After an eventful weekend (my nine-year old son broke his arm and required surgery to re-align it) I did consider a medical word for this week. But the rough fabric around his cast was on my mind today. So here’s a list of words for describing fabric which might prove useful in describing characters’ outfits.
I’m a keen sewer but I’ve only used a handful of these, so far, as some have faded into history. The main distinction for sewers is between woven fabrics like cotton and knitted fabrics like jersey because that influences how we sew with them. But the variations are endless.
- cotton – entwined with history
- linen – from the flax plant, creases easily
- felt – created by heating wool, or shrinking your favourite jumper on a hot wash
- wool – from sheep, although other sources include goats and rabbits
- gabardine – I associate this one with my old school coat but the word is around since 1590 and associated with Burberry since 1879. Usually closely woven wool.
- tweed – wool, originally named tweel (the Scots for twill) but mis-read on an order form, associated with the River Tweed and the name stuck.
- twill – weaving method used in chino, denim, drill, garbardine, serge and tweed.
- fustian or bombast – heavy cotton for menswear, especially padding – hence the use of bombast to mean extraneous words
- camblet – a fine wool and silk blend, also known as camlet
- cherryderry - a light cotton and silk blend with stripes or checks
- holland – fine cotton
- kersey – coarse woollen cloth originally from Kersey in Suffolk, England
- broadcloth – heavy felted wool cloth made from medieval times onwards
- calamanco – thin wool fabric, sometimes patterned, glazed or damasked
- linsey-woolsey – a linen and wool blend used for petticoats
- muslin – think Jane Austen dresses and straining jam
- calico – checked cotton
- chiffon – light sheer fabric from cotton, silk or synthetic sources. From the French word for cloth.
- taffeta or taffety – a Persian word for a crisp, smooth silk or synthetic fabric. Used to create the original hot air balloons, but more common in ball gowns.
- voile – soft, sheer fabric used for curtain panels or layered in dresses. From the French word for veil.
- tulle – a fine netting, probably orginating in the French city of the same name. Best known in ballet tutus.
- satin and sateen – glossy front, matt back – made from silk, synethics, or cotton (sateen).
- crepe de chine or crape – thin silk (or synethetic) fabric with a crisp appearance. Think kimono fabric.
- bombadine – dress material, many source materials, largely used for mourning-wear.
- silk, shot silk, raw silk – created from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm, although many other insects create silk too. Silk and the silk road has an amazing history but I don’t have space for it all here.
- velvet – soft fabric created using a specific weaving method from medieval times or earlier. See here for details and variants like devore, crushed etc.
- velveteen – imitation velvet
- velour – a plush knitted fabric sometimes found on upholstery or leotards.
- moleskin – not from moles. A heavy cotton fabric.
- jersey – t-shirt fabric, originally made in wool and from Jersey in the UK.
- fleece – soft warm fabric popular in outdoor wear – can be made from recycled plastic bottles.
- lining – usually a silky style polyester in modern times, but can be any lightweight fabric.
- oilcloth – a heavy waxed cotton used for tablecloths and outdoor cushions (wipe-clean).
- nylon, lycra, pvc, polyester, acrylic, velcro, gortex etc – numerous petrol-based synethic fabrics invented in modern times – some with trademark names. I like velcro because it’s named for velour and crochet combined.
- border anglaise – delicate white cotton pierced with patterns edged with white thread.
- corduroy – ridged like a ploughed field.
- denim – named after the serge fabric made in Nimes in France. Jeans in their turn were named for the French term for Genoa in Italy where those trousers were first made.
- serge – a twill fabric around since 8th century.
- chino – cotton twill fabric popular in trousers. Word source may relate to a toasted colour, or Chinese manufacture.
- damask – around from the early Middle ages and named for Damascus on the Silk Road – a woven, reversible fabric with the pattern woven into it.
- leather – generally from cows.
- furs – sadly from almost any animal caught by man. Ermine being from a stoat or weasel.
- kid – white leather from goat kids. To handle with kid gloves (a delicate situation) means that you made clear you leave no smudge or stain upon the situation.
I’m sure this list isn’t complete, can you add any?
Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,