Fabric Glossary

Silk is a fine, strong, soft, lustrous fiber produced by silkworms in making cocoons and collected to make thread and fabric.

China Silk: Plain weave silk of various weights. There are various weights of China silk from light, used for linings and many "washable silks" with the wrinkled look, sometimes also used for accessories, dresses, but mostly linings.

Chiffon: Transparent soft and light fabric. Used for overlays, scarves, and other accessories.

Georgette: Sheer crepe, similar to chiffon but heavier and may have a crinkle surface.

Charmeuse: A satin weave silk. The face side is a shiny smooth look with a crepe back.

4 Ply Silk: Four ply silk is a heavier version of silk crepe made with four ply yarn. A four ply yarn is made from twisting together four individual yarn strands. The resulting fabric is medium to heavy weight, smooth and flat, with a crepe finish and a good deal of luster.

Crepe Back Satin: similar to charmeuse only heavier and more luxurious. Top side is shiny; back side which is crepe has a fine rib and pebbly look feel. Both sides can be used for textural effects.

Douppioni: Reeled from double cocoons nested together. The threads are uneven and irregular.

Shantung: A dupionni type of silk that comes from the Shantung Prov. of China.

Organza: Similar to cotton organdy except it is made with silk and is transparent. Also comes in a satin faced, which is a bit more opaque.

Taffeta: a crisp, soft and smooth plain woven fabric which with its slight sheen.a crisp, soft and smooth plain woven fabric which with its slight sheen.

Silk Satin: A satin weave with a plain back.

Lace: Lightweight openwork fabric, patterned, either by machine or by hand, with open holes in the work. The holes can be formed via removal of threads or cloth from a previously woven fabric, but more often lace is built up from a single thread and the open spaces are created as part of the lace fabric.

Chantilly: a delicate silk, linen, or synthetic lace having a 6-sided mesh ground and a floral or scrolled design.

Alencon: A needlepoint lace on a fine net ground characterized by a heavy thread (cordonnet) outlining the design. Usually machine made but sometimes the cordonnet is inserted by hand.

African Fabric

Asoke: Very sturdy and practical. The Yoruba in Nigeria reserved this cloth for religious rituals, and other formal occasions. This cloth is woven in 4-inch wide strips that vary in length. Some older Asoke cloths are characterized by their openwork or holes. It is known for supplementary inlays, which are generally made of rayon threads on a background of silk cotton.

Batik: Patterns by applying melted wax on the fabric. A design is drawn onto the fabric. To produce a multicolor effect, colors are applied one top of the other, beginning with the lightest color. For instance, a cloth is dyed yellow, and then melted wax is applied to areas that are yellow. The cloth is dried after each stage of the dyeing process, and then the wax is removed by scraping or boiling it off the cloth.

Kente: Cloth originated from the Fante people of Ghana, who sold this fabric in baskets. The Fante word for basket is “kenten”. Authentic Kente cloth is typically woven in 4-inch wide strips. Kente patterns have religious, political, and even financial significance. Today, there’s a pattern to indicate the importance of almost any special occasion, and colors are chosen to reflect customs and beliefs. Red represents death or bloodshed, and is often worn during political rallies; green stands for fertility and vitality, and is worn by girls during puberty rites; white means purity or victory; yellow represents glory and maturity and is worn by chiefs; gold is for continuous life, is also worn by chiefs; blue represents love and is often worn by the queen mother; and black meaning aging and maturity and used to signify spirituality. Because of its vibrant beauty and regal legacy as a cloth fit for kings and queens, authentic Kente remains one of the most popular fabrics on the market today.

Bias Cut: A garment made of woven fabric is said to be "cut on the bias" when the fabric's warp and weft threads are at 45 degrees to its major seam lines. The bias (called “cross-grain” in the UK) direction of a piece of woven fabric is usually referred to simply as "the bias." (The old spelling was byesse.)
Woven fabric is more elastic as well as more fluid in the bias direction, compared to the on-grain direction. This property facilitates garments and garment details that require extra elasticity or drapability, such as skirts and dresses. The "bias-cut" is a technique used by designers for cutting clothing to utilize the greater stretch in the bias or diagonal direction of the fabric, thereby causing it to accentuate body lines and curves and drape softly.