Fabric Glossary

Aubusson: Fine hand-woven tapestry used for wall hangings or carpets. Named after the famous French village where they were originally made.

Basket Weave: Plain weave where two or more warp yarns interlace with the same balance of filler yarns so that the fabric surface resembles a basket.

Batik: An ancient Javanese resist printing technique. Wax is blocked on the cloth to cover the design before dyeing and after the wax is removed by a washing procedure, the design takes shape.

Batiste: A translucent plain-weave sheer fabric made with fine long staple cotton. Named for Jean Batiste, a French weaver.

Block Printing: A hand-printing process where the motifs have been carved on wooden blocks. The dye is applied to the fabric from these blocks in a procedure similar to the rubber stamp technique.

Blotch: A background area of a fabric design printed in the same way the motifs are printed. Fabrics so printed are said to be blotch printed.

Boucle: An irregular loopy yarn made by twisting heavier, pre-twisted threads around a fine core yarn.

Brocade: A compound weave in which a supplementary weft is inlaid into a base fabric during the weaving process to yield the appearance of embroidered motifs. They are raised on the surface of the cloth. It cannot be used on reverse side, but is easily identified by the floating yarns that appear there. Origin: Medieval Latin, broccare – to embroider and from French “to sew.”

Brocatelle: A heavy fabric similar in appearance to a damask. The filler yarns (often linen), give it an embossed look. Originally it was made to imitate 19th century Italian tooled leather.

Burn-out or Etched Printing: The application of an acid solution to dissolve an opaque fiber from a translucent sheer of blended yarns. After this process the desired motifs appear in silhouette on the surface of the fabric.

Calendering: The procedure of pressing fabric, usually cotton or linen, between heated and rotating cylinders to create the effects of luster, glaze, moiré or an embossed print.

Casement Cloth: A fabric in which yarns are spaced far enough apart to create openings through which light passes. Used for curtains and other window treatments.

Chenille: A novelty yarn with a fuzzy surface which creates a soft hand when woven into fabric. Origin: French, chenille – caterpillar.

Chinoiserie: A western interpretation of Chinese design, this decorative style was extremely popular in the 18th century.

Chintz: First imported to Europe from India in the 17th century. A plain-weave, cotton fabric is printed in multi color. It often, but not necessarily, has a glazed finish. Origin: Hindu word meaning spotted.

Color Flag: A series of small swatches attached to a large full patterned sample which illustrates the complete color line or colorways.

Color Line: The range of available colors of a solid or printed fabric.

Corduroy: A cloth made with cut-pile ribs (or wales) running the length or width of the fabric. The ribs are produced by weft yarns that are carried over the fabric face and then cut. Origin: French, Corde du Roi – rope of the king.

Cotton: A vegetable fiber composed of pure cellulose. It is soft and absorbent, and takes dyes and special finishes extremely well. Strong and durable, it has excellent resistance to pilling and abrasion. Mercerization enhances all these inherent qualities.

Crewel Embroidery: Embroidery made with colored wool yarns stitched on unbleached cotton or linen, usually in a vine or leaf formation with floral details added. Its popularity began in England during the late 17th Century.

Damask: Originally, a rich silk fabric of woven floral designs made in China and introduced to Europe through Damascus. It is a patterned fabric with a reversible design of contrasting satin and dull surfaces. Its construction produces a reversible fabric in which areas of high and low luster are contrasted to create the figure and ground. Most commonly woven in silk, cotton or linen, it may, however, consist of a combination of these or other fibers. Vase, leaf and plant motifs are typical of traditional damask woven goods. Origin: Damascus in Asia Minor.

Dimensional Stability: The degree to which a fabric will retain its original shape in various atmospheric conditions.

Direct Dyes: A category of dyes that are used on cellulosics and need no fixatives to secure them to the fabric.

Dobby: Small symmetrical figures in a regular repeat formed by adjustment of the harness attachment (chain) on a plain loom. Origin: Dobbin, a work horse – “Dobby Boy” sat on top of the loom and drew up the warp threads.

Dupioni: A silk reeled from a cocoon formed by two worms producing strands simultaneously or drawn from two cocoons. This yarn has excellent tensile strength.

Embossed: An effect obtained by rolling fabric between engraved cylinders so that the design appears in relief on the face of the cloth.

Faille: A fabric of the rep variety where the construction of pronounced cross-ribs gives a colored effect.

Felt: A non-woven cloth of matted layers (usually wool) that are formed into a sheet by means of moisture and pressure. .

Figured Velvet: A patterned velvet formed by contrast in cut and uncut loops.

Frieze or Frise: Firm fabric with pile of uncut loops on the surface. Origin: French, frisé – curled.

Gauze: A light weight sheer in a plain weave which is translucent and somewhat transparent. Origin: Gaza, Palestine.

Glazed Chintz: Printed or plain cotton fabric with resin (starch or wax) finish applied by pressure over heated steam rollers resulting in a polished surface.

Greige Goods: Plain fabric coming directly off the loom before it has been bleached or finished. Used mainly for printing.

Gros Point: A non directional pile fabric that is warp-looped. It is hard-wearing and extremely resilient. Made of wool or synthetic fibers, it has larger loops than a frieze and resembles the ground area of needlepoint.

Herring-bone: A twill weave in a zigzag pattern. Alternating direction in threading the loom makes the chevron design run selvage to selvage.

Imberline: An effect produced by laying a variety of colors in the warp which reveals a stripe running through the overall design of the fabric. Origin: adapted from cloth of the uniforms worn by the Swiss Guard, who serve the Vatican.

Jacquard Loom: A weaving device that manipulates a series of perforated cards that are attached to the top of the loom. The lifting or lowering of the warp that results make the most intricate designs possible. This revolutionary technique was developed in France by Joseph Jacquard at the turn of the 19th Century.

Leno: Construction used in all good quality open mesh casement cloths. The warp yarns arranged in pairs twist one around the other over the filling yarn making the figure eight. The interlocking (chain) prevents the yarns from slipping. Origin: French, lin – flax.

Linen: A cellulose yarn made from natural flax fibers. It is especially noted for its strength, texture and luster. Cool to the touch although lacking in resilience, it easily creases.

Matelasse: A double woven cloth using two sets of warp and filler threads for an embossed pattern in one color that simulates a quilted effect.

Mercerized: A high quality finishing process to cotton yarn where the application of caustic soda and tension develop a smooth lustrous surface.

Mohair: A wool-like fiber derived from the fleece of the Angora goat. It is renowned for its luxurious soft quality yet extremely hard wearing characteristic.

Moire: Fabric with “watered mark” motif which is achieved by application of intense but uneven pressure from heated cylinders to a folded dampened rep cloth. The crushing process creates the irregular pattern.

Natural Fiber: Any textile fiber manufactured from an animal or vegetable source. Cotton, linen, silk and wool are the foremost examples.

Needlepoint: Hand embroidery in petit or gros point stitch on a canvas foundation.

Nylon: A synthetic fiber known for its resistance to abrasion, inherent elasticity and strength which make it idea for use in upholstery fabrics. Nylon fabrics have a tendency to pill easily and to attract surface soil.

Ombre: A fabric made by laying in wefts of yarn that are closely colored hues that after weaving create a shaded effect. Origin: French, ombré – shadow.

Organzine: The best quality of silk yarn and the most costly to produce. It is twisted from many strands of raw silk and is used particularly for the warp in fine taffeta and damasks.

Outline quilting: A hand-guided quilting in which the stitching follows the motifs of the design in a printed fabric.

Percale: A superior quality plain-weave cloth of closely set combed and carded long staple cotton.

Petit Point: A needlepoint stitch made on canvas with one foundation thread in contrast to two or more threads of a gros point.

Piece-dyed: Cloth that dyed in a vat by the bolt (full piece) after weaving.

Pilling or Shredding: When the filament breaks away from the yarn in a fabric or carpet due to friction or abrasion leaving residue on the surface of the fabric.

Plain Weave: The most basic method of interlocking warp and weft threads to form a cloth. Each filling thread passes alternately under and over the warp yarn to make a balanced construction. Also known as tabby, this is a strong weave and generally inexpensive to produce.

Polished Cotton: A combed and carded fabric in satin construction, which has been calendered to give a high luster to the surface.

Polyester: A synthetic polymer fiber that is manufactured from coal, water and petroleum. It is strong and durable making a wrinkle-resistant fabric. Unable to absorb moisture (to breath), it has a tendency to pill.

Railroad: To turn a fabric in a direction where the selvages are in a horizontal position. In a plain fabric or when the design is non-directional you can avoid making seams when the width of the goods will accommodate the height required. Some upholstery fabrics are designed in the manner to be used exclusively for furniture.

Rayon: The first synthetic fiber, rayon is derived from cellulose, a substance forming the framework of plants. Produced in 1884 by de Chardonnet, a French scientist, it has the basic characteristics of both silk and cotton. Viscose rayon, which is used in many decorative fabrics, is of a superior quality and is considered the best silk substitute.

Rep or Repp: A plain weave fabric produced by weaving large filling years though fine warp threads which result in distinct ribs running from selvage to selvage.

Repeat: One complete pattern of the fabric measured vertically and/or horizontally.

Resist or Reserve Printing: A general term for printing with a dye-resistant substance leaving only the background colored after a washed finish. Its origins date to the 18th century where a resist paste was used to inhibit indigo dye.

Roller Printing: Sometimes referred to as cylinder- or machine-printed, this technique was first developed in 1783. Engraved cotton rollers apply the design to fabric as it passes around a metal cylinder.

Sailcloth: Originally a cotton duck used for construction of boat sails, the term now also refers to a wide group of strong medium, or heavy-weight, plain woven fabrics of cotton, synthetics, or a blend.

Sateen: A Satin-weave fabric usually made of mercerized cotton in a lightweight construction.

Satin: A smooth, warp-faced fabric that is a product of a satin weave, which produces a smooth surface by floating warp yarns over multiple picks (warp-faced), or floating filling yarns over multiple ends (filling-faced sateen). The points of intersection of warp and filling are as widely spaced as possible.

Satin Weave: A basic weave where the face of the fabric is almost entirely warp threads on the surface. Fabric made in the construction drapes well but may be prone to snagging if too loosely woven with floats that are extra long.

Screen Printing: A hand or machine table printing process in which a stenciled screen held in a frame is positioned on the cloth and color is applied with a squeegee. Separate screens are required of each color of the pattern.

Selvage: The lengthwise edges of a piece of cloth, often a different weave of heavier threads. Intended to prevent raveling.

Sheers: Lightweight translucent fabrics used mainly for under curtains and casement treatments.

Shuttle-less Loom: The filling yarns used in this machine are carried across the warp by a rapier instead of a shuttle. This allows much faster production. The resulting selvages have a cut edge, which resembles fringe.

Silk: The natural protein fiber unwound from the cocoon of the silkworm. Silk is noted for its resilience, affinity for dyes and strength when woven into a fabric. It has a fine luxurious appearance but is very sensitive to light and is the most costly natural yarn.

Strie: A very fine irregular streaked effect made by a slight variance in the color of warp yarns. Original: French – streaked.

Strike-off: A trial sample of printed fabric made to indicate and verify color and pattern before printing quantity.

Tabby: A plain weave construction in which one warp thread passes over and under a single weft thread. The threads of the warp and weft are of the same size and set with the same number per square inch thereby resulting in a balanced weave.

Table Printing: A form of screen printing in which the cloth is stretched and secured to the top of a table and the screens are moved down the table either by hand or machine pattern repeat by pattern repeat.

Taffeta: A plain weave that is reversible because the same size yarns are used for the warp and filler. The firm construction is lightweight, which gives the resulting fabric a crisp hand feeling. Origin: Persian, taftan – to twist.

Tapestry: An intricate weave employing several sets of heavy filler yarns on a single warp that produce a multi-colored pattern. Originally made with large-scale scenic designs that frequently illustrate a tale. They were used as decorative wall hangings but also provided insulation. Greek origin: tap’es – rug.

Toile: A refined cotton or linen print usually monochrome with intricately detailed pattern. The designs originally etched on copper rollers often depicted bucolic or rustic settings.

Toile de Jouy: Printed fabric made at Jouy in France by Philippe Oberkampf from 1760 to 1815. They were usually printed on white or off-white grounds in monotone red, blue, green or black.

Tussah: A rough silk extruded from the cocoons of uncultivated silkworms. Slubs appear in the yarn as it is spun which leave uneven depth of color especially after dyeing. Therefore fabric woven with tussah will have an irregular surface.

Twill: A basic weave where the filler threads pass over two or more ends in a regular progression. This creates a diagonal pattern. Origin: Scotland, twill – to make a diagonal effect.

Union Cloth: A cloth most often used for printing that is woven with blended yarns. The filler is usually twisted linen and cotton and the warp is generally cotton.

Velvet: A smooth fabric with a surface that is a short, thick pile. This is manufactured by weaving two cloths face to face simultaneously, which are then cut apart by the shuttle knife as they come off the loom. The fabric is rich in appearance and soft to the touch.

Warp or End: The threads of a textile that run vertically though the loom and are parallel to the selvage.

Warp print: A fabric where the design has been printed on the warp before it has been woven. This results in a pattern with an in distinct image similar to the technique of impressionist painting.

Weft or Filling: The horizontal yarns in a cloth, which run selvage to selvage across the fabric.

Wool: The fiber made from the fleece of sheep. Noted for its elasticity and luster it has an affinity for accepting rich color when dyed. Wool fibers vary in crimp, length and thickness and are good insulators. The yarns are frequently spun from the fleece of several breeds of sheep.

Yarn Dyed: Cloth that is woven with yarns that have been dyed prior to weaving. Most good quality fabrics are yarn-dyed.