Have you recently found yourself wondering what is broadcloth? What can I use it for? Is it used for making dresses or furniture? Well, the good news is that these questions are not unique to you, per se. Other tailors or seamstresses have at one time or the other wondered the same thing. This is why we created this detailed article to help you learn all about broadcloth, its uses, components, and how to clean it. Broadcloth is a smooth, glossy fabric that is easy to sew. This fabric was so named because it was originally woven on broad-width looms.
What is Broadcloth?
Broadcloth is a tightly-woven fabric that is popular for its smoothness and plain weave. This material is also known as Poplin to the British. It is a dense, tightly-woven fabric that is sturdy and soft to the touch. As earlier mentioned, broadcloth was woven on broad looms similar to present-day 45 to 60 inch wide looms. This led to the invention of the name broadcloth from the broadloom.
What is Broadcloth - History
Historically, broadcloth was made of wool. This material was woven wider than its required width and then worked over in hot soapy water by trip hammers until it shrinks to its required width. This milling process aimed to make the material dense by drawing the yarns closer together. The loom could not achieve this tightly-woven consistency. Also, during this felting process, the different fibers of the wool were bound together, creating a thick, blind face cloth. The resulting fabric was highly resistant to the weather, had a stiff drape and its edges could be cut with no need for hemming.
This material was first produced in Flanders and spanned the 11th century through the medieval period. In the early 1920s, a version of this fabric was imported into the American market from the United Kingdom. However, this version was a mercerized (treated to exhibit a silk-like luster, improve tear strength and dye uptake while reducing shrinkage), plain-woven fabric made from either plain cotton or a blend of polyester and cotton. This fabric was woven with a heavier filling yarn than wool and primarily used for shirt-making. It was also called poplin by its importers but was renamed to broadcloth as its previous name was believed to have connotations of heaviness. To Europeans, broadcloth still refers to another fabric entirely. A woolen fabric that is densely woven and has a smooth finish.
What is Broadcloth Made of?
Broadcloth can be made of different materials but perhaps, the most used materials are wool and cotton. Silk, polyester, and rayon are also used in making broadcloth fabrics. But synthetic fibers are not usually used in making this fabric. This is because they do not give the same results as wool and cotton fibers. Natural fibers produce the best broadcloth fabric. However, broadcloth make from other blends are popularly used for dresses and shirts than for any other purpose.
However, it is worthy of note that the materials named above are not exhaustive. There are a whole lot other materials out there used in making different varieties of broadcloth fabric.
What is Broadcloth Used For?
In the right hands, broadcloth fabrics can be used for a variety of sewing projects. Depending on the fabric content, broadcloth can be used for the following:
- Craft Projects or Upholstery: Remember the dense, plain-woven broadcloth that is made from wool? Although this used to be the only type of broadcloth available, and therefore used for all kinds of purposes, this is no longer the case. These days, the main purpose of this type of broadcloth is for making craftwork, upholstery, or car interiors.
- Curtains: Cotton broadcloth can be used for aesthetic purposes like curtains. Its broad range of colors and patterns makes for different alternatives. It is also thick enough to keep the sun out of your home while withstanding its damages. Pair with the right kind of lining for the best results.
- Casual Wear: Broadcloth is perfect for making casual outfits like informal shirts and breezy skirts. Because it drapes around the body, broadcloth fabric is flattering when used in making casual wear.
- Dress Shirts: Due to its lack of texture, this material is suitable for those who desire as little texture as possible in their outfits. It is rather popular as a dress shirt fabric and has a simple weave pattern with a little sheen, giving it a nice, professional look.
- Quilting: Although it is possible to use this material for quilting, it is not commonly used as it is thicker and a little more difficult to use for patchwork.
- Lining: Broadcloth fabric that is made from cotton is suitable for use as linings. This durable material is a convenient fabric to use in lining coats, bags, purses, etc. But apart from being able to handle the constant wear and tear that comes from this high-traffic area, it also offers a variety of colors you can choose from. All you need to do is ensure you use lightweight broadcloth in your lining project.
What is Broadcloth Sewn With?
Broadcloth is a great fabric for a beginner to cut their teeth on. This is because, in addition to being very affordable, it is also not stretchy. Due to its affordability, you'll be able to afford as much material as you require to perfect your sewing skills. Mistakes are human, after all. So it makes perfect sense that you should start your sewing with a material that would afford you the opportunity to make your mistakes.
Stretchy materials can be challenging to even veteran tailors, let alone a newbie. Broadcloth fabrics are not stretchy so can be handled by even the newest of sewers.
Another advantage of sewing with broadcloth is that they usually come in solid colors. You do not have to expend time and energy trying to find and mix-matching patterns.
Here are some general tips for sewing with broadcloth:
- Use universal sewing machine needles in an appropriate weight. This will usually be 90/14 or 100/16 depending on the thickness of the fabric.
- Use a strong all-purpose thread.
- Use your all-purpose presser foot. If you are sewing thick broadcloth or several layers, a walking foot may help.
What is Broadcloth vs Cotton?
Cotton broadcloth bears the same characteristics as cotton, but not so the broadcloth made from other fiber contents. The simple difference between cotton and broadcloth is that the former is a fabric made by weaving cotton fibers, while the latter is made from woven cotton and might contain other blends like silk, rayon, polyester, and wool. Broadcloth is usually considered a medium-weight fabric.
What is Broadcloth - Thread Count
The thread count of a fabric pertains to the number of threads it contains (lengthwise and widthwise) for each square inch of fabric. All things being equal, a higher thread count translates to a silkier, smoother, and more valuable fabric. Broadcloth is considered to have a high thread count.
Does Broadcloth Wrinkle?
Broadcloth fabrics do wrinkle much. But they can easily be straightened by ironing with low to medium heat, depending on the fabric content. For a fabric content that is best dry cleaned like silk, they can be steamed to straighten the fibers again.
What is Broadcloth - Washing Instructions?
The required process of washing broadcloth is entirely dependent on the fabric content. It can be hand-washable, washing machine suitable, or dry cleanable. Always refer to the laundry symbols.
What is Broadcloth Washing Options?
- Hand washable: Broadcloth fabrics made from a combination of silk and/or polyester are usually best to be hand-washed. To ensure that the dye in silk does not bleed, it should be gently hand washed in cold water and mild detergent.
- Washing Machine Suitable: Cotton broadcloth is suitable for washing machines. You should follow the recommended temperature settings to minimize damage in form of shrinkage. Do not forget to do the same while drying.
- Dry Cleanable: Although similar to home laundering, dry cleaning involves the use of a liquid solvent to clean clothes. It is used in place of water and detergent and evaporates quickly. Drycleaning engages computer-controlled dry cleaning machines and can be advantageous over automatic machine laundering. Some fibers swell when they come in contact with water, thus resulting in shrinkage and fading of dye. The solvent used in dry cleaning also removes stains more easily than water. Broadcloth fabrics made from rayon, silk, and wool should be dry cleaned to protect the fabric and increase durability.
Keeping your broadcloth fabric content straight might seem like a tall order. But this is why the fabric manufacturers are required to include the fabric content and washing instructions. If you follow them, you should be safe.
What is Broadcloth? - In Conclusion
Congratulations on acquiring this new knowledge. Hopefully, your question "what is broadcloth" has been fully answered. If you have read to this point, you now know how to care for your broadcloth fabric, its uses, and how it is made. Sewing is an enjoyable craft. Sewing with broadcloth is even more enjoyable.
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This has been extremely helpful. Thank you!