It’s Hard Out There For a Couch

Marge: Once we get the cats out of the way, it won’t be too bad.
Real Estate Agent: Actually, according to the will, the cats own the house.

– The Simpsons

Remember the slipcover project? That I was going to finish in January? I haven’t had time for sewing, but I have spent some time trying to decide on the fabric. We were down to two finalists, and I decided to test them for the conditions the slipcover is going to face.

This slipcover needs to resist cat hair, cat claws, human wallowing, and miscellaneous foods and beverages.  I decided that this slipcover was going to be dark brown and then dressed up with pillows; this is primarily because dark brown won’t show my sewing mistakes as readily! The finalists:

I have decent-sized swatches of each. I was sold on the cotton duck until I kept looking at the internet. Damn you, internet! I found professional upholsterers pointing out the shortcomings of cotton duck (shrinkage, wrinkling, staining). They recommend fabrics with some polyester in them. The “velvet” piece (not really velvet, but slightly fuzzy) is 100% polyester (with a mostly-polyester backing), so that is definitely “some”. They are about the same price, and they are both reorderable online, so everything depends on what happens in testing!

1. Cat Hair

Methodology: I rubbed cats vigorously with the fabric swatches. Then I used a fabric brush to see which cleaned up better.

What is happening???

What is happening??? I was asleep!




I laughed. The cats did not. Under the heading “relevance” though, the pseudo-velvet (on the left below) did not pick up as much cat hair. It was also easier to remove hair from that piece.

Cat hair pre-brushing.

Cat hair pre-brushing.

Cat hair post-brushing.

Cat hair post-brushing.

2. Cat-Based Violence

Methodology 1: I rubbed catnip into each swatch and stood back. Action shots:

Inigo on fabric action

My name is Inigo Montoya. You are covered in catnip. Prepare to die.

Mayya on fabric action

Aaargh! Pirate cat will wear you as a hat!

Methodology 2: I strapped the swatches to a scratching post, but the cats just scratched around them. So I replicated scratching by attacking the swatches with dental tools instead, using a claw-like motion. WHAT CAN I SAY? It’s winter!

Scratches on velvet

Pseudo-velvet fail.

Results: The pseudo-velvet was easy to snag and mar (see above), but I had a struggle even slightly marking the cotton duck.

3. Human Wallowing

I could not come up with an effective way to test something swatch-sized for this! But the pseudo-velvet is rated for 100,000 double rubs (she said, as if she knew what that was, but it sounds good), and I know cotton duck is durable from experience. So both get a pass here.

4. Miscellaneous Foods and Beverages

Methodology: Smear swatches with wine, cheese, and condiments, rub it in, then throw in the washing machine.

Mustard, chocolate sauce, red wine, cheddar

Mustard, chocolate sauce, red wine, cheddar.

Results: The pseudo-velvet washed up like a dream. The cotton duck washed up pretty well, but the cheese did not come out completely. I suppose if we actually ground cheese this far into a slipcover, we’d probably pre-treat it, unlike I did here. The cotton also came out very wrinkled, but I would normally air fluff a cotton slipcover, which calms it down a lot. I could even iron them…?

Still damp here.

Still damp, but clean and basically unstained.

The verdict? I wish we’d had one clear winner. Up until the scratch test, pseudo-velvet was in the lead. In fact, other than the scratch test and the fact that I don’t like the color as much, it would be pseudo-velvet for the win! But cat clawing is a central issue — they aren’t terrible about scratching, but they do lose their minds from time to time and forget that the furniture is not their enemy. I don’t want to put in the sewing time and have them mess it up in six weeks.

So cotton duck it is! I’ll just have to preshrink it and buy a cat hair roller.

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