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Glossary - Fabrics & Fibers


Man-made fiber derived from cellulose acetate; fabrics have luxurious soft feel, silk-like appearance, and excellent draping qualities. Used in such fabrics as taffeta, faille, lace, satin, and crepe; may be combined with other fibers. Fabrics may wrinkle, but they resist stretching and shrinkage. Acetate dyes well, although some dyes will fade. Fabrics usually are dry cleaned.


Generic term for synthetic textile fiber resembling wool; acrylic fabrics available in variety of weights, from sheer, wool-like voiles and medium-weight flannels to heavy canvas constructions and pile fabrics. Acrylics resist wrinkles, retain their shape, and are lightweight, strong, colorfast, and moth and sun-resistant. Fabrics often can be washed following fabric-care labels and require little or no ironing.


Woven drapery fabric with rough or bark-like appearance.


Soft, sheer, plain-weave fabric, usually in white or pastel color range; can be woven of cotton, silk, linen, wool, or synthetic fibers and blends.

Border print

Design engineered along one or both selvages; can be railroaded for special effects.


Densely textured cloth with plain or twill weave and lustrous finish; may be woven in cotton, silk, or wool or synthetic fibers.


Coarsely woven cloth made of jute, flax or hemp fibers.


Sheer patterned curtain-weight fabric created by chemically "burning out" design, leaving more dense areas floating on less dense ground.

Butcher's linen

Coarse, homespun linen-weave cloth originally used for French butcher's smocks, now imitated in many man-made fiber fabrics.


Plain weave, lightweight fabric similar to percale, printed with small figures; originally woven in all cotton, today often blend of polyster and cotton.


Heavy, strong, firmly woven cotton, linen, or synthetic fabric; may be soft-finished or highly sized.


Soft, supple, lightweight fabric usually printed with delicate cravat floral or Persian pattern; may be woven of wool, rayon, cotton, or blend.


Fine-quality plain-weave fabric with linenlike finish, combining colored warp and white filling yarns; woven in solids, stripes, and checks or patterned with jacquard designs.


Fabric woven with tufted, velvety pile yarns similar in appearance to fuzzy caterpillars.

China silk

Plain-weave silk fabric of various weights.


Plain-weave cotton fabric with glazed surface in solid colors or prints.


Fibrous, downy, soft substance obtained from seed pods of the cotton plant and spun into yarn, then woven into textiles; used in weaving such cloths as organdy, broadcloth, poplin, and corduroy. Fabrics are strong, comfortable, absorbent, and static-free and dye well, but tend to wrinkle, deteriorate from mildew, and shrink badly if untreated.


Fabric woven on jacquard loom to produce figured designs by combining different weave patterns; damask patterns often utilize satin weave in areas of pattern against plain or twill background so light reflects from fabric.

Dotted Swiss

Fine, sheer coton fabric with embroidered dot pattern and crisp, stiff finish; nylon and polyester/cotton blends also imitate look.


Fabric woven of slubbed, uneven, double silk threads produced when two cocoons nest together.

Eyelet embroidery

Lightweight fabric characterized by small cutout areas with decorative stitching around them to form design; also called broderie anglaise;


One of grosgrain family of cross-rib fabrics often woven of silk, cotton, or synthetic fibers; characterized by light, flat cords, usually soft and somewhat glossy.


Fabric constructed from glass in its fibrous form; inherently flame-retardant.


Soft fabric of plain or twill weave with slightly napped surface on one or both sides; double-faced varieties often used as interlinings.


Soft, silky fiber obtained from bark of flax plant; processed and used in manufacture of linen.


Firm, tighly woven fabric with close diagnal twill-weave surface and flat back; may be woven of wool, cotton, or synthetic blends. Usually piece-dyed and finished with high sheen.


Lace or embroidered fabric with both sides finished with decorative edge design.


Sheer, thin, open-weave fabric similar to cheese-cloth; sometimes finished with stiff sizing.


Sheer, dull-textured fabric with pebbled or crinkly crepe surface; heavier than chiffon.


Firm, plain-weave, light- to medium-weight fabric woven into checks, plaids, stripes; originally made of yarn-dyed cotton, now often woven from polyester/cotton blend. Also refers to traditional check pattern woven of wool, silk, or other fibers.


Broken, irregular twill weave creating zigzag effect like herring backbone by alternating direction of twill.


Originally a general term for cloth handwoven at home instead of at mill; today refers to coarse fabric of jute, silk, linen, cotton, or blends, generally in plain colors or checked patterns.


Rough-surfaced cotton, linen, or rayon fabric characterized by plain basketweave pattern.


Fabric layer, usually flannel, sandwiched between face fabric and lining; creates thicker, softer look, giving greater depth and body to treatment. Also prevents bleeding of color and pattern and provides extra layer of insulation.


Complex loom with versatile pattern-making mechanism for weaving elaborate designs on fabrics such as damask and brocade.


Fine, openwork fabric with patterns of knotted, twisted, or looped threads on a ground of net or mesh.


Lightweight, sheer cloth of combed or carded cotton, linen, or cotton blend with crisp finish; may be woven with plisse effect or satin-stripe designs.


Natural strong, lustrous, absorbent fiber removed from stem of flax plan; woven into fabrics from sheer handkerchief weights to heavy, coarse weaves. Usually imported from Ireland or Belgium.


Fabric used for backing window treatments to give richer appearance; may be treated to be resistant to sunlight deterioration, shrinkage, and moisture damage. Most common types are regular, insulated, thermal, and blackout.


Patterned fabric with raised woven designs loomed on jacquard machine; surface appears quilted or puckered.


Fabric with irregular water ripple finish on corded or ribbed weave produced by engraved rollers, steam, heat, or chemicals; usually made of silk, cotton, or rayon.


Lightweight, muslinlike cotton with crisp finsh closely woven of highly twisted yarns; name ordinarily used in combination with fiber names, as in mousseline de soie.


Wide variety of plain-weave cotton fabrics ranging from sheer to heavy sheeting; can be unbleached, bleached, dyed in solid colors, or printed.


A sheer, crisp, smooth fabric of hand-twisted yarns in plain or open weaves; often called triple voile.


Generic name for man-made polyamide yarns or fibers; range of nylon types produces wide variety of fabric textures, from smooth and crisp to soft and bulky. Often blended with other fibers. Strong, elastic, and resilient, highly resistant to mildew and moths; does not soil easily, but may pill. Washes easily and requires little if any ironing with a cool iron.


Very fine, sheer, transparent cotton cloth with crisp finish; woven of tightly twisted yarns.


Fine, crisp, transparent silk organdy.


Rough, coarse fabric, originally made of flax and named after town in Germany; today is plain-weave coarse cotton of loose, but durable, construction that can be of medium to heavy weight. Often used in unbleached state.


Heavyweight fabrics with pronounced crosswise rounded ribs, often padded; similar to faille or bengaline, but has heavier ribs.

Peau de Soie

French term meaning "skin of silk" for soft, closely woven satin with mellow luster; originally made of silk, may now be made of synthetic fibers.


Fine, lightweight, plain-weave cotton or cotton-blend fabric with firm, balanced construction caused by equal number of threads per inch in warp and weft.

Pima cotton

High-quality, long-staple cotton fiber developed from Egyptian cotton seed and originally grown in Pima, Arizona, but now also grown in other western states; used for fine combed cottons and often mercerized.


Dobby-weave fabric with raised lengthwise cords, welts, or wales in variety of plain or patterned effects.


Pattern created by colored stripes or bars crossing each other at right angles.


Thin cotton fabric, soft or crisp, with puckered stripes or patterns in allover blister effect; texture obtained either by weaving with yarns having different degrees of shrinkage in finishing or by chemical treatment.

Polished cotton

Cotton fabric with shiny surface achieved either through satin weave or waxed finish.


Generic term for synthetic fiber with superior properties of wrinkle resistance and easy care; available in many weights, textures, and weaves.

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