Guide to Fabrics
Thank modern technology (and Mother Nature, of course) for the amazing variety of fabrics available to you. Now you can find the perfect fabric … with just the properties you want. Here's why:
Fabrics are made from natural or man-made fibers, blended into yarns and then knit or woven for the desired effect. What's more -- new fibers and manufacturing processes are always being introduced, giving you even more fabric choices!
And you can count on Blair to bring you the best of all those choices!
A Guide to Fibers
Fibers are thin hair-like structures that are either natural or man-made. They are the true building blocks of today's fabrics.
Natural fibers. These come from plants, animals or vegetables. Some natural fibers are: cotton, flax/linen, ramie, silk and wool.
Man-made fibers. These are either cellulosic (for example, rayon or lyocell) or non-cellulosic (such as nylon and polyester) fibers that are chemically produced and created through technology.
A Guide to Yarns
Yarns are continuous strands of textile fibers or material and are suitable for weaving or knitting into a fabric. Here are some helpful terms.
2-ply yarn – two yarns twisted together
3-ply yarn – three yarns twisted together
bouclé yarn – a novelty yarn with tightly twisted loops for rich texture
slub yarn – a yarn with a thick spot for variation in texture
chenille yarn – yarn with a core and pile-like surface for super softness
seed yarn – a yarn with a nub that is slightly twisted
denier – a numbering system for yarns; the higher the number, the thicker the yarn
carded – a yarn that contains a wide range of fiber lengths
combed – a yarn that contains long, even fibers that produces a stronger, finer and smoother effect
worsted – a yarn that is smooth surfaced and spun from long-staple, evenly combed wool
mercerized – a yarn that has been treated to increase luster and affinity for dyes
ring-spun – a yarn that has been twisted and wound simultaneously and continuously so that it's stronger.
warp – the yarns which run vertically or lengthwise in woven goods.
weft – the crosswise or filling pick yarns in a woven cloth.
A Guide to Finishes
Today’s popular finishes give fabrics a new look, superb comfort and great performance!
Acid Wash finish -- garment is treated with chemicals to alter the color of indigo denim fabrics.
Brushed finish -- knit or woven fabrics are finished with brushes or other abrading devices to raise a nap on the fabric or create a novelty surface texture.
Enzyme Wash finish -- garment is washed with enzymes with the goal to ‘age’ the fabric so that it looks and feels much softer
Garment Wash finish -- garment is washed producing a soft, already worn feel
Heat-Set finish -- heating treatment is applied to stabilize many man-made fiber fabrics so that there will not be any subsequent change in shape or size
Stain-Resistant finish -- treatment, usually Teflon®, is applied to fabric to help repel water and stains
Stonewash finish -- garment is washed with stones with the goal to ‘age’ the fabric so that it looks worn and feels much softer
Water-Resistant finish -- fabric is treated chemically to resist water or given a "wax-coating treatment" to make it repellent. Not to be confused with "water-repellent".
Wrinkle-Free finish -- treatment is applied to fabric, primarily cottons, to produce a permanent crease requiring little or no ironing
Wrinkle-Resistant finish -- treatment is applied to fabric, primarily cottons, to produce a prominent crease and a crisp look with just light ironing
A Guide to Footwear
Blown Rubber -- 40% lighter than solid rubber; the addition of air makes for a softer, more cushioned landing
Burnishing -- producing a bright glossy finish on leather by means of friction or preheated machinery
Calf Leather -- offers fine grain, suppleness and exceptional durability
Dual Density Midsoles -- two different densities of foam within the same midsole; allows manufacturers to fine-tune performance by creating different levels of support or cushioning
Polyurethane -- any of various resins, widely varying in flexibility, used in tough chemical-resistant coatings, adhesives, and foams
EVA -- ethylene vinyl acetate blended with synthetic rubber to become lightweight
Full-Grain Leather -- skins where only the hair has been removed, leaving the natural surface grain unchanged
Gore-Tex® -- waterproof, windproof, and breathable; a composite of a completely waterproof polymer film
Kidskin Leather -- offers fine grain and suppleness
Midsole -- usually made of foam and responsible for a shoe’s cushioning capability; located between the upper and the outsole
Nappa Leather -- leather that is remarkably soft and supple
Neoprene -- synthetic rubber, polychloroprene
Nubuck -- grain leather that has been slightly brushed on the surface to create a very fine velvet-like appearance
P.U. Sole -- polyurethane sole which is lightweight, flexible, hard wearing and has shock-absorbing qualities
Patent Leather -- fine-grain leather specially treated with polyurethane to create an exceptionally glossy finish
PVC -- polyvinyl chloride - a synthetic plastic widely used for soling and coated upper materials
Shank -- a bar that supports and strengthens the shoe in the small of the foot between heel and front part; can be steel, plastic or wood
Shearling -- sheepskin with the wool
Suede Leather -- leather with a buffed underside, giving a textured appearance
T.P.U. Post -- a stability device made of thermoplastic urethane placed medially in the heel of the midsole to add pronation (inward roll of the foot) control and/or laterally to control supination (outward roll of the foot)
Thermoplastic Rubber -- a synthetic rubber that can be fused by heat and therefore processed into soles by injection moulding
Top-Grain Leather -- the uppermost layer in a hide; thin tightly woven fibers give this leather its waterproofing qualities; smooth appearance and less abrasion-resistant than rough-out leather
Vulcanized Rubber -- raw rubber treated by milling with sulphur and heat to allow for moulding and to increase durability and inhibit deterioration
A Guide to Leathers
Find the leather that's just right for you…and your style!
Lambskin -- soft, buttery texture and lightweight
Cowhide -- heavy and durable
Pigskin -- commonly used for suede
Split -- when a thick hide is split, this term refers to the top surface which looks like suede but is not as soft
Suede -- leather that is finished by buffing the underside of a hide to produce a velvet-like nap
Distressed Leather -- buffing surface to create uneven coloration and markings for a weathered look
Leather Care Tips
Leather ages gracefully and can last a lifetime with proper care right from the start.
- Always hang leather garments on wide or padded hangers to maintain their shape. Use shoetrees in footwear and stuff empty handbags with tissue to help retain their shape.
- Never store leather goods in plastic or other non-breathable covers. This will cause leather to become dry.
- Allow wet or damp leather to air-dry naturally away from any heat source. Leather can be treated with a conditioner to restore flexibility while suede can be brushed with a terry towel to restore its look.
- In winter, promptly remove salt deposits from garments and footwear by sponging with clear water, then follow with the above treatment for wet or damp leather.
- Avoid very humid and dry environments as well as direct sunlight.
- Do not use waxes, silicone products or other leather preparations that impair a garment's ability to breathe.
- Wrinkles should hang out. If ironing is desired, set iron on rayon setting, use heavy brown wrapping paper as a pressing cloth on right side of the garment and a quick hand to prevent overheating and shine.
- Avoid spraying perfumes or hair sprays while wearing your garment and do not apply pins, adhesive badges or tape. Wearing a scarf at the neckline will help keep hair and body oil away from the collar.
- Hems may be fixed with a tiny amount of rubber cement. For best results see a leather care professional.
All products designed to be used at home should be tested on an inconspicuous part of the garment.
Glossary of Fabrics
Fabrics are created by either weaving or knitting processes. Below you’ll find helpful descriptions of both, and then a list of today’s most popular fabrics.
Woven. Two or more sets of yarns are interlaced at right angles to each other. The variations are as follows.
plain weave – the simplest and most common weave
basket weave – two or more warp ends and filling picks woven as one in a plain weave formation which resembles a plaited basket
twill weave – basic weave characterized by diagonal lines in the face of the fabric
oxford – fine, soft, lightweight 2 x 1 basket weave variation of the plain weave construction
satin – usually made from yarns with high luster to produce a shiny face
crepe – woven to have a crinkled, pebbly surface
dobby – features small, woven-in repeated designs that are usually
geometric in shape
jacquard – characterized by intricate, woven-in motifs
Knits. These fabrics are made by intermeshing or interlocking loops of yarns, using the knit and purl stiches. Basic knits are listed below.
jersey – known as a plain or single knit, with a vertical grain on front for a smooth surface
rib – characterized by lengthwise ribs and greater elasticity in the width
interlock – variation of a rib knit with a smooth surface
General Fabric Terms
abrasion resistance – the degree to which a fabric is able to withstand surface wear, rubbing, chafing, and other friction forces
acetate – a manufactured fiber in which the fiber forming substance is cellulose acetate
acrylic – a manufactured fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is any long chain synthetic polymer
Alpaca – a member of the camel family
Angora – soft long hair of the Angora goat, often called mohair
appearance rating – term applying to the smoothness of fabrics – usually wash and wear or durable press – after washing and tumble drying
backed cloth – single textile material with addition of an extra warp or filling of wool, worsted, cotton or other yarns added for weight and warmth
Batiste –a sheer, fine, combed, mercerized muslin characterized by wide streaks in construction, named for Jean Baptiste, a French linen weaver
Battenburg – coarse form of renaissance lace – either hand or machine made – from linen braid or tape and linen thread, assembled together to form various designs.
Bedford cord – strong and durable fabric with a vertical rib effect
bengaline –sturdy warp-faced fabric with pronounced crosswise ribs formed by bulky, course, plied yarns or rubber thread
birdseye – cotton or linen cloth woven on a dobby loom characterized with a small geometric pattern that has a center dot resembling a bird’s eye
bonding –technique of permanently joining together two fabrics – usually a face fabric and a lining fabric of tricot – into one package with special adhesives, binders, or thin slides of foam
broadcloth – tightly woven lustrous cotton cloth with fine embedded crosswise ribs that resemble poplin
broadloom – term generally referring to carpet rather than apparel fabrics that are tufted or woven wider than 54 inches
brocade – rich, heavy jacquard-woven fabric with raised patterns
burn-out –process of printing which uses chemicals, rather than color, to burn out or dissolve away one fiber in a sized cloth to achieve a sheer lacy and heavy design; also used to obtain eyelets or other type holes in a fabric
butcher linen – coarse homespun linen once used for aprons for French butlers; often imitated today in many man-made fiber fabrics that simulate real linen
CAD – Computer Aided Design, a powerful tool for textile designers and stylists that enables them to use a computer to design and color fabrics electronically
camel hair – wool-like under hair of the camel that is lustrous and extremely soft
canvas – extra strong, durable plain weave fabric
cashmere – fine downy undercoat hair of the cashmere goat in Tibet
challis – plain weave fabric known for softness and drapability
chambray – plain weave fabric interlacing a colored and white yarn
Chantilly lace – bobbin lace with fine six-sided mesh grounds with pattern outlined in heavy thread
charmeuse – a lightweight silk, cotton or man-made fiber dress fabric this is soft and drapes well, with a smooth, semi-lustrous satin face and dull back
chenille – soft, thick, absorbent fabric woven from chenille yarns
chevron – herringbone weaves or prints in zigzag stripes
chiffon – very light, usually transparent fabrics, in plain weaves
chino – classic all-cotton “Army twill” fabric made of combed two-ply yarns
chintz – solid or printed cotton or cotton blend fabrics with a slightly shiny or glazed finish
circular knit – weft knit fabric made on a circular needle-bed knitting machine which produces fabric in tubular form; commonly single or double knits
cloque fabric – any fabric with an irregularly raised blistered surface
colorfast –term used to describe fabrics of sufficient color retention so that no noticeable change in shade takes place during the normal life of the garment
corduroy – napped fabric with ridges
cotton – soft vegetable fiber obtained from the seed pod of the cotton plant and one of the major fashion fibers in the textile industry
count of cloth – the number of ends and picks per inch in a woven fabric
crease vs. wrinkle – a crease is a lien or mark produced in the fabric by folding; a wrinkle is a ridge or furrow on the surface caused by contraction, folding, rumpling, etc
crocheting – a fabric, trimming, or lace made by interlocking successive loops or stiches with a hook or needle
crocking – the tendency of excess dyes to rub off; with napped and pile fabrics in deep colors being most likely to crock
cross-dyeing – a process in which different fibers in a blend are dyed different hues in the same dye bath
damask – jacquard-woven fabric with elaborate patterns, similar to brocade but flatter
denim – twill weave fabric interlacing colored and white yarns
Donegal – originally a thick woolen homespun tweed hand woven by Irish peasants; now, a tweed with colorful thick spots or slubs woven into the fabric
Dotted Swiss – a sheer cotton fabric embellished with small dots that may vary in color and can be applied to the goods in a variety of methods including flocking, clipspotting, swivel weaving, lappet weaving, etc
double knit – a circular knit fabric that’s the same on both sides and knitted via a double stich on a double needle frame to provide a double thickness
doupioni – plain weave fabric with irregular, long, thin slubs
drop stitch – knit fabrics constructed to control the degree of unlooping of certain stitches and to provide for opening needle latches when necessary; generally limited to jersey and rib fabrics for either fabric design or for the separation of rib fabric pieces
duck – extra strong, durable plain weave fabric
Egyptian cotton – cotton obtained from modified forms of Gossypium Barbadense
elastic – a rubber strand, cord, fabric or thread which has springiness, flexibility, resiliency, and recovery
elasticity – the ability of textile fibers to “bounce back” or recover when released from tension or stretch
embossing – a surface effect achieved on fabric by means of a passing cloth through a series of engraved rollers that impart figures or designs to its surface through heat and pressure.
eyelet – fancywork featuring cut-out areas with stitching around them
felt –woven or unwoven cloth that is matted, compact woolen material, such as melton
flannel – plain or twill weave fabric with slight nap
flax –plant from which linen is created
fleece – knit fabric with a dense brushed nap on one or both sides
flock, flocking, flock-dotting – the application of very short, fibrous stock to a fabric; motif that’s usually printed in or onto the cloth with the aid of an adhesive
full-fashioned –shaped during the knitting by the inward transfer of the selvage stiches, usually two at a time, on each side in order to provide the correct shape
gabardine – twill weave fabric with a pronounced diagonal line visible in the face of the fabric
guage –refers to the thickness of the needle in knitting
gauze – plain weave fabric with a loose, open weave due to a low thread count
georgette – heavy sheer crepe made of yarn twisted both ways in the weave; usually made with the same yarn in both warp and filling
gingham – fabric with dyed yarns introduced at given intervals in both warp and filling to achieve block or check effects
Habutal – smooth, soft plain weave silk originally hand-woven in Japan
hand-woven/hand-loomed – fabrics which are woven on either the hand or hand-and-foot power loom; admired because they express the individuality of the wearer
Harris Tweed –trademark for an imported tweed made of virgin wool from the Highlands of Scotland, spun, dyed, and hand-woven by islanders in Harris and other islands of the Hebrides.
heather mixture/blend – combinations of colors, stock-dyed to provide a mottled or mélange type of yarn in woolens and such as homespun, tweed, shetland
heat transfer printing –technique of printing fabrics by transferring a printed design from paper to fabric via heat and pressure, used mainly on fine knit fabrics and lightweight fabrics
herringbone twill – a broken twill weave giving a zigzag effect produced by alternating the direction of the twill like the chevron weave; true herringbone should have the same number of yarns in each direction, right and left, and be evenly balanced
hopsacking – popular woolen or worsted suiting fabric made from a 2-and-2 or a 3-and-3 basket weave
houndstooth – a medium-sized broken-check effect, woven using a four-end twill based on a herringbone weave with four ends to the right, followed by four ends to the left; two-up and two-down basic construction fabric that’s a staple in the fabric trade
intarsia – knit fabric of two or more colors characterized by an unrestricted stretch
interfacing – woven or non-woven fabrics used between outer fabric and lining to reinforce or stiffen
khaki – unusually strong cloth made of cotton, worsted, or linen yarns and blends of man-made fibers
knit-de-knit – unique yarn-texturized method where yarn is knitted in a circular fabric sleeve, heat set and then unraveled to retain the original shape
knit gauge –actual number of needles in 1 ½ inches in a knitting machine; the higher the gauge, the finer the fabric
lace – fine, openwork fabric with patterns worked onto a background of net or mesh
lamb’s wool – elastic, soft, resilient wool fibers obtained from lambs when they are seven or eight months old – the first virgin clipping from the animal; lofty stock used in better grades of fabrics
lawn – light cloth made of carded or combed cotton yarn originally in Laon, France; crisp and crease-resistant finish leno –open-effect weave in which every other yarn of warp is crossed, wholly or partially, with its companion yarn
linen – produced from flax, known for rapid moisture absorption, fiber length of few inches to one yard, no fuzziness, and a natural luster and stiffness; does not soil quickly
linen-textured rayon – a large and important category of rayon fabrics having the distinctive textures of linens, ranging from sheer handkerchief-linen texture to heavier, rougher “butcher-linen” texture; usually plain-weave
macramé – knotted string, wool or yarns that create designs and openwork patterns
madras – one of the oldest staples in the cotton trade, made of plain-weave background which is usually white, with stripes, cords, or minute checks used to form the pattern; fancy effects often made of satin or basket weave, or small twill repeat
matelassé – thick, double fabric with a quilted-like top texture and raised patterns
matte jersey – dull tricot cloth made of fine crepe yarns
merino – the highest, finest and best wool obtained anywhere in the world; used only in the best of woolen and worsted fabrics, billiard cloth, etc
mesh – any fabric, knitted or woven, with an open texture, fine or course
metallic fiber – a manufactured fiber composed of metal, plastic-coated metal, metal-coated plastic, or a core completely covered by metal
microfiber – ultra-fine man-made fibers of acrylic, nylon, polyester or rayon, woven into a fabric that’s soft and supremely drapable
moleskin – tightly woven cotton twill brushed with uniform thickness reating an extremely soft, yet rugged and long lasting fabric
momme – Japanese unit of weight (equal to 3.75 grams) used to describe weight of silk fabrics
napping – the raising of fibers on the face of the goods by means of teasels or rollers covered with card clothing (steel wires) that are about one inch in height to provide greater warmth to the wearer of the fabric, makes the cloth more compact, give the fabric a softer hand or smoother feel, increase durability and cover the minute areas between the interlacings of the warp and the filling
noile – the short fibers taken from any machine operation in the processing of textile fibers, obtained mostly in carding and combing operations; may be high quality but very short in length, too short to be manipulated into yarn by itself; worked in with longer staple fibers to make yarn.
organza – usually a very thin, but stiff plain woven silk fabric that resembles organdy, formerly made of cotton but today can be made of virtually any fiber
ottoman – silk or manmade-fiber yarn fabric characterized by a heavy, large, rounded cord effect in the filling direction of the goods
percale – smooth, luxurious tightly-woven fabric
piece dye – the dyeing of fabric after weaving or knitting
pinwale – a very narrow ridge or rib in a fabric (from 16 to 23 wales to the inch)
piqué – woven or knit fabric characterized by an all-over, small square textured pattern
plaid – a pattern consisting of colored bars or stripes which cross each other at right angles
plissé – plain weave fabric with a textured surface similar to seersucker
ply – two or more yarns that have been twisted together
pointelle – a knit fabric with a lacey pattern knit in
pongee – thin fabric known for its softness
poplin – a broad term to imply several fabrics made from various types of yarn, identified by a fine rib effect in the filling direction from the selvage to selvage; term is based on weave, not on fabric content (i.e. cotton or polyester)
quilt – two thicknesses of material with wool, cotton, polyester, or down batting in between for warmth, secured with stitches; also used for jackets and linings of coats
ramie – bast fiber from the ramie plant; similar to flax but more brittle
rayon – a manufactured fiber composed of regenerated cellulose
rickrack – flat braid in a zigzag formation made from several types of fibers; much used for many kinds of trimming on apparel
rip stop – a fabric with a characteristic diagonal over-weave designed to prevent rips and tears from spreading; used originally for parachutes and sails but now and finding favor in fashion and accessories field
sateen –cloth made with a 5-end or an 8-shaft satin weave in warp-face or filling-face effects; usually mercerized, with a very smooth, lustrous surface effect.
Schiffli Embroidery –lace effect made by embroidering the motifs on a net ground
seersucker – plain weave fabric with permanent crinkled stripes
sequin – small metal or plastic plate or disc used as a decorative trimming
shantung – plain weave fabric, usually of silk, with irregular slubs for a rough texture
shape retention – The ability of a durable press garment to be washed and still retain the original shape of the new garment
sheeting – a lightweight plain weave fabric
Shetland – cloth made wholly or partially from Shetland wool of Scotland, known for its raised or gigged finish and appealing, soft hand; also a loosely applied term for various woven or knitted fabrics, soft in hand, which do not contain Shetland wool
silk – the only natural fiber that comes in a filament form; from 300 to 1,600 yards in length as reeled from the cocoon, cultivated or wild
silk noile –a by-product of the spun-silk industry consisting of short fibers which are combed out of the silk waste; very uneven and lumpy appearance; also used in blends for novelty effects
spandex – a manufactured stretch fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is a long chain synthetic polymer comprised of at least 85% of a segmented polyurethane
Supima – Certification mark of the SuPima Association of America with usage controlled by means of a licensing agreement with the Association; applied only to wearing apparel and textile products made entirely of Southwestern extra-long staple cotton fiber grown by members of the Association
taffeta – a fine plain-weave fabric smooth on both sides, usually with a sheen on its surface; may be solid colored or printed, or woven in such a way that the colors seem “changeable.”
tartan – wool, worsted or cotton cloth made in plain weave or in a two-up and two-down twill weave
terry cloth – woven or knitted fabric with a pile weave of uncut loops
thermal knit (or waffle weave) – fabric knit with a series of square, waffle-like designs that hold in warmth
thread count – the actual number of warp ends and filling picks per inch in a woven cloth; in knitted fabrics, the number of wales or ribs, and the courses per inch
top-dyed – often referred to as a Viqoureux Printing, the dyeing or printing of worsted top or silver in a rather loose formation of combed parallel fibers; preceding the spinning of the yarn and affording a host of colors, casts, and shades
tricot – knit fabric characterized by its fine vertical face and cross ribs on the back
tweed – a medium to heavy weight twill weave fabric, usually woolen, containing colored slubbed yarns
velour – napped fabric with a thick pile surface
velvet – fabric with a woven cut pile that has a rich, soft texture
velveteen – a filling pile cloth in which the pile is made by cutting an extra set of filling yarns which weave in a float formation and are woven or bound into the back of the material at intervals by weaving over and under one or more warp ends; a low pile fabric known as a “cotton-velvet”
voile – very sheer, lightweight fabric with a crisp hand
water-repellent – ability of a fabric to resist penetration by water, under certain conditions
whipcord – twill weave fabric with a step diagonal pattern on the face
wool –the fiber from the fleece of the sheep or lamb, or the hair of the Angora or Cashmere goat (and may include the so-called fibers from the hair of the camel, alpaca, llama, and vicuna) which has never been reclaimed from any woven or felted wool product
yarn dye – the dyeing of yarns before fabric is woven or knit
General Style terms
A-line – skirt in which the hemline measures greater than the hip line, for more fullness
appliqué – separate piece of fabric that is applied to a larger background for decoration
banded collar – a collar attached to the neckline by a band that stands up against the neck
bartack – series of short, narrow zigzag stitches that reinforce a stress point on a garment
besom pocket – also a welt pocket; characterized by a separate strip or flap stitched to the pocket opening with the pouch falling to the inside of the garment
bias – a line diagonally across the grain of the fabric; garments cut on the bias closely follow curves of the body
boat neck – neckline cut in a shallow curve across the line of the collar bones almost to the tip of the shoulders, with the same shape across the back
box pleat – double pleat where the two folds meet in the center, underneath the pleat
capri – pants that fall slightly above the ankle
cardigan – outer coat, jacket or sweater type of garment that buttons in the center front
cuff – a finishing band of material, either made separately and attached or created by turning back an extension of the hem of a sleeve or pant leg
dart – a V-shaped seam to fit garments around body contours
embroidery – decorative needlework using various colored yarns or embroidery floss
gore – section of a skirt that is wider at the hem than the top, for fullness and shaping
placket – areas that feature buttons, snaps, zippers, etc. that secure an opening in a garment
princess line – curving shaping seam that forms panels to contour a garment to the body
rise – distance from crotch to bottom of waistband in pants
set-in sleeve – sleeve that is cut separately and sewn into the armhole of the bodice, to fit smoothly or with gathers for exaggerated fullness
shirttail hem – shaped hemline that curves up from center front and back to the side seams
tankini– two-piece swimsuit with bikini style bottom and tank style top
welt pocket – also a besom pocket; characterized by a separate strip or flap stitched to the pocket opening with the pouch falling to the inside of the garment
yoke – portion of garment across the shoulders (front or back) that is usually a separate piece of fabric seamed to the body of the garment