Glossary Table of Contents

Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials – introduction and general info

The Fibers

Fabrics, Organized by Fiber

Cotton Fiber:

Linen Fiber:

Silk Fiber:

Wool Fiber:

Miscellaneous Textiles

Updated August 7, 2012

4 responses to “Glossary Table of Contents

  1. Hi Ava,

    Thanks for posting these glossaries!
    They are being an enormous help for sharpening up my english terminology.

  2. Wow! Ava, I can’t believe how much you’ve researched about all these historical fabrics. I’ve come upon your site looking for sheer cotton fabrics because I’m just learning shadowwork embroidery from India (it’s called Chikankari). Gorgeous stuff. Unfortunately, it needs to be worked on more than semi-sheer cotton fabrics, and it’s really difficult to find any nowadays. Coming upon your website, I’ve made myself a file of the definitions of the different cotton fabrics that you have described, and especially valuable to me were the comparions (like: lawn is often a bit sheerer than batiste) that you have made.

    Thank you for this great resource!
    Continue the great work! It’s greatly appreciated by some desperate individuals like me…


    P.S. You wouldn’t happen to know where to find some of these fabrics, or some workable substitutions, would you?

    • Hi Isabelle-

      I’m so sorry about not replying to your comment sooner! I got caught up in grad school finals and then lost track of my notifications.

      If you’re in need of semi-sheer or sheer cottons, you’ll probably want to look for 100% cotton batiste, lawn, or voile. These terms get applied rather haphazardly, so buying online can be a little iffy, but generally speaking, batiste ranges from only slightly sheer to semi-sheer, typically what’s readily available is less sheer. Like you noted, lawn is typically sheerer than batiste, but it’s still sometimes fairly opaque, but thin and smooth; it’s usually made from longer staple fibers, so it’s smoother and a bit more crisp than batiste. Voile is usually the sheerest plain-weave cotton available; sometimes the term is applied to fabrics that I would describe as lawn, but sometimes it’s used for truly sheer cotton.

      Sometimes, fabrics like these are available from large online stores like Fashion Fabrics Club or, but they can be hit or miss. For a more reliable, but more expensive, source, try heirloom sewing supplies like Baltazar. There are a few good reviewed lists of fabric suppliers out there – I need to get a page with links to those lists up, so I have somewhere to refer people for questions like this!

      I’m glad the site was helpful to you! I’ve tried to put up the kind of information that I’ve prowled the internet for and had a hard time finding, so it’s great to hear that it’s actually proving useful. Good luck with your exciting embroidery endeavors!


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