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Fabric Types


Originally, the term barkcloth referred to a fabric found throughout the South Pacific. It is made from the inner bark of certain trees. The bark is beaten into a paper like fabric, and is then dyed or otherwise colored. Tapa cloth is one of the best known types of true barkcloth. Barkcloth is a term which also refers to a fabric, often cotton or rayon, with a somewhat crepe-like feeling which is designed to resemble true barkcloth. This fabric is used extensively for draperies, slipcovers and other home furnishings

Basket Weave

One of the most important patterns in weaving.


A rough, fairly thick, quite stubby yarn. Fabric made from the boucle yarn, also called boucle has a textured nubby surface which is usually dull unless shiny yarns are used. This look moves in and out of fashion. Boucle fabrics may be woven or knitted by hand or machine.


In clothing fabrics, brocade refers to a heavy, luxurious fabric made on a jacquard loom. Patterns often include flowers and leaves. Metallic threads are often used in brocades. Although true brocades are woven, today the term is also used for knits with a similar luxurious look. In carpeting, a brocade rug is one in which different yarns of the same color create a subtle pattern.


Coarse, heavy fabric made of jute and used for upholstery, wall coverings, commercial items (such as sacks), and occasionally fashion items. Burlap dyes well but may have a disagreeable odor unless treated.Burlap


A heavy, strong, usually plain weave fabric which historically was made of flax, hemp or cotton. Today it is usually made of cotton but some fabrics made of man-made fibers or blends are also called “canvas”. Canvas is, roughly speaking, heavier than duck or sailcloth although the three names are often used interchangeably.


A lightweight cloth with a colored warp and a white filling thread, originally made of cotton but today made of any fiber. Although chambray is traditionally woven, the look itself is so popular it is imitated in knitting. It is similar in appearance to denim but much lighter in weight. Chambray is usually solid with the white filling threads giving it a pastel look, but it can also be woven in patterns.


A pile yarn originally made by weaving a pile fabric and subsequently cutting it into strips. Chenille is popular in rugs, bedspreads and bathroom accessories.


Any closely woven, plain weave fabric printed in bright designs which are most often floral. Today, most chintz has a glazed finish. It is used extensively for draperies and upholstery and is one of the few fabrics still made exclusively of 100% cotton; however, it will be probably made in man-made fibers as well.


A corded fabric in which the rib has been sheared or woven to produce a smooth, velvet like nap. Traditionally made of cotton, corduroy can be made of many different fibers today.


A type of embroidery which utilizes almost every of embroidery stitch and is worked with a fairly thick wool yarn called crewel yarn. The designs are often quite large and often extremely stylized.

A heavy, jacquard weave fabric used for tablecloths, home furnishings and occasionally clothing. Linen damask is the traditional fabric for fine tablecloths.

Officially, denim is a twill weave fabric with a colored warp and a white filling thread. However, when the fabric and the look became popular the name was given to many other types of fabric, including cross dyed fabrics and brushed fabrics, both knit and woven, that resemble true denim. Most jeans are made of denim; the most popular and traditional color is blue.

A soft fabric, usually with a brushed surface. Flannel made be made of just about any fiber although the traditional fibers used for flannel are wool and cotton. The brushing of the fabric weakens it to a certain degree but this is not considered undesirable in most applications.

A plain weave fabric with a pattern made from dyed yarn. Traditionally made of cotton (although other natural fibers have been used in ginghams and given that name), today gingham is usually made of a blend or a man-made fiber. When the pattern is checked it is called checked gingham, when plaid it is called plaid gingham. Plain weave fabrics are sometimes printed with gingham patterns, such as checks, and are also called ginghams. When the gingham look is in fashion, even knits knitted in checked patterns are called ginghams. Gingham patterns are available in a wide range of colors and checked ginghams are the most popular.

Originally, fabrics made from yarns which were spun by hand. Today, homespun is used for fabrics which imitate this look. Homespun has a fairly rough surface and is made from nubby, uneven yarns.

A term used to describe fabrics with a woven or knitted pattern, whether or not they are made with a jacquard attachment on the loom. The jacquard attachment for weaving and knitting machines makes possible the manufacture, repeated geometrical designs in knits and wovens.

A fine, hand loomed cotton imported from Madras, India. The Federal Trade Commision has ruled that this is deceptive to apply this term to a fabric which does not meet this description. In addition, the FTC definition requires that any dyes used on this fabric must be vegetable dyes which will bleed (the colors will run into each other). The fact that the FTC felt called upon to make such a definition is some indication of the popularity of Madras and imitation Madras fabrics in recent years. The authentic  Madras and its imitations usually have checked or plaid designs; with time, as the colors bleed into each other with washing, true Madras develops extremely soft colorings. It should, of course, be washed by hand separately from other fabrics.

One of the fabrics which, like cloque, has a blistered or quilted look to the design. Officially the word matelassé implies the use of two different yarns which, when finished, react differently to the finishing resulting in a puckered effect in the fabric. In practice the term matelassé is usually applied to luxury fabrics for evening wear, while a word such as cloque will be used for a similar fabric made from cotton. Matelasse is also popular for upholstery.

A silk or man-made fiber fabric which has a very narrow crosswise rib. Ottoman is similar to faille but has a wider rib. Faille is considered a dressy fabric and is usually used for evening clothes, handbags and shoes.

A fabric woven with small, raised geometric patterns on a loom with a dobby attachment. It is usually made of cotton or a blend of cotton and synthetic and is usually a crisp fabric of medium or heavy weight. It is often printed with colorful designs. White pique is a classic fabric for tennis clothes and for collars and cuffs on dresses and blouses. The look of woven pique can be duplicated with embossing and heat setting.

Originally, a rough, plain weave, silk fabric in which slubs in the yarn provided a textural effect. Today shantung is usually made of man-made fibers or combinations of man-made and natural fibers.

A broad term for extremely strong woven fabrics which are used as a covering for pillows, mattresses, and box springs. Ticking is made so that the stuffing (originally feathers or down but often man-made filling today) will not sift out through the fabric. Ticking usually has a pattern of woven stripes, jacquard or dobby designs, or printed patterns. When ticking is used in clothing, stripped ticking with narrow woven stripes is usually most popular. Red and white, black and white, navy and white are the most popular ticking combinations.

The French word for cloth. Toile is also a woven fabric which has been printed, usually in one color only, with a scenic design. This is occa0sionally called toile de Jouy. It is most commonly found in home furnishings fabrics. Toile is also used in the field of expensive designer clothing where the word is used to describe a fabric pattern for the garment.

A woven fabric characterized by colored slubs of yarn on a somewhat hairy surface. Tweed may be made of any fiber or fiber combination although wool tweed is probably the most common. Knots are sometimes used to resemble tween slubs.

A fabric with a short, closely woven pile. There are two methods of making velvet. One method used double cloth construction in which two layers of fabric are woven with long threads joining them. After the double fabric is woven, the center threads which join them are cut, producing two pieces of velvet. The other method of making velvet utilizes wires. In the weaving process the yarn is lifted over the wires to form the pile. When the wires are removed, the yarn is cut to form the velvet surface. Velvet was originally made of silk but today is made of many other fibers. Nylon is one of the most popular. Some knit fabrics with a pile are called velvets but this is actually incorrect.

A type of wool fabric or yarn. Worsted fabrics are made from yarns which have been combed as well as carded (wool yarns have only been carded.)  Combing eliminates short fibers and impurities so the resulting yarn is compact and sturdy. Worsted yarns are smoother than woolen yarns and when woven into fabric, result in a fabric with a clean, smooth surface as opposed to the fuzzy, soft surface of woolens. Worsted fabrics wear better than woolen fabrics, resist felting at points of wear, and have a harder surface than woolens.

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