Sometimes we need a fabric that is far more practical than it is decorative. The materials we enjoy working with for dress-making and soft furnishings aren’t going to cut it when it comes to more substantial items like outdoor wear. Olefin is a material often heralded for its functionality in these situations. So, what is olefin fabric used for and what is it about the material that makes it so well-suited to these applications?
What is olefin fabric?
Olefin is a synthetic fabric that has become a popular choice for outdoor furniture in recent years. Users find that it is a very practical solution for products that need to be durable and easy to clean. As a result, it has overtaken some other materials, such as sunbrella, as the fabric of choice in these situations. So, why is it so beneficial and should we use more of it?
How is olefin made?
Olefin is actually a more fancy name for polypropylene fiber. Olefin is created via a process called steam cracking where hydrocarbons are cracked at high temperatures to create this strong synthetic material. It is a relatively new process, having been invented in the 1970s. But, advancements from thermal cracking to steam cracking led to some efficient ways to break down waste propylene and ethylene gases. Dyes are often added to the polymer for the end product before it is spun into fiber.
Why do people say it is a more environmentally-friendly choice?
There are always going to be questions about the true environmental benefits of any synthetic material. No matter how durable it may turn out to be, there is always the fact that unnatural fibers are biodegradable and can lie in landfills for unknown lengths of time. However, those that champion olefin highlight the lack of energy and water used in its creation, which means a lower carbon footprint. The material used in its production is also a waste product.
What is olefin used for?
Olefin is often used in the creation of products for outdoor use. This means things like covers for outdoor equipment, shades for awnings and parasols, or even some cushions and seat covers. It is perfect for something like a bean bag chair with a large surface that is roughly handled. There are also internal practical uses such as carpeting and the interior of cars. In some cases, manufacturers will use olefin for rope rather than nylon. There is also some potential for the use of olefin in activewear, especially when it comes to lighter weatherproof clothing.
Why is Olefin so popular for these products?
Olefin is very strong and durable, which is why it is used in interiors as well as outdoor furniture. It should take a lot of wear, resisting abrasion from repeated use, and stay colorfast in direct sunlight. There is also some water resistance that makes it showerproof and this, along with the waxy dense texture, makes it easy to clean. You should be able to handle any mishaps or environmental by-products like mud and bird excrement with more ease than using some other materials for outdoor seating and shades. An added benefit of being so dense and colorfast is that you can get some great patterns and colors. You aren’t stuck with dull greens and browns for your outdoor areas.
Can you sew with olefin?
There are pros and cons to this material when it comes to creating your own products. With the right fabric, you should be able to sew some practical pieces on a machine. Good olefin fabric isn’t too heavy and the range of patterns gives you plenty of choices. This could lead to some interesting work creating seat covers, cushion covers, and other pieces for outdoor use.
Is olefin fabric the right choice for your situation?
As you can see, there is a lot to like about olefin and there is potential for some great durable products. Also, while we started this guide talking about the importance of practicality over decoration, you can enjoy both with the right piece of mater. You could make use of it yourself in some DIY restorations or just appreciate its properties in existing interiors. Either way, it is sure to be a great choice.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.