Tag Archives: cotton flannel

Glossary: Cotton Flannel

Cotton flannel is a fabric made from cotton, a natural fiber. For more information, see the entry Glossary: Cotton Fiber. Today, cotton flannel is typically plain-woven and brushed to raise a soft, fuzzy nap on one side. It is sometimes referred to as “flannelette.” Historically, “flannel” usually indicated wool flannel. “Canton flannel” was and is a twilled cotton fabric with a soft, fuzzy nap on one side. Modern, mainstream cotton flannel is generally not appropriate for most historical applications. But it is very fuzzy!

Definitions of flannel, cotton flannel, and canton flannel from a variety of print resources, each of which contains further information:

I could not find any references to flannel in this book.

While discussing wool textiles for mid-19th century reproduction clothing on page 61, it is stated that:
“When you come across references to ‘flannel’ in mid-century sources, this is most often a wool flannel, not cotton. Wool flannel can be made in a plain weave, or in a twill weave; it may be fuzzed on one or both sides. Woolen flannel generally has a loose weave, and is resistant to creasing; the woolen fibers give it an almost springy feel. Worsted flannels are firm, with a very slightly fuzzed surface, and tak[e] well to tailoring and creasing. Worsted flannel also tends to be less itchy, due to the longer fibers.”

On page 177, “flannel” is defined as “soft wool or wool and cotton cloth, with or without a nap, of loose texture, varying from fine to coarse.”

Entry for “canton” on page 191: “Known from the 1786 Hilton manuscript as a ribbed cotton cloth–the warp passes over several weft threads to form the cords.” The entry goes on to list three different types of canton cloth manufactured in the nineteenth century, one of which is “Canton flannel, a 2 / 2 twilled soft cotton fabric with a long nap; bleached, unbleached, or piece-dyed in plain colors. Used for sleeping garments, interlinings, overcoat pockets, household purposes, and diapers (ca. 1900).”

Entry for “flannel” on page 238: “Made of woolen yarn ‘slightly twisted in the spinning, and of open texture, the object in view being to have the cloth soft and spongy, without regard to strength. . . . All the sorts are occasionally dyed, though more usually sold white.'”

Online Resources:

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post like this one, which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Updated January 10, 2012

Glossary: Cotton Fiber

Cotton is a natural fiber which comes from a plant. Many different fabrics are made from cotton fiber, including voile, batiste, organdy, calico, sateen, flannel, jean, and a wide variety of other fabrics.

“Cotton is a vegetable seed fiber. Botanically, the fibers are the protective covering of the seeds in the cotton plant, a shrub that grows from four to six feet high. Dry cotton fiber is from 88 percent to 96 percent cellulosic.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 62)

“Under magnification, cotton (a staple fiber) appears like a twisted ribbon. This twist is what makes cotton easy to spin. Cotton is weaker than flax, but its ease of manufacture quickly overcame that deficiency. Cotton is absorbent and thus comfortable to wear in hot weather.” (Bassett, Textiles for Regency Clothing 1800-1850, page 14)

“Extremely versatile in weight, texture, and construction. Found in fabric such as organdy, broadcloth, poplin, terry, corduroy, seersucker, denim, tweed. Used widely for summer wear, work clothes, and in heavier weights, for warm transitional garments.” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, page 50)

“Cotton is cool, washable, appropriate to nearly all [mid 19th century living history] impressions in some way, and comes in a wide variety of colors and well-researched prints. Cottons fade with laundering and sun exposure, and tend to wear out more quickly than other fibers. It’s an economical choice for everyday or ‘wash’ garments.” (Clark, The Dressmaker’s Guide, 2nd ed., page 54)

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Glossary Entries for Cotton Fabrics:

Online Resources:

Print Resources: See the article Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials for a list of print resources.

Updated January 10, 2012

Intro: Cheshire Cat costume

It wasn’t historical, but it was fun! I made a Cheshire Cat costume for my friend Claire for Halloween in 2010, during my first semester of Div III. I used one of the standard animal costume patterns, I think from Simplicity, and made it out of cotton quilter’s flannel in royal blue and in grape purple. Most of the body was purple, with a blue belly and blue stripes on the back. I made a nice long tail and put wire in so it bounced in cat-like fashion when she moved. The costume is finished off with striped paws and a pair of big blue ears with purple centers, set onto a purchased headband covered with the blue fabric. Complete with drawn on nose and whiskers, she was ready for Halloween – along with friends dressed as Alice and the Mad Hatter, no less.