Fabric Glossary

Below is a compiled list of common terms and fabric types used within the industry. We hope this will provide you with a great resource for any fabric terms you may have questions with.

ANTIQUE SATIN – An old fabric construction that has been used as a drapery fabric for many years. Generally it has a slub or random raised horizontal thread on the face side and a satin like finish on the back. Usually considered more formal but makes great drapes. Some of the more current antique satins are printed.

BARK CLOTH – (or Barkcloth) – A heavily textured fabric that is most often in a natural color. It can be used for drapery or slipcover in the heavier weights.

BATIK – Made mostly in India and on all cotton fabric. Mostly used in garments and crafts. Much of is still hand made in an ancient process involving coating the fabric with wax during the dying process. It usually comes in rich deep colors.

BATISTE – A soft lightweight fabric lighter than broadcloth but heavier than a sheer fabric.

BROADCLOTH – Widely used in garments specifically blouses. Also an excellent lining and can be all cotton or a blend.

BROCADE – A formal fabric that can closely resemble embroidery. It makes beautiful upholstery for furniture, particularly chairs, in the heavier weights.

BURLAP – Your grandmother used to call it gunny sack. Most burlap comes from India. It is a loosely woven natural fiber (jute). Recently burlap has become more sophisticated and is used extensively in home decorating. Today’s burlap is softer and when finished properly can be used as drapery. Believe it or not, it now comes in a beautiful array of colors and even prints.

CANVAS – A plain woven fabric that can be solid or print and can weigh from 7 to 14 ounces. It is a popular decorative fabric and can be used for drapery and even slipcover in the heavier weights. It is usually 100% Cotton and can be solid or printed. Artists also use the heavier weights (12-14 ounces) for painting.

CASEMENT – A course open weave drapery fabric that is loosely opaque when drawn closed.

CHENILLE – Is a tightly woven "pile" fabric giving it softness and a velvety look. It is often used for upholstery because of its weight. Chenille can be made from cotton, acrylic, silk or rayon. It is one of the most popular upholstery fabrics on the market today.

CHINTZ – A shiny polished fabric usually lighter weight that looks elegant either solid or printed. It’s great for drapery and in the heavier weights work well as upholstery.

COLORWAY – Sounds fancy but is really what you would call color scheme or combination of colors in a particular setting.

COTTON – Is a soft natural fiber from the cotton plant. Because it is a natural fiber it takes dye very well and is excellent for printing. Most drapery fabrics are made of cotton or a blend there of. It is durable and easy to use.

CREWEL – Is really heavy embroidery with lots of different designs and stitches. It is often done on a course linen fabric and consequently has natural imperfections. It can be really beautiful and somewhat pricy. It looks great as upholstery or drapery in more formal areas.

DAMASK – Is a reversible woven fabric. Firm, glossy jacquard-patterned fabric, similar to brocade, but flatter and reversible - it can be made from linen, cotton, rayon or silk, or a combination of fibers.

DENIM – A rugged, cotton twill textile with familiar diagonal ribbing identifiable on the reverse of the fabric. Once mostly used for jeans and jackets, today it is used in all kinds of decorating especially in SLIPCOVER AND UPHOLSTERY. IT OFTEN COMES IN AN ARRAY OF FASHION AND DECORATIVE COLORS.

DUCK CLOTH – A heavy woven usually cotton fabric a lot like canvas. Originally used in apparel and commercial projects but in recent years has become a mainstay of decorative fabrics.

DUPIONI SILK – Considered to be somewhat wrinkle resistant, dupioni is great for curtains and drapes. It is easily dyed and comes in hundreds of colors and print designs. Fabricators universally suggest that any silk used as drapery be lined to help preserve the fabric and colors. It actually looks great on more formal chairs and even lightly used sofas.

FLANNEL – A soft woven usually cotton fabric that is brushed until it has a nap. In home decorating it is used as and interlining between the drapery fabric and the drapery lining. It helps add insulation and block out the sun. When using silk and other lighter weight fabrics for drapery it adds and elegance and body that is second to none. Most designers insist on interlining lighter weight draperies.

GINGHAM – Is nothing more than what grandmother called gingham check. She probably had and apron, blouse or skirt of gingham. It comes in all sizes from one eighth to two inches. It is sometimes used in kitchen curtains.

GRASS CLOTH – Just what it says, made of grass and mostly in wall paper. Today this course looking heavily slubed fabric is made of everything from cotton to rayon. It really can be beautiful when used as drapes. You’ll want to line this fabric, too.

HOUNDSTOOTH – Is usually black and white but also comes in other sizes and colors. It comes in more or less 4 pointed shapes. (Since it is so hard to describe see University of Alabama Football.)

HUE – Is simply the color’s name. (Green, blue, red)

JACQUARD – Believe it or not it was named for a man, Joseph Jacquard. It is a fairly complex weaving process similar to a brocade or damask. It is almost always tightly woven and shiny with definite texture and complex design. It’s great for upholstery fabric as well as drapery in lighter weights.

LINEN – Is an ancient natural fiber fabric made of flax. It is one of the most popular fabrics used today in home decorating. Because it is so easy to dye and print some of the most beautiful decorative fabrics today are made of linen. The downside is that it wrinkles easily consequently it performs better when blended with polyester or sometimes cotton.

MICROFIBERS – A man made fiber of usually polyester, rayon or nylon. Technology today has made it possible for these fabrics to imitate almost any kind of fabric from silk to suede. It’s easy to care for and can be machine washable. It’s economical and many manufacturers prefer it to silk. When done right it’s difficult to tell the difference.

MOIRE' – Usually a silk like fabric whose pattern looks like it has been wet and watermarked.

MUSLIN – A tightly woven cotton fabric most often in natural or bleached. It makes good curtains especially when trimmed with fringe of braid. It is also good as a utility fabric of lining.

NYLON – One of the first man-made fibers. It dyes well and washes, too. It is often used to blend with cotton. You see it used in jackets and outerwear.

PAISLEY – Looks like a large comma. Today it is a most popular drapery fabric and comes in all sizes and colors and on every kind of fabric from cotton to silk. While it is still popular on neck ties, it is widely used in home decorating as both drapery and upholstery in either a woven or printed pattern.

PASTEL – Another word for light colored fabric. (Pastel pink, pastel blue, etc.)

PERCALE – People brag about their percale sheets and talk about the high thread count. Percale is a really a flat tightly woven cotton fabric using a small yarn and lots of it. Some sheets run up to 800 and more threads per inch. At that level it feels more like silk. It is sometimes used in home decorating for CURTAINS OR IN BEDDING FOR DUVET COVERS.

PLAID – Is simply stripes crossing each other at right angles, horizontally and vertically and can be uniform or in different sizes. It can be woven or printed and looks great as an upholstery fabric on chairs and couches.

PRIMARY COLORS – Are the three colors that every other color is made from; red, yellow and blue.

RAYON – While it is made in a manufacturing process it is not really synthetic. It is produced from naturally occurring products, so it is neither a truly synthetic fiber nor a natural fiber; it is a Simi-synthetic fiber that usually has a high-luster quality, giving it a bright shine. It is great for home decorating and is used most often for window treatments, upholstery, slipcovers.

SATIN – A cloth that typically has a glossy surface and a dull back. Antique satin with a slub pattern is most often used in drapery fabrics. Brides like it too.

SECONDARY COLORS – Are so named since they are produced my mixing two or more primary colors. (Purple, orange, pink, etc.)

SHANTUNG – A mid-weight woven fabric with a horizontal ribbed service . It is usually used as a drapery fabric and is similar to Dupioni silk.

SILK – An ancient natural fiber made by silk worms. It is luxurious and beautiful. The downside is that it fades and stains easily and should always be lined. Silk draperies look best lined with both drapery lining and flannel interlining. Very few fabrics are more beautiful and elegant than silk draperies. Silk fabric also works well as light upholstery in a more formal setting.

SLUB – A horizontal raised yarn across the fabric which gives the fabric a slightly uneven texture

SUEDE – A type of leather with a rough or napped surface. Today, suede fabric is the most common name and use for a fabric that is suede-like. Technology today has given use some gorgeous kinds of suede fabrics. While not commonly used as drapery, suede fabric makes great upholstery and because of the napped finish is actually very warm and comfortable. It takes dye well and comes in a large selection of colors and weights made from cotton or synthetic fibers of a blend of each. Care should be taken to make sure the nap on each piece of fabric is placed in the same direction since there is a slight color difference when the nap is run in opposite directions.

TAPESTRY – Actually a type of fabric art. Old and timeless it can be woven in scenes or stories or simply in beautiful patterns. While it can be used in drapes it is most often used as upholstery or wall hangings.

TOILE – A version of a fabric design that looks like a drawing or sketch. You will recognize them easily as pastoral scenes of children playing, picnics, or one color designs that are floral design, etc. Toile prints have been around for hundreds of years and today are more popular than ever in home decorating.

TWILL – Is a fabric with subtle diagonal ribs. Denim is a good example of twill. Designers like to use cotton twill for drapery and slipcover because it drapes so well and comes in hundreds of colors and weights.

VELVET – Makes a great upholstery fabric and can add to the formal elegance or subtle beauty of any room. Most often with a soft and luxurious napped face it makes for great furniture covering and comes in a huge selection of colors and fiber combinations.

VINYL – (One brand name is Naugahyde) – looks like leather, feels like leather and some of the newer designs and textures are difficult to distinguish from actual leather. Vinyl fabric is easily cleaned with a damp cloth and is water repellent. Marine vinyl is used in most boats today. Primarily used for upholstery, when backed with a cotton fiber, it is extremely durable. It comes in numerous weights, colors and patterns.

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