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Customer Service> Guide to Fabrics | Glossary of Fabrics | Blair

Guide to Fabrics

1. A Guide to Fibers, Yarns, & Finishes 2. A Guide to Footwear & Leathers 3. Glossary of Fabrics & Style Terms


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

cashmerefine 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 lacebobbin 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

down – the soft fluffy under feathers of ducks, geese, or other water fowl used for quilting fashion apparel or stuffing pillows, quilts, or cushions; very lightweight and warm

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

velveteena 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-repellentability 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



1. A Guide to Fibers, Yarns, & Finishes
2. A Guide to Footwear & Leathers
3. Glossary of Fabrics & Style Terms