Fabric Glossary

The following definitions should help you select fabric.

Antique Satin – a satin with horizontal (weft) slubs which imitates spun shantung silk. It is 60% rayon (the face yarn fiber) and the 40% of acetate (the back yarn fiber). Often the warp and weft yarns are dyed with different colors to give an iridescent effect. Antique Satin is delicate and must be cared for properly. Never steam this type of fabric.

Batik – is a dyeing method where the cloth is covered with wax designs. It is dipped into vegetable dye that dyes the uncovered cloth without melting the wax. The wax is removed with hot water after the design is finished.

Brocade – a multi-use formal, Jacquard woven fabric with intricate raised woven designs resembling embroidery. It is often made with variety of thread colors depicting complex patterns and scenes with a shiny finish. Background weave is often satin. To the back of the fabric, the threads are not tied-down and are carried as “floaters”.

Brocatelle – a specific type of medium weight brocade utilizing four or more sets of threads, equally for warp and weft. It has large patterns in high relief to appear embroidered or puffy. It is woven finely for formal, refined and sophisticated wear.

Calico – similar to broadcloth, made of cotton or cotton/polyester and usually printed in small “country” all-over with multi-colored floral patterns.

Canvas – medium to heavy weight cotton fabric woven closely in plain or twill with relatively large threads. Available in variety of colors, stripes and few printed designs. It is also referred as “duck” or “sailcloth”. It has many uses.

Casement – a fabric for drapery either loose or tight, open or closed, plain or novelty weave. Given color, pattern and interesting texture through tied complex-yarn arrangements and variations in weave. Usually it is semi-sheer, translucent or opaque.

Cashmere – a soft fabric made of the wool grown beneath the outer hair of the Cashmere goat in Tibet and the Kashmir province in India. It is popular because of its softness.

Chambray – made of cotton or linen, a lightweight fabric in plain, balanced weave using white threads across a colored wrap. Pronounced “sham-bray”.

Chenille – is a fuzzy type of yarn. This yard is then used to weave the fabric. One desired characteristic of chenille fabric includes intended “regular irregularities”. It has a soft feel and it used often in upholstery weight fabrics.

Chevron – a regular and repeated zigzag pattern formed by reversing the twill weave. It is also known as herringbone.

Crepe – a light soft thin fabric with a crinkled surface. It is made from silk, cotton, wool, or another fiber either in plain or satin weave.

Damask – a formal satin base Jacquard fabric of linen, cotton, silk, or wool with reversible patterns. It is medium weight with variety in colors and patterns. Used in decorative fabric situation.

Denim – a coarse twilled cloth, usually of cotton or cotton/polyester which is practical and sturdy. Navy colored is used as jeans fabric and cream or white is used as Drill.

Embroidery – a surface ornamentation made with a thread or set of threads sewn onto a fabric.

Finish – a substance or the mixture of substances added to textile materials to impart the desired properties.

Flame or Fire Retardant – textiles that are naturally more resistant to fire than others through chemical treatment or manufactured fireproof fibers. Natural fibers typically do not melt. Wool and silk burn slowly, are difficult to ignite, and may self-extinguish. With other untreated natural fabrics, such as cotton and linen, the fabric can ignite quickly, resulting in a fast moving flame spread.

Flannel – a fabric woven and then brushed to achieve a soft nap. It is made of wool or a blend of wool and cotton or synthetics.

Flock – a material obtained by cutting or grinding textile fibers to fragments. There are two types of flock, precision cut flock, all fiber lengths are approximately equal and random cut flock, the fibers are ground or chopped to produce a broad range of lengths.

Flocking – a method of ornamenting cloth with adhesive printed or coated on a fabric. Finely chopped fibers are applied by dusting, air-blasting or electrostatic attraction. The fibers adhere to the printed areas and it is removed manually from the unprinted areas.

Herringbone – a zigzag pattern fabric with a novelty or complex twill weave. It is woven or printed on light-weight to heavy-weight fabrics.

Hound’s-tooth – a medium to heavy weight woven twill fabric designed with continuous broken checks or four-pointed stars resembling projecting “tooth-like” corners.

Indoor / Outdoor – indoor / outdoor fabrics offer durability, resistance to weather conditions, ease of care and cleaning. It’s a great fabric for family rooms, kitchens, kids rooms and all outdoor projects.

Jacquard – a weaving system which utilizes a versatile pattern mechanism to permit the production of large and intricate patterns.

Laces and Open Weaves or Casements – these fabrics have an open weave. These fabrics will not hold an exact shape and many will stretch at uneven lengths. This type of fabric is used for curtains or draperies.

Linen – is a natural fiber. It has a natural tendency to wrinkle but that is part of it’s charm. It is sometimes blended with cotton or rayon to make it stronger and resist wrinkling.

Lisserie – a fine Jacquard woven stripe which imitates silk and embroidery. The different figures and colors in the pattern comes from the warp.

Matelasse’ – a heavy-weight upholstery textile in Jacquard weave with double sets of warps and wefts. The surface appears to be puffy or cushioned and is also known as double cloth.

Mohair – a fabric obtained from yarn made from the silky hair of the Angora goat.

Moire – is a textile with a wavy (watered) appearance produced mainly from silk, but also wool, cotton and rayon. The watered appearance is usually created by the finishing technique called calendering. This type of fabric is very sensitive to moisture with shrinkage being quite common. Beware of humid climates and conditions including ironing and heating vents.

Nylon – a man-made fiber where the forming substance is a synthetic polyamide. It exhibit excellent strength, flexibility, elasticity and abrasion resistance.

Ottoman – a heavy silk or rayon fabric with broad, round weft threads that produce a horizontal rib. Used for coats and trimmings.

Peau de Soie – a soft and fine silk fabric of satin weave having ribbed or grained appearance. It is a French term which literally means “skin of silk”.

Pile fabric – a fabric with an extra warp or weft set, woven to produce a deep surface texture like velvet, terry cloth, frieze or corduroy.

Pilling – fibers tendency to work loose from the fabric surface and form a balled or matted particles attached to the surface of the fabric.

Plaid – a cloth having a crisscross design. The stripes in warp and weft directions cross at intervals to form different colors in square or rectangular patterns. It may be plain or twill weave.

Plisse’ – a blistered or puckered finish given to a sheer, thin or light-weight fabric with a caustic soda.

Polyester – a man-made fiber where the forming substance is any synthetic polymer. It has high strength and is resistant to shrinking and stretching. It is also wrinkle resistant.

Railroaded – a fabric that is railroaded means the pattern design goes from selvage to selvage instead of up the roll. Railroaded fabric is great for upholstery.

Rayon – a man-made fiber basically composed of regenerated cellulose.

Repeat-An entire completed pattern for design and texture. Repeats vary in size. A repeat is measured from a point in one pattern to the same point in the next pattern.

Rep, Repp – rib woven fabric (horizontal or vertical ribs) between poplin and ottoman in rib size and weight. It is durable and medium to heavy-weight. Woven from cotton, wool, or silk.

Satin – a basic type of weave with up to eight weft threads are tied down with one floating weft thread. It is light to medium-weight with glossy face and a dull back.

Scrim – a durable, open weave sheer cotton fabric used for curtains or upholstery lining or in industry.

Shantung Dupioni – originally a spun silk fabric with slubs and forms interesting textures. Today, shantung may be of natural or synthetic fibers. Fabrics imitating shantung are antique satin and antique taffeta.

Sheer – a fabric made using thin thread and/or low density of knit which results in a semi-transparent and flimsy cloth. Some fabrics become transparent when wet. Colors will deepen and intensify when a sheer fabric is shirred or pleated together.

Silk – silk fabric is widely regarded as the most luxurious textile on the planet. The most abundant form of silk, a natural protein fiber, is cultivated from the cocoon of mulberry silkworm larvae. Variations in dye lots, flaws, slubs, color bars and shading even within the same piece are considered part of the natural beauty of silk. Silks are prone to wrinkling. Interlining is strongly recommended for silk window coverings to protect the delicate face fabric and add body to the treatment and make the imperfections less apparent.

Stripe – the term “striped cloth” describes any textile woven, knitted, or printed in such a way that bands of different colors, evenly or unevenly spaced, appear on the surface of the fabric. Stripes can run vertically up the roll or horizontally across from selvage to selvage.

Suede cloth – a light or medium-weight synthetic knit or woven textile with brushed nap imitating suede leather.

Synthetic – are fibers made by humans with chemical synthesis, as opposed to natural fibers that humans get from living organisms with little or no chemical changes. Examples include polyester, rayon, acrylic, and olefin.

Tapestry – a Jacquard woven with multiple warps and wefts creating various color patterns or scenes. Used as wall hangings for decoration or sometimes to cover furniture.

Toile – a sheer fabric similar to muslin or percale in plain or twill weave obtained from cotton or linen.

Tufted fabric – a pile fabric formed by tufting a yarn into a woven background. Example, some upholstery fabrics and all tufted carpets.

Tweed – a coarse, rugged, and often nubby woolen fabric in plain balanced or variation (originally twill) weave. Used as casual suits and coats.

Velour – a closely napped fabric with a soft, velvet-like texture, used for clothing and upholstery. It includes some velvet, and all plush-pile surface cloths.

Velvet – a pile woven cotton, silk, and/or rayon fabric with a soft yet sturdy face. Very much like plush but with a shorter pile. The underside is plain.

Vinyl – extruded polyvinyl chloride synthetic fabric flowed onto a knitted, woven, or non-woven base cloth imitating leather. It is medium to heavy-weight upholstery fabric.

Voile – a light, plain-weave, sheer transparent fabric with tightly twisted yarns often having a stiff finish. Available in novelty effects like pique stripes, printed patterns and stripes. It is obtained from cotton, rayon, silk, or wool and used especially for making dresses and curtains.