Fabricpedia

Everything you will ever need to know about each and every type of fabric. Fabricpedia is a textile dictionary that covers all essential fabric knowledge that will be helpful for you in choosing the right fabric.

A

Acetate

Acetate is a highly sought after, manufactured material that is especially good for draping and also adding body. It's a soft, crisp and breathable fibre that's fairly inexpensive to work with, but no one will be the wiser when they see its lustrous output. Cellulose based acetate has been dubbed the "beauty fibre" thanks to its ability to complement satin (good for blouses, dresses, lingerie, neckties), brocades (upholstery, draperies) and taffetas (slips, wedding gowns). It can be dyed in any deep, brilliant shade; however, due to it being a weak fibre by nature, any clothing you craft using acetate needs to be dry cleaned.

Acrylic

Acrylic is a master at mimicking, be it cotton, cashmere or wool. It's soft and warm but also resilient and lightweight. It absorbs colour well, but may be prone to pilling. Because acrylic is hypoallergenic and machine washable, it's an especially fitting choice for baby clothes. It also fights shrinkage better than the average fabric, making it good material for socks, gloves, scarves and sweaters.

Alencon Lace

Alencon Lace is a delicate needlepoint lace comprised of linen. It was inspired by Venetian lace in the 16th century. At the time of its invention, it was the most expensive lace of its kind. It's known for being light and airy, yet durable (although not so durable as to be machine washable; Alencon Lace is dry clean only). This lace usually comes with a floral design on a sheer, netted foundation, which makes it an excellent material for wedding veils and trains.

Alpaca

Alpaca fleece stems from alpaca the animal. It can be heavy or lightweight, depending on how it's spun. It's soft to the touch, extremely durable and warmer than wool. Unlike wool, it contains no lanolin, making it silky and hypoallergenic. It's a multi-purpose fabric, popular for suits, hats, scarves, gloves, jumpers, rugs and toys. It's best to hand wash or dry clean items made from this.

Angora

Not to be confused with mohair (which comes from the Angora goat), Angora fibre is the downy coat of a rabbit that bears the same name. It's considered to be one of the richest and most luxurious furs around due to its soft, thin and fluffy fibres. It feels like pure silk to the touch, but it is not immune to shedding and matting. It's an excellent fabric for sweaters, jackets and other winter wear. Angora should always be hand washed or dry cleaned to prevent damage. It should never be ironed.

Applique

Applique is a technique that translates literally in French "to put on". It is the process of decorating one piece of fabric with a smaller cutout or design. Its purpose is to add style and depth in an interesting way. Pretty much anything can be applique, and one way to do it is to sew or embroider the edges of the applied design onto the original piece.

Argyle

Argyle is a popular pattern that consists of overlapping diamonds in a full range of hues. It's similar to plaid and looks like a stretched out checkerboard. The design originally hails from Scotland and often shows up on socks, vests, sweaters and tights.

 

B

Baize

Baize is a loosely knitted, felt-like fabric traditionally used to grace gaming tables. This soft woollen material is usually dyed red or green and can be used for simple clothing, tablecloths, conference cloths, notice boards, furniture linings and of course, billiard tables. It's another one of those fabrics that necessitates dry clean only when it comes to its care.

Bamboo

Not just a panda's favourite snack, bamboo is also a viable fibre thanks to its naturally breathable and odour resistant qualities. Environmentalists are often a fan due to bamboo's quick, eco-friendly cultivation and greenhouse gas squashing properties. Bamboo is comfy and durable to wear and is good at wicking away moisture, making it a surprising choice for diapers. It can also be used in knit shirts, woven skirts, socks, bedding and more. Bamboo fabrics are machine washable so long as you wash them in cold or warm water, avoid bleach and allow them to air dry.

Bark Cloth

Bark cloth is an aptly named cotton fabric characterised by its rough texture (like tree bark). It's derived from trees and often sports flowery or leafy designs. It gained popularity in the mid 20th century in the form of tropical and abstract fashions. Due to its thick and densely woven nature, it's great for use in curtains, upholstery, pillows and slipcovers. Bark cloth should NOT be dry cleaned due to the harsh chemicals that are often used that could damage the fabric. Hand wash it instead in a tub of warm water and Woolite.

Basket Weave

Basket weave is the practice of interlacing threads so that they end up with a basic crisscross pattern, similar to a woven basket. It is performed by going over and under a set number of warp ends. It has two or more yarns that act as one when interwoven, which is a step up from a plain weave style.

Batik

Batik is a wax-resist dyeing method popular in Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China and especially Indonesia. It involves pouring wax into a mould on top of a cotton fabric in order to achieve a pleasant, intricate design that stays put. The rest of the fabric is usually dyed a different colour before the wax is removed.

Batiste

Batiste is soft, light and basic, usually comprised of cotton, wool, polyester, or some mix therein. Because it's so fine, it's almost transparent, making batiste super comfortable and non-irritating to wear on skin. It's a fabric best suited for handkerchiefs, lingerie, christening gowns, baby bonnets, and as a lining for high-quality garments. It should only be washed when absolutely necessary on a machine's delicate cycle.

Bengaline

Bengaline gets its name from its origin (Bengal, India). Despite its Indian roots, this woven fabric rose to popularity in 19th century France. It's comprised of wide, raised cords that can be made from any number of things (silk, cotton, wool, rayon, nylon, etc.). It usually takes two types of materials to give bengaline its signature sturdy texture. Because bengaline is heavy and durable, it's best utilised in coats, suits, dresses and children's clothing. It can be machine washed, but should be hung to dry.

Blend

A mix, coupling or combination of two or more fibre types in order to form one special yarn. This is a common technique due to the fact that blended threads up the durability, flexibility, cost effectiveness and more for a given fabric.

Bridal Crepe
Satin Silk

Bridal crepe satin silk combines shiny silk with crinkly crepe. It's a regular weight fabric with high lustre. It looks and feels gorgeous and is best used in bridal wear, evening dresses, lingerie, women's shirts, dresses and skirts. It should be hand washed without soaking and laid flat to dry.

Broadcloth

Broadcloth traces back to the mediaeval period, when it used to be made entirely out of wool. Today it's more often composed of cotton, silk or polyester, but it's still left with a feel that's as dense as wool. It's usually plainly and tightly woven and often turns up in men's button-down shirts and women's dresses. Because it's lustrous and soft (like velvet), broadcloth is also sometimes used to line luxury car interiors. If the broadcloth has a cotton or polyester base, it can be machine washed on cold, then line dried.

Brocade

Brocade is a very ornate, thick kind of fabric comprised of coloured silks and threads that shine gold or silver. Its name is an offshoot of the word broccoli and means "embossed cloth". Its tightly woven nature gives it an embroidered appearance without actually being so. This fabric is great for furniture, curtains, evening wear and costumes. Brocade must be hand washed or dry cleaned.

Buckram

Buckram is a plain, stiff cloth of cotton or linen origin. Buckram's tough quality makes it ideal for covering and binding books, but it can also lend a hand in providing structure for clothes and hats. It resists moisture and mildew better than most and can be dull or shiny in appearance. This fabric should not be washed, as the agitation from a washer will cause it to go limp.

Burling

Burling is the means of getting unsightly bumps, lumps and knots out of your fabric by way of a specialised iron or tweezers. It's an action that is performed prior to finishing a garment in order to ensure that seamless look and feel.

Burlap

Known as Hessian worldwide, burlap is a plant based, woven fabric with a rope-like texture. Due to its heavy duty nature, it's more often used for shipping and storing things than for apparel. It can be a conservative material for use in things like rugs, tablecloths, bags and furniture. Burlap can be hand washed in cold water. It should never be tossed in a dryer (unless you want a misshapen item on your hands).

Burn-out Velvet

Burn-out is a technique that involves putting fibre-eating chemicals on a fabric like velvet instead of a dye. This creates a semi-transparent pattern while the rest of the velvet remains the same. It's a stylish option for scarves, lingerie, tops, dresses and skirts. Burn-out velvet should always be dry cleaned.

 

D

Damask

Damask hails from Damascus, and the neat thing about it is that it is reversible by nature. It's one of the heavier fabrics and is composed of cotton, silk, linen, wool or synthetic fibres. It usually comes with a pattern (flowers or fruit). It's best used in table linens, draperies and furnishings. Depending on its core fabric, damask should be hand washed in cold water or dry cleaned.

Delaine

Delaine is a high-grade yet lightweight fabric made from fine combed wool. The name itself means "of wool" in French. It's usually used in women's dresses and should be dry cleaned only.

Denim

Denim is a super strong and durable twilled cotton. It originated in France, but is now known worldwide thanks to its hand in crafting blue jeans, jackets, shorts, skirts, overalls, bags, furnishings and more. Most denim materials can be machine washed, although you have to take care to prevent colour bleeding if the denim you're working with is dark.

Denim-Stretch

The same as regular denim, except with the addition of spandex. This allows things like jeans to form fit your body much better. As with plain denim, the stretch variety can also be machine washed.

Dobby

A dobby is a weave type with a shapely pattern (e.g., floral or geometric). It results from using an attachment on a loom. Its purpose is for decoration.

Double Knit

Double knitted threads provide an extra layer of fabric where two pieces are woven together and are impenetrable. Garments of this type are most often produced on a machine using two unique needles. Because this type of fabric holds up well and does not wrinkle, it's great for travelling. Unless spandex is added, it doesn't stretch, so double knitting is best used for hats, scarves and blankets. Double knits should be dry cleaned.

Duck Fabric

Duck fabric is another term for canvas. Also called duck cloth, this super sturdy, plain-woven fabric is great for use in anything that needs to fight the elements. You can use it for coats, bags, upholstery, awnings, tents and covers. It holds up well to sewing, dyeing and being machine washed.

Dupioni Silk

Dupioni silk is made from rare twin silk worms. It has a nubby texture and may contain remnants of the worms' cocoon in the form of black spots. It's a unique, attractive and luxurious choice for wedding gowns, evening dresses and home decor. It's a less expensive form of silk, but it must still be dry cleaned.

 

C

Calendering

Calendering is a textile finishing process very much like ironing. It involves flattening folded fabric using metal rollers of high temperatures and pressures, with the goal being to have the fabric come out thin, glossy and papery. It can also be used to apply a number of finishes.

Calico

There's calico the cat, and then there's calico the fabric. The non-furry variety is a plain-woven, unfinished and unbleached cotton textile that is cheap to use, but can be played up in some pretty cute prints. Calico makes for some excellent quilting material, but can also be used to craft blouses, dresses, skirts, bed sheets and whatever else your imagination dreams up. It's machine washable, but should be done so with care lest its namesake colours run.

Cambric

Cambric is almost a clone of batiste and is surprisingly lightweight for being so dense. Cambric is comprised of cotton or linen that's often piece-dyed, glazed or calendered. It's a fabric common for use in towels, shirts, aprons, underwear, handkerchiefs and lacey things. It launders fine.

Camel Hair

Camel hair is a natural, specialty fibre that takes a cue from cashmere. Because it's super soft, it's considered a premium and luxury fibre. It comes from the under wool of the desert dwelling camel. Camel hair is great at providing warmth without adding a lot of bulk, making it an ideal material for coats, blazers, sweaters, skirts, gloves, scarves and robes. Anything made with camel hair should be hand washed or dry cleaned.

Canvas

When it comes to plain-woven fabrics, you can't get much tougher than canvas. Usually made from cotton or linen, this durable, structure providing fabric is a top choice for paintings, sails, tents, backpacks, purses and shoes. At one point in time it was made using hemp. Canvas should be cleaned using a mild soap (read: no detergent) and in cool water. It should only be air dried.

Carding

Carding is the mechanised process of organising, cleaning, blending and separating fibres in order to make a continuous web suitable for further processing. It involves passing threads through different moving parts via a card machine. It can also be a means of blending colours and removing contaminants.

Cashmere

Cashmere stems from goats and gets its name from an old spelling of a region in India. It's considered one of the finest fabrics around due to its lightweight yet strong quality. It feels soft on the skin and provides excellent insulation. Cashmere is a popular choice for high-quality jumpers, hats, gloves, scarves, socks, pyjamas and more. Pieces made from this fabric must be hand washed or dry cleaned.

Chambray

Chambray is another type of fabric with a plain, tight weave. It's composed of comfortable cotton or synthetic fibres and is usually formed into lovely plaid or striped patterns. Due to its soft colouring, chambray often sports a frosty look and is best utilised in shirts, dresses, sportswear, home decor, aprons and kid's clothes. It can be machine washed and dried without any issues.

Chantilly Lace

Chantilly lace is a handmade, delicate and immensely detailed lace of French origin. It features outlined patterns such as flowers and is usually black in colour. It's great for veils, dresses and lingerie, but it can only be spot cleaned.

Charmeuse

Charmeuse is an oh-so-light, silky and satiny woven fabric where one side is lustrous while the other is dull. It can be made of silk, polyester, rayon or cotton. Because it catches light well, it's a great fabric for anything that flows or drapes. Additionally, luxurious charmeuse can be used to line jackets, slacks, ties and boxers. It's not an easy fabric to sew or work with, so it's not recommended for those who are inexperienced. Because it can tear easily when wet, dry cleaning is the preferred care method.

Cheesecloth

Cheesecloth is a loosely woven cotton fabric with gauze-like appeal. It's available in multiple grades which mark how porous the cloth is. Additionally, it is soft and white and best suited for cheese making and other types of cooking. It's not typically meant to be reused, but you might be able to get away with hand washing it or throwing it in a mesh bag and running it through your washer's delicate cycle.

Chiffon

Chiffon literally translates as "cloth" or "rag", but it's a lot more luxurious than just that. It can be comprised of cotton, silk or synthetic fibres and is usually lightweight and twisted in nature. Chiffon is smooth and sheer; almost see-through, in fact. You'll often find it in evening dresses, blouses, scarves, ribbons and underthings. This delicate fabric must be hand washed gently.

Chintz

Chintz is comprised of glazed calico cloth with flowers and patterns galore. It is often stiff and waxy and most frequently found in old timey dresses. Chintz needs to be dry cleaned in order to maintain its glossy finish.

Combed Yarn

The next step after carding, combing yarn involves pulling fibres into straight, parallel threads while discarding any irregularities. It makes cotton yarn even softer.

Corduroy

Corduroy gets its name from the cord-like appearance of its parallel twisted fibres. It's a more rugged and durable variation of velvet. It's a cotton cloth most often used in the construction of shirts, jackets and trousers. Other names for it include corded velveteen, elephant cord, pin cord and Manchester cloth. Corduroy garments should be turned inside out before being washed in warm water. They can then be dried on a permanent press setting.

Cotton

Cotton is one of the most widely used and most recognised fabrics in the word. Made from a plant, cotton fibres are known for their versatility, comfort, breathability and ease of use. The use of cotton dates back to 5000 B.C. Cotton has been referred to as "the fabric of our lives", and for good reason; innumerable things can be made from it, from T-shirts, towels, jeans, socks, underwear, bed sheets, coffee filtres...even money. Cotton is very washing machine friendly, although you still have to be careful when it comes to colour bleeding and shrinkage.

Crepe

Not to be confused with the French pancake, crepe is an extremely fine fabric of silk, wool or polyester origin. It's crisp, crimpy and gauzy and can come in a number of weights. This sheer fabric is commonly used for scarves, shawls and bonnets and should be dry cleaned or washed by hand.

Crepe-back Satin

A two-faced kind of fabric where one side is crinkly like crepe, while the other retains the signature polish of satin. It's soft, luxurious and versatile, making it a stunning choice for shirts, skirts and dresses. Care depends on if it's silk or polyester in composition. For the former, dry cleaning is advised, while in the case of the latter, a machine wash is fine.

Crepe de Chine

Translated literally as "Chinese crepe", crepe de Chine is just like regular crepe, only thinner. It's comprised of hand spun silk with highly twisted fibres, but it's still very easy to work with. You can use this graceful fabric to craft men's shirts, blouses, dresses and jackets. Anything made of it must be hand washed on its own using lukewarm water and mild detergent.

Crimp

A style of fibre or yarn that has curves in all the right places. Such waviness can occur naturally (like in wool), or it can be added manually to give a fabric new life.

Crochet

To crochet is to hook, or more specifically, to create fabric from looping yarn through itself. It's a similar practise to knitting, but not to be confused with it. The chief difference with crocheting is that a sole loop is being dealt with at a time. It's a beloved hobby by many, and countless crochet patterns exist for those who want to learn.

 

E

Elastic

Elastic is a pliable type of yarn or fabric. It can often stretch in any direction and is known in general for being flexible. It's common as a lining in gloves, hats, socks, underwear, trousers and numerous other garments. Elastic itself can be machine washed on warm and tumble dried on medium, but if it's only used as a lining, then care should default to the majority fabric.

Elastique

Elastique is a firm, wool fabric twilled with diagonal ribbing. It's sturdy but flexible and is great for use in uniforms (including military); suits, skirts, slacks and sportswear. This soft and smooth fabric holds creases well and is warm to wear. Elastique items need to be dry cleaned.

Embossing

Embossing is a stamping or calendering method that involves pressing patterns onto fabric via an etched roller. It's a common technique with leather goods.

Embroidery

Embroidery is the craft of sewing different threads into a given fabric in order to create a design. It can be done using any number of colours, and it is performed either manually or by machine.

Eyelet

An eyelet is a style feature. It most often resembles a keyhole, but an eyelet can be any kind of patterned cutout. This "Swiss cheese" effect often comes with embroidered threads as part of its design. It is a flair aspect that can be used in shirts, skirts, dresses and more.

F

Faille

Faille sounds more like "file" and is a soft, lightly ribbed material made from silk, cotton, rayon or taffeta. It's shimmery, drapes well and resembles bengaline. It's beautiful in tailored suits, jackets, dresses, skirts and slacks. Faille fabric must be dry cleaned.

Felt

Unlike most fabrics, felt is non-woven. Its pressed, matted and combined animal fibres make it compact and thick. Felt can be cut in any which way sans any fraying. It is a childhood favourite for art projects and also works well for hats, blankets, purses, socks and jewellery. It should be hand washed very gently and then air dried.

Flannel

Flannel is a super soft twilled fabric, most often stemming from wool or cotton. It sports a slightly napped texture and is known globally for its superior warmth. It's a popular choice for shirts, sheets and pyjamas. You should either hand wash flannel, or put it through your washer/dryer on the lowest settings.

Flax

Flax is a natural and edible fibre, mostly grown in Europe. It is used in the production of linen, which can in turn be made into bed, bath, table and kitchen fabrics. It is also great for shirts and lingerie. Flax linen should be machine washed using gentle detergent and dried on a cool setting.

Fleece

Fleece can either be made out of wool or synthetic materials and is primarily used to keep the wearer toasty without adding a lot of bulk. It's a great choice for sweaters, sweatpants, hoodies and blankets. Fleece can be machine washed on cold so long as it's turned inside out. Do not use fabric softener. It should be air or tumbled dried.

Foil

While foil fabric has a resemblance to the aluminium variety, it is not the same thing! Made of spandex, Lycra or polyester, foil is a metallic layering that adds a burst of colour and sheen to garment linings. It should never be ironed or bleached and must be machine washed using cold water.

Foulard

Foulard is an airy fabric comprised of silk or cotton. It's often ornate with designs of small prints, making it a good choice for scarves, handkerchiefs and ties. Foulard can also be used in home decor and is breathable, so it can be used for sportswear, too. It can be washed in warm water with similar colours and tumble dried on low.

 
 

G

Gabardine

Gabardine is a tough as nails, twill woven fabric that is extremely anti-wrinkle. It's frequently comprised of worsted wool, cotton or texturised polyester. It holds up well for pocket linings, suits, overcoats, trousers and uniforms. It must be dry cleaned only. Gabardine is sometimes known as "ladies wool".

Gauze

Not just for medical purposes, Gauze is a fine, see-through fabric with a flowy weave. It's usually composed of cotton or silk at its base. It's perfect for blouses, scarves, tunics, skirts and dresses that have that breezy quality. Gauze can be machine washable, depending on the type.

Georgette

Georgette is a thin fabric that looks crinkly and pebbly thanks to its highly twisted S- and Z-style yarns. It's half-sheer but strong, light in weight and with a dull finish. It was named after a dressmaker of the same name. It's a cousin of chiffon and best used for women's shirts, dresses, gowns and trimmings. Georgette must be hand washed using cold water and a mild detergent.

Gin

A machine from the mind of Eli Whitney that separates cotton fibre from its natural seed. It has proven to be a revolutionary and time saving device, as previously, cotton extraction had to be done manually.

Gingham

Gingham is a plain-woven fabric of medium weight comprised of dyed cotton or a blend. Its signature feature is the squared pattern that has become synonymous with picnic blankets and tablecloths. Gingham can also be used to grace shirts, ties, aprons, pillows, curtains, cushions and toys. It's washer/dryer friendly; however, it can wrinkle easily, so you'll need to have an iron handy.

Gossamer

Gossamer is a light and flowy sheer fabric popular in decorations and more. It mirrors gauze and is fairly easy to use. This silk based fabric can be used to play up walls, tables, fences, patios and stages. It can also be used to line party boxes, for costumes and as garland. Gossamer fabric should be cleaned with a vacuum only.

Greasy Wool

The same as regular wool, except that the natural lanolin remains intact. This untreated, animal based fibre is most commonly used for waterproof clothing. It can also be used for carpet making, insulation and felt purposes. Greasy wool should not be washed.

Grosgrain

Grosgrain is a heavy duty silk known for its prominent ribs. It's dull yet firm and is widely used in evening wear, uniforms and hems. It should be machine washed on cold and left to drip dry.

 

H

Habotai

Habotai (or habutai) is a bare bones, basic silk meaning "soft as down" in Japanese. It's dye friendly and commonly found in T-shirts, blouses, scarves, lampshades and slinky lingerie. It should be hand washed in lukewarm water and laid flat to dry. You shouldn't soak or wring habotai.

Herringbone

Herringbone is a twilled wool fabric with a zebra or zigzag inspired pattern. It's named after the skeleton of the herring fish. It's most often used in shirts, suits and outerwear. Care depends on the base fabric.

Houndstooth

Houndstooth is a type of pattern design that has abstract squares and black and white colours. It hails from Scotland and is sometimes referred to as dog's tooth. It was all the rage in the 1960s and is still found today in jackets, suits, chef trousers and hats.

I

Ikat

Ikat is a style of weaving that resists dyeing prior to the final product being finished. It is typically very decorative and can come in several variants. The term originates from the Indonesian word mengikat, which means "to tie".

Interfacing/ Interlining

These are terms used to describe the inner and outer layers of a piece of clothing. The reason for the extra lining is to promote insulation, structure or style. These layers can be heavy or light in composition and are either glued in or sewed in.

 
 

J

Jacquard

Jacquard is a style of weaving named after a man by the same name. It involves using a machine to mechanically manipulate individual warp fibres like in silk, polyester or rayon. Such a process can be used to produce very intricate fabrics, such as brocade and damask.

Jersey

Jersey is a knitted fabric that hails from Jersey, Channel Islands. It can be made of wool, cotton, silk or synthetic fibres. It's a very stretchy, comfy and lightweight fabric, making it an excellent choice for T-shirts, tops, dresses and shawls. In most cases, jersey is machine wash friendly with like colours.

K

Kapok

Kapok is a silky smooth, vegetable based fibre stemming from the Latin American Bombocaceae tree. It's a waterproof and springy fabric best utilised in home mattresses, pillows, life preservers and upholstery/decor. It can be difficult to work with and should not be washed. Another plus is that it is anti-vermin.

Khaki

Khaki can either be a colour or a cloth. It's known by its tan and dusty hue and can be quite rugged and durable as a fabric. It's a staple for trousers, pocketed shorts and uniforms (both casual and military). Khaki is generally machine washable, although it is prone to shrinking.

Knitting

Knitting is a hobby or craft where loops of yarn get intertwined to form a fabric. It's a quiet, relaxing practise that can be done on the go and is a popular pastime for making blankets, booties and scarves.

 
 

L

Lace

Lace is a very ornate, delicate fabric comprised of beautiful holes. It has been made for centuries and comes in several different kinds. Anything lace should be hand washed with care in cool water, then air dried. It can be used to add a decorative touch to just about any article, or it can serve as the base for tablecloths, shawls and lingerie.

Lambswool

The junior version of regular wool. It is characterised as being the first fur of a baby sheep. Lambswool can be woven to create a very warm and durable wool that's flexible whilst still being soft and light. It's most often used in top-of-the-line sweaters, jackets and blankets. Lambswool usually needs to be dry cleaned.

Lame

Lame is a woven or knit fabric with metallic properties. These metals are usually gold, silver or copper in nature.  Lame is best for use in evening wear and costumes. It also has a place in the fencing world and on sci-fi shows thanks to its conductive and shiny qualities respectively. Lame should be hand washed in warm water with Woolite; it should never be put in a dryer.

Lawn

Lawn cloth is a plain-woven linen or cotton porous fabric hailing from France. The high number of yarns that comprise it account for its silky, smooth feel. It can be white, coloured or printed. Lawn is a popular choice for summer dresses, women's shirts, undergarments, pajamas, collar cuffs, curtains, baby clothes and handkerchiefs. It can be machine washed on cold and delicate but must be hung to dry.

Leather

A natural fabric material taken from animal skins, especially cattle. It can be rough or smooth in nature and usually absorbs dye well. Leather is great for jackets, trousers, wallets, purses, belts, shoes and upholstery. Leather must be hand washed or dry cleaned, although you typically don't want to get it wet at all.

Linen

Linen is one of the most popular and common fabrics. It stems from the fibres of the flax plant. It's great for garments that'll keep you cool, and it typically packs more lustre than plain cotton. Linen is also a general term for towels, sheets, etc., since these items tend to be made of said linen. It's machine washable and dryable.

Loom

A loom is a machine or device that's used to weave fabric. Its main design feature is to hold warps taut so that weft threads can be interwoven. The machine itself can come in different sizes and shapes. A loom was also the symbol for ancient goddesses like Athena and Minerva.

Lurex

Lurex is the registered trademark of a kind of metallic yarn. It's comprised of a synthetic film with gold, silver or aluminium being vaporised within. Julie Newmar's Catwoman suit is an example of Lurex use.

Lycra

Lycra is the brand name for Invista's stretchable fibre. It's lightweight, comfy and breathable, making it a good choice for many cotton, silk or synthetic blends. It resists bacteria and is popular in compression undergarments and other hosiery. Lycra can be machine washed and tumble dried.

Lyocell

Lyocell is a synthetic fibre constructed from the wood pulp cellulose. It's an eco-friendly variant of rayon that fights wrinkles and is very strong. This soft and drapey fabric can mimic suede, leather or silk. It's often used in shirts, denim, underwear, casual clothes, towels, conveyor belts and baby wipes. Lycocell can be cared for using your preferred method (machine wash, hand wash or dry clean).

 

M

Madras

Madras is a light cotton cloth that's handmade by nature and comes from an Indian city of the same name. It usually has plaid-like patterns, granting it the nickname "Madrasi checks". Madras is a good choice for golf apparel, trousers, shorts, skirts, dresses, accessories, children's wear and jackets. It can be machine washed on warm with like colours and tumble dried on low.

Matte Jersey

Matte jersey is light and soft in composition, being rayon or silk by nature. It's breathable, flowy and wrinkle resistant, making it a good choice for relaxed garments including uniforms, undershorts, jerseys, swimwear, skirts, lingerie and sun dresses. Because it's both sturdy and durable, matte jersey holds up well being machine washed.

Mellot

Mellot is a type of Mackinaw fabric named after a man with the same last name. It's comprised of heavy, thick, water resistant wool. It has a smooth finish with no visible weaves. Mellot can come in lots of colours and is best used for overcoats, trousers, blankets and uniforms. Mellot must be hand washed or dry cleaned and laid flat to dry.

Mercerise

Mercerising is a process developed by John Mercer that adds lustre and strength to cotton. It involves having the fibres singed, then doused in caustic soda. This technique makes fabrics more workable and receptive to dyes.

Merino Wool

Merino wool is wool that comes from a certain sheep; namely, the Merino. It's considered to be the premier form of wool in all the world. This soft and luxurious fleeced fabric is great for sweaters and winter wear. It should be hand washed in cold water with mild soap and laid out to dry.

Mesh

Mesh is a netted fabric full of loosely woven yet compact holes that make it very breathable. It's typically used in jerseys, shirts, skirts and dresses. It can be machine washed on warm and tumble dried. No chlorine bleach should be used.

Microfibre

Microfibre consists of very small strands of nylon or polyester (hence the name). It makes for an extremely soft and lightweight fabric that resists both stains and wrinkles. It's commonly used for cleaning cloths, sportswear, sleeping bag insulation, tablecloths and cloth diapers. It should be washed using detergent that is natural in design.

Modal

Modal is comprised of Beechwood cellulose. Its benefits are that it does not pill, shrink or fade in colour. It can be used in towels, robes, sheets and underwear. It's machine washable in cool water and can be ironed after drying.

Mohair

Mohair is a silky, natural fibre produced by the Angora goat. Because it's both long and lustrous, it's known for its durability and strength. This resilient, shiny fur has been dubbed the "diamond fibre" thanks to its beauty and versatility. Mohair is common in scarves, hats, suits, sweaters, coats, socks and home decor. It's a great alternative to traditional fur. Mohair should be hand washed in tepid water and wrung and laid flat to dry.

Moleskin

Moleskin is a heavy cotton not actually stemming from the fur of a mole. It's both durable and velvety in nature, mimicking suede. Some varieties can be woven to be windproof, making the fabric ideal for gloves and jackets. Moleskin can also be used in home decor and bandages. Moleskin items should be dry cleaned.

Muslin

Muslin is a loosely woven, sheer, lightweight cotton. It's unbleached and commonly produced in India and Bangladesh. It can be used for dresses, sewing patterns, curtains, home furnishings, blankets and quilts. It can be machine washed on cold and delicate settings.

N

Nap

The word nap refers to the direction in which a fabric's loose or sheared pile is pointing. This can be changed via combing or brushing. Nap basically describes texture.

Net

Almost identical to mesh, net is a porous, open fabric made from polyester or similar materials. It's soft yet strong and can be died in a range of fun hues. Netting can be used in sportswear, costumes, decor and more. It's completely washable.

Nylon

Nylon is one of the most widely used synthetic fibres. It's incredibly resilient, resistant and flexible. It's often used in shirts, stockings, trousers, uniforms, carpet and seat belts. It's easy to use and care for; just machine wash warm and tumble dry low.

 
 

O

Oil Cloth

Oil cloth is a plain-woven cotton designed in such a way so as to be waterproof. It's an alternative to plastic coated cloth and is common for use in tablecloths, aprons, upholstery and raincoats. It should not be washed or dried but instead wiped clean if soiled.

Organdy

Organdy is a stiff, light, see-through cotton fabric. You can't get any sheerer than organdy. Despite its crisp finish, organdy wrinkles easily. It is an appropriate choice for drapey, loose items like dresses and curtains. It can be machine washed.

Organza

Organza is a versatile, transparent fabric comprised of highly twisted silk threads. Its tight composition makes it crisp, soft, sheer and light. It's durable enough to be machine washed in cold water while still being malleable. It's inexpensive yet expensive looking the best of both worlds. It's an especially popular choice for party bags, but curtains, tablecloths, napkins, shirts, skirts, dresses, undergarments and handkerchiefs can also be made from organza.

P

Paisley

Paisley is a pretty type of design characterised by its leafy, teardrop-like pattern. Named after a town in Scotland, paisley often pops up on blankets, curtains, shirts, skirts, trousers, bags and dresses.

Panne Velvet

A type of crushed velvet, Panne Velvet is both lustrous and lightweight. It can be made of cotton, silk, rayon or knit fabrics. Depending on its materials, this form of velvet may have to be hand washed or dry cleaned. It can be used in shirts, costumes and furnishings.

Pashmina

Like cashmere, pashmina is a soft, fine fibre stemming from a special kind of goat. It comes from a word that means soft, silky and woolen in Farsi. Pashmina can be made into some very pretty scarves and shawls. It should be hand washed in cold water and blotted dry.

Percale

Percale (also known as percalos) is a tightly woven plain fabric. It has a medium weight to it but no gloss. It washes well and is best utilized in printed or unprinted bedding and summer clothes.

Pile

Pile means "hair" in Latin, and like hair, it has a way of poking out of the surface of its origin. This extra thread can be trimmed and shaped (as in velvet, corduroy), or left as is for a style effect (like in terrycloth).

Pima Cotton

Pima cotton has the likeness of Egyptian cotton. Named after the Native Americans who cultivated its seeds, pima cotton is incredibly durable, workable and soft. It's a safe bet for shirts, dresses and delicate pieces. Pima cotton is completely machine washable.

Pique

Pique is a regular weight, tightly woven cotton or blend known by its waffle or honeycomb style weave. It's related to twilled and corded cotton. Pique is a fitting option for men's formal wear and polo shirts. It can be machine washed warm but should be line dried.

Plaid

Plaid is a style of fabric first used in Scotland to distinguish between the different clans. It's a popular and conservative choice for all types of garments. Also called tartan cloth, plaid is known by its squared or crisscross pattern. It can come in a rainbow of colours.

Plisse

Plisse comes from the French word to crease, fold or pleat. It's wrinkled and puckered on purpose all-over or in one specific area in order to add style to suits, scarves, purses, bedding and dresses. This fabric should be machine washed alone in cold water. It doesn't need to be ironed by design.

Plush

Plush is a form of fabric comprised of silk with a cotton backing. It's similar to velvet and most common in stuffed animals ("plush toys"). It comes from the French word meaning hairy and can be stretchy if knitted. Miscellaneous uses include upholstery and hats. It generally shouldn't be washed.

Ply

In the textile world, ply refers to the instance of two plus threads being combined prior to weaving. This "doubling up" helps to improve yarn density and weight.

Polyester

Polyester is a popular synthetic fibre that's strong, quick drying and holds shape well. It can be used in almost everything under the sun: shirts, trousers, jackets, hats, sheets, furniture, rope, tape, etc. It retains colour well and can be machine washed and dried.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) 

PVC is a leather-like form of plastic that's waterproof and rubbery. It's popular in Goth, punk and alternative fashions and is a cheap substitute for latex and similar fabrics. It can be used for costumes, furniture, coats, shoes, aprons, trousers and handbags. To clean, PVC should be wiped with a damp cloth only.

Popeline

Popeline is a twin to broadcloth and is used in making dress wear and non-casual shirts. It can consist of silk, rayon or wool and is machine washable.

Poplin

Poplin (or tabinet) is a strong, corded fabric of silk, wool, cotton or rayon origin. It's strong and doesn't wrinkle too easily, making it a prime choice for non-casual shirts, dresses, winter wear and decorative upholstery. It can be washed on the delicate cycle.

 
 

Q

Quilting Fabrics

Like the name implies, quilting fabric is primarily used for making quilts, although the fun prints it typically comes in could also be useful in making scrubs, pillowcases or pyjamas. Because it is usually comprised of all cotton, this fabric can be machine washed and dried, although you should take precautions to avoid shrinkage.

 

R

Raschel Knit

Raschel Knit is a type of warped fabric that looks like lace. Its distinguishing factor is the vertical yarn that gets interwoven into it. It can be useful in making trousers, pyjamas and scarves. Raschel fabric should be hand washed and dried to avoid shrinkage.

Rayon

Rayon is a popular, semi-synthetic cellulose fibre that's soft, absorbent and shiny. It's great for Hawaiian shirts, blouses, dresses, jackets, lingerie, furnishings, scarves, suits, ties, hats and socks. It's an excellent alternative to cotton. Rayon garments should be hand washed.

Re-embroidered

The technique of adding even more decoration to something that's already embroidered. It's defined as the embellishment of a fabric through beads, pearls, sequins, ribbons and associated items. It is often done by hand to add delicate decoration.

Ribbon

Ribbon is a very small strip of fabric of any material intended to add slight decoration and style to a given garment. Care depends on how well the ribbon will hold up when washed.

Ripstop Nylon

Rip-stop nylon is a crosshatched textile designed to resist rips and tears. It's very lightweight, yet wind and waterproof. Because it's so durable, rip-stop nylon is the go-to fabric for sails, hot air balloons, kites, tents, sleeping bags, umbrellas, draperies, flags, sportswear, backpacks and duffel bags. It can be machine washed on cold and dried on low.

 

S

Sailcloth

Like its name suggests, sailcloth is a durable, heavyweight canvas material primarily used for boat sails. This type of fabric should be hosed with fresh water on a regular basis. Sailcloth is great at resisting the elements.

Sanforise

A technique implemented in order to pre-shrink fabric. Named after Sanford Pruett and invented in the 1930s, this method can be a lifesaver for finished fabrics, as after they've been sanforised, they will shrink less than one percent thereafter.

Sateen

Sateen (not satin) is a silky, lustrous cotton fabric containing a high thread count. It's soft and sheeny and most often used in bed sheets, upholstery and vintage style clothing. Sateen should be washed in cool water and dried on a low setting.

Satin

Satin is a smooth and glossy fabric made from silk, nylon or polyester. It has a shiny front but a dull back. It's great for sportswear, lingerie, evening wear, nightgowns, blouses, boxers, ties and bedding. Satin can be cleaned via gentle hand washing and air drying.

Seersucker

Seersucker is a thin and puckered fabric commonly used for garments worn in the spring and summertime. It's made of 100 percent cotton, and it's crinkly nature has been described as resembling milk and sugar due to its alternating bumps and smoothness. It can come in solids, stripes, plaids or squares and is best suited for use in suits, shirts, shorts, robes, curtains, dresses and sportswear. It can be laundered, but should not be ironed.

Sequins

Sequins are small, disque shaped beads and gems comprised of metal or plastic. They are primarily used to add decoration and design and can be sewn on or glued on. Sequins come in a range of hues and shapes and commonly adorn jewelry, bags and shoes.

Sharkskin

Sharkskin is a soft, smooth, two-tone fabric devoid of any patterns. It's light in weight and known for its alternating shades of light and dark colours. Sharkskin doesn't wrinkle easily, making it a good choice for suits (including wetsuits), jackets, napkins, tablecloths and drapes. It's machine washable on cold but must be line dried. It shouldn't be bleached, ironed or dry cleaned.

Sheer Fabrics

Sheer fabrics are those that are somewhat or entirely see-through. They are usually crisp in nature and intended to add volume or style. They cannot be used to form the bulk of an everyday garment such as a shirt or dress, but may be useful in lining these items. Due to its delicate nature, clothing made with a sheer fabric should probably be hand washed.

Silk

Silk is one of the finest and most luxurious fabrics in the world. It is woven using the natural fibre of the silkworm. It's both strong and lustrous and smooth and comfortable. Silk is a high quality option for shirts, ties, dresses, undergarments, sheets, pyjamas and more. It should be hand washed or dry cleaned to preserve its qualities.

Silk Chiffon

Silk chiffon is a delicate, see-through form of chiffon fabric that is supremely elegant. Resilient yet lightweight, this dull textured fabric is great for use in lingerie, blouses, overlays, scarves and evening gowns. In most instances it should be dry cleaned.

Silk Duchess

Silk duchess is a very feminine, regular weight fabric that's easy to craft with and retains shape well. It flows beautifully and is aptly named, as royalty is what you'll feel like wearing it. It's common in wedding dresses, evening gowns and fancy lingerie. It should be dry cleaned in most circumstances.

Silk Organza

Silk organza is a semi see-through, crisp fabric that sheens through and though. It's both mouldable and lightweight. It's a popular choice for evening wear, bridal gowns, curtains, sheets and linings. It must be hand washed or dry cleaned.

Silk Satin

Silk satin is a highly revered, luxurious variant of plain silk. The magic is in how it's weaved, which adds a shiny, smooth quality that can't be beat. It can be used in all the same ways that silk can and must be cared for similarly.

Silk Satin Charmeuse

This type of silk sets the bar for all other silks. It has a lustrous and reflective front, while its back is more matte. Silk satin charmeuse is soft, supple and naturally elastic. It's great for use in undergarments, wedding wear, women's shirts and flowing dresses. It should be dry cleaned.

Silk Satin Crepe

Silk satin crepe is one part shiny silk, one part pebbly crepe. It's medium weight with a high sheen factor. It has a unique look and is all-around divine. It's appropriate to use in wedding wear, evening gowns, undergarments, blouses, dresses and skirts. It should be hand washed without soaking and laid flat to dry.

Silk Shantung

Shantung is a medium or heavyweight refined fabric most often made of silk. It has a close resemblance to Dupioni silk, but is a step up and classier. This type of material is perfect for suits, jackets, dresses and skirts. Shantung fabrics require dry cleaning.

Smocking

Smocking is a style of embroidery where the fabric is grouped and folded to enhance its flex and comfort. It's a technique that's as old as the Middle Ages and mandates the use of a lightweight and durable fabric to achieve its effect.

Spandex

Spandex is a form of fabric comprised of many elastic fibres. It's designed to be stretched greatly, but also to be able to bounce back. It's most often combined with natural fibres such as cotton to create a light and flexible fabric great for a range of garments. It can be used in everything and anything, including sportswear, bras, swimsuits, slacks, skinny jeans, socks and skirts. It should be machine washed in warm water on the gentle cycle and hung to dry.

Stone Wash

Stone wash is a style technique most often used on jeans and jackets. It involves the use of literal stones; the purpose being to create a "broken in" or distressed look. Besides adding fashion, this method can also help to soften rigid fibres such as canvas.

Suede

Suede is the same as natural leather except that it has been treated to have a velvet like nap or texture. As a result, it's softer but also less durable. The word suede originates from the term "Swedish gloves" in French and is most often found in shirts, coats, shoes, handbags and upholstery. Suede should be spot cleaned or dry cleaned only due to its delicate nature.

Super Twill

Super twill is a versatile, industrial grade fabric known for its premier strength and durability. It's absorbent with low lint production and mostly used to clean machinery.

Synthetic

The word synthetic means, quite simply, "not natural". In textile terms, it is a fibre that has been manufactured via chemical means. The benefits of using a synthetic fibre over a natural one are that a synthetic tends to be more resilient, resistant and durable.

 

T

Taffeta

Taffeta is a silky silk constructed with a plain weave. It's a rich and luxurious fabric best used in evening wear, wedding gowns and for tasteful interiors. This crisp and classy fabric must be dry cleaned.

Tapestry

Tapestry is a very decorated kind of textile that resembles carpet in look and feel. It's meant to be hung as an art piece or used as drapes. It's typically very heavy and must be dry cleaned. You can maintain your tapestry by vacuuming it once or twice per year.

Tartan

Tartan is another name for plaid. It's a Scottish cloth rich in history and tradition. It's typically made from wool and comes with a twilled weave. It's a staple for kilts, curtains, cushions, linen and dresses. It can be machine washed if it's made of cotton, but should be hand washed if it's made of wool.

Tencel

Tencel is a cellulose derived, biodegradable fabric. It's the brand name of a type of lyocell. Tencel is very soft yet very durable. Its silky nature is great for those with sensitive skin. This fabric can be used to construct eco-friendly shirts, trousers, bedding and blankets. It's machine washable, but should be hung to dry.

Terry Cloth

Terry cloth is a highly absorbent cotton or linen fabric designed to have extra pile. It can be woven or knitted and is versatile for use in men's, women's and children's clothing. Terry cloth is also commonly used in nappies, towels, robes, sheets and sweatjackets. Terry cloth should be machine washed separately in cold water so that it's delicate loops don't snag on other articles. It can be dried on low heat.

Thai Silk

Thai silk stems from Thai silkworms and is always hand woven (unlike traditional silk). It bears distinct patterns and colours and is comprised of fibre similar to human hair. Thai silk is great for shawls, robes, pyjamas and trousers. It should be dry cleaned to be on the safe side.

Tie-dye

Tie-dye is a psychedelic type of dyeing technique that rose to popularity in the late 1960s, although it's been around since the early 20th century. It's a kind of resist dyeing method that involves tying or knotting certain pieces of fabric so that a rainbow explosion effect may be garnered. It can be applied to anything from shirts to shoes.

Tulle

Tulle is an ultra lightweight kind of netting comprised of nylon, silk or rayon. It's named after a city in France and is similar to lace, although much more delicate. It's a popular choice for veils, gowns, bags and tutus and as an ornamental accent. Tulle can be machine washed on the lowest settings but should never be run through a dryer.

Tweed

Tweed is a regular or heavyweight kind of napped wool. It's very durable and typically comes in conservative designs and dull colours. It's great for trousers, coats, jackets and hats. It typically need to be dry cleaned.

Twill

Twill is a type of weave best known by its diagonal ribs. It creates fabrics that generally drape well and have a soft, smooth feel. Denim is a classic example of a twilled cloth.

U

Ultrasuede

A manufactured material similar (but not the same as) suede. It has a microfibre texture and is rather resilient and durable. It can be used in fashion (particularly for shoes) and also home decor and vehicles. Unlike regular suede, ultrasuede is machine washable. You aren't likely to get many stains on it thanks to its resistant qualities.

Upholstery

Upholstery is the term used when a piece of furniture is decorated or covered in fabric. Its purpose is to make that chair or couch not only look pretty, but to be durable and resistant to the perils of regular use. Upholstered fabric can be comprised of cotton, leather or synthetic material. It may be machine washable if it's removable; otherwise, it'll need to be spot cleaned using a special spray.

 
 

V

Velour

Velour is a very plush, knitted form of cotton that is velvet-like in appearance but differs from it in flex and texture. It can be used to make comfy robes, dance wear and casual clothing. Velour should be hand washed and hung to dry.

Velvet

Velvet is a rich and classy fabric known for its soft and smooth piled texture. It has a real distinct feel to it and can come in several types, from crushed to embossed. Velvet can be made of silk, cotton, rayon, wool or nylon, or blended with Lycra to achieve stretch. This fabric is typically so smooth that it's coined the phrase "smooth as velvet". Dresses, jackets and other forms of velvet clothing most often need to be dry cleaned.

Velveteen

Velveteen is a form of fake or imitation velvet. It's lightweight and derived from cotton. It's more voluminous than real velvet but with less sheen. It's a fitting choice for dresses and evening wear and must be dry cleaned. Velveteen should never be ironed.

Vinyl

Vinyl is a manufactured material similar in appearance to leather. It can be used for upholstery, tablecloths, shower curtains, jackets or trousers. It should be wiped clean only.

Viscose

Viscose (also known as rayon) is a free flowing manufactured fibre of supreme comfort and durability. Viscose's silky smooth quality makes it a great option for lingerie, bedding and gowns. It's anti-wrinkle and machine washable.

Voile

Voile is a plain-woven, loose cloth that's half transparent. It's incredibly light, soft and drapey, making it a fitting choice for blouses, skirts, dresses and curtains. It's similar to organdy or organza when it comes to its look. Voile garments can be washed in cold water on the delicate cycle and should be laid flat to dry.

W

Warp

Warp is the vertical thread that gets interwoven with the horizontal or weft yarn. Warp translates as "that which is thrown across" in old English.

Weave

The process by which a fabric is produced. Weave is a basic term referring to the simple practise of intermixing warp and weft yarns. How something gets woven can ultimately determine a fabric's strength, flex, texture and weight.

Weft

Weft is the horizontal thread that gets interwoven with the vertical or warp yarn. An alternative term for it is "woof". Weft and woof both come from the word wefan, meaning "to weave" in old English.

Whipcord

Whipcord is a heavyweight twilled fabric with hand twisted diagonal ribs. It's strongly worsted and most often found in trousers, jackets, uniforms and work clothes. It can, indeed, also be used in making whips. It sometimes gets mistaken for corduroy. Whipcord can be machine washed on cold and should be tumble dried on low.

Wool

Wool is a wrinkle resistant natural fibre most commonly associated with sheep, but can stem from goats, camels or llamas, too. It's known for its incredible warmth, making it a good choice for sweaters, blankets and more. Wool should typically be hand washed or dry cleaned.

Wool Double Crepe

Double crepe wool is a more luxurious and elegant kind of wool. It's known by its dual layers that make a garment slim and light. It's a comfortable choice for suits, coats, dresses and home decor like curtains. It's best dry cleaned.

Worsted

Worsted can be a type of yarn, or the fabric made from it. It's named after a village in England and is known by its tightly twisted threads and smooth surface. It's most commonly used to made suits and sweaters. Worsted fabrics are fully machine washable and hypoallergenic to boot.

X

Velour

Velour is a very plush, knitted form of cotton that is velvet-like in appearance but differs from it in flex and texture. It can be used to make comfy robes, dance wear and casual clothing. Velour should be hand washed and hung to dry.

Voile

Voile is a plain-woven, loose cloth that's half transparent. It's incredibly light, soft and drapey, making it a fitting choice for blouses, skirts, dresses and curtains. It's similar to organdy or organza when it comes to its look. Voile garments can be washed in cold water on the delicate cycle and should be laid flat to dry.

Y

Yarn

Also known as basic thread, yarn is the foundation for any cloth, fabric or garment. It can be natural or synthetic in nature and have twisted or long properties.

Z

Zibeline

Zibeline is a dense yet soft woollen fabric that's both sleek and shiny. It's an animal of a fabric on two counts: the first being its name, which is based off of a creature from Siberia; the second being that it is made from the hair of alpaca or camels. This delicate and flowing twilled weave must be dry cleaned only. It's ideal for use in coats, suits and dressy outerwear.