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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 it's excellent sunlight resistance and wrinkle resistance. Apparel items, carpeting, and upholstery fabrics often contain acrylic fiber as a yarn component.
Brocade - Brocade was originally an elegant, heavy silk fabric with a floral or figured pattern woven with gold or silver thread, produced in China and Japan. Currently, any of the major textile fibers may be used in a wide range of quality and price. Brocades are typically ornate, jacquard-woven fabrics. The pattern is usually emphasized by contrasting surfaces and colors, and appears on the face of the fabric, which is distinguished easily from the back. Uses include apparel, draperies, upholstery, and other decorative purposes.
Chenille - A fuzzy yarn with a pile which resembles a caterpillar. Used mainly for decorative fabrics, embroidery, tassels, and rugs. Sometimes used broadly to define a fabric woven from chenille yarns.
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 (a 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.
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 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.
Embroidery - An 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.
Grois Point - 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, silkiness are all terms that describe the hand of the fabric.
Jacquard - Intricate method of weaving invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the years 1801-1804, in which a headmotion 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.
Moiré - A textile finish which creates lustrous or dull effects on the surface of a woven fabric. Moire 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.
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.
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. 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.
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. The two most commonly used production methods for rayon are the cuprammonium process and the viscose process.
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.
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.
Selvage or Selvedge - 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.
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.
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.
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 - 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.