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Fabric Glossary

Don't know your baize from your boucle?

At Higgs & Higgs we service a wide range of customers. From expert dressmakers, to those just starting out with a new hobby. If you're unsure of any terms used across our website, you can find their definitions below.

A comprehensive glossary of fabrics and trims, including information on fabric history and manufacturer.








A manufactured fibre formed by compound of cellulose. It resists shrinkage, moths and mildew, but is not a strong fabric as it breaks easily and has poor resistance to abrasion. It has a soft crisp feel and a lustrous face, which are it's signature characteristics.


A manufactured fibre that has a soft, wool-like feel, and uneven finish. The fibres create a strong weave that is machine washable, dryable and resists shrinkage.


A cutout fabric decoration attached to a larger piece of material, in order to add depth, designs or contrasting colours.


A design featuring interlinking diamond shapes of varying colours. It is thought to have been derived from the tartan of Clan Campbell, Argyll, Scotland.






A loose woolen fabric, with a finely cut nap on both sides. This heavily felted material is traditionally dyed either red or green, and is used for simple clothing, as well as drawer linings and tablecloths.


A natural sustainable fibre, which is absorbent and breathable. Bamboo's strength lends excellent durability to a fabric.


Bark Cloth
A printed, textured cotton fabric, popular between the 1930s to 1950s, featuring floral and leaf designs.


Basket Weave
A relatively simple weave involving two or more warp ends woven parallel to each other, resulting in a thatched texture.


A fabric dyeing technique originating in Indonesia, which uses wax resist molds to create designs. The wax is poured on a fabric, typically cotton, and allowed to harden in the shape of the desired design. The cloth is then dyed and the wax removed, with the remaining design in the original cloth colour. This process can be repeated for intricate design work, and the characteristic veined look of Batik is achieved when some dye leaks through cracks in the wax.


An extremely fine, semi-sheer, lightweight, and plain weave fabric. It is almost transparent and is usually made of cotton or cotton blends. In the UK this is more commonly known as lawn.


A fabric with a crosswise rib, traditionally made from silk, cotton or wool, but now predominantly made from acetate or polyester.


Fabric cut at a 45-degree angle to the selvedge, which gives it ‘stretch’ and fluidity. Bias binding is used to trim edges.



A combination of two or more fibres within the same yarn. Fabrics are often made from blended yarns to increase durability, stretch, stain resistance and cost efficiency.


From the French word meaning curled, boucle is a knit or woven fabric with loops that create an uneven, textured surface at intervals. Because of the fabric's looped, knotted surface, it has a very supple, bouncy hand.


A dense woolen cloth with a plain weave that is tightly woven and usually made from cotton or a cotton blend. It is heavier, lustrous, and soft, and made with a crosswise rib.


A thick, heavy fabric made with a Jacquard loom and a satin weave, most often featuring a raised floral pattern. Brocade is typically made from silk, rayon or nylon, and has a very Oriental look. It is often used in interiors, women’s wear and accessories.


A plain weave fabric usually made from cotton or linen that is stiffened with starch during the manufacturing process. Buckram is typically used in bookbinding and millenary.


A fabric bundle is a collection of fabric designs and/or colours that are usually chosen to compliment each other. These are usually sold in fat quarter bundles but can also be in other sizes.


A densely constructed, heavy weight, plain weave fabric with a coarse texture. It is also called jute, as it is made from jute and vegetable fibres.


Burn-out Velvet

The burnout look is created when fibre-eating chemicals are printed on the fabric instead of colour. The desired pattern is left imprinted in the velvet leaving the backing untouched.






A plain weave cotton material that is unbleached and still retains some of the natural vegetable matter normally extracted in the manufacturing process. Named for the town of Calicut in India, calico fabric is typically used for making quilts.


A lightweight plain weave cotton or linen cloth, slightly heavier than muslin.


Camel Hair
A premium luxury material, similar in look and feel to cashmere, made from the under wool of the camel. Extremely soft, camel hair is typically found in dressy jackets and overcoats.


A heavy-duty plain weave fabric. This is made from plied yarns and has an even weave.


The process of opening, disentangling, cleaning and then separating fibres to produce a continuous strand, which is then spun into a yarn. This is performed on a machine called a card.


Made from the soft undercoat of the Cashmere goat. Cashmere is a lightweight and luxurious fabric.


A plain woven fabric, typically made from cotton or synthetic fibres, that is often woven in checkered or striped patterns and has a frosted appearance. Chambray is usually made from blue and white yarns and used to make shirts, dresses and childrens clothing.


Chantilly Lace
A lace featuring a netted background with ornate, often dense embroidered floral patterns with outlines made from heavier threads.


Charm Quilt
A quilt made of small patches that have only one shape which is used repeatedly, but never using the same fabric more than once.


A luxurious, supple and silky fabric with a shiny face and a dull back, similar to satin but lighter in weight. This is usually made from rayon or cotton, but premium varieties are made from silk.


A soft and sheer woven cloth, often porous. Cheesecloth is often bleached white or is naturally off-white, and can be used for cooking and straining liquids.


A lightweight sheer airy fabric.


Calico cloth printed with large flamboyant designs, typically with a floral print. This plain-weave fabric is often starched for stiffness and calendered with wax to produce a smooth shiny surface. Fabric must be dry-cleaned, as the glazing will wash off with machine laundering.


Fabric dyed in colours that resist fading.


Combed Yarn
The process following carding; combing straightens fibres into parallel strands and removes any remaining impurities or short pieces, in order to further soften cotton yarns.



An exceptionally durable fabric, usually made of cotton or a cotton blend, composed of twisted fibres that, when woven, lie parallel to one another to form the cloth's distinct parallel ribbed pattern, a "cord." The number of ribs, or wales, per inch of fabric indicates the type of corduroy, with values ranging from a very wide 3 wales to pincords with 21 wales per inch.


Made from the soft fibers that grow around the seeds of the cotton plant. The fibers are spun into yarns to create a comfortable, breathable, machine washable fabrics that are the most widely used natural-fiber materials in the world.


A fine, almost gauzelike fabric made of synthetic or natural fibers that are twisted to give a slightly crinkled texture. It can be found in a variety of different weights and levels of sheerness. Crepes are dull with a harsh dry feel.


 A satin fabric in which the wrong side has the crinkled texture of crepe, while the right side has a smooth, shiny satin finish.


Crepe de Chine
Woven of hard spun silk yarn in the natural condition. The fabric has a somewhat crimpy or crinkled surface created by the highly twisted fibers.


From the French word meaning hook, crochet is the method of creating fabric from yarn using a crochet hook, a tool with a knobbed end used for pulling loops of yarn through other loops. Similar to knitting, but crochet only involves one active loop at a time.






A heavy fabric made from cotton, silk, linen, wool or synthetic yarns, typically used for draperies and home decor. Typically made using a satin weave, this reversible fabric is named for a luxurious silk fabric introduced through Damascus, Syria.


A strong, durable twill weave cotton fabric, originating in Nimes, France, made with different colored yarns in the warp and the weft. The weft passes under two or more warp fibers, which produces a diagonal ribbing found on the reverse of the fabric. The twill construction causes one color (blue is most common) to dominate the fabric's surface.


The twill weave cotton is blended with spandex to give the denim elasticity.


Types of weave using for decorations, featuring woven geometric patterns.


Double Knit
A heavier fabric in which two layers of looped fabric are woven together and cannot be separated. Manufactured using a double knit machine, which has two distinct sets of needles.


Duck Fabric
Duck fabric, or duck cloth, is a heavy-duty plain weave fabric.


Dupioni Silk
The silk yarns are made from the cocoon of two silk worms that have nested together. In spinning, the double strand is not separated, creating uneven yarns that give the fabric a crisp texture with irregular slubs. Also referred to as dupion or doupioni.


Dutch Linen Tape
A linen tape with a very strong weave that has little or no stretch. Dutch linen tape is used in bookbinding and currently very popular for making labels.






A stretchy yarn or fabric.


A calendering method of pressing designs or patterns onto a fabric using engraved rollers.


A type of needlework that involves sewing thread into a base fabric to create designs. Embroidery can be done by hand or by machine, and can use threads of varying thicknesses.


Fabric with patterned cutouts, edged with embroidered stitches as part of a design.






Fat Quarter
A cut piece of fabric that is a quarter of a metre or yard, which is made by cutting a half metre in half.


A non-woven fabric where the fibers are pressed, matted, and condensed together to form a compact material. It comes in varying weights and thicknesses, and because of its grain, felt can be cut any direction, and does not fray.


A soft twill weave, usually made from cotton or wool fabric that has been brushed or has a slightly napped surface.


The natural fiber, grown chiefly in Western and Eastern Europe that is used in the production of linen.


An all-wool or synthetic knit fabric with a deep soft pile. It provides good insulation without the too much weight or bulk.


Metal layering that adds shine, color or designs to the underlying fabric. often found on spandex and stretch fabrics.






A tight, twill weave that is wrinkle resistant and features diagonal ribbing. Worsted wool (woolen yarn) is the most common fiber used, but cotton, synthetic, or blended fibers are also popular.


A sheer fabric with a loose open weave that is usually made from cotton or silk.


A woven fabric created from highly twisted yarns creating a pebbly texture. It is thin and semi-sheer and is characterized by its crispness and exceptional strength.


A checkered pattern fabric featuring dyed and undyed fibers, most often made from cotton.


An extremely lightweight, sheer, shiny fabric, typically made from silk, similar to gauze.


A heavy, tightly woven ribbed fabric typically made from silk. Used in formal wear, neckties and popular for making ribbons.






From the Japanese for "soft as down", habotai is a lightweight, plain weave silk fabric. Lighter than shantung, it is also referred to as habotai.


A zigzag twill weave pattern, popular for dress shirts.


Herringbone Tape
A strong tape with a herringbone weave used for apron ties and bag handles.


A two-toned pattern featuring broken checks or pointed shapes, originating in Scotland. Popular in 1960's style jackets, suits and hats. Also referred to as dog's tooth.






A manual weaving style that involves resist dyeing the warp or weft threads before the fabric is created. Originating in Southeast Asia, ikat fabrics can be extremely ornate and intricate, often featuring detailed designs or larger pictures. The more difficult method of double ikat involves the dyeing of both the warp and weft threads.


Interfacing & Interlining
The fabric used between the inner and outer layers of a garment to enhance warmth, strength or shape. Interfacing fabrics come in fusible (pre-treated with glue and attached to the fabric with an iron) and sew-in varieties, in a wide array of weights.






A weaving method invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard, which involves a machine attached to a loom that can electronically select and control individual warp threads. The Jacquard loom is used to create intricately woven fabrics, including brocade and damask. Silk, polyester and rayon are commonly used in the Jacquard process.


A general term for any knit garment or fabric, the material has length-wise ribs on the right side, and cross-wise ribs on the wrong side. It is crease-resistant, very resilient, and has the flexibility and stretch of knit. Usually made from wool, cotton or silk, but synthetics are often used as well.


A coarse textile made from the stems of plants. Popular today for many interior project that need a rustic feel or look.






A yellowish earth tone color, also a rugged twill weave fabric, often in the same dusty brown color. First named and utilized in 1848 by English soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.


The process of interlocking loops of yarn to form a fabric. Warp knitting loops yarn across a fabric, while weft knitting loops several yarns down the length of a fabric.






A decorative open fabric made through knitting or looping yarns together. Lace also refers to design work on top of a base fabric, resulting in a raised pattern.

The first clippings of young sheep, about seven or eight months old, are mostly used in high-grade fabrics. They are woven to create a warm, durable wool that is elastic, soft, and resilient.


Pronounced "lamay", lame is a shiny eveningwear fabric made from metallic yarns.


A fine, somewhat porous fabric made from cotton or linen.

A material created through the tanning of animal hides, typically from cattle. Leather can feature course or smooth finishes, and takes dye well. Used for jackets, pants and upholstery.


This fabric is made from the fibers of the flax plant, and when woven, this extremely cool and breathable material is stronger and more lustrous than cotton. Creases.


Linen Look
A cotton fabric with a weave and finish that looks like linen. Does not crease as easily as cotton.


A machine or frame used to weave cloth. The earliest looms featured vertical warp yarns affixes to two ends of the frame, while the horizontal weft yarns were manually woven through. Today there are many different types of looms, from the hand looms still in use in developing countries to computer-controlled Jacquard looms that are able to control minute movements in the weaving process with speed and efficiency.


A brand name of a type of metallic yarn, which is a polyester fiber with a vaporized layer of aluminum applied.


The trademark name for DuPont's brand of Spandex fiber.






A handmade cotton fabric originating in Madras, India, featuring bright, bold striping and checked patterns.


Matte Jersey
A rayon or silk blended fabric with elastic that is very lightweight with a soft feel and dull crepe texture.


Made from wool fibers, sometimes combined with synthetics, in either a twill or satin weave. It is heavy, closely sheared, compacted, and tightly woven. First used as a hunting cloth, the fabric resembles wool felt.


The process developed in 1844 by John Mercer to give a shiny, smooth finish to cotton fabric. First, the fabric is singed, then passed through a solution of caustic soda and finally rinsed. The process makes the fibers of the fabric swell, giving them increased strength and an increased ability to hold dye.


Merino Wool
The wool from the Australian merino sheep, generally regarded as the finest wool fibers in the world.


A porous fabric with a net-like appearance.


Made from extremely fine nylon or polyester filaments that when woven into textiles, makes them exceptionally soft while retaining their shape.


The long, lustrous hair from the Angora goat, renowned for its durability and strength.


The name refers to the short, silky fur of a mole, but is actually a heavy durable cotton fabric with a short, thick, velvety nap. The surface is smooth and dense, resembling suede.


A sheer, lightweight cotton fabric that is produced mainly in India. This plain weave material can be used a thin blankets or as a backing for quilts.






The nap of a fabric is the direction in which the sheared pile faces, and can be manipulated with combing or brushing.


A very porous, open fabric similar to mesh and often made with synthetic fibers.


Elastic and quick-drying, this is abrasion-resistant thermoplastic material has good chemical resistance and blends with natural fibers for durability and stretch.






Oil Cloth
A plain-weave cotton fabric, which is treated with a solution of linseed oil (an extract of the flax plant) and a coloring, and then glazed to ensure water-resistance.


Oilcloth has been mostly replaced with plastic coated cloth, and was popular for tablecloths and rainwear.


A fabric or ribbon dyed with a variegated colour in light and dark shades of a single hue.


A stiffened, sheer, lightweight, transparent fabric, usually made from tightly twisted cotton or polyester yarns, with a crisp finish. Will withstand repeated launderings and still preserve the crisp texture.


Tightly twisted silk yarns make an extremely crisp, sheer, lightweight fabric.


Organza was traditionally the silk version of organdy, but is now made from other fibers as well.






A swirled design named for the town of Paisley, Scotland, which was one of the major producers of the fabric in the early to mid-19th century. Often found on quilts, curtains and summery clothing.


Panné Velvet
A highly lustrous, lightweight fabric, in which the pile is higher than velvet, but shorter than plush, and has been flattened. Has good stretch across the grain.


Similar to cashmere, pashmina is the soft, fine under hair from a variety of goat found in Central Asia.


A soft, smooth plain weave fabric made from carded and combed cotton yarns. Often found in summer wear and light bedding.


Picot Edge
A decorative edge found on the edges of ribbons trims and bias binding.


From the Latin word for hair, pile is the extra yarn that protrudes from the surface of a fabric. Pile can be shaved and shaped, as with velvet and corduroy, or can be left uncut as with terry cloth.


Pima Cotton
Named after the Pima Indians who cultivated this plant in the Southwestern United States, Pima cotton is similar to Egyptian cotton, as it has exceptionally strong, long, combed fibers, dyes well and has a silky soft hand.


A medium-weight, tightly woven cotton or cotton blend fabric generally recognizable by its waffle weave texture.


Pique knit
A knitted fabric that has a similar waffle weave to pique that is used for sports shirts.


Also referred to as tartan cloth, plaid originated in the Scottish Highlands as a way to differentiate the different clans. Once denoting the garment itself, plaid is now used to refer to the specific crisscross designs and can be applied to a wide array of fabrics and uses.


A plain weave cotton fabric with permanent creases and wrinkles that have been produced through the application of a caustic solution in order to shrink specific areas. Similar in appearance to seersucker, plisse fabric is often used for bedspreads and dresses.


Velvet with a deep, soft pile, plush is easily found in children’s' stuffed animals. From the French word peluche meaning hairy, plush fabric can also be knitted for a bit of stretch.


When two or more threads are twisted together before weaving, increasing yarn density and weight.


Condensation polymers combine to develop synthetic fibers that make this strong, quick-drying textile that does not wrinkle and holds its shape well.


Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
A waterproof, rubbery textured man-made fabric often found in outdoor upholstery, costumes and specialty apparel.


This plain-woven usually made from cotton or poly cotton and used in the production of clothes for all occasions.






Generally made from 100% cotton and featuring novelty designs or specific images, used for making quilts.






Made from the cellulose fiber viscose, it usually has good drape, soft hand and is highly absorbent.


Embellished with beads, tiny pearls, ribbon, etc. sewn on, usually by hand: said as of lace for bridal gowns.


From the French word riban, a narrow fabric used for bows and wrapping.


Rip-Stop Nylon
A lightweight, wind and water resistant textile. Double yarns create a box pattern to provide extra strength and resistance to tearing. Commonly used in outdoor clothing and equipment as well as outdoor flags because of its extreme durability.






An extremely heavyweight canvas fabric, resistant to the elements, that is used for ship's sails.


A silky, lustrous satin weave fabric predominantly made from cotton. Sateen often has an increased thread count for extra softness and durability.


A smooth lustrous, shiny fabric with a dull back that has a superb drape and sheen. It is characterized by a weaving technique that forms a minimum number of interlacing’s in a fabric. Satin differs from sateen in that it is woven using filament fibers such as silk or nylon whereas sateen’s are woven using short-staple fibers like cotton.


A fabric distinguishable by its crepe-like, crinkled stripes, which are made by weaving some of the warp threads slack and others tight. This fabric is traditionally cotton, but can be made from nylon, silk and other yarns, and is typically worn in the summer.


The firm side edges of the fabric running parallel to the warp.


Small metal or plastic discs that are sewn or otherwise affixed to a fabric to add depth, texture or decoration.


This medium-weight, refined, plain-weave fabric is characterized by a slubbed effect, similar to Dupioni silk, but with a more sophisticated and polished appearance.


Sheer Fabric
A semi-transparent fabric often treated to have varying levels of crispness or body. Sheer fabrics are often used as volumisers underneath other fabrics, as draperies, or as sleeves for eveningwear.


The fabric is woven using the natural filament fiber produced by the silkworm in the construction of its cocoon. Silk is a naturally strong, lustrous, and fine fiber that produces long-lasting, versatile, and high-quality multi-purpose fabrics.


A form of embroidery in which fabric is gathered and folded to provide increased stretch and comfort. Developed in the Middle Ages, smocking requires soft, lightweight, durable fabric, often batiste, voile or lawn, and is typically used for collars, cuffs and bodices. Smocking often reduces the fabric's original width by up to two thirds.


Made with elastic fibers that can be stretched up to five times its original length without damage. When blended with natural fibers, it creates a lightweight and flexible fabric with great shape retention.


Stone Wash
A method of creating a peached or distressed surface on a fabric by means of rubbing or grating with sand or pebbles. Often used on denim to create a "worn" look.


Leather that has been given a velvety nap.


A fiber, which has been man-made through the use of chemical combinations. Synthetic fibers often have increased durability, strength and resistance to the elements.






With a smooth feel, and a crisp hand, taffeta can be made from a variety of fibers including silk and rayon. It has a subtle horizontal ribbing effect and provides lots of body and an ultimate rustle.


A heavy, often ornately designed textile typically used for wall hangings and large draperies


The traditional name for Scottish plaid cloth originally made from wool with a twill weave. From the French tiretaine meaning "linsey-woolsey". The sett, or number of threads of each color in each warp and weft stripe, of each style of tartan cloth is recorded and maintained by The Scottish Tartan Society.


Terry Cloth / Toweling
Usually made from cotton, but sometimes made from linen, this fabric has a moisture-absorbing loop pile that covers surface on one or both sides.


A process of resist dyeing, where parts of a cloth are tied, knotted or folded as to avoid penetration of a particular dye.


A strong, durable woven material, usually striped, used to cover mattresses and pillows.


Short for Toile de Jouy, named after the town of Jouy in France. A cotton fabric printed with a design of white on a coloured ground. Designs are usually a pastoral scene or a floral.


This lightweight, extremely fine, machine-made hexagonal shape netting, is usually made from nylon, silk, or rayon.


A medium to heavy weight, roughly textured wool fabric, often featuring a twill weave, Houndstooth or herringbone design. A classically English look accompanies this durable fabric, which is popular in sport coats, jackets and hats.


An incredibly versatile fabric distinguishable by diagonal ribs on its face and a soft smooth finish. Gabardine, serge, and denim are all examples of till fabrics.






The practice of covering furniture with fabric.






Typically produced with a knitted back, velour resembles velvet, but has some stretch and an uneven pile giving it a slightly rougher look. Velour is French for velvet, and it is made from fibers such as cotton, wool, or spun rayon.


Velvet is one of the most luxurious fabrics because of its evenly cut, thick, soft pile. Traditionally made from silk, velvet comes in a variety of blends like rayon/silk, cotton, or nylon, and some velvets, such as stretch velvet, has some lycra blended in as well.


A lightweight fabric made from cotton with a very short, dense pile. Developed in Manchester, England in the 18th century, velveteen lacks the sheen and drape of velvet, is woven with an extra filling yarn, and can have a plain or a twill back.


A synthetic fabric made from PVC which resembles leather.


A man made synthetic fiber, typically referred to as rayon. Viscose has a silken, smooth feel and a terrific drape, and is often used for linings and bridal garments.


Usually made with cylindrical combed yarns, this plain, loosely woven fabric has an extremely clear surface because the excess fuzzy yarns are singed away. It is thin, semi-transparent, and very lightweight, resembling an organdy or organza in appearance.






The vertical threads in a particular fabric or on a loom.


Waffle Cloth
Similar to a pique it has a honeycomb weave.


The manner in which a fabric is produced, utilizing methods of combining the warp and weft threads. The type of weave affects the strength, stretch, sheen and weight of a fabric. The basic types of weaves are plain, twill and satin.


The horizontal threads in a particular fabric or on a loom.


The rib effect found on fabrics like corduroy.


A heavier twill fabric similar to gabardine, but more rugged and with a steeper ribbing. Wool 
This textile is made using the fibers from the hair of animals, such as goats, sheep, camels, or llamas, and it comes in several different forms from crepe, to gabardine, to worsted. Wool is moisture absorbing and known for its warmth, and is also naturally stain and wrinkle resistant.


Wool-Double Crepe
A finely woven wool crepe with two layers bonded together to generate lighter-weight wool fabric.


A high quality, fine wool yarn produced from the short, strong, and durable fleece of the Merino sheep. It is extremely soft and versatile.


A wool fabric woven from firmly twisted yarns, which are spun from combed long-staple wool, creating a solid smooth surface with no nap.











Also referred to as thread, yarn is the basic component of all fabrics. Yarn can be composed of twisted natural or synthetic fibers, or a longer single fiber.