To know what is Grosgrain, let's start by finding out its standard definition. According to Oxford Languages, grosgrain is a heavy, ribbed fabric that is most often made out of either rayon or silk. Its defining characteristic is that its weft is much heavier compared to its warp which creates stunning transverse ribs. Despite its glum and dull appearance, it is actually a highly durable fabric that can be used in almost everything. But what is grosgrain made of, and when did it become popular? To answer, we are going to find out everything there is to know about what is grosgrain – from its history to its uses.
What is Grosgrain – All About the Fabric
So what is grosgrain? The term 'grosgrain' was often used to describe stiff and heavy ribbons made out of silk and nylon, woven with a taffeta weave. This technique resulted in unique transverse ribs in a heavy weft. Grosgrain's resemblance to a fine cord is why it is popularly known as a plainly woven cord fabric. Its cords are lighter compared to faille but heavier than a poplin fabric.
Grosgrain fabric is often available in black and rarely in other colors except when it is made into grosgrain ribbons. In this case, it then comes in all flashy colors and patterns. It has little luster and is not as extravagant and flashy as other types of fabric, but it is guaranteed to be firm, strong, and close-woven.
What is Grosgrain – History
What is Grosgrain’s history? The word 'Grosgrain' was derived from a Fresh loan word and a folk corruption of the term 'grogram' which used to be 'gros gram' in 1562. This term was used to define a loosely woven coarse fabric of either pure silk or a combination of silk and wool or silk and mohair.
'Grain,' on the other hand, came from the Old French word 'grain’ meaning seed or texture, depending on context.
During the 16th century, this fabric was used for women's garments such as petticoats, jackets, and the like. Grosgrain fabric became a popular alternative for silk and smooth-woven wool, especially among the lower class.
In the 1920s, women started to show a preference for grosgrain ribbons being used as trim. At this time it was not widely used as a fabric except when it was in black.
Since then, grosgrain ribbon has gained more popularity as, unlike grosgrain fabric, it comes in various colors and patterns. These ribbons are then used as decorations and ornaments for articles of clothing. Grosgrain is also widely used on evening gowns because it is described as less flashy and more sophisticated.
What is Grosgrain Ribbon
Now, what is Grosgrain Ribbon? Grosgrain Ribbon is a colorful and versatile type of fabric blend that can be used in anything and everything. It retained its ribbed style, is extremely sturdy, and is less gaudy because of its matte finish. For people with bolder preferences, this is a better pick from the dull grosgrain fabric.
Grosgrain ribbons are often used to accentuate garments such as polo shirts, underwear, etc. It is often found on hems, lapel facings and can also be used to reinforce belts. With these, it enhances the quality and overall aesthetic of a garment.
What is Grosgrain’s Uses
There are various ways one can use Grosgrain:
Grosgrain fabric is widely used to attach semi-detached articles together like tops and skirts. Ribbed grosgrain may also be used on reinforcements and gussets. Grosgrain ribbons are used for waistbands, facings, and accents. Using grosgrain ribbons as waistband facings saves a lot of time and excess fabric and is excellent for use with bulky fabrics.
Grosgrain fabric is also a smart and practical alternative to lustrous satin and is popularly used on evening gowns, dresses, dinner jackets, tuxedos, and dress coats. It highlights the hems of the lapel, outermost edges, and the garment's collar, which adds to its sophistication.
Unlike satin, grosgrain is very durable and does not have the harsh glare satin has as it has more of a matte finish. Moreover, it can also be used on accessories like cummerbunds and bow ties.
Millinery and Hat Ribbons
Grosgrain has gained popularity for millinery as a great choice for creating decorations on hats. This fabric has been used on opera and top hats and has been one of the most favored options for men's hats because of its quality. Although the Petersham ribbon is not often used because of its scalloped edge, exceptions were made every now and then, like the Stetson Flagship fedora.
Grosgrain ribbons are also widely used by hat manufacturers exclusively for their crow bow and edge binding. Unfortunately, despite the diminishing supply of vintage grosgrain ribbons, up until now, the hat industry has yet to find a substitute of equal or greater suitability for vintage cotton-rayon blend ribbons.
Modern polyester ribbons, for example, have colors that simply do not hold the same elegance as vintage ribbons do. Because of this, a significant increase in price has been observed.
What is Grosgrain - Other Uses
Grosgrain Fabric can also be used on things that are not related to clothing. To elaborate, here are some other ways to utilize Grosgrain fabric:
Grosgrain fabric can also be used to bind together book spines or sheaves and can be a great tool for book restoration and binding.
Cargo and Packing
With its curls, grosgrain is also popular in the cargo industry as it can be used to secure parcels. Grosgrain ribbons are used to wrap fragile items for shipments. On the other hand, nylon grosgrain is used as luggage binding and messenger bags for soft goods.
Some grosgrains made out of low-cost synthetics like polyester are often made as gift wrapping ribbons and all sorts of ornaments and decorations for scrapbooks and other crafts like book-binding, trimming, embellishing, and bead making.
There’s also the polyester grosgrain that can be cut 5 or 8 inches wide and used as a tensioning material that connects the snares of a snare drum without slippage risks. With this, the ends of the snares are held closer to its head, providing less snare buzz and damper mylar straps.
What is Grosgrain – How is it Produced?
Unlike other ribbons that are created with abecedarian weaving techniques, Grosgrain ribbons go through a unique process called the 'taffeta weave' that weaves both thick and thin cords alternately. This particular technique gives them their signature thick woven edge that assures durability, strength, and versatility. It is also made with a heavy weft, which gives it its matte finish.
What is Grosgrain – What Sets it Apart from Satin?
What is Grosgrain, and what makes it different from satin? Grosgrain is quite similar to satin, which is exactly why it became a popular alternative. Both are perfect for embellishments and decorative purposes especially on sashes, embroidery, garlands, and the like. However, there are some features that set the two of them apart:
- Grosgrain has little lines if observed closely.
- Instead of a glossy finish like satin, grosgrain is characterized by a matte finish.
- Grosgrain is woven via a taffeta weave, whereas satin is made with a 'single-faced' weave.
- Grosgrain is far more sturdy than satin because of its weaving technique.
- Satin may sometimes need an additional layer of grosgrain to add to its reinforcement.
- Grosgrain is made of cotton, fiber blends, and polyester, while satin is often made of nylon.
- Grosgrain is characterized by thick horizontal fibers that provide ease during edging and trimming.
- Unlike satin, it is not prone to damage and can be washed, folded, heat-sealed, stitched, and go through harsh heat treatments and remain the same.
What is Grosgrain – In Conclusion
To sum it all up, when asked what is grosgrain, you can simply define it as a versatile type of fabric that can be used in all ways imaginable. With grosgrain, you can do all sorts of projects, from fashion projects like dressmaking to handicraft projects like scrapbook making and bookbinding.
Although the color for grosgrain fabric is quite limited, you can still use grosgrain ribbons that are available in all colors and designs. It is also good to note that many companies accept customized orders for grosgrain ribbons for those who want to add their own personal touch to the ribbons. Customized ribbons for packaging are great for businesses small and big as it adds to the originality and beauty of the whole product.
The best part is that you get to have something very similar to satin but stronger and much more affordable. This is the perfect choice for practical designers and craft enthusiasts who are on a budget but greatly value quality. Debatably one of the most versatile fabrics in history.
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