A glossary of fabric names is the best guide you find to help search for the different kinds of fabrics available. This is more than just a glossary of names, it is a realistic guide to the basic categories of fabric leading to greater detail and links to useful sewing tips and ways to handle different fabrics.
- Glossary of Fabric Names
- Bamboo Fabric
- Batik – The Bold and Beautiful
- Boucle - Soft and Looped
- Canvas – For the Great Outdoors
- Chiffon Fabric
- Cotton Fabric
- Crepe Fabric
- Crepe de Chine
- Denim – Hardwearing, Hardworking
- Duck Fabric
- Faux Fur – Fabulous Winter Wear
- Felt – The Feel-Good Fabric
- French Terry
- Hemp Fabric
- Jersey Knit
- Lace – Embrace Lace – Love it
- Leather and Faux Leather (Vinyl)
- Rib Knit
- Scrim Fabric
- Sheer Fabrics – Beautiful, Soft and Silky
- Silk – As Smooth as Silk
- Slub Fabric
- Stretch Fabrics – Versatile and Fun to Sew
- Thick Fabrics – Extra Bulky Types of Fabric
- Ticking - Not Just for Mattresses
- Velvet – Soft and Super Plush
- Voile Fabric
- Wool – Nature's Gift to Fabrics
- Fabric Names - In Conclusion
Glossary of Fabric Names
This is a gourmet guide, whetting your appetite and gathering a harvest of the best and most common fabric names in use today—an alphabetical listing of the best fabrics to choose from.
Here are the different types of fabric listed alphabetically:
If you have a fabric without any label, the best way to identify it is by using a burning test. Observing the flame and ashes will give you a good idea of the fabric is natural or synthetic.
Acetate fabric is produced as a cheaper alternative to natural fabrics such as rayon and silk. As a semi-synthetic fabric, is composed of cellulose filaments from wood pulp. It can be used to blend fabrics like cotton, wool, and silk to make them stronger and cheaper.
Bamboo fabric is a natural fabric made from fibers of the bamboo plant. Often used as an alternative to cotton, its advantage is that it is softer, breathable, and resilient.
Batik – The Bold and Beautiful
Batik fabrics offer a wide range of pattern designs, unique colors, and special effects. Watercolor backgrounds with diverse patterns trend with dress styles, beachwear and quilting too. Batik refers to the process of using wax and dyes to make particular patterns on the fabric. Batik fabrics are generally made from cotton, rayon, and natural fibers which absorb the dye.
Boucle - Soft and Looped
Boucle fabric has a looped, fleecy appearance and can be used for a variety of applications including upholstery, pillows, and even for acoustic purposes. This fabric is created from twisted yarns of varying thickness and also length. It is generally produced using natural fibers.
Broadcloth fabric is smooth and glossy and is also known as poplin in the UK. It is dense and tightly woven and mainly produced from cotton or wool fibers. Broadcloth is popular for garments, home decor, and quilting.
Brocade fabric is a woven fabric with raised patterns in gold or silver. It has extra weft threads that produce the designs. While it looks embroidered the design is actually in the fabric itself rather than added later.
Buckram fabric is a plain-woven fabric made from cotton or hemp. It is heavy and rough and can be stiff when finished with starch or sizing agents. It is used to give structure and shape, particularly in millinery.
Calico fabric is made from cotton but has a rough appearance due to the seeds of the cotton being retained. It is unbleached and produced with a plain weave process.
Cambric fabric is a densely woven fabric that is lightweight and plainly woven. Often called bastise, it can be used for lacework and embroideries. Cambric is made from natural fibers like flax, linen or cotton.
Canvas – For the Great Outdoors
Canvas, made from cotton, is durable and comes in different colors and patterns. It is useful for upholstery, bag making, and outdoor utility or décor items. Canvas is a thick fabric that requires special sewing techniques in particular for the seams.
Cashmere fabric is a natural fabric made from goat hair. It is considered a soft, luxury fabric used for sweaters, scarves, and home decor. Because it is such an expensive fabric, care must be taken to wash cashmere.
Challis fabric was originally made by blending wool and silk but is now made with rayon. It is smooth and cool, making it popular in Summer.
Cheesecloth is a plain fabric with a loose weave that looks like gauze. It is still used in food preparation and is also popular for loose comfortable Summer clothing.
Chenille is a soft fluffy fabric that can be made from a variety of fibers including cotton, wool, rayon and silk. It is commonly used for home-decor and makes beautiful soft cushion covers. Chenille is also used for baby accessories, bath robes and even towels ue to its absorbent nature.
Chiffon is a soft fabric blended with silk or polyester and rayon. Organza and Georgette are similar in texture but not exactly the same. These fabrics fit into the sheer fabric category for sewing tips. Due to its fine weight, you will need fine needles and may have to adapt the pattern you are using to use French seams and narrow hems.
Chintz fabric is a medium-weight fabric made from cotton and is known for its floral designs. Commonly used for upholstery it is a staple in the production of sofas.
Coir fabric is manufactured from the fibers of coconuts. Strong and environmentally friendly, it is used for rope, rugs, and mattresses.
Corduroy fabric has distinctive vertical ridges and is usually made from cotton or a cotton blend. It comes in different ridges per inch called whales. Corduroy is a popular Winter fabric for clothing.
Cotton is a natural fabric produced from the cotton shrub. Cotton lends its name to a wide range of fabric types. Soft lawn, gingham prints, and flannelette all fall under the cotton label. Cotton blends well with other fabric types like polyester and rayon. If you are a beginner sewer, then pure cotton is one of the easiest fabrics to start sewing with. Quilting fabric is the name given to 100% cotton in a medium weight and is the preferred fabric for many designers of children's clothing.
Crepe fabric has a textured surface and can be made from silk or synthetic fibers. Considered breathable and moisture absorbent, it is popular in high temperatures. Crepe de chine and crepe georgette are types of crepe fabric.
Crepe de Chine
Crepe de Chine fabric is characterized by its matt and textured surface. It is wrinkle-resistant, lightweight, and strong making it perfect for evening wear, suits, dresses, and skirts. Common fibers include silk and imitation silks such as acetate, nylon and polyester.
Denim – Hardwearing, Hardworking
Denim fabric is the workhorse of the fabric world. It is a popular fabric type and can vary in weight from very thick to a softer poly-denim blend. There are stretch denim, stonewash denim, and many more. Sewing denim requires stronger needles and threads and if sewn regularly then you will need a stronger sewing machine with a metal interior.
Dobby fabric is a woven fabric with prints woven into it. The prints are often geometric in nature and can be monochrome or contrasting colors. Dobby is produced on a special loom called a dobby loom. It is popular for shirts.
Duck fabric is known by many names including duck canvas, and cotton duck. Duck is a plain-woven fabric with a tight weave making it resistant to water and wind. Due to these properties, it is popular for the manufacture of workwear. The high thread count may mean it needs to be washed a few times before it softens and becomes comfortable to wear.
Elastane fabric is often referred to as Spandex and Lycra and is a synthetic fabric with highly elastic properties. Rather than being used solely, elastane is combined with other fibers such as cotton or polyester. Typically fabrics for active and swimwear will contain 5-10% elastane.
Faux Fur – Fabulous Winter Wear
Modern synthetic adaptations of faux fur come in a variety of animal prints, shaggy fur, and fun colors of funky fur, and different lengths of the fur itself. Faux fur makes a dramatic finish to a winter coat or hat! When sewing faux fur, care must be taken with going with the nap of the fabric and you may need to trim the seam allowances.
Felt – The Feel-Good Fabric
Felt fabric is fantastic for craft items and can be a synthetic adaptation or made from real wool. It doesn't have a visible weave and tends to be used for craft rather than clothing. Felt is also amazing for applique as the edges don't fray.
Flannel is typically made from wool and is a soft fluffy Winter fabric. Made from different weights, flannel is used for clothing, accessories and bedding.
Flannelette is a soft, fuzzy fabric made from cotton or cotton blend. Cheap and easy to sew, it is popular for making bedding, pajamas, and sleepwear. There is nothing cozier than flannelette pajamas in winter!
Fleece fabric is predominantly made from polyester and has a soft napped surface making it perfect for cold weather clothing and blankets. It is considered a cheaper alternative to wool fabrics.
French terry fabric is a lightweight or medium weight stretch fabric used for active and casual clothing such as sweatshirts and tracksuits. It can be identified by having a knitted surface on the outside and small loops on the inside.
Gabardine fabric is a twill weave fabric favorited by designers of suits and jackets. Its characteristics include durability and water resistance. While it was once made from worsted wool, modern gabardine is often made from cotton fiber or cotton blends.
Georgette fabric is woven from silk or synthetic fibers and produced with a matt, puckered surface. Its main use is for evening gowns and bridal dresses. Pure silk georgette is the most expensive and breathable since it is natural. It is often plain-colored but can be printed.
Gingham fabric features a check pattern and is usually made from cotton or a cotton blend. The check pattern is normally white with a single color such as blue, red, or yellow. Gingham is popular for shirts, dresses, and kids apparel and you will often see red tablecloths made from it.
Gore-tex fabric is a staple for waterproof outdoor wear. This patented fabric is produced with a PU layer that repels water, grease, and oil, making it a versatile and in-demand fabric.
Grosgrain fabric is a heavy fabric with ribs. It is mainly made from rayon, silk, or nylon and is often fabricated into ribbons. Grosgrain fabric is usually black while ribbons come in every color of the rainbow.
Hemp fabric is made from fibers from the Cannabis Sativa plant family. It creates a strong, durable fabric used for clothing and home decor. Hemp is an absorbent fabric that is versatile and sustainable.
Hessian fabric also goes by the name burlap. It is made from the fibers of the jute plant and has many uses from ropes, sacks to nets. Hessian is considered an eco-friendly fabric.
Jacquard fabric is known for its patterns which are woven into the fabric as opposed to being printed. This fabric is popular for upholstery and curtains and uses a special loom called a Jacquard loom.
Jersey knit fabric is a stretch fabric made with a single knit. It is used for t-shirts, bedding, and many other stretch applications. The fibers it can be made from include cotton, rayon, wool, and silk. The advantage of jersey fabric is that it stretches without the addition of Lycra or Spandex.
Jute fabric is made from the natural fibers from the jute plant. It is a sturdy, eco-friendly fabric that is easy to produce. This fabric is used for bags, sacks, and even curtains.
Lace – Embrace Lace – Love it
This is an elegant and delicate fabric that lends itself to bridal gowns and special occasions. There are many different kinds of lace from Broderie Anglaise to Chantilly lace-all needing special care.
Lame fabric can be woven or knitted but is characterized by its metallic appearance. It is commonly used for clothing and costumes.
Leather and Faux Leather (Vinyl)
Leather and faux leather need special needles and techniques due to the tendency of the material to perforate and stitches to skip. Faux leather has a fabric backing making it much easier to sew and is great for clutches, bags, and belts. Modern faux leather is often so realistic that once it is sewn you can't tell it isn't real. A Teflon foot is useful for sewing stickier and fine leathers.
Linen fabric is produced from the flax plant and is considered soft and breathable. More expensive than cotton, linen is considered a sustainable fabric with high durability.
Lyocell fabric is a semi-synthetic fabric produced from wood cellulose. It is moisture-wicking and breathes and is commonly made as a denim-like fabric. This fabric is stretchy making it perfect for activewear.
Lycra fabric is the registered name of a high-quality Spandex or elastane fiber. Lycra is commonly used in swimwear and activewear fabrics and has a high stretch factor as well as good stretch recovery.
Microfiber fabric is a soft, absorbent fabric used for cleaning cloths and towels. It is used for cleaning as it is highly absorbent and can attract dust, meaning that it can reduce the number of cleaning chemicals you use.
Modal fabric is popular for sewing underwear and is a light semi-synthetic fabric made from tree pulp. It is usually combined with other fibers and is soft and durable.
Moleskin fabric is made from heavy cotton and has a shorn soft side. Contrary to the name, it is not made from moles! Moleskin is soft and wrinkle resistant and is used for medical and audiovisual devices such as microphones. Trousers made from moleskin are popular as they maintain heat in Winter.
Muslin fabric is a cotton-based fabric that is widely used by designers for creating designs. Most muslin is lightweight with a smooth texture making it perfect for baby clothing and blankets.
Neoprene is a rubber fabric developed by DuPont. The properties of heat, cold and chemical resistance make it a popular fabric for outdoor items. You will see neoprene used extensively in the wetsuit market.
Nylon fabric is made from synthetic fibers and can be used for clothing, machinery and industrial applications. It is durable, light and elastic.
Oilcloth fabric is treated with either linseed oil or coated with PVC giving it waterproof properties. It is used for tablecloths and many outdoor uses including sails.
Organdy fabric made from cotton is semi-sheer and delicate. It has a crisp feel and when used in clothing, is often layered over other fabrics. Apart from clothing, it can be used for embroidery stabilization and silkscreen printing.
Organza fabric is lightweight, shiny, and transparent. High-quality organza is made from silk and cheaper versions are made from nylon or polyester. This beautiful but sheer fabric is often used for evening and bridal wear and must be treated with care.
Poplin fabric is a cotton type of fabric with fine ribs. Crisp, strong, and silky, poplin is a popular fabric for shirtmaking in particular. It is valued as a low-maintenance fabric that doesn't need dry cleaning.
Rayon is a semi-synthetic fabric produced from wood pulp that has undergone several chemical processes. Popular for Summer clothing, curtains, and bed linen, it is known to be soft, comfortable, and highly absorbent. Rayon takes dye well and is known for its vibrant colors.
Rib knit fabric is a stretch fabric with ribs running down on both the front and back. It is used on t-shirt necks and bands, hems, cuffs, and turtlenecks. Rib knits can be produced in different patterns of knit and purl for example a 1x1 or a 2x2 rib.
Sateen fabric is a woven fabric made from cotton. It has a smooth front and denser and rougher back. One popular use of sateen is for bet sheets.
Satin refers both to a fabric and a type of weave. Satin fabric is soft, shiny, and luxurious and is used for women's clothing including nightwear.
Scrim fabric can be light or heavy, with each type having quite different applications. Light scrim is also known as gauze scrim and can be used for curtains, upholstery, theatre backdrops, stage lighting, and even bookbinding. Heavy scrim is used in the manufacturing industry to reinforce plaster, carpentry, and sailcloths.
Seersucker fabric has a puckered design on its surface. Although typically cotton, it can also be blended with polyester or other synthetic fibers. Seersucker is often produced in a single color combined with white - eg blue and white or red and white. Its greatest advantage is that it needs little or no ironing.
Sheer Fabrics – Beautiful, Soft and Silky
Sheer fabrics are in a list of their own including voile, batiste, organza, chiffon and georgette to name a few. It is worthwhile referring to my tips to ensure success with when sewing sheer fabrics. Most sheer fabrics need to be sewn with French seams and narrow hems. You may also wish to increase the seam allowance on your pattern if your sheer fabric frays excessively. Further Reading: Sewing Sheer Fabric
Silk – As Smooth as Silk
The varieties of silk depend on the silkworm and its diet. Mulberry silk, tusar silk and eri-silk are the most common pure silks. Shantung and crepe de chine are cultivated silks but just as beautiful and need special sewing skills to ensure a perfect outcome.
Slub fabric contains a series of imperfections or irregularities. These are often deliberately placed in the fabric in order to give an aesthetically pleasing result. It is commonly used in stretch fabrics used for t-shirts and sweatshirts. Slub fabrics are usually made from natural fibers such as cotton, silk, wool and linen. It can be blended with man-made fibers such as polyester in order to make it cheaper.
Spandex fabric is a lightweight, super-stretchy fabric used for swimwear and activewear. It is also known as elastance. Spandex may be combined with other fabrics such as cotton or polyester.
Stretch Fabrics – Versatile and Fun to Sew
Cotton knit, jersey fabrics, cotton Lycra and many other fabrics with stretch quality make a great choice for a wide variety of designs. It is wise to check the pattern you choose is suitable for stretch knits. You should also check the stretch factor of your fabric with that of your pattern. To prevent skipped stitches that break, you will need stretch needles and a Teflon foot. Stretch fabrics can be sewn on a regular sewing machine with a simple narrow zig-zag stitch. Further Reading: How to Sew Stretch Fabric and Sewing Spandex
Suede is a soft fuzzy fabric made from the underside of leather. It is used for jackets, shoes, belts, and a varied array of accessories.
Taffeta fabric is a plain weave, crisp fabric originally made from silk. It is now often made of nylon or polyester to reduce costs. Taffeta is an eveningwear fabric with a shiny, smooth surface.
Tencel fabric is a trademarked brand of fabric made from wood pulp. Lyocell is the generic name for this fabric.
Terrycloth fabric is a favorite with towel manufacturers since it is known for its highly absorbent properties. It is usually made from cotton but can be made from or blended with other fibers such as silk or polyester. Terrycloth can be identified from its cotton loops.
Thick Fabrics – Extra Bulky Types of Fabric
Thick fabrics need some extra skills to set them right with your machine and sewing machine tension. Getting some sewing tips to ease into this weight of fabric is a good idea. Corduroy, some of the types of denim, canvas, twills and velvet all fall under the thick fabric genre.
Ticking - Not Just for Mattresses
Ticking fabric is a heavy striped fabric made from cotton, linen or a mix of both. Originally made to cover the straw or feathers inside mattresses, it has evolved into a popular home decor fabric used for upholstery, cushions,
Toile fabric is printed with pastoral and romantic patterns often in black, red or blue. It is usually printed on natural-colored backgrounds and has a repeated pattern. Toile is typically made from cotton, linen or a blend.
Tweed fabric is durable and warm and is used for suits and jackets. While mainly produced from wool, it can be blended to increase durability and decrease costs.
Velvet – Soft and Super Plush
Velvet has been produced in stretch velveteen, velour for furnishings and velvet for clothing styles. Tips to sew this fabric will ensure a positive sewing experience. Sewing velvet is mainly recommended for more experienced sewers. If you are a beginner intent on sewing velvet, look for cotton velvet with no stretch.
Velveteen fabric is a cheaper fabric made to imitate velvet. Unlike velvet which is primarily made from silk, velveteen is made from cotton. It is denser, stiffer, and harder wearing than velvet. Another advantage is that it is more easily washed and can often be hand or gentle machine washed.
Velour fabric is made from cotton or a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers. It is made to imitate velvet but is cheaper, stronger and more versatile. Velour has a shorter pile and is commonly used for curtains and upholstery as it is soft and plush.
Viscose fabric is a semi-synthetic fabric that is made to imitate silk. Cheaper than silk, it is made from cellulose or tree pulp. Viscose is used for dresses, blouses, and even upholstery and carpets due to its soft and lightweight properties.
Voile fabric is a plain, lightweight fabric often produced using cotton or cotton blends. It has a high thread count and is soft and silky, and slightly transparent. Voile is popular for layered clothing, curtains, and applications where a sheer look is desirable.
Wool – Nature's Gift to Fabrics
Wool blends and mixes with many fabric types. The best way to check for pure wool is to look for the 100% wool mark emblem. If the hallmark is not present then it is probably a wool blend you are working with. Due to its thickness, wool often requires grading of the seams and specialized finishes such as bias bound seams.
Fabric Names - In Conclusion
This glossary of fabric names is an indication of the many beautiful fabrics available to sew. A menu of what you can feast upon in the sewing world……Bon Appetite. Enjoy!