Fabrics, Yarns & Fibres: When To Use What
Aerophane: a lightweight gauze that is dyed in a single color and cut on the bias.
Atlas or fagara: a brightly colored satin-weave fabric with a silk face and a cotton back. This silk, which comes from the Attacus atlas moth, originated in India and was first exported to Europe in the eighteenth century.
Bengaline: a shiny, lustrous cloth with raised cords created by heavier weft threads. The fabric is believed to have originated in Bengal, India.
Bolting cloth: a sheer, plain-weave “working cloth” used by millers to sift flour and later as a foundation for wigs.
Broadcloth: a solid-colored or striped cloth made with many fine warp threads and fewer medium-weight weft threads, woven on a loom that was wider than standard looms of the time.
Brocade: a heavy fabric woven with supplementary weft threads that create flowing designs. Brocade variants include baldachin (a thicker fabric), broché (French for “stitched”), brocantine (the design more raised than in ordinary brocade), and brocatelle (a doubleweave).
Corah or cora: a lightweight fabric created in India from an unwashed natural raw silk fiber.
Damask: a reversible fabric originating in Damascus, Syria, that is similar to a brocade but flatter in texture. It is said that Marco Polo (1254–1324) brought this fabric to the West.
Grosgrain: a fabric or ribbon with a horizontal raised cord produced by heavier weft threads.
Habutai: a lightweight Japanese silk that takes up dyes readily. It is used not only for clothing and household textiles but also for kites and airplane wings.
Ikat: a fabric in which the weft, warp, or both threads have been tie-dyed before weaving; also, the technique for coloring the threads.
Mousseline de soie (French for “silk muslin”): a crisp, sheer, lightweight, plain-woven fabric that is similar to chiffon but with a more open weave; it is stiffened with sizing or a chemical agent.
Muslin: a lightweight fabric originally made in Mosul, Iraq, from silk or cotton but now made almost exclusively from cotton.
Noil: a soft fabric created from waste fibers and having a slightly nubby texture.
Organza: a crisp yet sheer fabric, stiffer than chiffon, woven from fine, tightly twisted raw silk threads.
Satin: a thick, soft, smooth fabric with a shiny face and dull back. The warp threads are set so densely that they completely cover the weft threads.
Shantung: a crisp fabric originating in the Chinese province of Shantung with unevenly slub weft threads and excellent drape.
Taffeta: a smooth, crisp, plainwoven cloth with a lustrous finish. The term “taffeta” is derived from the Persian word tafta (glossy twist).
Tussah: a fabric made from filaments from the cocoons of wild silk moths and having a distinctive natural tan, brown, or ecru color. Used widely in India and China, it is stiff and durable and has a coarser hand than that of other silk fabrics. On its introduction to Europe in the seventeenth century, merchants thought that it was made from a plant and so referred to it as “herba.”
Velvet: a thick, soft, textured fabric made by cutting the warp threads in the woven goods to produce pile. The denser the threads, the higher the quality of the fabric. Originally, the warp was of silk and the weft, of cotton.
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