Acetate - Known for its slick texture and glorious shine, acetate combines the breathability of cotton with the feel of silk. It is a chemical fibre textile, comprising of spun filaments of cellulose derived from wood pulp.
Acrylic - acrylic is a man-made fibre that has a soft, wool-like texture. Its uneven finish resists shrinkage and is crease-resistant.
Alencon Lace - originating in Alencon (France), alencon lace is often referred to as “the queen of lace”. It features intricate cutting and needlework.
Alpaca - alpaca wool is a natural fibre taken from the wool of alpacas. It rivals cashmere in luxury and holds heat well.
Angora - angora is a fur fibre, taken from the hair of an angora rabbit. The rabbits do not need to be killed to obtain this fur - the fur can be brushed from its body. It is important to obtain angora ethically.
Applique - appliques aren’t a type of fabric. Rather, they are fabric cutouts that can then be added to a larger piece of fabric to create a pattern.
Argyle -while argyle isn’t a fabric, you are bound to encounter this design at some point or another when dealing with fabrics. Put simply, argyle is a pattern which features interlocking diamonds of various colours on a plain background. You’ll often find it on knitted clothing, such as jumpers or socks.
Baize - baize is a woolen fabric that tends to be loose and is traditionally dyed either red or green. It is most commonly used for simple clothing, tablecloths, and drawer linings.
Bamboo - sure, you might initially associate bamboo with panda bears and Chinese cuisine. But bamboo can also be used to create an extremely sustainable fabric. It is bacteria and odour resistant. It is also strong, so highly durable.
Basket Weave - basket weave fabric tends imitates the weave of a wicker basket. To achieve this, warp ends are woven parallel to one another.
Batik-batik isn’t actually a fabric. But it is fabric that has undergone a specific dyeing technique. Originating in Indonesia, this technique uses wax molds to create hardened designs on fabric. Once the cloth has been dyed, the wax is removed, leaving the desired pattern.
Batiste - batiste can also be referred to as “cambric” or “chambray”. It is an extremely fine and lightweight form of plain-weave cloth originating from the French commune of Cambrai.
Bengaline - in the past, bengaline was most often composed of wool, silk, or cotton. However, nowadays, it tends to be made from either acetate or polyester. It has a distinctive crosswire rib and is relatively heavy in weight.
Border Fabric -border fabric is generally a piece of fabric bearing a design that is used for borders on clothing, cushions, bedding, or curtains.
Boucle - you’ll usually find boucle used for jumpers or other relatively unstructured pieces. It has a looped and knotted surface, making it extremely supple and springy to the touch.
Broadcloth - broadcloth is generally cotton or a cotton blend. It is dense, as well as lustrous and soft.
Broderie Anglaise -this fabric derives from nineteenth century needlework on a plain white cloth. You’ll often see it used in children’s clothing or summer wear. It is extremely lightweight and can be identified through its eyelet and buttonhole stitches.
Buckram - buckram can be used in bookbinding and millenary. It is a plain weave fabric that is stiffened with the aid of starch.
Burlap - see: “hessian”.
Burnout -burnout fabric can also be referred to as “devoré”. Rather than being a fabric in and of itself, it is rather fabric that has been treated in a particular way. Burnout is a treatment that is most commonly used on velvets - it involves dissolving cellulose fibres to create a semi-transparent pattern on the piece of fabric.
Calico -calico is a distinctive form of cotton. This plain woven textile is created from unbleached, half processed cotton fibres. Once you are able to identify calico, you will see this raw material everywhere. It is used to create artists’ canvases, mock items of clothing, and is becoming increasingly popular in interior design.
Cambric - see: batiste.
Cashmere - this type of wool is taken from cashmere or “pashmina” goats. It is synonymous with luxury thanks to it being a particularly soft and lightweight insulating fabric. Its delicate fibres are almost silky to touch.
Chambray - see: batiste.
Chenille - chenille is the French word for “caterpillar” and this fabric is supposed to resemble a caterpillar’s fluffy coat. It is an incredibly soft, fuzzy fabric that is generally used to create blankets, throws, and shawls.
China Silk - see: “habotai”.
Corduroy - corduroy is an easily distinguishable fabric. It is generally composed of a cotton and polyester blend. The pile is woven and cut in a striped pattern, which gives the fabric its signature ribs. You will often hear these ribs referred to as “wales” by professionals.
Corduroy (Needlecord) -needlecord fabric is a form of corduroy. It differs from other forms of corduroy in that its ribs (or wales) are a lot finer - there will typically be 14 to 18 ribs per inch of fabric. This results in a fabric that is generally more lightweight and easier to work with.
Cotton - cotton is the most widely produced and used natural fibre in the world and there’s an extremely high chance that you’re wearing something that contains cotton as you read this. The raw materials for cotton fabric are derived from the cotton plant. Fibres are intertwined and then woven into cloth that is easy to clean, durable, and breathable.
Cotton (Brushed) -cotton can be treated in various ways to create alternative cotton fabrics. Brushed cotton is just one of them. The clue to brushed cotton lies in its name - it is cotton that has been brushed on the face side to remove lint and fibres. It’s particularly soft to the touch and great at trapping heat.
Chiffon -if you’re looking for a lightweight, semi-transparent material, chiffon is going to be ideal for you. It is most commonly composed of cotton, silk, or synthetic fibres (such as nylon, rayon, and polyester) and woven with a mesh-like weave to endow the fabric with a see-through appearance.
Crepe -crepe fabric has a “crumpled”, “crinkled”, or “pebbled” texture. Almost any fibre can be made into crepe, meaning that crepe can be heavy and opaque, or lightweight and semi-transparent.
Denim -denim is a material that is most commonly used to create jeans and overalls. However, denim is becoming used to create an increasing variety of products - from denim jackets to denim cushion covers, hair scrunchies, and waistcoats. It is an extremely durable, cotton-blend twill textile. It can come in a variety of washes.
Devoré: see: burnout.
Duchess Satin - this type of satin is most often found in bridal wear or evening wear for special occasions. It can be used to create volume without being bulky. It drapes well without fluttering (as other lightweight fabrics would be prone to).
Egyptian Cotton - this cotton has a high thread count and is consequently desirable when used to make bedding and sheets.
Elastane -elastane isn’t necessarily a fabric in its own right. Rather, it is a man-made material that is then woven with other materials (such as polyester or cotton) to create a final fabric with exceptional elasticity.
Faux Fur - faux fur can replicate almost any type of real fur and is a much more ethical fabric. When working with faux fur, make sure to avoid ironing on the right side. This can ruin the fabric.
Felt - felt is one of the few fabrics that does not require any weaving in its manufacturing process. Instead, fibres are simply matted to create a homogenous structure. It is durable and it is extremely rare that felt will begin to come apart or fray. It can be made from wool, however, acrylic felt tends to be preferable, as it can be washed.
Fleece -fleece may well initially look like a natural fabric (it mimics the wool coat of a sheep), but it is actually man-made. It is derived from plastic and is particularly good for insulation, explaining why it is so commonly used for outerwear and blankets.
Gaberdine - this twill weave is often used for suits, tailored jackets, and tailored trousers thanks to its crease-resistant nature and great drape.
Georgette -named after 20th century dressmaker, Georgette de la Plante, georgette is a dull-finished, sheer, lightweight form of crepe fabric. It tends to have two forms - “pure” georgette and “faux” georgette. Pure georgette is woven from silk, while faux georgette is composed of rayon and polyester.
Gingham - gingham is a simple, woven cotton linen or cloth. It is cool, breathable, and can be lightweight or medium weight. It most commonly has a blue and white checked pattern, like the gingham dress worn by Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. However, red and white gingham is also pretty common.
Habotai - otherwise known as “China Silk”, Habotai is a particularly lightweight, woven silk that breathes well and doesn’t add bulk to a final piece of clothing. It is commonly used to make scarves. It may not be appropriate for larger items, as it is prone to wrinkling and isn’t all too durable.
Hessian - known as “burlap” in the US, hessian is a coarse canvas that is woven from jute, hemp, or other similar fibres. You may hear people refer to it as “sack”. It isn’t commonly used in clothing, as it can scratch.
Holographic Fabric -a hologram is an image that the human eye can see in 3D form. So, holographic fabric (or “hologram fabric”) is any material that has a hologram printed on it.
Honeycomb -honeycomb fabric, otherwise known as “waffle” fabric, is usually made of cotton or microfibre. It has a three dimensional structure, which much resembles the honeycomb produced by bees. The ridges and hollows created by this structure make honeycomb fabric particularly absorbent, which is why it is often used to create towels, tea towels, and dressing gowns.
Imperial PVC - you don’t see all too much PVC nowadays, but it’s still a fabric that you should familiarise yourself with. It is essentially a woven polyester fabric that is then coated in PVC (polyvinyl chloride). It is extremely waterproof, but isn’t breathable.
Jacquard -jacquard fabric is a highly decorative fabric. However, its designs are not embroidered or printed. Instead, a jacquard weave is created by raising warp threads independently of other threads. This results in a truly decadent piece of material.
Jersey -jersey is a stretchy cotton cloth fabric. It is knit with a pure cotton or cotton and synthetic blend. While it is most commonly used for t-shirts and loose fitting dresses, it can be used for a variety of other purposes too.
Kersey - kersey is a form of woolen cloth. This coarse fabric is often associated with Medieval England, as it was commonly produced during this period.
Leather -leather is a natural material composed of the tanned animal rawhides and skin. It is most commonly created from cattle hide.
Leatherette -leatherette is synthetic imitation leather. It is cheaper than leather and also favoured by those who do not want to wear animal skins. It is easy to clean, durable, and doesn’t tend to fade with age.
Microfiber - microfiber is often used for sportswear and towels. It is essentially the finest quality polyester, with around 200 threads used per square inch of fabric. You might also hear microfiber referred to as “peachskin”, “microtwill”, or “micro sandwashed fabric”.
Modal - this is a semi-natural fibre spun from Beechwood cellulose. Modal doesn’t fibrillate or pill and is relatively resistant to fading or shrinking.
Mohair - this is a soft, silk-like yarn made from the wool of the Angora Goat. It is generally sewn onto a backing of sorts before being used in clothing or other projects.
Muslin- originating from India, muslin is a sheer fabric that is generally white. It has a firm, plain weave and can be sourced in various different weights. However, it is most commonly lightweight. Many dressmakers will make test pieces in muslin, as it is low cost, plain, and easy to handle.
Net (or Netting) -netting is a form of fabric construction that turns fabrics into open-mesh, semi-transparent materials. Net fabric can have various forms of mesh, such as square, hexagonal, or octagonal.
Nylon - chances are that you’ve come into contact with nylon before. It is strong, elastic, and dries extremely quickly. It also has good chemical resistance and can be blended with natural fibres for the sake of durability and stretch.
Organza -traditional, organza was made from silk. However, nowadays, organza formed from nylon, polyester, and rayon tend to be more common. It is lightweight, thin, and see-through, with a crisp quality. While it is often used to create clothing and bridalwear, it is also gaining popularity as a material for arts and crafts projects.
Pashmina - see: cashmere.
Pattern Fabric -pattern making is an essential part of the dressmaking process. Patterns are essentially templates that different parts of clothing can be cut from. Pattern fabric is any fabric that you use to create a pattern or mock up of a piece of clothing. It tends to be a cheaper and more plain alternative to carrying out a test run with the materials you intend to use for the final piece.
Polycotton -polycotton, as you can probably guess by the name, is a mix of natural cotton and polyester fibres. Usually, the material contains slightly more cotton than polyester, however 50/50 blends do exist too. It tends to be stronger and more versatile than pure cotton.
Polyester -polyester is a synthetic, man made polymer. Polyester fabric is any fabric that is composed of polyester yarns of fibres. It is extremely common and widely used. It is durable and resistant to shrinking or stretching.
Poplin -poplin is generally composed of 100% cotton, but some poplin poly-cotton blends do exist. It has a distinctive, ribbed texture due to its tightly closed weave. It is lightweight, but still retains strength.
Qiviut - this textile fibre is made from the inner wool of the Muskox. This animal has two layers of coat - the qiviut is its softer, woolier, undercoat, which is shed each spring.
Rayon -see: “viscose”.
Rib -rib fabric is any fabric that alternates in higher and lower rows. It is aesthetically similar to corduroy, but it is much less sturdy. While corduroy is great for trousers, rib fabric tends to be preferable for tops and other items that require a little more movement and flexibility.
Rib (Mini) -put simply, mini rib fabric is rib fabric that simply has smaller ribs. Quite the tongue twister.
Satin -while satin may seem very similar to silk, it is not actually a raw material. Instead, it is a type of weave. It has a smooth and lustrous nature, making it perfect for luxury clothing.
Scuba -scuba is the material that is used to create scuba diver’s wetsuits and outfits. However, it is making its way into day to day fashion and you can now see scuba fabric skirts and dresses on the high street. It is stretchy, flattering, and provides support.
Sequin - sequin fabric is any fabric that has sequins attached to it. These add a touch of shine and sparkle to the material! You will have to take care when sewing sequin fabric, as you don’t want your needle to go directly through sequins - this will cause them to crack or could damage your needle.
Sheeting- sheeting is material that comes in widths that are sufficient to create larger items, such as bedding. It is durable and, importantly, machine washable. Sheeting fabric tends to either be 100% cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester. The thread count attached to sheeting material can indicate how soft or strong the sheeting is.
Spandex -spandex is a lightweight, synthetic fibre that has a whole lot of stretch to it. It is popular for sportswear, swimwear, and lingerie, as it does not restrict the wearer’s movement.
Suede - suede is made from the skins of animals. This form of leather is notable for its soft, brushed down surface and can come in a variety of colours.
Suede (Faux) -faux suede is an alternative form of suede opted for by animal lovers. It also holds the benefit of a lower likelihood of matting or fraying.
Twill -twill is a form of cotton that has been weaved in a manner that leaves diagonal lines on its surface. This can lead to the left or the right. Zig zag twill and herringbone twill are also pretty popular options.
Viscose -viscose, often marketed as “rayon”, is one of the few materials that we find difficult to categorise as “natural” or “synthetic”. It is made from wood pulp, which goes through a man-made manufacturing process. It has a silky feel, is inexpensive, and drapes well. Bear in mind that it does need to be dry cleaned.
Velour -velour is soft and plush. It is generally composed of cotton and its pile is created by cutting across looped threads in a specialised weaving process.
Velvet - velvet is a distinctively soft fabric. It is a woven, tufted fabric with evenly distributed cut threads and an extremely dense pile.
Velvet (Crushed) - crushed velvet is a form of velvet with a nap pointing in different directions in irregular patches
Waffle - see: “honeycomb”.
Wool -wool is a natural material sourced from the wool of sheep. Once sheared from the sheep, it is processed into fibres that can then be knitted into sheets of fabric.
Wool (Boiled) -boiled wool is wool that has been boiled. But why would manufacturers carry out this process? Well, when wool is boiled, its fibres shrink and become compressed. This creates a tighter and more felt-like material.
Youghal Lace- we are all familiar with lace. Youghal lace is a needle lace hailing from Ireland.
Zibeline - if you’re looking for a thick, soft fabric with a long nap, zibeline should be your first port of call. It is luxurious and full-bodied.