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This article explores common fabric names you’ll come across when shopping, what the fabric is like, uses, and images. Note: “fabric” is fiber + how it’s woven or knitted together. Eg. cotton is a “fiber”, but cotton velvet and quilting cotton are “fabrics” because they include the construction. While we’ll focus mostly on construction methods in this article, some specific fibers are discussed as well.
We referred a lot to the Textilepedia book for this article, so if you want a printed copy to reference then this is a good book to get. Alongside ‘Fabric for Fashion: The Swatchbook’ if you want to feel real swatches of common fabrics.
Click a fabric name to jump to a more detailed description, uses, and photos.
- Acrylic: soft, fluffy fiber often used in sweater-knits and cozy blankets
- Batik: a plain-weave fabric that has been decorated using a wax-resist method to mask multiple colors as it’s dyed. The fabric is usually lightweight and crisp but this can vary.
- Batiste: a semi-sheer fabric with a plain weave that’s often used in lightweight garments or curtains – it’s light and floaty with a bit of structure.
- Bengaline: a strong, dense fabric with a firm stretch. Often used for work uniforms or stretch trousers.
- Boucle: soft, thick fabric woven from textured yarn, often used for jackets and coats.
- Broadcloth: medium-weight fabric that is tightly woven and dense – can be used for garments but is a common choice for sheets and bedding as well.
- Brocade: intricately woven fabric where the design is created using yarns of different colors rather than printed. Brocade is often dense and thick, but if woven in silk it can still be drapey. Used for jackets and upholstery applications.
- Broderie anglais / eyelet: embroidered fabric that employs thread to reinforce areas where fabric is removed, creating a lace-like effect. Commonly used as an overlay.
- Calico: plain-woven, lightweight yet firm fabric that can feel rather rough. You’ll usually find that some of the hulls from the cotton plant remain in the fabric. Used for practice garments.
- Canvas: firm, densely woven fabric often used for items like tote bags or industrial applications such as dropcloths.
- Challis: lightweight, woven fabric with a good drape – useful for summer dresses and blouses.
- Chambray: a woven fabric that, like denim, has a white weft and blue (or other colored) warp – combined to create a visually unique fabric that is often lightweight and crisp. Often used in shirts.
- Charmeuse: fabric produced using a satin weave which usually has a nubby crepe texture on the back. It has a fluid drape and is often used in dresses.
- Chenille: a yarn that has been prepared by spinning in short lengths of a secondary fiber to create a ‘pile’ when it’s woven or knit. The resulting fabric is soft, nubby, and often thick – common in upholstery weights as it’s fairly durable.
- Chiffon: lightweight, sheer woven fabric with a lot of drape, commonly used in layers for formal gowns.
- Chino / drill: twill-woven fabric often used for pants, uniforms, and workwear.
- Chintz: fabric that has been printed or painted with block printing, as opposed to screen printing, using a method that dates back to the 16th century. The fabric is usually a dense, fine calico.
- Corduroy: fabric that’s woven with a pile that is separated into ‘wales’ – parallel strips that protrude from the surface like a series of ridges. Often used as a ‘bottom weight’ for applications like pants or overalls.
- Crepe de chine: a lightweight crepe fabric often used in blouses.
- Crepe: a textured fabric with a bouncy, heavy drape – can be light or heavyweight and is commonly used in dresses.
- Damask: a traditional woven fabric with a reversible front and back. It is usually made in heavier upholstery weights and used as curtains or furniture coverings.
- Denim: a workwear fabric woven with a twill weave which results in a strong, durable fabric that wears well over time – used most commonly in jeans.
- Dobby: a woven fabric with small geometric patterns or textures – often used in blouses and lightweight dresses.
- Double gauze: two layers of very lightweight, loosely woven fabric that have been attached to each other during weaving using a series of regular ‘picks’ to produce a thick, bouncy, lightweight fabric that is often used in babywear and blankets.
- Double jersey: another name for ‘interlock’ – double layered knitting that appears the same on both sides and is used for thicker, stretch garments like lounge pants or tops.
- Duck: thick, sturdy woven canvas used for workwear applications like jackets and work pants.
- Faux fur: fabric made to look like fur. It’s usually made from polyester.
- Faux leather: fabric made to look like leather. It’s made from a non-animal source such as a petroleum product or more recently plant matter like cactus or pineapple vegetation – it often has a base layer fabric on the reverse side.
- Felt: non-woven fabric made by mechanically tangling fibers into an evenly layered mat.
- Flannel: woven fabric that’s ‘brushed’ to give it softness. Common in heavier-weight winter shirts.
- Fleece: soft, warm fabric often used in jackets or blankets. It’s fuzzy on both sides.
- French terry: thicker fabric that appears knit on one side and has terrycloth loops on the reverse. It’s used in loungewear and sweatsuits.
- Gabardine: a tightly woven fabric with a twill weave. It’s firm, strong, and dense – a popular choice for coats and suits.
- Gauze: any sheer and very lightweight fabric, usually with a very open weave.
- Georgette: a semi-sheer, lightweight fabric with a crepe finish that looks matte, rather than shiny. This fabric has a gentle drape and is often used in full-gathered skirts and formal dresses.
- Gingham: a woven fabric consisting of two colors (usually white and one other color) in a check. Can be woven into very lightweight or heavier-weight fabrics.
- Goretex: a proprietary multi-layer performance fabric designed to be breathable yet waterproof. Used in rain jackets.
- Hemp: fabric made from the stalks of the cannabis sativa plant. It’s similar to linen, although it can also be reconstituted using a viscose process. The resulting fabric will feel either slubby, thick, and opaque like linen, or drapey and soft like viscose.
- Herringbone: a variety of twill weave where the diagonal pattern reverses over a repeat, appearing to create a subtle zig zag pattern in the cloth.
- Hessian: A finer grade of jute fiber used to create similar fabric that’s a bit less coarse, but still too coarse to be used in garments.
- Interlock jersey: Double-layered knitting that appears the same on both sides and is twice as thick as single-knit jersey. Often used in sweatpants and sweatshirts.
- Jacquard: This word is often used to describe ornately woven fabrics that use multiple colors that appear in reverse on the opposite side, but it can refer to any fabric that has been woven on a Jacquard loom.
- Jersey / single knit: fabric knit from a single strand that has a ‘knit’ side and a ‘purl’ side. Common in t-shirts.
- Jute: rough fiber made from the jute or sisal plant – you might know this fiber as ‘burlap’.
- Khadi: Natural, hand-spun, hand-woven fabric favored for year-round wear in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
- Lace: woven decorative patterns – often floral – that are created using the fabric itself rather than printed on.
- Lame: a woven fabric in which thin strips of metallic fiber are woven with other fibers to create a shimmery result. Often used in formal garments. This fabric can be a bit scratchy, especially if there are exposed seams.
- Lawn: lightweight, semi-sheer fabric often seen in lightweight summer garments.
- Leather: animal skin or hide that has been treated and prepared to be used by humans.
- Lyocell: a fiber created using a variety of the viscose production method – has higher tensile strength and a better ability to absorb moisture.
- Mesh: a word to describe multiple varieties of fabric that are constructed with a pattern of holes.
- Microfiber: a soft, very thin polyester fiber that can be woven into a variety of different soft and drapey fabrics.
- Minky: Soft, silky fabric very similar to velour, but the pile is directional. Common in baby accessories like blankets and soft toys, less common in garments as it has minimal stretch.
- Muslin: a coarse woven fabric usually made from unbleached cotton. Popular as a ‘test’ fabric in patternmaking.
- Neoprene: synthetic rubber laminated between two layers of fabric (often nylon) to prevent tearing. Neoprene is insulative – often used in wetsuits.
- Net: any mesh-type fabric created with a pattern of holes.
- Nylon: a man-made fiber that can be spun into a variety of fabrics such as tights, shapewear, activewear, and sporting goods.
- Oilcloth: Fabric (often cotton canvas) that has been treated with a mixture of chemicals to make it water resistant. Sometimes often called ‘oilskin’.
- Organdie: lightweight, sheer fabric that feels crisp and has minimal drape.
- Organza: lightweight, floaty fabric that has a springy structure and minimal drape.
- Pima cotton: a particular species of cotton plant that has a longer fiber length than other varieties.
- Plaid (including tartan): a patterned weaving design made by changing the colors of the warp and weft thread to create a geometric design where the colors overlap.
- Poplin: densely woven crisp fabric common in shirtmaking.
- Quilting cotton: plain, balanced woven fabric often with colorful prints and designs. Not much drape. Used in the making of quilts.
- Rib knit: textured knit fabric with generous stretch and recovery. Often used in cuffs and collars but can be used as an entire garment.
- Ripstop: a weave construction that adds a regular grid of thicker fibers that help keep potential rips from growing larger.
- Sandwashed: post-construction treatment of fabric that abrades the surface to create a soft, peach-skin type texture.
- Sateen: a diagonal weave effect that creates a smooth finish, more frequently seen on cottons such as sateen sheets.
- Satin crepe: Satin fabric that has a nubby finish on the reverse side. It’s usually thicker than regular satin and can sometimes have a bit of stretch.
- Satin: a shiny, smooth weave that results in a drapey fabric with a solid weight. Used in formal gowns.
- Seersucker: thin, lightweight woven fabric that has a unique puckered texture. Often used in casual summer clothing for hot seasons.
- Sequins: small round spangles that are stitched to fabric through a central hole to give sparkle and shine to special occasion fabrics.
- Sherpa: faux sherpa is a faux fur variety that imitates a sheepskin. It feels soft and warm and is often used to line hoods or entire jackets.
- Spandex / lycra / elastane: an additive that’s used to give fabrics excellent stretch and recovery. Often used in swimwear and activewear.
- Suede: This can be either a type of leather or a type of microfiber fabric. Suede fabric is usually knit and is soft, thick, and has a firm stretch.
- Supima cotton: Supima is a brand of American-grown cotton. It has a longer staple fiber than other cottons which the organization says provides better strength and softness.
- Taffeta: crisp, lightweight fabric with a lot of body. Used in structured garments where drape isn’t desired.
- Tana lawn: very finely woven cotton that has a smooth, fluid drape and feels almost like silk. Used in lightweight tops and dresses.
- Terry cloth: Looped fabric often made from cotton. Used in towels.
- Ticking: a dense, tightly woven twill fabric with a signature stripe. Very hard-wearing and often used in upholstery and home applications.
- Tricot: knit fabric made on a tricot-warp loom. This fabric can be very lightweight and sheer without losing its strength properties, and it’s resistant to snags and runs.
- Tulle: netting material that comes in a variety of stiffnesses. Useful for tutus, petticoats, and garments where a lot of body is required without a lot of weight.
- Tweed: fabric woven with ‘inclusions’ – flecks of other colors that add texture and visual interest to the fabric.
- Twill: a weave structure that results in a subtle diagonal stripe effect. It’s harder-wearing than plain weave fabrics. Often seen in workwear like jeans.
- Velvet / velveteen / velour: textured fabrics with a soft pile. Each one is slightly different in terms of construction, softness, pile height, and stretch.
- Vinyl: faux-leather alternative which often has a fabric backing and may or may not stretch.
- Voile: sheer, lightweight crisp fabric. Used for curtains and sheer garments.
- Waffle knit: a textured, soft knit stitch used to give fabric thickness and bounce without adding weight.
- Water resistant / repellant / proof: a coating applied to a substrate fabric (often nylon) that allows it to shed water without absorbing.
What is Acrylic? A synthetic fiber made from a variety of petroleum and coal-based chemicals. It has a wool-like appearance and can be used on its own or with other fibers.
Uses: Clothing (it’s commonly used as a substitute for, or additive with, wool), blankets, upholstery, and carpets.
What is Batik? A fabric dyeing technique originating in Indonesia where hot wax is applied to specific areas of the fabric to resist dye in layers before being washed out, resulting in a pattern.
Uses: Primarily used in clothing, but also for home decor, such as curtains, tablecloths, and bedspreads.
What is Batiste? A smooth, lightweight fabric with a dense yet soft hand.
Uses: A common choice for bedsheets, but it can also be used for crisp garments like structured blouses. It has a rich history as a base fabric for embroidery and smocking techniques.
What is Bengaline? A fabric made from a blend of silk, wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers, characterized by a gentle cross-wise texture called ‘grosgrain’. This is a thicker fabric mainly due to its heavier weft yarn.
Uses: Often used for dresses, skirts, and pants, as well as upholstery and home decor.
What is Boucle? A yarn with loops of different sizes, resulting in a textured, curly fabric.
Uses: Typically used for coats, jackets, and other outerwear, as well as for home decor, such as throw pillows and blankets.
What is Broadcloth? A densely woven, plain weave cotton fabric that is lightweight, smooth, and sturdy.
Uses: Often used for shirts, blouses, and dresses, as well as for home decor, such as tablecloths and napkins.
What is Brocade? A heavily decorated fabric, often metallic, with raised patterns that are made from a complex weaving process as opposed to surface decoration.
Uses: Typically used for formalwear, including evening gowns, jackets, and waistcoats, as well as for home decor, such as upholstery and drapes.
Broderie anglaise / eyelet:
What is Broderie anglaise? A cotton fabric with embroidered cutouts or eyelets integrated into a lace-like design. The patterns are often floral.
Uses: Summer clothing, such as dresses and blouses, as well as lingerie and home decor, such as curtains and bedding.
What is Calico? An undyed fabric with remains of cotton seeds woven in, in an unfinished natural-looking state. It’s a term commonly used in the UK. Americans may know this fabric better as “Muslin”.
Uses: commonly used to make mock-up or practice garments.
What is Canvas? A durable, plain weave fabric that’s thick, dense, and stiff.
Uses: Outdoor gear such as tents and backpacks. Home decor such as upholstery and drapes.
What is Challis? A lightweight, plain weave fabric with a very fluid drape and reasonable durability.
Uses: Dresses, blouses, and scarves. Home decor such as curtains and bedding.
What is Chambray? A lightweight, plain weave fabric similar to denim, but lighter in weight. It shares the same white weft/colored warp arrangement that denim does, though it does not share the twill weave.
Uses: Shirts, dresses, and skirts. Home decor such as curtains and tablecloths.
What is Charmeuse? A lightweight, satin weave fabric that has a glossy finish and a fluid drape. It tends to be lighter weight than other satin-weave fabric options, but it retains the very soft drape.
Uses: Dresses, blouses, and lingerie. Home decor such as pillowcases and sheets.
What is Chenille? A fabric made from a fuzzy yarn, characterized by a soft and plush texture.
Uses: Typically used for blankets, upholstery, and home decor, such as throw pillows and curtains.
What is it? A lightweight, sheer fabric with a slightly coarse texture. It’s often used in multiple layers to create a flowing effect.
Uses: Often used for formalwear, including bridal and bridesmaid dresses. It can also be used for lightweight blouses if a lining is used.
Chino / drill:
What is Chino? A twill fabric with a diagonal pattern. It’s often brushed or mercerized. It can also be called Khaki, though this generally refers to a particular color.
Uses: Pants, shorts, and skirts. Home decor such as slipcovers and upholstery.
What is Chintz? A cotton fabric that’s block-printed (rather than screen printed) with bright floral designs.
Uses: Upholstery, drapes, and bedding. Clothing like dresses and blouses.
What is Corduroy? A pile fabric with raised ribs (‘Pile’ means the fabric is made from loops that are cut.). The ribs run vertically and are evenly spaced. Corduroys are grouped based on how many ribs they have per inch:
- Feathercord: 20-25 ribs per inch.
- Pinwale: 16-23 ribs per inch.
- Regular wale: 14 ribs per inch.
- Wide wale: 6-10 ribs per inch.
- Broad wale: 3-5 ribs per inch. (source)
Uses: Often used for winter pants, jackets, and coats. Heavier weight versions can also be used for home decor like upholstery and cushions.
Crepe de chine:
What is Crepe de chine? A lightweight, silk fabric with a soft, crinkled, or ‘creped’ texture. Extremely floaty and light.
Uses: Often used for dresses, blouses, and scarves, as well as for lingerie and home decor like curtains and pillowcases.
What is Crepe? A fiber processing technique that over-twists the fiber so that it springs in on itself when woven. The resulting fabric is drapey, springy, opaque, but still lightweight. This is most commonly seen with wool, silk, or viscose.
Uses: Often seen in dresses and blouses but can also be made in heavier weights for pants and skirts.
What is Damask? A patterned fabric with a reversible design, typically made in one or two colors. Due to its high density, it is quite durable.
Uses: Often used for formalwear, including dresses and suits, as well as home decor like upholstery and drapes.
What is Denim? A sturdy workwear fabric, typically with a blue warp and white weft thread, and a twill weave (subtle diagonal ribs). For more info about denim, we have a whole article explaining its properties, history, and how to care for it. And here’s how to sew denim.
Uses: Most commonly seen in jeans and jean jackets, but can also be used in other garments. Upholstery applications include furniture coverings and pillows.
What is Dobby? A fabric with a small, geometric pattern woven into it. It is made on a special variety of loom called a dobby loom.
Uses: Shirts, blouses, and dresses. Home decor such as curtains and bedding.
What is Double gauze? A lightweight fabric made from two layers of cotton gauze, held together with small ‘picks’ that are used to connect the layers during the weaving process.
Uses: Often used for baby clothes, blankets, and dresses, as well as for lighter-weight home decor applications like curtains and pillowcases.
What is Double jersey? A knit fabric made from two layers of jersey that are intertwined in the construction process, resulting in a thick, opaque material with a firm stretch.
Uses: Often used for sweatshirts, hoodies, and dresses, as well as sportswear and activewear.
What is Duck? A heavy, canvas-like fabric that’s woven using a basket weave (two warp yarns and a single weft yarn) for a coarser, heavier finish.
Uses: Often used for workwear, such as overalls and aprons, as well as for home decor like upholstery and outdoor cushions.
What is Faux fur? A synthetic fabric made to resemble animal fur. It’s made from a substrate like polyester or nylon.
Uses: Often used for coats, jackets, and accessories, such as hats and scarves, as well as home decor like throw blankets and pillows.
What is Faux leather? A synthetic fabric made to resemble leather. It often has a fabric backing and a small amount of stretch.
Uses: Often used for jackets, bags, and upholstery. Thinner versions can be made into leggings or other garments and thicker versions have industrial applications.
What is Felt? A non-woven fabric made by mechanically entangling and compressing fibers together. Originally made from wool but it can also be made out of polyester or acrylic.
Uses: Often used for crafts, such as felt toys and ornaments, as well as hats, bags, and other accessories.
What is Flannel? A thick, soft, woven fabric that’s brushed after the construction is completed to create a soft and fuzzy surface. It’s ideal for cold weather.
Uses: Pajamas, shirts, bedding, baby clothes, and accessories.
What is Fleece? A fabric with a soft, fuzzy texture, often made from polyester. It is technically knit, although neither side displays a typical knit structure. Due to its synthetic nature it’s moderately water-resistant.
Uses: Cold-weather jackets, sweatshirts, and blankets. Outdoor gear such as hats and gloves.
What is French terry? A mid-weight to thick knit fabric with a soft, looped texture on one side and a smooth surface on the other. It’s not particularly stretchy but lycra is often added to give it more stretch.
Uses: Often used for sweatshirts, hoodies, and loungewear, as well as for sportswear and activewear.
What is Gabardine? A tightly woven fabric with a twill weave (diagonal lines). It has a durable, smooth finish and is best known for its use in the iconic Burberry trench coat. It’s typically made from wool or cotton.
Uses: Often used for suits, pants, and skirts, as well as outerwear like trench coats.
What is Gauze? A lightweight, sheer fabric with an open, delicate weave.
Uses: Often used for dresses, skirts, and blouses, as well as for medical supplies like bandages and dressings.
What is Georgette? A lightweight, semi-sheer fabric with a slightly crinkled texture and a fluid drape. It appears matte rather than shiny like satin.
Uses: Dresses, blouses, scarves, lingerie. Home decor such as curtains and drapes.
What is Gingham? A lightweight, woven fabric with a checkered pattern that’s created by alternating the warp and weft with two colors – usually white and one other color.
Uses: Often used for shirts, dresses, and skirts, as well as home decor like tablecloths and napkins.
What is Goretex? A waterproof, breathable fabric that’s made by layering several fabrics with different properties to result in a particular performance.
Uses: Often used for outdoor gear, such as jackets and pants, as well as footwear and accessories.
What is Hemp? A natural fiber fabric made from the stalks of the cannabis plant. This can either be processed directly for a fabric that feels very similar to linen, or it can be pulped and treated as cellulose fiber to create viscose.
Uses: Clothing such as shirts and pants. Home decor like curtains and upholstery. In its original form, it’s often lighter weight and a bit slubbier than linen.
What is Herringbone? A patterned fabric with a distinctive V-shaped weave that’s made with a variation of the twill weave. The resulting fabric is dense and strong, making it useful for workwear and outerwear.
Uses: Suits, jackets, and coats. Home decor such as upholstery and throw pillows. Any use case where durability is desired.
What is Hessian? A coarse, woven fabric made from the fibers of the jute, sisal or hemp plant. It’s also called burlap.
Uses: Often used for bags, such as shopping totes and beach bags. It’s also a popular fiber for natural rope. It’s too coarse for garments.
What is Interlock jersey? A knit fabric with a double-layered construction, resulting in a thicker material than regular jersey. This is a synonym for #25 – Double Jersey.
Uses: Often used for T-shirts, dresses, and baby clothes, as well as sportswear and activewear.
What is Jacquard? A fabric with a raised pattern woven into it, often featuring intricate designs. It’s named after the jacquard loom used to weave it. It’s often thick and dense with minimal drape.
Uses: Formal wear such as dresses and jackets. Home decor such as upholstery and drapery.
Jersey / single knit:
What is Jersey / single knit? A stretchy knit fabric made with a single set of needles, resulting in a smooth surface (the knit side) on one side and tiny loops on the other (the purl side). The selvedge edges have a tendency to roll in on themselves if left unfinished.
Uses: T-shirts, dresses, skirts, sportswear, and activewear.
What is Jute? A coarse, natural fiber fabric made from the stem of the jute plant. As with Hessian above, this fabric has many names, including burlap – and it can be made from many fibers.
Uses: Often used for bags, such as shopping totes and backpacks, as well as home decor like rugs and curtains.
What is Khadi? A handspun and handwoven fabric made from cotton, silk, or wool. Commonly used in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
Uses: Often used for traditional Indian clothing, such as sarees and kurtas, as well as for home decor like curtains and bedspreads
What is Lace? A delicate fabric with an open weave and intricate patterns that are woven into the fabric rather than decorated on the surface.
Uses: Dresses, lingerie, and bridal wear. Home decor such as tablecloths and doilies.
What is Lame? A fabric with metallic threads woven into it, often featuring a shiny or glittery appearance. Lame can either be partially or entirely made with these metallic threads. This fabric can be a bit scratchy, especially if there are exposed seams.
Uses: Often used for evening wear, such as dresses and jackets, as well as throw pillows and table runners.
What is Lawn? A lightweight, semi-sheer fabric with a crisp finish. It feels smooth to the touch and has a small amount of drape but still a surprising amount of body for how thin it is.
Uses: Often used for summer dresses, blouses, skirts, baby clothes, and accessories.
What is Leather? A durable, flexible material made from the skin of animals, such as cows, goats, and sheep.
Uses: Often used for jackets, bags, and shoes. Upholstery and home decor.
What is Lyocell? A sustainable fabric made from wood pulp that’s processed by a variation of the viscose technique. It has a soft and smooth texture and is stronger and more absorbent than viscose.
Uses: Shirts, dresses, and pants, as well as bedding and towels.
What is Mesh? A fabric with an open weave and a net-like appearance. This description can apply to a variety of different fabric construction techniques.
Uses: Sportswear such as jerseys and shorts. Privacy curtains.
What is Microfiber? A synthetic fabric made from fibers that are thinner than a single strand of silkworm’s silk. This creates an incredibly soft and lightweight texture. It is extremely absorbent and also feels very soft against the skin.
Uses: Cleaning cloths, bedding, athletic wear, baby items.
What is Minky? A plush, synthetic fabric with a soft and fuzzy texture, often used for blankets and baby accessories. It looks quite like velour, but it has a directional nap whereas velour’s nap stands straighter. It has minimal stretch so isn’t used much for clothing.
Uses: Baby blankets, stuffed animals, throw pillows, and blankets.
What is Muslin? This can refer to two types of fabric. First, a calico-adjacent fabric often used for making clothing mockups; and second, a lightweight, plain-weave cotton fabric with a soft and delicate texture.
Uses: The first type is used for clothing mockups (“toiles”). The second is often used for baby clothes, curtains, and bedding.
What is Neoprene? A synthetic rubber fabric faced with two layers of fabric. It has waterproof and insulating properties so it suits wetsuits and other athletic gear.
Uses: Often used for wetsuits, gloves, and boots, as well as laptop sleeves and other protective cases.
What is Net? Any fabric with an open weave and sheer appearance – this is a descriptive word that can apply to a lot of fabrics.
Uses: Often used for wedding veils, tutus, and other costumes, as well as curtains.
What is Nylon? A synthetic fiber made from petroleum-based fibers, with a smooth and durable texture. It can be spun into a big variety of different fabric types which inform what types of items can be made from it.
Uses: Often used for stockings, swimwear, athletic wear, umbrellas, and luggage.
What is Oilcloth? A cotton fabric with a coating of oil-based chemicals or (in more modern applications) vinyl, making it waterproof and easy to clean.
Uses: Often used for tablecloths, placemats, and tote bags, as well as outdoor cushions and umbrellas.
What is Organdie? A lightweight, sheer fabric made from cotton or silk, often with a crisp finish. Some have intricate patterns.
Uses: Wedding dresses, blouses, skirts, curtains, and tablecloths.
What is Organza? A lightweight, sheer fabric with a plain weave and a crisp and slightly stiff texture. It is very stiff for its weight and holds a lot of body.
Uses: Often used for formal wear, such as dresses and voluminous blouses. Home decor such as sheer curtains.
What is Pima cotton? A high-quality, long-staple cotton with a soft and luxurious feel, often used for clothing and bedding. Pima is a specific species of cotton – how this fabric is treated will vastly impact how it feels and what it’s used for.
Uses: Often used for t-shirts, dresses, and sheets, as well as for luxury bath towels and bathrobes.
Plaid (including tartan):
What is Plaid? A pattern of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines in multiple colors, often associated with Scottish heritage. This woven pattern is made by changing the colors and number of weft and warp yarns and can be made in a variety of weights.
Uses: Often used for clothing, such as kilts, skirts, and jackets. Home decor such as curtains and blankets.
What is Poplin? A lightweight, plain-weave cotton or cotton blend fabric with a smooth and slightly shiny finish. It’s crisp, not drapey.
Uses: Often used for dress shirts, dresses, and skirts. Home decor such as tablecloths and napkins.
What is Quilting cotton? A medium-weight, 100% cotton fabric with a tight weave, often used for quilting as the name suggests. It’s frequently decorated with vibrant designs and patterns. It doesn’t have much drape and has a “dry” feel.
Uses: Often used for quilts, but it can also be used for clothing with some structure (dresses and blouses), and for home decor such as curtains and pillowcases.
What is Rib knit? A fabric with a distinct vertical ribbed texture. Rib knit items are extremely stretchy across the rib and they recover well.
Uses: Mainly used for cuffs and waistbands, but rib knit can be used to make entire garments that are fitted and extremely stretchy.
What is Ripstop? A fabric with a crossing pattern of squares woven into it, making it resistant to tearing and ripping.
Uses: Often used for outdoor gear such as tents and backpacks. Clothing like jackets and pants. I also make my reusable shopping bags out of ripstop to avoid any unhappy spillage accidents!
What is Sandwashed? A fabric that has been treated with sand, a chemical, or another abrasive material to give it a soft, worn-in texture. The resulting texture can sometimes be described as ‘peach fuzz’ although this does depend on the type of fabric being treated.
Uses: Clothing such as dresses and skirts. Bedding and home decor, such as curtains and pillowcases.
What is Sateen? A fabric weave that results in a glossy, satin-like finish on one side. It’s often made from cotton or a cotton blend.
Uses: Often used for bedding, such as sheets and pillowcases. Clothing such as dresses and blouses.
What is Satin crepe? A fabric that combines the smooth, shiny texture of satin on one side and a crinkled crepe texture on the other. These fabrics are often heavier than non-crepe satins, which emphasizes their drape.
Uses: Often used for evening wear, such as dresses and skirts, as well as lingerie and bridal wear. They are lovely when used for bias cut designs.
What is Satin? A fabric weave with a smooth and glossy surface made by ‘floating’ weft threads to create a silky texture.
Uses: Often used for formal wear, such as dresses and gowns, as well as lingerie and bedding.
What is Seersucker? A fabric with a uniquely puckered, striped texture. It’s often made in very lightweight cotton making it quite breathable and airy.
Uses: Warm-weather clothing such as suits and dresses. Bedding and home decor such as curtains and tablecloths.
What are Sequins? Small, shiny disks that are sewn onto fabric to create a decorative effect. Sequins used to be made from gelatine but are now a variety of plastics.
Uses: Often used for evening wear, such as dresses and jackets, as well as costumes.
What is Sherpa? Sherpa is a fabric that mimics sheepskin. It’s thick, has a fabric or suede backing, and its front side has a curly faux fur finish. It’s made from polyester or acrylic.
Uses: Sherpa is commonly used as a lining for jackets, coats, and hoodies. Blankets, throws, and other home decor items.
Spandex / lycra / elastane:
What are Spandex, Lyrca, and Elastane? These are three varieties of a synthetic fibre that add stretch and the ability to retain shape to fabric. It’s rarely seen on its own, but rather mixed in with other fibers eg. cotton lycra t-shirts.
Uses: Spandex is often used in activewear, swimwear, and other form-fitting clothing where stretch and comfort are important.
What is Suede? Suede can either be the underside or cut-layer of animal leather, or a synthetic fabric that’s made to mimic this type of leather. It has a brushed finish and often a knit backing for stretch and recovery.
Uses: Clothing, footwear, and accessories. Upholstery and home decor.
What is Supima Cotton? a type of cotton that’s grown in the United States. It’s known for its extra-long staple fibers which make it softer, stronger, and more durable than regular cotton.
Uses: Clothing items including T-shirts and dress shirts. Sheets, towels, bathrobes, and other home textiles.
What is Taffeta? A crisp, smooth fabric that makes a distinctive rustling sound when it moves. It’s full of body and holds its shape well. It’s made from silk or synthetic fibers.
Uses: Formalwear such as ball gowns, evening dresses, and wedding dresses. Curtains, upholstery, and other home decor items.
What is Tana Lawn? A type of lightweight cotton fabric that was first developed by the British textile company Liberty in the early 20th century. They report that it’s as smooth and fluid as silk.
Uses: Clothing such as blouses, dresses, and skirts. Quilting, patchwork, and other craft projects.
What is Terry Cloth? A soft, absorbent fabric with loops on both sides, giving it a plush texture. It’s quite absorbent and also very soft. It’s normally made from cotton.
Uses: Towels, bathrobes, and other bath and spa accessories. Cleaning cloths, bibs, and other household items.
What is Ticking? A durable, tightly-woven fabric for bedding and upholstery. Its thickness and durability makes it useful for applications where it needs to provide a barrier – such as keeping feathers from poking out through a feather pillow. It’s typically made from cotton or a cotton blend.
Uses: Mattress covers, pillowcases, bedspreads, slipcovers, chair cushions, and other home decor items.
What is Tricot? A type of stretchy knit fabric that has a smooth and silky texture. It’s knit slightly differently to jersey fabric and this construction makes it more resistant to runs and snags. It’s made from synthetic fibers such as polyester or nylon.
Uses: Tricot is often used in lingerie, swimwear, and other apparel items that require a stretchy and lightweight fabric. It’s also used for lining jackets and other outerwear.
What is Tulle? A lightweight, sheer fabric made from nylon, silk, or rayon. It can be made in a variety of densities and stiffnesses which will impact how it’s used.
Uses: Wedding dresses, veils, and ballet tutus. Decorations such as table runners and chair sashes.
What is tweed? A rough, durable woolen fabric with a mottled appearance. Inclusions are often added to the fabric to add texture and speckles for visual interest. In this article I interviewed 2 tweed manufacturers who talk about tweed’s properties and uses in more detail.
Uses: Jackets, skirts, and suits, particularly for cold weather. It’s perhaps best known for the iconic Chanel jacket.
What is Twill? A textile weave with a distinctive diagonal pattern. It’s dense and durable but still lightweight.
Uses: Clothing items including pants, jackets, and skirts. Denim, for example, is a twill woven fabric.
Velvet / velveteen / velour:
What are Velvet, velveteen, and velour? All varieties of soft, plush fabric with a dense pile that gives it a luxurious appearance and feel. Velour is the only one among the group that stretches. Velvet tends to be softer and more luxurious while velveteen is more durable and suits home decor purposes. Here’s a more detailed comparison.
Uses: Formal clothing and home decor items such as upholstery and drapes.
What is Vinyl? A synthetic material made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that’s often used as a substitute for leather, but it can also be used as a coating on fabric or on its own.
Uses: Upholstery, clothing, and accessories such as bags and wallets.
What is Voile? A lightweight, semi-sheer fabric that’s durable, drapey, and moderately crisp but not outrageously so.
Uses: Blouses and dresses. Curtains and other home decor items.
What is waffle knit? A knit fabric with a distinctive texture that resembles the grid of a waffle iron – it’s made by alternating knits and purls in a sequence to produce a fabric that’s bouncy and squishy yet still reasonably lightweight.
Uses: Clothing items such as shirts, sweaters, dressing gowns, and blankets.
Water resistant / repellent / proof:
What is water resistant fabric? Any fabric that has been treated to resist or repel water. This can be a chemical process, a physical barrier (such as vinyl) or a combination of the two.
Uses: Used for outdoor clothing and gear such as raincoats and tents. Home decor items such as tablecloths and cushion covers.
What to read next:
- Denim Fabric 101: Types, How It’s Made, Care
- Tencel 101: What is it? Feels Like? Stretchy? Breathable?
This article was written by Kat Waters and edited by Sara Maker.
Kat Waters (author)
Kat has been sewing since her feet could reach the pedals, starting with quilts she made with her mom and eventually graduating to garments. She now makes everything she wears, occasionally teaches classes, and shares her projects on social media. Highlights include her wedding dress, shoemaking, and a love for almost any fabric that comes in hot pink! Read more…
- Textilepedia book by Fashionary.