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When selecting a fabric for your project, do you take the type of material into consideration? Knowing whether the fabric is cotton, polyester or acrylic can tell you a lot about how the fabric will perform. In order to help you pick the best material for the job, we’re going to feature six common fabric fibers and take a look at the pros and cons, variations, and source of each. Kicking off our series is acrylic, the fiber behind most Sunbrella brand fabrics.

Acrylic is a synthetic man-made fabric that was originally developed to be an alternative to wool. Today it’s a widely popular fabric for its durability and ease of care. Acrylic is used in apparel, upholstery, rugs, awnings, boat and vehicle covers, luggage, blankets, and stuffed animals.

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How Acrylic is Made

Acrylic is made from Acrylonitrile, a colorless flammable liquid that is derived from polypropylene plastic. It is combined with other chemicals and placed into a spinning solution. The mixture is then either injected into air-filled space and dry spun or sprayed into water and wet spun. The fibers are then washed, dried, and crimped. At this stage, the fibers are either long and continuous “tow” fibers or they are short “staple” fibers like wool or cotton. Both types of acrylic fiber can be woven into fabric, resulting in a different look.

Why Acrylic is Great

  • Durable
  • Colorfast
  • Resists Shrinkage
  • Doesn’t wrinkle
  • Soil and oil resistant
  • Resistant to sunlight and fading
  • Moisture wicking
  • Quick drying
  • Resistant to mildew and insects
  • Surprisingly soft
  • Easy to clean

The Drawbacks to Acrylic

Acrylic does have a few drawbacks. The fabric is inherently hydrophobic (a tendency to repel water), which can be a plus, but this feature also makes the fabric prone to creating static electricity. It also has been known to burn easily and can be difficult to extinguish.

Acrylic is not the most abrasion resistant fabric. However, for most applications, adding chafe protection patches of a more abrasion resistant fabric to high wear areas will strengthen the fabric.

Additionally, some acrylic fabrics have been known to pill, leaving what looks like tiny lint balls all over. Higher quality acrylics, like Sunbrella, however, have been manufactured not to pill.

How Acrylics Vary

While all acrylics have some of the same inherent properties, there are a lot of variables that can change the way a fabric performs. Two of the most common variances are the weave and chemical or topical additives.

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An acrylic woven with a very tight weave will keep water from seeping through the fabric. Acrylics with a looser, more open weave, however, are less water resistant because the water can pass through the holes left between the fibers.

Chemical and topical additives are often used with acrylic to enhance its features. For example, Sunbrella Marine Grade is pre-treated with a topical additive that enhances water repellency and mildew resistance. Acrylic can also be coated with polyurethane or vinyl to increase water repellency and abrasion resistance as in Sunbrella Plus and SeaMark.

As you can see, acrylic has a lot of benefits and can be a very versatile fabric. Different weaves and treatments make this fiber appropriate for a wide range of uses. Give acrylic a try in your home or on your boat.

To see our selection of acrylic fabrics including Sunbrella Marine Grade and Upholstery Fabric, visit www.sailrite.com

Have you used acrylic fabrics for your projects? How have they performed for you?

I’ve deemed the “perfect fabric,” whether for upholstery projects, patio furniture, boat interiors, or outdoor covers, as a high quality fabric that doesn’t wear out, fade, stain, or shrink. It is easy to clean and looks great no matter where it’s used. A fabric line with beautiful colors and patterns without the ridiculous price tag! Sounds almost too good to be true!

I’ve found that Glen Raven Sunbrella® Fabrics come pretty close to “perfect,” and they have been growing in popularity and demand for the last several years because more and more people agree! Here’s why…

All Sunbrella fabrics are:

  • • 100% Solution-dyed acrylic fabric – Each individual Sunbrella fiber is color saturated from the inside out for a rich, fade resistant color that lasts even in extreme conditions.
  • • Water resistant – Sunbrella is treated with a fluorocarbon finish for water repellency.
  • • Fade Resistant– A must-have in my book for both outdoor and indoor fabrics!
  • • Mold and mildew resistant
  • • Stain resistant and easy to clean
  • • Minimal shrinking or stretching
  • • Easy to sew

The Sunbrella brand undeniably leads the way in both outdoor and indoor fabrics with a great list of qualities you can expect in every Sunbrella fabric! The great news is that Sunbrella comes in a variety of different collections that are specifically designed for certain uses. Use this quick reference to determine which Sunbrella fabric you need for your application:

Sunbrella® Marine Grade Fabric

Sunbrella Marine Grade fabric is designed to withstand the harsh weather conditions and durability needs of boat and marine environments. Sunbrella’s marine grade fabric offers good stability and also up to 98% UV protection. Use for boat covers, awnings, cockpit cushions, and other outdoor covers.

Sunbrella® Awning Fabric

Sunbrella Awning fabric offers the same great durability and UV protection of the marine fabric collection but comes in a variety of beautiful striped patterns designed with commercial and residential awnings in mind.

Sunbrella® Upholstery Fabric

Sunbrella Upholstery fabric features a soft hand and a wide variety of beautiful patterns, colors, and textures that makes it a comfortable indoor and outdoor upholstery fabric. Sunbrella furniture fabric is intentionally easy to clean and maintain making it a worry-free fabric for families and pets. Use for cushions, pillows, patio furniture, upholstery projects, and gazebos.

Sunbrella® Sheer Fabric

Sunbrella Sheer fabric is also an open weave Sunbrella fabric designed with a very light, soft hand to create romantic, airy curtains or draperies both indoors and out. Sunbrella Sheers fabric is beautiful and luxurious yet flaunts the fade resistance, stain resistance, and cleanability of a performance fabric.

Where to buy Sunbrella fabric?

Sailrite became an official distributor for Glen Raven Fabrics back in 2003, making it possible to keep hundreds of indoor and outdoor fabrics, like Sunbrella, in-stock and available at great prices. Buy Sunbrella fabric by the yard or find more detailed information about a specific Sunbrella fabric at www.sailrite.com.

Photos provided by Glen Raven.

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