Your choice of fabric is so important - maybe even the most stressful part of the decision - because it's a huge investment and something you'll be looking at and using for years to come. (Another important element is Trim. Please see that page, too.) The major things to consider for your fabric (and trim): durability, suitability, and likeability.
Durability: Will it hold up to its use over time?
Suitability: Is it really the right kind of fabric for that piece? Is the scale of the pattern too small or too large?
Likeability? Will you love it as much in 10 years? Is the pattern too trendy? Is the color too dated?
Exploring fabric shops (good ones) will help. They often have display pieces that are inspirational. Like getting a new haircut, bring pictures of the styles you like. The salespeople can guide you to the right types of fabrics. Here are a few tips as you start to shop:
1) If the fabric is less than the standard 54" standard - STOP! A) It's most likely not an upholstery fabric, and B) Your quote is based on a 54" width. Any width smaller than 54" will requirea recalculation of total yardage.
2) Fabrics labelled as "upholstery" may be too thin for the intended use or the design may be silk screened (the design is painted on not woven into the fabric - you can tell when the pattern doesn't show on the back.). These may more suitable for "soft furnishings" such as pillows or window treatments.
3) Get free samples (as large as possible) to take home. Store lighting is not the same as in your home, so colors and textures may look very different.
4) Consider buying small sample swatches online before making a purchase for the full amount. It will give you an idea for the company's service, delivery time, and product. [See my suggested list of Suppliers below.] Be wary of the tradeoffs with online shopping: long delivery times, shipping costs, multiple pieces (sometimes they cannot provide one singular piece; what's worse is they don't tell you!), and no returns/no refunds, so buyer, beware.
5) For a smaller piece that's less than a few yards, check the store's clearance section. Ensure you purchase enough (even for future add-on projects) because once it's gone from the store, it may be impossible to get. Try to get the name of the fabric, manufacturer, etc. The store should be able to provide that.
6) Watch your patterns! Some patterns are large and lovely and bold and daring! But large patterns translate to more required yardage. Pieces must be cut in a way so the design on the final upholstered piece is uninterrupted. Or, if the pattern is too large, it may have to be cropped off to fit a smaller surface area.
Naturally, I am available to assist you with your choice before you buy. See Fabrics and Trims in the Terms & Conditions for more about purchasing your fabric, remnants, etc.
Artee Fabrics & Home (Richmond, VA)- A plethora of options! Minimum yardage cut can be 1/8 of a yard (4.5").
Calico Corners (Richmond, VA) - Specializes in luxurious designer fabrics for the home. They custom order fabric - they do not have on-hand stock. However, you can sign up to bring (large) samples home. Very friendly staff!
Fabricguru.com - Lovely designer fabrics, but I believe they may be past season(s). You can filter your searches by fabric type, designer, colors, yardage needed, and price/yard. The item's listing suggests the most appropriate use for the fabric and provides the size of the pattern, a.k.a. "pattern repeat." This is important for you and me to know. Fabricguru.com offers $1 sample purchases, but it takes a week (give or take) to receive them in the mail.
Joann's Fabrics (Various locations) - Limited selections, but occasional good sales and coupons. Trendy patterns. They have oodles of sample books, but I am unfamiliar with their ordering lead times and minimum requirements. (I don't have much luck ordering from their online store either. The delivery takes longer, and they generally have to send in several pieces.)
The Second Yard (Charlottesville, VA) - This is a fun house of fabrics. There are rooms upon rooms of fabrics organized by color.
U-Fab (Richmond, VA) - Some of my clients and I have had good luck shopping there. Their minimum yardage required is a whole yard.