Fabric Glossary

The following fabric definitions should assist you in selecting and purchasing the appropriate fabric for your project.


Acrylic - A synthetic fiber consisting of predominantly acrylonitrile or related chemicals. Acrylic has a soft, wool-like hand, and is generally able to be dyed in a wide range of brilliant colors. Acrylic is also known for its excellent sunlight resistance and wrinkle resistance. Apparel items, carpeting, and upholstery fabrics often contain acrylic fiber as a yarn component.

Antique Satin - a satin with horizontal (weft) slubs which imitates spun shantung silk. It is 60% rayon (the face yarn fiber) and the 40% of acetate (the back yarn fiber). Often the warp and weft yarns are dyed with different colors to give an iridescent effect.


Batik - is a dyeing method where the cloth is covered with wax designs. It is dipped into vegetable dye that dyes the uncovered cloth without melting the wax. The wax is removed with hot water after the design is finished.

Brocade - a multi-use formal, Jacquard woven fabric with intricate raised woven designs resembling embroidery. It is often made with variety of thread colors depicting complex patterns and scenes with a shiny finish. Background weave is often satin. To the back of the fabric, the threads are not tied-down and are carried as "floaters".

Brocatelle - a specific type of medium weight brocade utilizing four or more sets of threads, equally for warp and weft. It has large patterns in high relief to appear embroidered or puffy. It is woven finely for formal, refined and sophisticated wear.


Calico - similar to broadcloth, made of cotton or cotton/polyester and usually printed in small "country" all-over with multi-colored floral patterns. Calico fabrics are usually purchased at fabric shops that specialize in quilting fabrics.

Canvas - medium to heavy weight cotton fabric woven closely in plain or twill with relatively large threads. Available in variety of colors, stripes and few printed designs. It is also referred as "duck" or "sailcloth". It has many uses.

Casement - a fabric for drapery either loose or tight weave, open or closed, plain or novelty weave. Given color, pattern and interesting texture through tied complex-yarn arrangements and variations in weave. Usually it is semi-sheer, translucent or opaque.

Cashmere - a soft fabric made of the wool grown beneath the outer hair of the Cashmere goat in Tibet and the Kashmir province in India. It is popular because of its softness

Chambray - made of cotton or linen, a lightweight fabric in plain, balanced weave using white threads across a colored wrap. Pronounced "sham-bray".

Chenille - a fuzzy yarn with a pile which resembles a caterpillar. Used mainly for decorative fabrics, embroidery, tassels, and rugs. It’s sometimes used broadly to define a fabric woven from chenille yarns.

Chevron - a regular and repeated zigzag pattern formed by reversing the twill weave. It is also known as herringbone.

Cotton - A soft, natural, vegetable fiber obtained from the seed-pod of the cotton plant. Cotton is the most widely used fiber in the world because of its versatility and ability to provide good comfort, particularly in apparel items. The chemical composition of cotton is almost pure cellulose. In its raw, undyed form, the normal color of cotton is a light to dark cream, though it may also be brown or green depending on the variety. Cotton fiber lengths vary from less than one-half inch, to more than two inches. Generally, long length cotton fibers are of better quality. Commercial types of cotton are classified by groups based on fiber length and fineness, and the geographical region of growth. Egyptian, American-Pima, and Indian are examples of different cotton types. Cotton is used in a wide variety of products including apparel, home furnishings, towels, rugs, and sewing thread.

Crewel - A true crewel fabric is embroidered with crewel yarn loosely twisted, two-ply wool) on a plain weave fabric. Traditional crewel fabrics are hand-woven and embroidered in India. The design motif for crewel work is typically outlines of flowers, vines, and leaves, in one or many colors. Modern weaving technology and inventive designers create traditional "crewel" looks with weave effects alone, without the use of embroidery.

Crepe - a light soft thin fabric with a crinkled surface. It is made from silk, cotton, wool, or another fiber either in plain or satin weave.


Damask - Originally a firm, glossy Jacquard-patterned fabric made in China and brought to the Western world by Marco Polo in the 13th century. Damascus was the center of fabric trade between the East and West, hence the name. Damask fabrics are reversible and are characterized by a combination of satin and sateen weaves. The design motifs are typically distinguished from the ground by contrasting luster. It is medium weight with variety in colors and patterns.

Denim - a coarse twilled cloth, usually of cotton or cotton/polyester which is practical and sturdy. Navy colored is used as jeans fabric and cream or white is used as Drill.


Embroidery – A surface embellishment of a fabric or garment in which colored threads are sewn on to the fabric to create a design. Embroidery may be done either by hand or machine.


Finish - a substance or the mixture of substances added to textile materials to impart the desired properties.

Flannel - a fabric woven and then brushed to achieve a soft nap. It is made of wool or a blend of wool and cotton or synthetics.

Flock - a material obtained by cutting or grinding textile fibers to fragments. There are two types of flock, precision cut flock, all fiber lengths are approximately equal and random cut flock, and the fibers are ground or chopped to produce a broad range of lengths.

Flocking - a method of ornamenting cloth with adhesive printed or coated on a fabric. Finely chopped fibers are applied by dusting, air-blasting or electrostatic attraction. The fibers adhere to the printed areas and it is removed manually from the unprinted areas.


Grois Point – is a fabric which features large points of yarn on the surface of the fabric.


Hand - The way the fabric feels when it is touched. Terms like softness, crispness, dryness, and silkiness are all terms that describe the hand of the fabric.

Herringbone - a zigzag pattern fabric with a novelty or complex twill weave. It is woven or printed on light-weight to heavy-weight fabrics.

Hound’s-tooth - a medium to heavy weight woven twill fabric designed with continuous broken checks or four-pointed stars resembling projecting "tooth-like" corners.


Jacquard - Intricate method of weaving invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the years 1801-1804, in which a head motion at the of the loom holds and operates a set of punched paper cards, according to the motif desired. Each punched perforation controls the action of one warp end for the passage of one pick. In modern looms, the punched cards have been replaced by diskettes, or the commands are directly downloaded from a network computer. Jacquard looms allow for large, intricate designs like a floral or large geometric. Damasks, brocades, brocatelles, and tapestries are examples of woven jacquards.


Linen - A fabric made from linen fibers obtained from inside the woody stem of the flax plant. Linen fibers are much stronger and more lustrous than cotton. Linen fabrics are very cool and absorbent, but wrinkle very easily, unless blended with manufactured fibers. Linen is one of the oldest textile fibers.

Lisserie - a fine Jacquard woven stripe which imitates silk and embroidery. The different figures and colors in the pattern come from the warp.


Moiré - A textile finish which creates lustrous or dull effects on the surface of a woven fabric. Moiré effects are achieved when crushed and the uncrushed parts of the fabric reflect light differently in a rippled, or watermarked, pattern. This popular look is usually achieved by passing the fabric between engraved rollers that press a wavy motif into the fabric. Moiré effects may also be achieved by overlapping various colors in printing fabrics, or by method of weaving. Moiré fabrics are used for coats, dresses, draperies, bedspreads, light upholstery, and luggage lining.

Matelasse' - a heavy-weight upholstery textile in Jacquard weave with double sets of warps and wefts. The surface appears to be puffy or cushioned and is also known as double cloth.

Mohair - a fabric obtained from yarn made from the silky hair of the Angora goat.


Nylon - a man-made fiber where the forming substance is a synthetic polyamide. It exhibit excellent strength, flexibility, and elasticity and abrasion resistance.


Ottoman - a heavy silk or rayon fabric with broad, round weft threads that produce a horizontal rib. Used for coats and trimmings.


Paisley - An oriental pattern motif which is shaped like a teardrop, rounded at one end with a curving point at the other. Generally the inside of the teardrop shape contains many abstract designs, many of Indian or oriental origin. Traditionally used on cashmere shawls imported to Europe from India, it was an important decorative motif in imitation cashmere shawls made in Paisley, Scotland and it is from this usage that the name is derived.

Peau de Soie - a soft and fine silk fabric of satin weave having ribbed or grained appearance. It is a French term which literally means "skin of silk".

Pile fabric - a fabric with an extra warp or weft set, woven to produce a deep surface texture like velvet, terry cloth, frieze or corduroy.

Pilling - fibers tendency to work loose from the fabric surface and form a balled or matted particles attached to the surface of the fabric.

Plaid - a cloth having a crisscross design. The stripes in warp and weft directions cross at intervals to form different colors in square or rectangular patterns. It may be plain or twill weave.

Plisse' - a blistered or puckered finish given to a sheer, thin or light-weight fabric with a caustic soda.

Polyester - A synthetic, man-made fiber produced from the polymerization of ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephalate or terephthalic acid. Some characteristics of polyester include: crease resistance, ability to dry quickly, shape retention in garments, high strength, abrasion resistance, and minimum care requirements. Polyester is a very important fiber in upholstery fabrics. It is often used in warps due to its strength and because it is relatively inexpensive. Other yarns, particularly cotton, are often used as filing yarns on polyester warps to add texture and mixed color effects.

Printed Fabrics - Textiles with design elements or motifs which are applied to the surface of the fabric with colorants such as dyes or pigments. This is as opposed to woven fabrics in which the design is created in the weaving as part of the structure of the textile itself. Many different types of printing methods exist, some of which include: rotary screen printing, heat transfer printing, and block printing.


Railroaded - Describes the orientation of a pattern's direction – the pattern design goes from selvage to selvage instead of up the roll. When looking at a railroaded pattern, the filling yarns are in the vertical direction, while the warp yarns are in the horizontal direction. Some industries and manufacturers prefer railroaded patterns, while others prefer up-the-roll patterns for their application. For example, a sofa upholsterer may prefer a railroaded pattern in order to avoid excessive seams and waste fabric. Railroaded fabric is great for upholstery.

Rayon - A manufactured fiber composed of regenerated cellulose, derived from wood pulp, cotton linters, or other vegetable matter. Today, various names for rayon fibers are taken from different manufacturing processes.

Repeat - Complete unit of pattern for design. Repeats vary in size considerably, depending on the weave, type of material, texture, and the use of the cloth. Measured vertically and horizontally, repeat information is used in defining how to layout the fabric on the furniture, draperies, bedding, pillows, etc.


Sateen Fabric - A fabric made from yarns with low luster, such as cotton or other staple length fibers. The fabric has a soft, smooth hand and a gentle, subtle luster. Sateen fabrics are often used for draperies and upholstery.

Satin - a basic type of weave with up to eight weft threads are tied down with one floating weft thread. It is light to medium-weight with glossy face and a dull back.

Scrim - a durable, open weave sheer cotton fabric used for curtains or upholstery lining or in industry.

Selvage or Selvedge – A selvage is the thin compressed edge of a woven fabric which runs parallel to the warp yarns and prevents raveling. It is usually woven, utilizing tougher yarns and a tighter construction than the rest of the fabric.

Shantung Dupioni – is originally a spun silk fabric with slubs and forms interesting textures. Today, shantung may be of natural or synthetic fibers. Fabrics imitating shantung are antique satin and antique taffeta.

Silk - A natural filament fiber produced by the silkworm in the construction of its cocoon. Most silk is collected from cultivated worms; Tussah silk, or wild silk, is a thicker, shorter fiber produced by worms in their natural habitat. All silk comes from Asia, primarily China.

Suede cloth - a light or medium-weight synthetic knit or woven textile with brushed nap imitating suede leather.


Taffeta - A lustrous, medium weight, plain weave fabric with a slight ribbed appearance in the filling (crosswise) direction. For formal wear, taffeta is a favorite choice. It provides a crisp hand, with lots of body. Silk taffeta gives the ultimate rustle, but other fibers are also good choices.

Tapestry - Originally ornamental Oriental embroideries in which colored threads of wool, gold, silk or silver were interspersed for adornment. In the textile industry, a tapestry warp differs from a typical solid colored warp in that it is multicolored. "True" tapestries have at least 6 different colors in the warp, but tapestry-type looks can be achieved with four-color warps. Because of the beautiful, multi-colored detail effects, tapestry constructions are popular in a range of styles from scenic novelties to intricate florals. In addition for furniture use, tapestries are used as wall hangings for decoration.

Toile - a sheer fabric similar to muslin or percale in plain or twill weave obtained from cotton or linen.

Tufted fabric - a pile fabric formed by tufting a yarn into a woven background. Example, some upholstery fabrics and all tufted carpets.

Tweed - a coarse, rugged, and often nubby woolen fabric in plain balanced or variation (originally twill) weave. Used as casual suits and coats.


Up-the-Roll - Describes the orientation of a pattern's direction. When looking at an up-the-roll pattern, the warp yarns are in the vertical direction, while the filling yarns are in the horizontal direction. Some industries and manufacturers prefer up-the-roll patterns, while others prefer railroaded patterns for their application. See also railroaded for illustration.


Velvet – has a warp pile cloth in which rows of short cut pile stand so close together as to form an even, uniform surface; appealing in look and with soft hand. First made of all silk, many different fibers are now used velvet constructions. When the pile is more than one-eighth of an inch in height the cloth is then called plush.

Velour - a closely napped fabric with a soft, velvet-like texture, used for clothing and upholstery. It includes some velvet, and all plush-pile surface cloths.

Vinyl - extruded polyvinyl chloride synthetic fabric flowed onto a knitted, woven, or non-woven base cloth imitating leather. It is medium to heavy-weight upholstery fabric.

Virgin Vinyl - vinyl made from all new components. It has no recycled materials.

Voile - a light, plain-weave, sheer transparent fabric with tightly twisted yarns often having a stiff finish. Available in novelty effects like pique stripes, printed patterns and stripes. It is obtained from cotton, rayon, silk, or wool and used especially for making dresses and curtains.