Tag Archives: glossary of materials

Sewing with Jersey and Knits: A Heap of Links

I collect useful links. It’s my thing. And now that I’m embarking on some sewing projects which will work better with some of those piles of information readily at hand and tidily organized, it seems that I might as well do that organizing on here, so anyone else with an obsessive desire to research 97 different ways to do something can also partake of my linkful bounty.

Now, obviously the subject of sewing with jersey and other knit fabrics does not have a great deal to do with historical sewing, but many twentieth century styles involve knit fabrics, plus knits can be used for modern interpretations of even more styles, as well as for current designs. I love many mid-twentieth-century vintage styles as well as true historical costumes (you know, really old stuff), and I’ve found that I can get away with wearing 1950s styles in everyday life, which is not so much the case for, say, 1850s. And sometimes a girl just needs a T-shirt.

So, without further ado, here are my links for working with jersey and other knit fabrics, for making T-shirts, sweaters, dresses, miscellaneous refashions, and more, including doing jersey versions of patterns intended for wovens. As I run across/track down further handy-dandy resources, I’ll go back and add them in here, with eye-catching asterisks (***) to signal the new additions.

Knit Inspirations

  • Sewing With Jersey and Knits,” a Pinterest Board of mine with pictures and tutorial links (though all the tutorials are here as well).
  • Sewing with KNITS,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Rae Hoekstra of Made by Rae with pictures and tutorial links.
  • Sewing Knits,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Kristin Wenke with pictures and tutorial links.
  • Hack Ideas,” an inspiring Pinterest Board by Steph C of 3 Hours Past, along with other contributors, with pictures of designs both knit and woven, collected as inspiration for Steph’s monthly hacks for her Blank Canvas T free pattern (see below for more information and links to individual designs).

a blank canvas T design variation I drew up

Properties of Knit Fabrics and General Overviews

Cutting Knit Fabric (careful, it’s slippery!)

Helpful Tools and Notions for Working With Knits

ball point pins, pattern weights, rotary cutter, mat

Stitching and Hemming Knits (especially without a serger)

Bindings and Neckline Finishes

Draping and Patternmaking for Knits

  • Guest Post: Draping a Knit Cowl Dress with Alyson Clair” (part 1) at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, a tutorial for draping in a knit. Followed by Part 2, which makes mention of a third installment to come, but sadly, there does not seem to be a part three anywhere.
  • There are drafting instructions for pattern “hacks” and various patterning-with-knit-fabrics tips in the posts about the Blank Canvas Tee by Steph C at 3 Hours Past (the various designs are listed there and a few inches down from here).

Making T-Shirts and the Like

Blank Canvas T from 3 Hours Past: free patterns
(a.k.a. possibly the best thing ever! Steph is amazing)

Refashioning, Embellishing, or Decorating T-Shirts

Jersey Dresses, Both Modern and Retro

  • Lily of the Valley Dress” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, Vintage Vogue #8728 from the late 1940s done up in jersey instead of a woven.

Making Sweaters from Knit Fabrics, Plus Sweater Refashions
(as opposed to knitting sweaters, which is, you know, different!)

  • Finished Object: 9 Lines Sweater, Tee and Hack” by Steph C at 3 Hours Past. Includes a sweater made from the May hack for her free Blank Canvas T pattern as well as a lighter knit Tee.
  • I Sewed a Sweater!” by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing; not a tutorial but has useful tips and pictures.
  • How To Refashion a Cardigan” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for turning a shapeless store-bought or thrifted cardigan into a custom-fitted, vintage-style cardigan.
  • My Upcycled, Hot Glue, Anthropolgie-esque, Rose Garden Cardy” by Patty at The Snug Bug, a detailed tutorial for turning a large, plain, pullover sweater into a cute, fitted cardigan, plus embellishments if so desired. No actual hot glue involved!
  • Flop Fix #3: Fine-tuned Thrift Find” by Patty at The Snug Bug, a detailed post depicting a creative refashion for a big, shapeless cable-knit sweater.
  • Learn how to sew a ribbon placket on a vintage-style cardigan with “Guest Post: Tasha” at Casey’s Elegant Musings, by Tasha of By Gum, By Golly.
  • Dash Away the Winter Blues with Embroidery!” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for adding a vintage-style embroidered embellishment to a cardigan, complete with an adorable Scottie dog and several links to sources for free vintage embroidery patterns.
  • Cupid’s Arrow Sweater Embellishment” by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings, a tutorial for a charming Valentine’s Day inspired applique-and-beading design to add to any plain cardigan.
  • Vintage Flair: How to Make a (Faux) Fur Collar” (for a cardigan) by Casey at Casey’s Elegant Musings.

Pale pink sweater with dorset replacement button

Making Knit (and/or stretch) Fabric Undergarments

  • Free Hipster Pattern” at MakeBra, a downloadable underwear pattern in small, medium, and large, plus tutorial. The panties are modern, low-rise and low-cut on the leg (a.k.a. “hipster” – eep!).
  • Make Your Own Upcycled Undies” by Lauren Dahl at Ruthie Pearl. Use scavenged knit-fabric garments or scraps to make panties of various styles. Make your own pattern based on an existing pair of panties, then use fold-over elastic to easily and attractively finish.
  • Detour Into Panty Land” by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, a  post about using an Ohhh Lulu pattern to make high-waisted 1950s-style panties using various materials. Followed be even more in The Panty Express. Plus, if anyone thinks you’re crazy for liking retro high-waisted knickers, check out Gertie’s “In Defense of Granny Panties.”

Accessories and Other Things You Can Make with Knit Fabrics

  • The Maxi” by Leanne Barlow at Elle Apparel, a tutorial for making a casual, semi-full maxi skirt with a yoga waistband.
  • Smoooooooth Waistbands” by LiEr at IkatBag, a tutorial for a smooth application of a waistband onto knitwear pants.

Knit Fabric Clothes for Babies and Children (just scratching the surface!)

Double-Knits and Interlocks (which are heavier & behave more like wovens)

cotton interlock in black and white damask print

And While We’re At It – Working with Woven Stretch Fabrics

pink and white striped stretch cotton sateen

Online Suppliers of Knits and Stretch Fabrics
(these are places I’ve personally bought from or that have been recommended by sources I consider to be reliable)

  • Fabric.com is, honestly, where I do most of my fabric-purchasing these days. They don’t carry everything, but I tend to check and keep checking for various things I’m interested in (I looked for cotton crinoline for years before they started carrying it and, eventually, I bought a bunch on sale), and I watch for sales. Whenever I’m going to buy anything from them (orders $35 and over get free shipping!), I check the deep discounted clearance sections to see if anything I need is discounted. I’ve found 50% off hemp rayon knits both of the last times I looked! Their organic cotton knits and hemp rayon knits are both very nice, in my experience. (And they’re not paying me to say any of this, alas.)
  • Rae Talks About Shopping for Knit Fabrics Online” by Rae Hoekstra at Made By Rae, less about specific store and more about what to look for and how to evaluate knit fabrics, though it includes some brand suggestions.
  • Near Sea Naturals, a company recommended at Made by Rae. Eco-friendly, high quality materials – sounds great!
  • Spandex World, a company recommended by Gretchen Hirsch at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing; where she sourced various stretch fabrics for her panty-making habit.
  • Sew Sassy Fabrics, also recommended at Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing, specifically for their selection of elastics.

Also, for more on fibers and fabrics, see my Glossary of Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials, which has on-site information as well as more links (linkssss!!).

Updated August 7, 2012: now with pictures!

Updated August 10, 2012: added a missing link to an entry.

Div III Progress: 10 Days To Go!

Over the past couple days, I’ve added a few more basic entries to the annotated bibliography, and I’ve created an extensive glossary of terms for fibers, fabrics, and materials. It’s really more than a glossary, with detailed descriptions for each entry, plus quotes from print resources, links to online articles, and cross-referencing links to other entries. The idea is that these entries collect references and resources in an ongoing way, to offer disambiguation and historical information as well as practical tips. The entries are closely matched to the fiber, fabric, and material tags which are listed in a menu on the right side of the site. In that menu is also a link to the Glossary Table of Contents, which contains links to all current entries in the glossary, tidily organized. There is also a base, introductory entry which covers broad topics and offers a mini annotated bibliography of print resources: Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.

I had not originally intended to spend this much time creating a glossary of terms, but as I started looking things up, I found that often sources conflicted with one another, and many terms have had different meanings over time. In order to create a genuinely useful resource, I needed to go deeper and make my entries more extensively – so I did. As I was creating this glossary, I remembered that this is actually quite close to the core idea of an early incarnation of my concept for my Div III.

Back while I was interning at Old Sturbridge Village last summer, I remarked that it was unfortunate that no one had written an annotated version of The Workwoman’s Guide – the way people do with classic literature. The person I was talking to, a Hampshire grad, replied that that sounded like a great Div III. I laughed and said that I couldn’t possibly do ALL that…but the idea stuck. And thus the total rebirth of my Div III concept began. For a while, I conceived of my Div III as being a multimedia set of online projects and articles, offering pieces of “translated” 19th century (and perhaps other period) sources, from the WWG and other sources. For instance, I wanted to create a set of short videos to be posted online that demonstrated different types of period stitches, which are often difficult to learn without being shown in person. Eventually I became more focused on the idea of written documentation, and creating an exhibit, but now I am morphing these ideas together.

This site will be in some ways an exhibit, in some ways written documentation, and in some ways a free resource for the public, offering practical information on how to go about reproducing vintage and historical clothing. One important component for me is that I’m not just offering my own knowledge; I’m also offering collected and organized links, quotes, and references to helpful printed information. Because there is a great deal of excellent information available, even just online, but it isn’t always easy to find, and it can be difficult, especially for beginners, to assess the accuracy and reliability (and even the practical usefulness!) of a given source. By collecting and organizing a variety of resources, I am able to offer my perspective on them, and also able to supplement what I know, what I have written, and what I have done.

Perhaps most importantly, I am setting up this site so that I can keep adding to it, and keep adding to it easily. Because I don’t want to graduate and drop what I’ve been working on; I have every intention of continuing with this research, these projects, and this site. And that is what I keep reminding myself of, every time I feel disappointed that I haven’t been able to do the entire heap of Div III project I’ve dreamed up. Especially considering that my committee has been trying to convince me to do less all along. It’s encouraging that with this site, I can plan on continuing this into the future, and the projects that have been left in the dust during the downscaling process seem a little less abandoned, because a future for them exists, here on the internet–possibly even educating someone about something!

The plan now is to keep building this site, as functionally as possible; to write up a paper overviewing my Div III to turn in by Monday; and to get a reasonable quantity of sewing work finished or at least to an interesting stage – all in 10 days. It’s not exactly a short order, but I think I’ve almost convinced myself that I can do enough that it will be a lovely, useful, full Div III; even though it won’t be as grand as I have dreamed.

In sewing news, I made a lovely faux bustle, the 1870s inspired faux bustle of pansy synthetic netting, for Sarah’s 1870s inspired butterfly masquerade costume. It took about an hour, and came out quite nicely. It’s not at all historically accurate, but since neither it nor the ensemble are intended to be historical reproductions, that isn’t a hindrance. It makes for a charming and very inexpensive fluffy shape to fill out the skirt of a pretty Halloween masquerade costume with nice historical lines.Now I’m going to work on some sewing (truly, a wild Saturday night!) and work on mentally evaluating what else I’m going to do in the time I have left. And work on my paper. Busy? Me? Of course not…

-Ava

Glossary: Velvet and Other Pile Fabrics

Velvet is a type of pile fabric, which can be made of various fibers. Traditionally, velvet is made of silk, or sometimes wool. Historically, the term “plush” seems to have applied to a variety of fibers and fiber combinations, but consistently seems to have had a deeper pile than velvet. Today, velvet is most commonly available made from synthetic fibers, or sometimes from rayon. Burn-out velvets are made of a combination of silk and rayon, and undergo a chemical process to remove some of the material to create a pattern. Cotton velvet is usually made with a short pile, and known as velveteen. Pile fabrics come in many varieties, but for historical, pre-twentieth century applications, generally only natural fiber pile fabrics, and occasionally rayon, are appropriate. Because silk and even cotton velvet ribbons are very difficult to find today but were much used historically, it is sometimes necessary to substitute high quality man-made velvet ribbons; in this case, man-made cellulosic fibers such as rayon and acetate, are preferable to noncellulosic synthetics such as polyester and acrylic.

Definitions of velvet, plush, velveteen, and other pile fabrics from a variety of print resources, each of which contains further information:

On page 46, under the heading “Velvet,” it is stated that “Velvet is a dense, pile-woven fabric commonly produced in cotton or silk. Florence Montgomery notes that it was also produced in wool in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Textiles in America, 370). Depending upon one’s budget, either cotton or silk velvet could be used in the early nineteenth century for breeches or pantaloons, vests, cloaks or greatcoats, and dresses. Velvet was also much used as trimming and embellishment; for example, many men’s coats and cloaks from the period have velvet collars. The sample shown here is cotton velvet.”

All on page 180: “Velvet” is defined as “silk fabric cut with a dense pile on right side, may have a cotton back.” Then “cut velvet” is defined as “velvet with the pile loops cut so the pile is of single threads.” Later, “uncut velvet” is defined as “pile velvet; loops of the pile are not cut.” Then “velveteen” is defined as “cotton fabric made in imitation of velvet.” Then “wool velour” is defined as “heavy wool fabric with a pile like velvet.”

On page 179, “plush” is defined as “fine quality cotton fabric with a pile or nap of silk, softer and longer than velvet.”

On page 370, “velvet” is defined as “A pile fabric made of silk, wool, or cotton fibers. It is an extra-warp woven-pile structure whereas velveteen is an extra-weft structure.” Also on page 370, “velveteen” is defined as “Cotton velvet. According to Emery it has an extra-weft woven-pile structure.” On page 325, “plush (Fr. peluche)” is defined as “Wool velvet. A kind of stuff with a velvet nap or shag on one side.”

On page 287, “Manchester velvets” are defined as “Cotton velvets including thickset, velveret, and corduroy.” On page 363, “thickset” is defined as “A kind of cotton fustian or velvet made either plain or flowered.” On page 370, “velveret” is defined as “A cotton pile fabric, often ribbed like corduroy, and largely made in the Machester area from about 1750” and the entry goes on to discuss how they were often stamped and patterned.

On page 205, “corduroy” is defined as “‘A kind of coarse, durable cotton fabric, having a piled surface, like that of velvet, raised in cords, ridges, or ribs’ (Merriam-Webster). It was made with an extra weft in the pile. The character of corduroy has not changed greatly since the late eighteenth century.”

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: Synthetic Fiber

Synthetic fibers are manufactured from chemicals derived from water, coal, and petroleum, through a process known as polymerization. Synthetic fibers, which are man-made noncellulosic fibers, look, feel, and behave very differently from natural fibers. Synthetic fibers include polyester, nylon, acrylic, and spandex. By contrast, man-made cellulosic fibers (which are rayon, acetate, and triacetate), more strongly resemble natural fibers than do synthetic fibers. In general, synthetic fibers have a plastic appearance and to not breathe; that is, they trap heat and moisture. They are generally uncomfortable to wear, especially when layers of clothing are worn. Synthetic fabrics are generally inappropriate for authentic historical reproduction clothing, but can be used as inexpensive alternatives for historically inspired, costumey costume, or modern use. However, their wearing disadvantages remain, as well as the difficulties in removing stains from synthetics, and the shredding problems that the fabrics often have, which makes them difficult to sew.

About “Man-Made” Versus “Synthetic” Fibers:

“Many people refer to the man-made cellulosic fabrics–rayon, acetate, and triacetate–as man-made, and the man-made noncellulosic fabrics–nylon, polyester, acrylic, etc.–as synthetic. These are useful terms that may help you remember that, although man-made, rayon and acetate behave more like natural fabrics than do the synthetics, such as nylon and polyester.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 68)

For more information about man-made cellulosic fibers, see the entry on rayon fiber.

About Synthetic (Noncellulosic) Fibers:

“Noncellulosic man-made fabrics are based on a chemical reaction called polymerization and are derived mainly from the basic chemicals found in water, coal, and petroleum. The production of man-made noncellulosic fabrics is highly complex. As with man-made cellulosics, the first step is to liquify the base chemical mixture, and the second is to force the resulting solution through the spinneret. The characteristics of the various noncellulosic materials–today twenty generic types are produced worldwide–are attributable to the different chemical structures of the solution and the different processes to which the extruded filament may be subjected.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 68)

Acrylic: Commonly soft, light, fluffy fabric construction. Available in sheer fabrics, knits, fleece, fur-like and pile fabrics, and blends with natural and man-made fibers…. Microfibers: Available in acrylic, nylon, polyester, and rayon. Defined as a fiber that has less than 1 denier per filament. Finer than the most delicate silk and very drapeable. Luxurious hand, often silken or suede-like touch…. Nylon: Several types of nylon produce a wide variety of fabric textures, from smooth and crisp to soft and bulky. Available in wide range of fabrics, both woven and knitted…. Polyester: Available in many weights, textures, and weaves; often used in blends and minimum care fabrics…. Spandex: Found in stretchable, flexible, supple fabrics…” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, pages 52-54)

On Using Man-Made Fabrics for Vintage & Historical Reproductions:

“Because so many modern clothes are made from synthetics, you’re probably used to their essentially plastic appearance. But synthetics make period clothes appear shoddy and inauthentic. Even if the material is partly natural, or used only on one area of one garment. Synthetics also trap heat and moisture. This is an important consideration with period outfits, which are heavier and more layered than modern ones.
“In other words, reproduction fabrics and trims should be made entirely of linen, cotton, wool (including cashmere and other animal-hair fabrics), silk, or a blend of these. (There are some other cellulosic fibers which are seldom found today.) The only exception is rayon, which is cellulose based. Rayon looks most natural blended with silk or cotton. I’m particularly fond of rayon/silk satins and brocades, and cotton velvet over a rayon base. But all-rayon fabrics (especially velvet) can definitely be too shiny.” (Grimble, After a Fashion, page 72)

“In some circumstances, a dressmaker may choose to substitute a high quality man-made fiber in order to replicate a specific weave, color, or textile pattern. This should not be lightly done; it takes detailed research to know when such substitutions are appropriate, and what the compromise entails authenticity-wise. In general, it is best to avoid synthetics.” (Clark, The Dressmaker’s Guide, 2nd ed., page 54)

“The proliferation of synthetics throughout the textile and garment industries continues to pose problems for costume designers and technicians who are in the business of creating stage costumes for plays set in many historical periods, most of which fall before the invention of the wash-and-wear, crease resistant, nonsag ‘miracle’ fabrics. Unfortunately, garments made from nylon, polyester, and acrylic fabrics do not look exactly like garments made from silk, wool, or cotton, especially in motion and under stage lights.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 59)

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.

Online Resources:

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

Updated January 10, 2012

Glossary: Rayon Fiber

Rayon is a man-made fiber, but it is not a synthetic fiber. It is classified as a man-made cellulosic fiber, along with acetate and triacetate. Cellulosic fibers are produced from natural substances, generally wood pulp and bits of cotton fiber left over after the ginning process. Rayon was first developed in 1886, but was known simply as “artificial silk” until it was named “rayon” in 1924. Acetate and triacetate are later developments. Unlike noncellulosic synthetic fibers (such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, and spandex), rayon and other cellulosic man-made fibers behave somewhat like natural fabrics, and have breathability that synthetics do not, though still less than natural fibers. Rayon, especially in trims that are no longer manufactured in natural fibers, can be reasonably substituted for natural fibers in some historical applications, when selected with care. It is often appropriate in its own right for 20th century vintage reproductions.

For information on noncellulosic man-made fibers, generally known simply as synthetic fibers, see the entry on synthetic fiber.

About Man-Made, Cellulosic Fibers:

“There are two types of man-made fabrics: cellulosic and noncellulosic. The original ‘artificial silk,’ now known as rayon, and two later varieties, acetate and triacetate, are cellulosic fabrics. They are derived from regenerated cellulose from natural sources, chiefly wood pulp and cotton linters, the tiny pieces of cotton fibers left behind after ginning. These materials are subjected to chemical processes that reduce them to a honeylike solution. This solution is forced through a spinneret, a device that looks much like a shower head with tiny holes, and comes out in slender, hairlike filaments. After the filaments solidify, they may be processed into different types of yarn. Differences in the chemical composition of the solutions and in the reduction processes account for the differences between the three cellulosic fabrics.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 68)

About “Man-Made” Versus “Synthetic” Fibers

“Many people refer to the man-made cellulosic fabrics–rayon, acetate, and triacetate–as man-made, and the man-made noncellulosic fabrics–nylon, polyester, acrylic, etc.–as synthetic. These are useful terms that may help you remember that, although man-made, rayon and acetate behave more like natural fabrics than do the synthetics, such as nylon and polyester.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 68)

For more information about synthetic (man-made, noncellulosic) fibers, see the entry on synthetic fiber.

About Rayon and Other Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers:

“From 1886, when it was first developed, until 1924, the fabric we called rayon was known as ‘artificial silk,’ a reminder of what textile chemists had been looking for. In 1924, the man-made fabric industry sponsored a context to find a generic name for its product. Kenneth Lord coined the word rayon the first man-made word for the first man-made fabric.
Beginning as it did as an inexpensive substitute for silk, rayon had a long climb up the ladder of respectability. For many years rayon was a limp fabric that sagged, stretched, wrinkled, and didn’t wear well. Fortunately, modern manufacturing techniques have improved rayon quality and performance, and it now plays an increasingly important role in the fashion industry. Rayon is lightweight, soft, drapeable, and comfortable to wear.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, pages 68-69)

Rayon: Comes in a wide range of qualities; can be made to resemble natural fibers; can be lightweight or heavy constructions. May have smooth surfaces or bulky napped textures. Soft hand drapes well.” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, page 54)

Acetate: Silk-like appearance, luxurious soft feel, deep luster, excellent draping qualities. Found in fabrics such as satin, jersey, taffeta, lace, faille, brocade, tricot, and crepe, and often in blends with other man-made fibers.” (Butterick, Vogue Sewing, page 51)

On Using Man-Made Fabrics for Vintage & Historical Reproductions:

“Because so many modern clothes are made from synthetics, you’re probably used to their essentially plastic appearance. But synthetics make period clothes appear shoddy and inauthentic. Even if the material is partly natural, or used only on one area of one garment. Synthetics also trap heat and moisture. This is an important consideration with period outfits, which are heavier and more layered than modern ones.
“In other words, reproduction fabrics and trims should be made entirely of linen, cotton, wool (including cashmere and other animal-hair fabrics), silk, or a blend of these. (There are some other cellulosic fibers which are seldom found today.) The only exception is rayon, which is cellulose based. Rayon looks most natural blended with silk or cotton. I’m particularly fond of rayon/silk satins and brocades, and cotton velvet over a rayon base. But all-rayon fabrics (especially velvet) can definitely be too shiny.” (Grimble, After a Fashion, page 72)

“In some circumstances, a dressmaker may choose to substitute a high quality man-made fiber in order to replicate a specific weave, color, or textile pattern. This should not be lightly done; it takes detailed research to know when such substitutions are appropriate, and what the compromise entails authenticity-wise. In general, it is best to avoid synthetics.” (Clark, The Dressmaker’s Guide, 2nd ed., page 54)

“The proliferation of synthetics throughout the textile and garment industries continues to pose problems for costume designers and technicians who are in the business of creating stage costumes for plays set in many historical periods, most of which fall before the invention of the wash-and-wear, crease resistant, nonsag ‘miracle’ fabrics. Unfortunately, garments made from nylon, polyester, and acrylic fabrics do not look exactly like garments made from silk, wool, or cotton, especially in motion and under stage lights.” (Ingham and Covey, The Costume Technician’s Handbook, page 59)

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.

Online Resources:

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

Updated January 10, 2012

Glossary: Wool Coating

Wool coating is not a specific fabric, but rather a general term for a whole range of heavy-weight wool fabrics in a variety of weaves. Most are fairly stiff, but some have a softer, more drapey hand. For more information on wool in general, see the entry Glossary: Wool Fiber. “Coating” is a very broad modern term which designates fabrics based on their common intended use for coats and other outerwear. Typically, any fabric designated “coating” will be too thick for any type of fitted, regular garment, as coatings generally fall into the heavy end of the fabric weight range. Some coatings are fulled, such as flannel, to make them denser and warmer; for more information, see the entry on wool flannel and fulled wools.

Definitions of wool related terms and of relevant types of wool fabrics from a variety of print resources, each of which contains further information:

On page 12, on the subject of fibers, it is stated that “Wool or woolen is a staple fiber, meaning it is of relatively short length. Short staple wool is carded before spinning and creates fluffier yarn and fabric. Longer staple wool is called ‘worsted.’ Worsted fibers are combed to lay them parallel before spinning, creating a smoother yarn and thus a smoother fabric.”

  • Butterick Publishing Company, The. Vogue Sewing. Revised edition. New York: The Butterick Publishing Company, 2000.

On page 39, it is stated that “Woolen and worsted yarns are, respectively, the wool counterparts of carded and combed, yarns in other fibers,” after stating that “Carding produces a loose strand of more or less parallel fibers about and inch (25 mm) in diameter. Further combing eliminates shorter fibers and produces a strand of higher quality.”

On page 180, “stuff” is defined as “plain wool fabric.” Also on page 180, “tartan” is defined as “wool fabric crossbarred by narrow bands of different colors.” Also on page 180, “wool” is defined as “fabric made from the fleece of sheep, woven in many different styles, has warmth and elasticity.” Also on page 181, “worsted” is defined as “wool fabric made of well-twisted yarn of long-staple wool, combed to lay the fibers parallel.”

On page 375, “woolen” is defined as “Cloth made of carded short-staple fibers. After weaving, the cloth was fulled for shrunk to make it denser and heavier. Broadcloth was England’s traditional fine woolen manufacture. The soft fluffy fibers of carded wool were also suitable for knitting.” Also on page 375, “worsted” is defined as “Lightweight cloth made of long-staple combed wool yarn. The name was derived from the village of Worstead near Norwich, a center for worsted weaving. The smooth, shiny fibers were suitable for embroidery and indeed were synonymous with the word crewel, or crewel yarn.”

On page 325, “plaid” is defined as “A twill or plain woven cloth with a pattern of intersecting stripes in both the warp and the weft. The patterns may also be printed.” On page 353, “stuff” is defined as “A general term for worsted cloths.” Drawing from an 1833 list, stuff was available twilled or plain, in such varieties as merino, shalloons, lastings, prunella, florentine, tammies, calimancoes, camblets, and plaids.

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: Wool Flannel and Fulled Wools

Wool flannel is a fabric made from wool, a natural fiber which comes from the fleece of sheep. For more information, see the entry Glossary: Wool Fiber. The term flannel refers to woven fabrics which have been fulled to make them denser and thus, warmer. Often, the fabrics are also brushed to raise a nap, on one or both sides, which gives the fabric a soft, fuzzy texture. Historically, wool broadcloth is a similar textile, undergoing a process of fulling and brushing. Modern cotton flannel, sometimes called flannelette, is very different; in historical references, “flannel” typically means wool flannel (see the entry on cotton flannel for more information). Fulled wool fabrics are usually made of woolen, rather than worsted, yarns. For more information on the distinction, see the entry on wool tabby.

Note that many fabrics of this type available today are made of synthetic fibers, or blended wool with synthetic fibers; blends, and especially fully synthetic fabrics, do not look, feel, or behave the same way as natural, 100% wool or animal hair (such as cashmere) fabrics. For more information on the differences between natural and synthetic fibers, see the entry on synthetic fiber.

Definitions of flannel and other fulled wool fabrics from a variety of print resources, each of which contains further information:

On page 12, on the subject of fibers, it is stated that “Wool or woolen is a staple fiber, meaning it is of relatively short length. Short staple wool is carded before spinning and creates fluffier yarn and fabric. Longer staple wool is called ‘worsted.’ Worsted fibers are combed to lay them parallel before spinning, creating a smoother yarn and thus a smoother fabric. Natural colors of wool range from creamy white to beige to brown to black. Wool dyes well because it is absorbent upon prolonged exposure to moisture. Overlapping scales that cover the fiber (seen under magnification) give wool its felting ability, because they interlock and entangle the fibers with the application of heat, moisture, and agitation. This is important in the fulling process, which shrinks and felts the wool to a desired degree. The scales also trap air, which makes wool warm to wear.”

There are no specific references to “flannel,” but on page 24, the fabric swatch for “baize” is something that could be termed a heavy flannel. The text states that “This plain-weave woolen cloth was heavily fulled so that the fibers became felted. Both sides were brushed to raise a nap. The linings of many early nineteenth century cloaks appear to be home-woven baize (commonly green), and are of a lighter weight than the same shown here, which represents a factory-woven baize.”

  • Butterick Publishing Company, The. Vogue Sewing. Revised edition. New York: The Butterick Publishing Company, 2000.

Under the heading of “Texture Finishes” on page 46, it is stated that “Napping is a common finish by which short fiber ends of spun yarn are raised to the surface of a fabric by a series of revolving wire brushes to create flannel or fleece.” On the same page, it is also stated that “Fulling takes advantage of the natural shrinkage capacity of wool. Subjecting the cloth to moisture, heat, and pressure compacts the yarns, strengthens the weave, and imparts warmth, body, and stability. It is similar to the felting of non-woven fibers.”

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.
“Similarly, when you find references to ‘broadcloth’ in mod-century sources, it is most often a wool broadcloth, not cotton.”

On page 175, “broadcloth” is defined as “fine, stout, smooth-faced wool cloth, felted or given a nap finish to avoid raveling, much used for men’s clothes.” On page 176, “Georgian cloth” is defined as “light-weight broadcloth, first popular in 1806.” Also on page 176, “ladies’ cloth” is defined as “a light-weight broadcloth used for dresses.”

On page 180, “wool” is defined as “fabric made from the fleece of sheep, woven in many different styles, has warmth and elasticity.” On page 181, “worsted” is defined as “wool fabric made of well-twisted yarn of long-staple wool, combed to lay the fibers parallel.”

On page 375, “woolen” is defined as “Cloth made of carded short-staple fibers. After weaving, the cloth was fulled for shrunk to make it denser and heavier. Broadcloth was England’s traditional fine woolen manufacture. The soft fluffy fibers of carded wool were also suitable for knitting.” On page 177, “broadcloth” is described as being “Made of carded wool in plain weave and fulled after weaving.”

On page 152, “baize” is defined as “A heavy woolen cloth, well felted and usually raised, or napped, on both sides. Dyed brown or green it is used for covering tables, especially billiard tables.”

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