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Textile Fabrics


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Fabric Fibers: Cotton | Linen | Silk | Synthetic | Wool

Textile fabrics may be created using various methods of construction, including weaving, knitting, felting, crocheting, braiding, knotting, bonding, and laminating.  The most common types of textile fabrics are defined and described below.

colorful, handwoven blanket

Woven Fabrics

Woven fabrics are the most common kind of fabrics.  These fabrics may be either tightly or loosely woven.  Tightly woven fabrics are generally either a plain weave or a twill weave.  Plain weave is the most popular weave and includes such fabrics as broadcloth, muslin, and challis.  Plain weave fabrics are often light weight, and they print well.  Twill weave fabrics are the most durable.  Twill weave fabric drapes better and is softer than plain weave fabric, but it is more expensive.  Gabardine, chino, denim, and serge are popular twill weaves.  Loosely woven fabrics may include handwoven or novelty fabrics.  These loosely woven fabrics are simple to shape and ease; they stretch easily; and they often have a nap.  However, loosely woven fabrics tend to fray when handled; they may be bulky and heavy; and they often pill.  Different types of woven fabric are used for outerwear.  These tightly woven fabrics are often wind-resistant, water-repellent, or waterproof .  Most of the outerwear fabrics also resist snagging and tearing.  While outerwear fabrics are good for inclement weather, coated fabrics will not breathe as well as other woven fabrics.

boy wearing knit sweatshirt

Knit Fabrics

Garments made from machine-knit fabrics are popular today.  Knit fabrics are available with varying textures, weights, and fiber content.  Some popular knit fabrics are interlocked knits, jersey (single) knits, and double knits, as well as rib knits, sweatshirt knits, stretch velour, and tricot.  Knit fabrics have more give than woven fabrics.  They are also more resistant to wrinkles, but they do not hold a crease as well as woven fabrics.

Stretch-Woven Fabrics

Stretch-woven fabrics usually use a combination of fibers, so they are able to stretch and recover to their original shape and size.  The fabrics may include spandex or Lycra®, and they may stretch in one or both directions.  Elasticized fabrics stretch both ways.  The seams and hems of garments using stretch fabrics should also use stretch stitches.

Transparent Fabrics

All types of fibers are available for transparent and semi-transparent fabrics.  Fabrics such as organdy, dotted Swiss, and handkerchief linen are crisp.  Lawn, batiste, eyelets, and voile are semicrisp.  Transparent Chiffon, crepe chiffon, and georgette fabrics are often used for formal wear.  Lace, athletic mesh, net, and open-weave fabrics are also considered transparent fabrics.  Many of these transparent fabrics are sheer and fragile; they may require careful handling so that they do not get damaged.

red satin fabric

Special-Occasion Fabrics

Special occasion fabrics include satin, sateen, and taffeta, as well as pleated fabrics and ribbed fabrics.  Metallic fabrics, decorative surface fabrics, lace, net, and beaded and sequined fabrics are also used for special occasion items.  Satin fabrics are available in many forms.  Antique satin, crepe-backed satin, and duchesse satin, as well as sateen, or peau de soie satin, are suitable for formal wear.  Satin may be slippery and snag easily, and some satins may be damaged by improper pressing.  Special-occasion garments made from satin include bridal gowns, cocktail dresses, evening gowns, and prom dresses.  Taffeta is a crisp, special-occasion fabric that features fine ribbing and a distinctive rustle.  Taffeta fabrics may be soft or stiff, and they are available in solids and plaids.  Taffeta is noted for its beauty rather than its durability.  Ribbed fabrics include shantung, poplin, faille, grosgrain, and pongee.  Ribbed fabrics have surface texture, but they may be difficult to sew due to their irregular surfaces.  The history of pleated fabrics dates back to ancient Egyptian times.  Pleated fabrics can be purchased by the yard or ordered custom from a pleating company.  Pleats are heat-set to remain permanent.  Fabrics made from most fibers can be pleated, but some will not retain their pleats when dry-cleaned.  Simple designs showcase pleated fabrics most effectively.

brocade fabric

Decorative Surface Fabrics

Some fabrics have decorative surfaces.  These include brocade, matelasse, brocatelle, and tapestry, as well as seersucker and plisse.  Embossed fabrics also have decorative surfaces.  Decorative surface fabrics range from lightweight to heavy and from dressy to casual.  Metallic fibers may also be woven into the cloth.  These fibers may be metals, such as gold and silver, or plastic.  Both woven and knit fabrics may contain metallic fibers.  Metallic fabrics include lame, sheer metallics, and metallic knits.  Today's metallic fabrics are lighter weight due to the use of plastics, more affordable, and don't tarnish.  They may require special layout for cutting, and some tend to be scratchy.  Sequined and beaded fabrics also require special care.  Simple clothing designs work best.  These fabrics are glamorous for full garments or for trim.  Lace is also a decorative fabric that may be used for trim or even for full garments; lace fabric weights range from sheer to heavy.  Some well-known types of lace fabrics include Alencon, Chantilly, Cluny, and schiffli.  Smaller amounts of lace fabric are often used to accent another fabric.  Also included in the decorative surface fabric types is net.  Net fabrics were originally made by knotting, but machines now do the work.  Some net fabrics include tulle, illusion, and maline, as well as cotton English net and bobbinet, which ranges from sheer to heavy in a variety of fibers.  Net fabrics are transparent and easy to sew, but the sheer, light ones may be easily damaged.

blue corduroy pants

Napped and Pile Fabrics

Napped and pile fabrics are finished so that the fiber ends are raised and brushed or clipped.  These fabrics have a soft finish and may be warmer than woven fabrics, but may mat and pill.  Napped fabrics include camel's hair, mohair, and sweatshirt fleece, as well as suede cloth, doeskin, and flannel.  Pile fabrics are woven or knitted to produce a pile that is on one or both sides and may be cut or uncut.  Pile fabrics include chenille, corduroy, fleece, and terry, as well as velvet and velveteen.

Felt and Felted Fabrics

Felt fabrics are made by felting raw fibers, mostly wool.  They are felted by moisture, temperature, and pressure.  Felt fabrics do not ravel, and they are easy to sew.  Felted fabrics are those that have been shrunk and fulled.  Boiled wool, loden, and melton are felted fabrics.  Other felted fabrics such as bunting fleece include fabrics such as Polarfleece®.  These fabrics are warm, but lightweight; they have a deep pile, and dry quickly.

orange quilted velvet fabric

Reversible Fabrics

Two-faced fabrics include double knits, damasks, boiled wool, and other fabrics that are the same on both sides.  They may be used for reversible garments, and are constructed so that they do not have a wrong side.  Double-cloth fabrics have two separate fabric layers that are stitched or fused together.  Pre-quilted fabrics may be single-faced or double-faced.  They are composed of a face fabric and a filling, plus another face fabric or a backing fabric.  While they are somewhat bulky, they work well for robes, loungewear, vests, jackets, and coats.

Fabrics With Designs

Fabrics with designs are constructed with the design woven or knitted into the cloth.  These fabrics include plaids, such as Scottish tartans and Indian madras, and checks, such as houndstooth, tattersall, and gingham.  They also include fabrics with border designs as well as fabrics with diagonal patterns that are formed by woven ridges.


Interfacings may be woven, nonwoven, or knit fabrics.  They are available in most fibers, and are sew-in or fusible fabrics in various weights.  They include fusible and non-fusible woven or nonwoven interfacings, as well as lightweight, tricot knit interfacings or hair canvas, a traditional interfacing for tailoring.  It is important to choose the right interfacing; select the right weight interfacing for the fabric used.  Some fabrics cannot use some types of interfacings, for example, fusible interfacings cannot be used on sequined fabrics.  The sequins would melt from the heat.

white batting material


Batting and insulating fabrics are used to add warmth or for thickness when quilting a design onto fabric.  Some of these fabrics include Thinsulate™, bunting, lamb's wool, cotton batting, and polyester fleece.

Linings and Underlinings

Lining and underlining fabrics are used to finish the insides of garments.  Linings cover seams and finish the garment; underlinings provide body and support to the garment.  While linings are usually smooth fabrics such as satins, fabrics constructed from most fibers can be used.  Lining fabrics should have the same care characteristics as the outer garment fabric, match or complement the color, and not be too bulky.  Underlining fabrics are attached to cut out pieces of a garment before sewing it together.  Choose fabrics that have the needed characteristics to add such things as body, support, reinforcement, or stabilization.  Interfacing fabrics can also be used to underline a garment.  Interfacing fabric generally should be lighter than the outer garment fabric.

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