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A to Z of Fabrics: Your Handy Guide to What You’re Wearing

a-z of fabrics

There are so many different types of fabric out there – Contrado prints on over 100 different textiles. We make each and every fabric differently. Different fabrics have different characteristics, and with so many available, keeping track of them all can be puzzling at best. Check out our A-Z of fabrics, including a brief description of each of them.

Your A-Z Guide

Aida

aida

Aida is woven. A material which we use for tapestries. We use this type of canvas, most commonly, as a base for needlework. It is usually a flexible, open-weave canvas.

Blackout

blackout

This is a loose term for a range of fabrics which block out light to varying degrees. Often used as window treatments, they’re opaque and most frequently have a stiff handle.

Canvas

canvas

These cotton-type fabrics are strong and durable. Canvas tends to feature a plain weave or a variation of a plain weave. Usually a heavyweight, firm textile. Canvas is closely woven.

Chenille

chenille

Chenille is a soft fabric. Often bulky and is made of chenille yarn. This yarn characteristically has small tufts of yarn around the central core, giving it a look similar to a caterpillar.

Chiffon

chiffon

A sheer textile woven in a plain weave, Chiffon is lightweight and surprisingly strong considering its delicate nature. Chiffon frays easily, and is prone to seam slipping, but is incredibly soft.

Cotton

cotton

Cotton is a general term. We use it for fabrics woven with cotton fibres or yarns. Blends and alternatives for cotton are becoming very commonplace. Cotton is used to make a variety of fabric types.

Crepe

crepe

A fabric with a typically ‘crinkled’ surface. This effect is obtained using both knitted and woven fabrics. Crepe is typically springy and prone to fraying, especially when woven.

Denim

denim

Denim is a strong woven fabric typically made with a warp-faced drill weave. Traditionally made from cotton, it has great washability but will often naturally fade over time.

Elastane

elastane

This is a generalised term for fabrics that incorporate elastane fibres. A generic name for a man-made fibre which is almost rubber-like. Elastane has exceptional stretch and amazing recovery.

Felt

felt

Felt is neither woven or knitted but is rather a web of entangled fibres. Felting is one of the oldest and most inexpensive methods of making a fabric. It is made from any fibre, however, amongst the most popular is wool.

Fleece

fleece

Characteristically soft and warm with great insulating properties. We originally created fleece fabric as an imitation of animal fleeces. Amongst the most popular type of fleece is Polar Fleece which is a plush, napped fabric.

Georgette

georgette

Georgette is a fine, lightweight, woven fabric. It’s a crisp, grainy crepe fabric which tends to have a dull surface texture. It doesn’t crease easily, in fact, poly Georgette barely creases at all but it does fray easily. Georgette has a springy handle.

Herringbone

herringbone

A generalised term for fabrics which we weave with a ‘herringbone’ texture. Herringbone is a reversed broken twill. Herringbone gets its name from the fact that visually the pattern looks like the backbone of a herring. We also sometimes call it feather or arrowhead twill.

Imitation

imitation fabrics

Imitation fabric is one which is imitates something else. Perhaps the most common of these would be faux leather. Other examples include silk, fur, suede and many other fabrics, the majority derived from animals or animal byproducts.

Jersey

jersey

Jersey is another generic term, applied to all types or weft-knitted fabric whether it has been knitted by hand or using machines. The name comes from the Channel Island where the fabric originated. Jersey fabrics were originally used to makes sweatshirts or jumpers for fishermen.

Knitted Fabrics

knitted

Knitted fabrics are those where the yarn is formed using interconnecting loops. These textiles are separated into two generic groups: warp-knitted and weft-knitted fabrics. Warp-knitted fabrics tend to be created on a machine. Whereas weft-knitted fabrics are made either by hand, with needles or using a machine.

Lace

lace

Lace is fine and delicate. It is an openwork or mesh fabric which is usually transparent or semi-transparent. We create it by looping, twisting or knotting fine yarns together typically giving an intricate or elaborate pattern.

Lawn

lawn

A lightweight fabric which is opaque and woven in plain weave. Made with cotton or linen yarns it is both absorbent and hardwearing. Tightly woven in its construction, Lawn has great drape and washability but is prone to creasing.

Leather

leather

The natural skin or hide of an animal. We often think of cows when we think of leather, yet is often made from a variety of other animals too. To make leather, we remove the hair and tan the skin (a process which preserves and softens). Characteristically tough and hardwearing, leather can be embossed, dyed or coated.

Linen

linen

A blanket terms for fabrics which have been made using flax yarns or fibres. Linen fabric is a term which is also made from flax blended with other fibres, giving either a linen blend or linen look textile.

Mesh

mesh

A very generalised term, mesh refers to a wide range of fabrics. These are woven, knitted or even lace. They are constructed to have an open mesh structure which is apparent in holes or spaces that are between the yarns which allows air to pass through the material.

Microfibre

microfibre

A general term we use for fabric which is made from microfibres. These are small, man-made fibres which have an extremely low density. Due to these fibres being so fine, the fabric which is produced is characteristically remarkably strong whilst being incredibly lightweight.

Muslin

muslin

A lightweight fabric which is soft and fine. Constructed in an open-sett plain weave, muslin is usually woven as grey cloth, and then later bleached or dyed. Muslin fabric rarely weighs more than around 70 gsm, and was originally made from cotton.

Neoprene

neoprene

A synthetic rubber-like material. We know this well for its protective qualities as well as insulating properties. Neoprene tends to have good elasticity, is waterproof and buoyant and is resistant to many chemicals and oil.

Non-Woven Fabric

non woven

We form non-woven fabric from the fibre, rather than weaving or knitting. As mentioned above, felt is a non woven fabric as are imitation suede fabrics and wadding. There are many ways that you can create a non-woven fabric, including needling, fluid jet entanglement, adhesive bonding, thermal bonding, chemical bonding, thermal bonding and stitch bonding.

Oilcloth

oilcloth

Traditionally a plain-woven cotton textile. We coat oilcloth on one side with a drying oil which makes it water-resistant. Oilcloth was one of the first waterproof fabrics. We used it widely before modern laminated alternatives became more commonplace.

Organza

organza

A fine fabric which we weave in an open-sett plain weave with high-twist yarns. We make Organza either from silk or man-made fibres and it’s characteristically stiff and sheer with a pearl-like sheen.

Panama

panama

We weave Panama fabrics in a hopsack weave structure. These fabrics tend to have different weights and qualities and can be anything from canvas to shirting fabric. We often use Panama canvas as embroidery fabric base.

Peach Skin

peachskin

We weave the majority of peach skin fabrics finely and give them a special treatment which produces a characteristically soft handle. Made from a variety of synthetic or natural fibres. We usually use either a plain-weave or twill-weave. We then use emery covered rollers 8to create a suede-like or peach-skin finish.

Poplin

poplin

Poplin is a very closely woven fabric. It has very fine warp-faced ribs which run in the direction of the weft, caused by the use of around twice as many warp-ends as weft-picks. Incredibly hardwearing, this fabric is prone to creasing and is also susceptible to seam puckering as it has a dense construction.

Power Net

powernet

A classic control fabric, Powernet contains enough elastane to make it ideal for body-support clothing due to the high stretch and recovery. A warp-knitted, stretch net textile. We typically use Powernet in heavier weights for foundation wear and control garments, or in more lightweight sheer versions for lingerie.

Quilted Fabric

quilted

This is a multi-part fabric. Composed of an outer layer or face fabric with a layer of wadding and sometimes a backing fabric too. We most commonly hold these two or three-layer textile with stitching. You can also fuse it together using either heat or chemicals.

Ripstop

ripstop

Ripstop fabric is a textile which incorporates a reinforcement yarn. We call this a ripstop yarn and it is literally there to stop ripping. We weave these yarns into the material at regular intervals to increase the resistance of the fabric to stop tearing.

Satin

satin

Satin fabrics are ones that we weave using a satin weave. This weave is one of the four rudimentary woven fabric structures. An entirely warp-faced weave structure. The face and reverse of a satin weave fabric are completely opposite to one another.

Scuba

scuba

Scuba is the fashion alternative of Neoprene. A double knit material, scuba is normally synthetic. We make it from a blend of poly and elastane fibres.

Silk

silk

We use this as a generalised term for fabrics which are made using silk yarns. Known for their delicate nature and high-lustre attraction, silk fibres are the only natural fibres which are continuous filament fibres. Silk is an animal fibre, spun by silkworm larvae for use in the construction of their cocoons.

Taffeta

taffeta

A crisp and lustrous fabric than os woven with warp-faced ribs running in the weft direction. Taffeta has a paper-like quality to it and drapes well in general, however, it is prone to creasing and fraying.

Twill

twill

Twill fabrics are those woven in a twill weave construction. This weave characteristically produces diagonal lines on the face of the fabric. Using twill weave we can make a heavier fabric than we would with a plain weave. This makes a more hardwearing textile and we often use it for fabrics such as drill and denim.

UV

uv fabrics

UV fabrics protect against ultraviolet rays. We achieve this protection in a number of ways. We use UV absorbing dyes, UV absorbers or special finishes. Wool absorbs almost all UV rays, and cotton absorbs around 90%.

Velour

velour

A generalised term used for pile fabric. We also use the term velour for a napped woven fabric. This was the original velour fabric. The name comes from the Latin word ‘villous’ which means hairy.

Velvet

velvet

Velvet is a woven fabric with a short, cut warp pile. We make the pile yarns from an extra set of warp yarns. We firmly bind these to the structure of the base fabric, otherwise known as a ground fabric. This forms a heavy and rich texture to the face of the velvet.

Voile

voile

Voile is a lightweight fabric that is sheer and fine. Woven in a plain weave and made with high twist yarns of either natural or synthetic fibres, characteristically voile is a soft fabric with a crisp wiry handle.

Waterproof

waterproof

Waterproof fabrics are those which are resistant to penetration by water. Fully resistant textiles would be called waterproof whereas those which are only partially resistant would be called wither-repellant, water-resistant or shower-proof. Waterproof fabrics can be made using fibres which are naturally waterproof, adding protective coatings or finishes, laminating the material or by using a very close weave.

Woven Fabrics

woven

The generic term we use for fabric constructed by interweaving two sets of yarns at 90° angles to each other. Characteristically woven fabrics are strong and stable. This firm, close construction maintains the straight nature of the yarn.

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