Choosing fabrics for garden furniture: which will last, and which won't.

Striped outdoor fabric
High-quality, beautiful fabrics have long been a big part of what makes a house a home. Our bespoke parasol design service lets you choose your own material, and we’ll turn it into a luxury outdoor umbrella, to bring character and individuality to your own outdoor space. But with so many fabrics to choose from, what are your options, and where do you start?
We can't tell you which fabrics suit your personal garden style and taste, but we can steer your online searches regarding outdoor fabric types, their durability and suitability for living life as a hard working piece of garden furniture.
Whether you're looking for outdoor fabrics for patio sofas, garden tablecloths, pool loungers or a parasol, this guide will help you to understand the three main categories of fabrics suitable for garden furniture, plus where you can buy some of the best.

1. Solution-dyed fabrics

Solution-dyed acrylic and solution-dyed polyester are the longest lasting, most fade-resistant fabric options for a parasol. These are the creme de la creme of fabrics for garden furniture.

Solution-dyed fabrics are created by adding colour pigments to a polymer solution, before the fibre is even formed. This means that the colour is fully impregnated to the core of the yarn, and is therefore much more colourfast.

To explain this further, picture a carrot and a radish.

When you cut open a radish, you see the pink outer colour, and then the white interior. That is similar to most coloured fabrics.

Solution-dyed fabrics are more similar to a carrot. When you cut open a carrot, the orange colour is the same on the outside and the inside.

Solution-dyed fabrics are intended for outdoor use and so as well as having very long lasting colourfast properties, they are also water-resistant, stain-resistant, mildew and mould-resistant, and bleach-cleanable, whilst being breathable and resistant to UV degradation. Pretty powerful stuff.

However if the words polymer, acrylic and polyester make you think of plastic, shiny tent fabric, worry not. At the luxury-end of the market, solution-dyed fabrics are beautifully designed, soft, upholstery fabrics, with the appearance of a heavy linen or woven wool.

Brands with a wide selection of high-quality solution-dyed fabrics include Sunbrella, Agora and Perennials.

3 samples of solution-dyed fabrics

 (Featured fabrics: Perennials, Rubelli, Mark Alexander)

2. Outdoor or Performance fabrics

The second category of fabrics to explore are fabrics categorised as ‘outdoor’ or ‘performance’ fabrics. You’ll find a vast array of options in this category, and great websites to browse include Sanderson, Schumacher and Elitis

Performance fabrics are typically made with man-made fibres (acrylic, polyester, or nylon) and whilst slightly less durable than solution-dyed fabrics, they still offer stain-resistance, mildew-resistance and very good fade resistance.

3 samples of outdoor fabrics

(Featured fabrics: Thibault, Casamance, Rubelli)

3. Natural fibres

Your final option, is to opt for a natural cotton or linen, which opens up your garden decor options hugely! At Plia Parasols we’re happy to make your bespoke parasol out of any fabric of your choice, however you’ll have to factor in a little extra care to extend the life of a natural fabric canopy.

Keeping your garden soft furnishings dry (to avoid mildew), and stored inside when not in use (to reduce sun-fading) will help a lot. These fabrics are not intended for long-term outdoor use and will be much more delicate than so-called performance fabrics.

Do also remember that UV rays from the sun don’t just fade fabric over time, they also degrade the material and make it more prone to tearing. In the case of garden parasols, whilst we’ll do our best to work with your fabric and make it fit for purpose (for example with double lined pocket corners) do bear in mind that a thicker fabric canvas will last longer than a fine cotton.

Thankfully there are also protective sprays available to boost the performance qualities of non-outdoor fabrics.

3 samples of natural fabrics
(Featured fabrics: Linwood, Rapture & Wright, Lewis & Wood)

Protective sprays

We recommend two different high-performing options for increasing the water, mould and stain-resistance of your indoor fabric when being used on outdoor furniture. NB these products are only necessary for fabrics which are not already treated or designed for outdoor use. And just as you would re-apply sunscreen to skin over a long day in the sun, so should these products be re-applied annually to ensure maximum effectiveness.

303 Fabric Guard

This is a marine grade, water repelling product that will work to protect any fabric you have outdoor, from water, dirt, grease and sun damage. Supposedly it can even be used on silk, and doesn’t alter the appearance, feel or colours. As always, we'd advise doing a small, hidden test on your fabric before using all over.

Renapur Fabric Protector

This is a market-leading, premium protective spray, without the toxic chemicals that you’ll find in most waterproofing products. It can help to shield your absorbent fabrics against water, mud, oil and stains, without affecting the visual appearance, feel, texture, or colour. It is the safest and most effective protector spray available, that is free from harmful solvents or other aggressive substances. So much so, it can even be used on baby clothing.

NB Renapur Fabric Protector won’t stop your parasol fading, but will help with waterproofing, stains and general protecting.

Renapur waterproofing spray bottle


What else do you need to consider when choosing fabric for garden furniture?

Fabric weight

As mentioned above, fabrics that are too thin will tear easily from friction and tension, be that of a parasol being raised and lowered, or wriggling bums on a sofa.

With parasols specifically, a fabric too thick could be quite heavy for the arms of the frame, and bulky when the parasol is closed. The ideal weight of fabric for a patio umbrella is in the range of 200-550gsm.

Martindale rating

Keep an eye on the Martindale rating of your fabric too. The Martindale abrasion rub test is a measurement to determine the durability of a fabric, and measures how much friction a fabric can take before it will show a noticeable change in appearance.

You should aim for a minimum of 30,000 Martindale rating for any outdoor fabric that will be put under any level of stress (sofas and parasols included). An outdoor table cloth for example could work very well with a much lighter voile fabric with a lower Martindale rating.


If you're looking to order a 2.7 meter, round Plia parasol with micro valance, you'll need approx 7-10 meters of fabric, depending on the pattern repeat and direction. Our pattern cutters try to cut the fabric in the most efficient way, but if your pattern can only be used in one direction, this can limit how we might be able to use off-cuts. Feel free to send us your fabric choices for advice. Our contact details are here.
Take a look at our fabric trends 2024 for some inspiration and links to beautiful fabrics that are filling our boots.
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