How to Hang Fabric on Walls
Hessian and other fabric wallcoverings are ideal as a cover-up for less-than-perfect walls. They can give a softer, richer look to a room and provide an ideal backing for prints, pictures or other items on display.
There are many fabric wallcoverings available. Some are nubbly and tweedy; others have a delicate silky or moire (watered silk) surface; some are like damask: woven figured material. There are wallcoverings with wool and linen strands stretched across a backing to give an overall effect of striped, half-woven cloth; fragile grasscloths (strands of natural grasses bound lightly into a mat on a paper backing); and other coverings with an Oriental effect such as raw silk and split bamboo. There are thick sound-deadening felts; wallcoverings with a leather look, including crushed and brushed velvety suedes; ones with cork slivers on a coloured, or foil, background (which glints through the cork ‘skin’) and last, but by no means least, ever-popular hessian which comes in a natural oatmeal colour, various dyed colours and also in a special ‘sized’ version intended for over-painting.
Most of these wallcoverings are paper-backed, which makes hanging easy and straightforward. Some, however, are not. Ordinary upholsterers’ hessian, for example, which is only about one-third of the price of the paper-backed version, can be hung on walls; but a different hanging technique is required (see Decorating Tips for Hanging Wallcoverings). A point to bear in mind, if you are considering hanging one of the more expensive speciality wallcoverings like silk, grasscloth or cork, is that while they come with a paper backing, which prevents stretching and wrinkling, you cannot afford to make any mistakes in measuring and cutting; also these types of wallcovering stain very easily if any paste gets onto the surface.
Real fabric of almost any type can also be hung to cover walls, so long as it is firmly woven, but usually it is not stuck into place; instead, one of two other fixing methods are used. With one method, a staple gun is used to staple the fabric to battens which are in turn stapled to the wall. With the other, special plastic fabric-fixing track is fixed to the wall and the fabric tucked into this. Either way, the fabric can be removed fairly easily for cleaning which is a delicate, but manageable operation.
Choosing and buying wallcoverings
While taste is obviously an individual matter and you will choose the type of wallcovering according to the look’ you want (and the amount you are prepared to pay), the different textures of the various fabric wall-coverings do tend to make them appropriate for use in particular settings. The silks, moires and grasscloths tend to look better in a more traditional setting whereas corks, suedes, wool weaves and tweedy effects complement a modern décor and blend particularly well with exposed brickwork, timber cladding, slate and stone. Hessian usually looks right in both modern and ‘traditional settings, is a perfect foil for pictures, prints or other exhibits and is frequently used on one specific wall area to back a prized collection.
Quite a few fabric wallcoverings have a ‘random’ match, which means you don’t have to allow for pattern-matching when buying. However, where there is a very heavy texture or a definite striped effect running horizontally across the material, some pattern matching may be necessary if the results are not to be disappointing. Some speciality wallcoverings, like grasscloth, can have a rather untidy look when hung, but this is characteristic of the material and it is supposed to have a random-match effect. If you think this is likely to worry you, buy something a little less defined in texture.
When buying, try to see as large a sample as possible before making up your mind. If you can, see two rolls unwrapped and placed side by side and also try to see them arranged vertically as they’ll be seen when hung. The more expensive wallcoverings must usually be ordered in advance from specialist decoration shops, and you may only be able to select from smallish samples. In which case, try to have an arrangement with the supplier so you can return the material for a credit if it does not match the sample to your satisfaction.
Check the width and length of roll before ordering; many fabric wallcoverings are imported and may not conform to standard sizes. So if you don’t check you risk ordering too much or little.
Also remember to check carefully for colour variations between rolls. Colour differences will be only too apparent when the wallcovering is in place.