.
For Medium - XLarge dog beds do ensure the outer dog bed covers are fully removable with commercial zips (velcro can break down and split under weight)
Do ask your dog bed brand if they can supply spare covers and inners mattresses and bolsters.
If you love the colour but unsure on wareability ask your dog bed brand for the martindale rub test. You are looking for 30k and over at a minimum.
* Please do remember no dog bed brand can guarantee the lifespan of a fabric against continual wear and tear, felting of a product that is not cared for in the correct way, clawing, chewing and deliberate damage by your dog that really is a kitchen table talk between you and your four legged pal.
Inner cushions, bolsters and mattresses:
Just then I used the upholstery industry terminology "felting"
"Felting" is a term known as an upholstery product that is used for stuffing chairs, sofas, beds, cushions etc that has continual heavy useage and will after time reduce in density and flatten down. This can be polyester, wool, wool/polyester, feathers. To minimise the product flattening it must be regualarly plumped up to revive the textiles or wool within ie: a good old bish, bash, bosh. Just as you do with your bed pillows when making the bed, putting the sofa back to looking lovely again and rushing around when the in-laws arrive plumping up the cushions. Giving them a good shaking outside and airing helps to revive textiles and it is exactly the same with a dog bed product whatever is inside the inner bolsters and cushions they do need daily and regular care to keep the shape. It is not down to channelling lines within mattresses to hold the contents in place, this technique is useful to a point, that point is the textile or filling within the channels will still felt over time because of the continual heavy useage, weight and shifting of body weight.
We use hypoallergenic 100% pure polyester fibre that is blown into the inner bolster and mattress covers which are made of a breathable fabric called corivan. It is the same professional high grade upholstery product used for hypoallergenic pillows & cushions, hospital and nursing/baby pillows.
Memory foam mattresses: we use Visco 50 100% memory foam which are pre-cut for us by a UK human bedding specialist with the Queens Award status (they now have to re-apply for the Kings Award). Being 100% we mean that you can flip over the mattress and use it on both sides, our suppliers advise us this product over an inferior product that uses 10% or 20% Visco 50 Memory Foam Pad bonded (glued) to a green plastic bond board. Many companies do this and claim the weight of the dog’s body will sink through the memory foam and “thud” on the floor. The product is extremely hard and uncomfortable and does not support or assist in blood flow around muscles. Also, the cost of a 100% memory foam mattress compared to a product that is 10-20% then glued to board is far less costly, they save money whilst they can also claim it is a memory foam product. But it is horses for courses, there is no legal requirement to provide either product and we prefer to use 100% Visco 50 Memory Foam until that is, a more superior orthopaedic mattress product comes to the commercial bedding market, we are always searching and importantly, always learning.
And so, who are we?Interior designer
I qualified in Design & Decoration at KLC School of Design, Chelsea in 2004/5 - The course was 29 weeks over 3 terms and I commuted from Cheshire to London every week for 2 days a week, I had to resign from a 19 year career with British Airways because my husband left us. I was divorced with a 5 year old son. I worked so hard for a brighter, stronger future for him, for us. I had to spend 2 days in London and complete the remaining 33 hours of work each week at home for my course, it cost a great deal of investment and time. I was an accredited junior member of the BIID when I was practicing.
I am a fellow of the RSA, I take a keen interest in design, textiles, architecture, sustainability and the education of young designers both in England and Globally.
Longest Established Specialist British Dog Bed Manufacturers
We work with the longest established specialised dog bed makers in the UK who make for themselves and other trade partners. In total they make over 55,000 dog beds each year, they know, breathe and understand dog beds, what works and what doesn’t. I have also designed their Contemporary Collection for PATS Telford 2021 and sourced their commercial fabrics. All our products and dog beds are sampled, product tested, cut out by hand from our fabrics and made individually in the studios in the West Midlands. We do not take zeons to design and produce a dog bed as we are specialist designers and makers. We know who has made, finished and packed your dog bed, we use DPD Local to deliver fully tracked and who are working towards Carbon neutral to delivery them to your door. We totally understand our circular supply chain and work with the best British fabrics, textiles and mattress suppliers for all our products.
Hugo & Otto are Accredited by Made in Britain® - May 2020
The mark of excellence in British Design & Manufacturing