Know about fabrics

Know your boucle from your brocade or your sateen from your satin? Understand the ins and outs of a tweed versus a wool? Our A-Z fabric dictionary is a useful go-to whether you’re a fashion or textile student, an aspiring dressmaker or an established designer. There’s a detailed description of every fabric and finish under the sun, and you may also like our Fabric Abbreviations Chart, which explains all of the abbreviations that we use.


A man-made fibre formed by compound of cellulose, refined from cotton linters and/or wood pulp, and acidic acid that has been extruded through a spinneret and then hardened.


A man-made fibre derived from polyacrylonitrile. Its major properties include a soft, wool-like hand, machine washable and dryable, excellent color retention. Solution-dyed versions have excellent resistance to sunlight and chlorine degradation.


A decorative technique where fabric shapes are sewn or embroidered onto a base fabric.

Broderie Anglaise

Literally – English embroidery. The name is given to a type of cotton fabric embroidered with a design to form a buttonhole stitch outline which is then cut away. Broderie Anglaise is embroidered with white cotton threads. If a coloured thread is used this is often called eyelet work.


Satin silk weave with a crepe back.


A plain/printed woven lightweight, extremely sheer, airy, and soft silk fabric, containing highly twisted filament yarns. The fabric, used mainly in evening dresses and scarves, can also be made from rayon and other manufactured fibres.


A term used to describe a dyed fabric’s ability to resist fading due to washing, exposure to sunlight, and other environmental conditions.


A light soft fabric with a crinkled surface that is created by the way it is woven. It is made from silk, cotton, wool, or another fibre either in plain or satin weave.


A surface ornamentation made with a thread or set of threads sewn onto a fabric.


Decorative openwork fabric with sensitive use of spaces and solids. Can be achieved with the use of bobbins, crochet, needles or machine.


An open fabric, which is created by connecting the intersections in a woven, knitted, or crocheted construction to form a mesh-like appearance that won’t ravel. End-uses include veils, skirts.


A crisp, sheer, lightweight plain weave fabric, with a medium to high yarn count, made of silk, rayon, nylon, or polyester. The fabric is used primarily in evening and wedding apparel for women.


A manufactured fibre composed of regenerated cellulose, derived from wood pulp, cotton linters, or other vegetable matter. Today, various names for rayon fibres are taken from different manufacturing processes. The two most commonly used production methods for rayon are the ammonium process and the viscose process.

Satin Fabric

A traditional fabric utilizing a satin weave construction to achieve a lustrous fabric surface. The basic type of weave is up of eight weft threads that are tied down with one floating weft thread. It is light to medium-weight with a glossy face and a dull back. Satin is a traditional fabric for evening and wedding garments. Typical examples of satin weave fabrics include: slipper satin, crepe-back satin, faille satin, duchess satin, moleskin, and antique satin.


A natural filament fibre produced by the silkworm in the construction of its cocoon. Most silk is collected from cultivated worms; Tussah silk, or wild silk, is a thicker, shorter fibre produced by worms in their natural habitat. All silk comes from Asia, primarily China.


A lustrous, medium weight, plain weave fabric with a slight ribbed appearance in the filling (crosswise) direction. For formal wear, taffeta is a favourite choice. It provides a crisp hand, with lots of body. Silk taffeta gives the ultimate rustle, but other fibres are also good choices.


A lightweight, extremely fine, machine-made netting, usually with a hexagon shaped mesh effect. End-uses include dance costumes and veils.


A continuous strand of textile fibres created when a cluster of individual fibres are twisted together. These long yarns are used to create fabrics, either by knitting or weaving.