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Frieze style upholstery fabrics from Knoll — Totem and Mariner

On a major hunt to find upholstery fabric to cover the sectional for my Mahalo Lounge, I am very excited to report that I have found two fabrics — both from Knoll Textiles — that come as close to the old-fashioned frieze fabric that we love than I have ever seen before. Above: That’s Knoll “Totem” in “Fling” set on a piece of vintage gold frieze from my archival collection (I am going to stop calling it a hoard; I am an anthropologist). 

Above: That’s Knoll “Mariner” in “Red” set on a another piece of my vintage frieze. Neither of these fabrics are what you would call inexpensive, but read on, and I have some money-saving tips for you if you need small(ish) quantities and/or can wait it out. 

More about Knoll Totem:

Knoll Totem comes in 10 colorways. I adore the “Fling” colorway I ordered as a sample, and it may well end up on my sectional: The color is right to match the leaves in my Diamondhead Kamuela barkcloth drapery fabric… it is very durable — 100,000+ double rubs via the Wyzenbeek method (fabric is 71% polyester, 29% acrylic)… while it reads kind of ‘horizontal stripey” on screen, when I test it on my actual sofa, the pattern reads running both vertically and horizontally and when you are standing a few feet away, it’s an optical solid… it has a pretty hefty hand — 18.75 oz. per linear yard)… and finally, I love that it’s so like vintage frieze. The only downside (except for cost, see more on that below): My family wants comfy cushy upholstery, like chenille, that they can take a cozy nap on. In this instance, though, I am likely to overrule them for aesthetics and to satisfy them, make sure that a plush throw is part of the design and handy to put under when they want to nap in the Lounge.

On my computer screen, this image from the Knoll website is ready fairly darker than the fabric in my real life sample.

Knoll Totem is $83/yard, and from playing with their website, it looks like Knoll will directly to me, that is, to retail customers. Considering the cost (gulp, I need 30 yards), I have a friend who has potential access to “To the Trade” pricing; if I do go that route, I might ask her if she can get it for me at lower cost, if that’s even possible.

Website link: Knoll Totem

More about Knoll Mariner:

Knoll Mariner comes in seven highly saturated colorways. I tend to think it is even more “true vintage-style” than Totem, be because it is 100% nylon with an acrylic backing. Seriously, it is super similar to my vintage brown frieze: Click on that photo at the top and if you’re on a desktop, it should double in size — you can see more detail.

Initially, I ordered a sample of Knoll Mariner in Red, to see if the red would coordinate with my draperies. Nope. But I like it so much that I have now ordered a sample in Pine — the basement is getting a sectional update, too! More to come on the sectional situation; I am having them custom-made — the biggest, most expensive thing I have ever done in terms of buying furniture.

Knoll Mariner passes 75,000 double rubs on Wyzenbeek test. That’s also super durable, I am told. Cost is $44 per yard.

Website: Knoll Mariner

On Knoll fabrics in general:

I was extremely impressed with the variety of fabrics available from Knoll. I had always thought if this company as super high-end, but they have some wonderful fabrics at lower prices, too.

Their website is fantastic.

The company also allow you to order samples — an unlimited number, as far as I can tell. The 8.5″ x 8×5″ samples came very quickly, too. 

Nicely done, Knoll, I have become a ginormous fan!

Find Knoll fabrics at discount prices:

I’ve written about Modern Fabrics before. This company, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, receives ends of bolts of fabric and discontinued fabrics from major furniture makers and offers them at significant discount prices. Their website allows you to sort by brand — for example, here’s what they currently have from Knoll. The catch is: Will they have the yardage you need, in the fabric you want? Obviously, you are going to have better luck with smaller projects vs. larger ones. 

Modern Fabrics also sends samples, although they get to you slower than big operators like Knoll. But golly, if something new comes up, you may need to be ready to jump, because someone else might snap it up.

They also have a subcategory that sorts by yardage available. I have found that these subcategories aren’t always perfect. For example, as I recall (I got blind after a while because I spent so much time on this website) that there were some fabrics with 30+ yards available in the 15-20 category (but not in the 30+ category). I also *think* I saw fabrics in the Midcentury Modern category that I had not seen elsewhere.

I am now waiting for my samples from Modern Fabrics to come. And, I am also checking their New Arrivals tab daily to see if anything new that could work pops up.

Finally, as I continue my hunt for the perfect fabrics for my two sectionals,  actually noted from the Modern Fabrics website some of the companies that seemed to be making fabrics in the style I wanted. Then, I jumped over to their websites to do more research and order samples. Two other companies I have ordered samples from so far are Maharam and Designtex

Website: Modern Fabrics

And note, I created a new subcategory for all stories about upholstery: Decorate / Upholstery Fabrics

  1. Lisa McG says:

    I side with your family. Fabrics that feel good to sit on are best for high-use furniture. Everyone hated that scratchy fabric on those old sofas. Use the frieze fabric on furniture that’s mainly for show.

    I re-upholstered Grandma’s green Selig Imperial sofa in a soft, chenille-like fabric and have enjoyed the nice feel for years.

    Aesthetics at the expense of comfort is ok for people who live alone.

  2. Joe Felice says:

    So this is what that fabric is called. I do wonder how it got the name, though. Carpet was what we used to call “sculptured nylon.” Was the upholstery also nylon? I know it always had nylon stitching, which I thought was fishing line.

    “Frieze” carpet today is what we used to call “shag” back in the ’70s. And frieze boards are used on building exteriors to conceal joints where surfaces meet. Now I wonder how all of these got the word, and how they re related.

  3. Nellie Kampmann says:

    Thank you and to everyone who made suggestions in the comments. The upholstery on my 1940s sofa and chair finally gave up the ghost. The Mariner will be a perfect replacement and it sounds like it will last for another 70 years.

  4. Cynthia Chovet says:

    I love Modern Fabric! I bought a small amount of yardage to recover my office chair with Knoll’s Hourglass in Tangerine. Great customer service and the prices are right!

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