Fabric Dictionary


A process for finishing fabrics that produces high luster, glazed, embossed and moiré effects.


A printed cotton cloth, similar to percale. Often features a small floral print. Originated in Calicut, India, and is one of the oldest cottons. Historic use as housedresses, aprons and patchwork quilts. Calicoes were first imported into Europe from India during the Renaissance and have since been manufactured in both Europe and the United States. Calico was especially popular in America during the 19th century. In the U.K., calico is the term for a white or unbleached plain cotton cloth.


Soft cotton or linen, closely woven, lightweight. Either bleached or piece dyed; highly mercerized, lint free. Calendered on the right side with a slight gloss. Lower qualities have a smooth bright finish. Similar to batiste but is stiffer and has fewer slubs. Launders very well, has good body, sews and finishes well. Originally made in Cambria, France, of linen and used for church embroidery and table linens. Today cambric is used for handkerchiefs, underwear, slips, nightgowns, children's dresses, aprons, shirts and blouses.

Candlewick Fabric

An unbleached muslin bed sheeting used as a base fabric on which a chenille effect is formed by application of candlewick (heavy plied yarn) loops, which are then cut to give a fuzzy effect and cut yarn appearance of true chenille yarn. May be uncut also. (True chenille is a cotton, wool, silk, or rayon yarn, which has a pile protruding all around at slight angles and stimulates a caterpillar. Chenille is the French word for caterpillar). Used for bedspreads, drapes, beach wear.

Canton Flannel

A cotton flannel. The filling yarn is a very loosely twisted and soft, and later brushed to produced a soft nap on the back. The warp is medium in size; the face is a twill. Heavy, warm, strong and absorbent. Named for Canton, China, where it was first made. Comes bleached, unbleached, dyed, and some are printed. Used for interlinings, pajamas, linings, coverings, work gloves.


Plain weave cotton or linen. A mostly rugged, heavy material made from plied yarns, with body and strength. Almost the same as duck in heavier weights. Has an even weave. Used for rugged applications like tents, sails, mail bags, sacks, covers, etc., as well as for many home decor applications. Finer types used for embroidery and paintings. Hair canvas is an interfacing material in various weights.


The process of preparing fibers, such as wool, cotton, etc., for spinning.


A most luxurious fabric from the Kashmir goat, a hair fiber found in Kashmir India, Tibet, Iran, Iraq, China, Persia, Turkestan and Outer Mongolia. Often mixed with wool or synthetics to cut costs and improve the wear. Fiber is cylindrical, soft and silken, more like wool than any other hair fiber. Has a very soft silky finish; very lightweight. Natural fiber is white, black, brown or gray but can be died a variety of shades. Comes in different weights. As a wool fabric, used for coats, jackets, suits and more. As a knit, it’s used as sweaters, scarves, robes and other luxury apparel and accessories.

Cavalry twill

Woolen or worsted, with a double twill weave. A strong rugged cloth.  Used forriding habits, ski wear, sportswear, and uniform fabrics.


Cellulose is the basic substance for the three cellulosic fibers—acetate, rayon, and triacetate—and comes from purified wood pulp.


A soft, plain weave wool. Comes from the Anglo-Indian word "Shallee," meaning soft (and is also pronounced “shallee). Also made in cotton, hair fiber, rayon. Lightweight. May be dyed or printed with a delicate floral pattern, paisleys, or geometric patterns. Originated in Norwich, England, in 1832. Used for women’s and children's dresses and blouses, comforters, kimonos, neckties, and sportswear.


Features a dyed warp and a white or unbleached filling. Both carded and combed yarns used, and has a white selvedge. Some woven with alternating white and colored warp. Has a lighweight, faded denim look, with very soft coloring. Some chambrays have stripes, checks or are embroidered. Smooth, strong, closely woven, soft and has a slight luster. Wears very well, easy to sew, and launders well. Originated in Cobrai, France, where it was first made for sunbonnets. Used for shirts, tops, dresses, sportswear, childrenswear and more.

Chamois cloth

Fabric is napped, sheared, and dyed to simulate chamois leather. Thicker, softer and more durable than flannelette. Used for men’s shirts, cleaning, interlining, and storage bags for articles to prevent scratching.


A beautiful satin fabric made of silk or manmade fibers. Recognized for its supreme luster and drapability. Has a satin face and a matte face. Comes in a wide variety of solids and prints. Used for blouses, dresses, linings, and lingerie.


A soft, silky fiber with high luster and a warp face. Herringbone weave. Originated as a silk fiber but is now made of manufactured fibers. Used for ties, scarves and robes.


Originally used as a wrapping material for pressing cheese. Loosely woven cotton, thin, light in weight, open in construction, and soft. Carded yarns are always used. It is also called gauze weave. When woven in 36" widths it is called tobacco cloth. When an applied finish is added, it is called buckram, crinoline, or bunting. Finished cloth is used for curtains, bandages, dust cloths, cheap bunting, hat lining, surgical gauze, fly nets, food wrapping, e.g. meat and cheese, costumes and basket tops.

Chenille Fabric

Mostly plain weave cotton and blends. Filling of chenille yarns—has a pile protruding all around at right angles. (The word is French for caterpillar and fabric looks fuzzy.) Used for millinery, rugs, decorative fabrics, trimmings, upholstery.


Broken twill or herringbone weave giving a chevron effect, creating a design of wide Vs across the width of the fabric. Also known as herringbone.


A diaphanous fabric of silk, rayon, cotton, synthetics. Lightweight, sheer, transparent. Made with very fine, tightly twisted yarns. The tightly twisted yarns can be either in the filling or the warp, or both. It is very strong, despite its filmy look. Used for tops, dresses, evening wear, lingerie, scarves and as overlay fabrics.


A wool originally and mostly made from the Cheviot sheep but today also made of blends, spun synthetics, crossbred and reused wools. Resembles serge but is much more rugged and coarse and will not shine because of the rough surface. Also sold as a tweed. Used for coats, suits, and sportswear.

China Silk

A silk that is soft and extremely lightweight but fairly strong. Irregularities of threads caused by the extreme lightness and softness are characteristic of the fabric. Used for linings and underlinings, blouses.

Chinchilla Fabric

Made from cotton or wool, and also some manmade and synthetic fabrics. Does not resemble real chinchilla fur. Has small nubs on the surface of the fabric which are made by the chinchilla machine. Cotton warp is often used because it cannot show from either side. Comes in medium and heavy weights. A very warm and cozy fabric. Takes its name from Chinchilla, Spain, where it was invented. Used for baby blankets.


Fiber: Cotton

Weave: Twill (left hand)

A cotton twill with a combined two-ply warp and filling, and a subtle sheen. Fabric was purchased in China (thus the name) by the U.S. Army for uniforms; originally used for army cloth in England many years before and dyed olive-drab. Washes and wears extremely well with a minimum of care.

Uses: Army uniforms, summer suits and dresses, sportswear.


Fiber: Cotton

Weave: Plain

Characteristics: Has bright gay figures, large flower designs, birds and other designs. Also comes in plain colors. Several types of glaze. The wax and starch glaze produced by friction or glazing calendars will wash out. The resin glaze finish will not wash out and withstand dry cleaning. Also comes semi-glazed. Unglazed chintz is called cretonne. Named from the Indian word "Chint" meaning "broad, gaudily printed fabric".

Uses: Draperies, slipcovers, dresses, sportswear.


Fiber: linen

Characteristics: Originally from Chitta (India), where the trend of painted linens was started in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Cisele Velvet

A velvet with a pattern formed by contrast in cut and uncut loops.


Characteristics: This seed fiber is obtained from the husk of the coconut.

Uses: Brush-making, door mats, fish nets, cordage.


Characteristics: Wild rabbits have brownish or gray colors. Tame ones range in color from white to black. Uses Coats and trimmings.

Cordoban Leather

Characteristics: Goat skin, simply-tanned. The art of preparing this leather came from Cordoba where the craftsmen who were allowed to use it for shoes in the Middle ages were called cordwainers.


Fiber: Cotton, rayon, and other textile fibers.

Weave: Filling Pile with both plain and twill back.

Characteristics: Made with an extra filling yarn. In the velvet family of fabrics. Has narrow medium and wide Wales, also thick and thin or checkerboard patterns. Wales have different widths and depths. Has to be cut all one way with pile running up. Most of it is washable and wears very well. Has a soft luster.

Uses: Children's clothes of all kinds, dresses, jackets, skirts, suits, slacks, sportswear, men's trousers, jackets, bedspreads, draperies, and upholstery.


A natural vegetable fiber of great economic importance as a raw material for cloth. Its widespread use is largely due to the ease with which its fibers are spun into yarns. Cotton's strength, absorbency, and capacity to be washed and dyed also make it adaptable to a considerable variety of textile products. It is one of the world's major textile fibers.

It is obtained from bushy plants. The immature flower bud, called a square, blooms and develops into an oval fruit called a boll that splits open at maturity, revealing a mass of long white hairs, called lint, that cover the numerous brown or black seeds. There are four main types of cotton: American Upland, Egyptian, Sea Island and Asiatic. The flowers from which these differenttypes of cotton are obtained vary in color and texture, thus providing each type of cotton with varying characteristics. Cotton, in general, is very elastic. It can withstand high temperatures, has high wash ability and is very susceptible to dyes.

Cotton Brocade

Fiber: Cotton brocade often has the ground of cotton and the pattern of rayon and silk. Pattern is in low relief.

Weave: Jacquard and dobby

Characteristics: Rich, heavy, elaborate design effect. Sometimes with colored or metallic threads making the design usually against a satin weave background. This makes the figures stand out. the figures in brocade are rather loose, while in damask the figure threads are actually bound into the material. The pattern may be satin on a twill ground or twill on a satin ground. Often reversible. The motifs may be of flowers, foliage, scrollwork, pastoral scenes, or other designs. The price range is wide. Generally reputed to have been developed from the Latin name "brocade" which means to figure.

Uses: All types of evening wear, church vestments, and interior furnishings.

Cotton Canvas

Fiber: Cotton. Originally made in linen.

Weave: Plain, but also crosswise rib.

Characteristics: Also called duck. Name originated in 18th Century when canvas sails from Britain bare the trademark symbol - a duck. Very closely woven and heavy. it is the most durable fabric made. There are many kinds of duck but the heavier weighs are called canvas. It may be unbleached, white, dyed, printed or painted. Washable, many are water-proof and wind proof. Made in various weights.

Uses: Utility clothing in lighter weights, such as trousers, jackets, aprons. Also for awnings, sails, slipcovers, draperies, sportswear, tents, and many industrial uses.


Coutil (or Coutille) is a tightly woven twill cloth with a herringbone pattern. It looks sleek with a smooth finish. It has been created specifically for making corsets. It is woven tightly to inhibit penetration of bones/stays and resist to stretching. Coutil can be made in plain, satin or brocade and generally colored black, white or flesh. Coutil can be soft, stiff or medium and this characteristic is determined by the starch finishing. This dense, strong material is also used in the manufacture of medical corsets, i.e. Lumbo-Sacral and French "Drill"


Fiber: Woolen or worsted, also cotton and spun rayon.

Weave: Twill

Characteristics: Made with two shades of color e.g. (Medium and light brown). The warp is 2 ply (1 light; 1 dark) and filling 1 ply (dark or same as warp). Very rugged and closely woven. Has a mottled or speckled effect. First used as a hunting fabric. Has a clear finish and hard texture. Wears exceptionally well and has a smart appearance. Light in weight.

Uses: For over coating for both men and women. It is also made waterproof and used a great deal in rainwater.


Fiber: Linen.

Weave: Plain.

Characteristics: It is very rugged and substantial in feel. Come in white or natural shades or could be dyed, printed, striped, or checked. The yarn is strong, irregular in diameter but smooth. Has a fairly good texture.

Uses: Toweling, suitings, dresses, coats.


Fiber: Woolen, worsted cotton, silk, man-made synthetics.

Weave: Mostly plain, but various weaves.

Characteristics: A fine often gauzelike fabric with a wrinkled surface. Has a crinkled, puckered surface or soft mossy finish. Comes in different weights and degrees of sheerness. Dull with a harsh dry feel. Woolen Crépes are softer than worsted. If it is fine, it drapes well. Has very good wearing qualities. Has a very slimming effect.

Uses: Depending on weight, it is used for dresses of all types, including long dinner dresses, suits, and coats.

French via Old French crespe 'curled' from Latin crispus

Crépe De Chine

Silk warp and Crépe twist silk filling 25 x 22. More ends than picks per inch. Has a soft hand and considerable luster. Made of raw silk or rayon. It is easy to manipulate and handle. Very long wearing. Most of it launders well. It is fairly sheer. Could be piece dyed or printed. Has a slight rippled texture. Heavy Crépe de chine is called "Canton Crépe" which is slightly ribbed and now mostly made in rayon.

Crépe Back Satin

Satin weave on the face and a Crépe effect on the back obtained with twisted Crépe yarns in the filling - 2 or 3 times as many ends as picks per inch. It is a soft fabric which is reversible. It is usually piece dyed. Very interesting effects can be obtained in a garment by using both sides, in different parts. e.g. the Crépe side for the body and trim or binding with the satin part up.

Uses: Dresses, blouses, linings, after 5 wear.


Crépe effect appears in direction of the warp and achieved by alternate S and Z, or slack, tension, or different degrees of twist. Originally a wool Crépe but now made of silk and rayon. It is much stouter and more rugged than the average Crépe. Has a wavy texture with the "waves" running in a lengthwise direction. Mostly used for prints.

Uses: Dresses and ensembles.


Fiber: Cotton, linen, rayon.

Weave: Plain or twill.

Characteristics: Finished in widths from 30 to 50 inches. Quality and price vary a great deal. The warp counts are finer than the filling counts which are spun rather loose. Strong substantial and gives good wear. Printed cretonne often has very bright colors and patterns. The fabric has no luster (when glazed, it is called chintz). Some are warp printed and if they are, they are usually completely reversible. Designs run from the conservative to very wild and often completely cover the surface.

Uses: Bedspreads, chairs, draperies, pillows, slipcovers, coverings of all kinds, beachwear, sportswear.


Chain stitch embroidery made with a fine, loosely twisted, two-ply worsted yarn on a plain weave fabric. Done by hand, for the most part, in the Kashmir Province of India and in England.


Weave: Plain

Characteristics: It is a very loosely woven fiber with high rigidity. It is smooth, stiff, and has excellent strength. It comes in a variety of shades from white to black.

Uses: Stiffening, making interlining for hat shapes.


Rubbing off of color from woven or printed fabrics.