A-Z Glossary or Guide of fabric qualities
Cotton of medium fineness and medium staple length.
Natural hair from the alpaca, or animal from which the fibre alpaca is obtained.
Hair fibre from the angora rabbit.
Fine, soft,plain weave fabric. Originally linen, now other fibres, eg cotton.
Combination of two or more different fibres within the same yarn. This can be for cost, properties and/or appearance.
Colour-and-weave effect where the pattern shows small, uniform spots. The reverse side of a flat jacquard weft knitted fabric where the yarns are arranged to show minimum amounts of each colour in an all-over pattern.
Fancy yarn showing an irregular pattern of curls or loops.
Non-jacquard double jersey weft knit structure made on an interlock basis showing horizontal ridges on the effect side.
Figured woven jacquard fabric, usually multicoloured, much used for furnishings.
Plain weave fabric, generally of linen or cotton, which is stiffened during finishing with fillers and starches. Uses include interlinings and bookbinding fabrics.
General term used for plain cotton fabrics heavier than muslin. These are usually left unbleached, area made in a variety of weights, and are often used for making toiles.
Lightweight, closely woven, plain weave fabric, usually made from cotton or linen.
Strong, firm, relatively heavy and rigid, generally plain woven cloth traditionally made from cotton, linen, hemp or jute.
Firm woven fabric with a steep twill showing double twill lines, traditionally used for riding breeches and jodphurs.
Lightweight, plain weave cotton cloth with a dyed warp and a white weft.
Open, lightweight, plain weave fabric with a slightly crêpey appearance, usually made from carded cotton yarns with higher than average twist.
Fancy yarn produced by weaving a leno fabric and cutting into warp-way strips so that each strip forms the yarn, which has a velvety, caterpillar-like appearance.
Originally a very lightweight, sheer, plain weave fabric made from silk. Now can also be used to describe a similar fabric using other fibres.
Originally a 2-fold yarn, one black, one white, giving a regular two colour effect. Term now used to describe any 2-fold, two colour yarn.
Closely woven, lustrous, plain weave cotton fabric, printed or plain, that has been friction calendered or glazed. Much used for curtainings and upholstery.
Natural vegetable fruit fibre from the coconut.
One of several combinations of colours used for a particular fabric.
Wove, cut weft-pile fabric where the cut pile runs in vertical cords along the length of the fabric. A number of different types are found, ranging from pincord (very fine cords) to elephant cord (very broad cords).
Fabric characterised by a crinkled or puckered surface, which can be produced by a number of methods. 1. woven fabric where short, irregular floats in warp and weft are arranged to give an all-over, random pattern within the weave repeat. 2. woven or knitted fabric where the crêpe characteristics are achieved mainly by the use of highly twisted yarns, which in finishing develop the crinkled, puckered appearance of a crêpe. 3. fabric where the crêpe effect is produced in finishing by treatment with embossing rollers, engraved with a crêpe pattern, which impart a crêpe effect onto the fabric through heat and pressure.
Crêpe de chine
Lightweight, plain weave crêpe fabric, made with highly twisted continuous filament yarns in the weft, alternating one S and one Z twist, and with normally twisted filament yarns in the warp. The crêpe effect is relatively unpronounced.
Spun or filament yarns that are very highly S or Z twisted used for the production of crepe fabrics.
Lightweight, printed, all wool plain weave fabric.
Doupion (or Dupion)
Silk-breeding term meaning double cocoon, used to describe the irregular, raw rough silk reeled from double cocoons.
Woven twill fabric with a similar structure to denim, but usually piece-dyed.
Type of cotton characterised by long, fine fibres.
Lightweight, open-textured fabric made in plain weave a simple leno weave.
Fine, lightweight, plain weave, crêpe fabric, usually having two highly twisted S and two highly twisted Z yarns alternately in both warp and weft.
Variation on plain weave, where two or more ends and picks weave as one. Sometimes called basket weave.
Type of cotton characterised by relatively short, coarse fibres.
Fabric used between the inner and outer layers of a garment to improve shape retention, strength, warmth or bulk. Interlinings may be woven, knitted or nonwoven, and can be produced with fusible adhesive on one surface.
A fabric woven on a jacquard loom, where the patterning mechanism allows individual control on any interlacing of up to several hundred warp threads or a rib-based, double jersey weft-knit structure which shows a figure or design in a different colour or texture. Jacquard fabrics are sub-divided into flat-jacquard and blister fabrics.
General term used for any knitted fabric.
Natural vegetable bast fibre, the plant from which the bast jute fibre is obtained.
Coarse fibres present in varying amounts in wool fleece. Usually white, black or brown and can be used to give decorative effects in some wool fabrics.
Fancy yarn characterised by random flecks or spots of differently coloured fibres.
Fine, plain weave fabric, traditionally of cotton on linen.
Natural vegetable bast fibre obtained from the flax plant.
Wool from the fleeces of lambs (young sheep up to the age of weaning).
A general name for fabrics where metallic threads are a conspicuous feature.
Square-hole, warp knitted net.
Wool from the merino sheep, which produces the shortest and finest wool fibres.
Natural animal hair fibre from the angora or mohair goat.
Fabric which shows a moiré or wavy watermark pattern. This is produced by calendaring, usually on a fabric showing a rib or cord effect in the weft direction. The moiré effect can be achieved by embossing with a roller engraved with a moiré pattern, or by feeding two layers of fabric face to face through the calendar. the effect may be permanent or temporary depending on the fibres and the chemicals used.
Firm, woven warp-pile fabric where the pile yarns are lifted over wires, which may or may not have knives. Withdrawal of the wires will give a cut or an uncut pile. Used for upholstery, particularly on public transport vehicles.
General term for very fine, semi-opaque fabrics, finer than muslins, made of silk, wool or cotton.
Lightweight, open, plain or simple leno weave fabric, usually made of cotton.
Any fabric that does not exceed 45 cms in width (in the UK). In the USA and Europe, the accepted upper width is 30 cms. Ribbons, tapes, braids and narrow laces are included in this category.
A textile fibre occuring in nature, which is animal, vegetable or mineral in origin.
Fibre from a sheep or lamb that has not previously been used. Alternative name for virgin wool.
Man made synthetic polymer fibre. Alternative name for polyamide.
Lightweight, plain weave transparent fabric, with a permanently stiff finish.
A sheer, lighweight, plain weave fabric, with a relatively firm drape and handle, traditionally made from the continuous filament of silk yarns. Now often made using other fibres.
Man made synthetic polymer fibre.
Silk in which there is no metallic or other weighting of any kind, except that which is an essential part of dyeing.
Continuous filaments containing no twist, drawn off or reeled from cocoons. The filaments are unbleached, undyed and not degummed.
Woven structure where the maximum amount of weft shows on the face. The smooth effect is enhanced by using filament yarns and/or lustrous fibres.
Woven structure where the maximum amount of warp shows on the face. The smooth effect is enhanced by using filament yarns and/or lustrous fibres.
Natural animal protein fibre obtained from the cocoons produced by silkworms.
Very short silk fibres extracted during silk combing that are too short for producing spun silk. These fibres are usually spun into silk-noil yarns.
Fancy yarn characterised by areas of thicker, loosely twisted yarn alternating with thinner, harder twisted areas.
Staple fibre silk yarn produced from silk waster which has been largely degummed.
Describes a substance which has been manufactured by building up a complex structure from simpler chemical substances.
Plain weave, closely woven, smooth, crisp fabric with a slight weftways rib, originally made from continuous filament silk yarns. Now often made using other fibres.
A woven warp-pile fabric where the loops are formed by applying a high tension to the ground warp and a very low tension to the pile warp. Beating-up does not occur on every pick, so that when a pick is beaten-up it causes the other picks to be moved into the main body of the cloth, at the same time forming the pile loops on the face and back of the cloth.
Yarn twisted from continuous filament silk.
Cut pile weft or warp knitted fabric.
Cut warp-pile fabric, in which the cut fibrous ends of the yarns from the surface of the fabric. Many effects are possible, e.g. the pile may be left erect, or it may be laid in one direction during finishing to give a very high lustre.
Man made natural polymer regenerated cellulose fibre.
Plain weave, semi-sheer, lightweight fabric made with fine, fairly highly twisted yarns. Originally made from cotton, now other fibres are sometimes used.
Lofty sheet of fibres used for padding, stuffing or packing.
Describes man made filaments produced by wet spinning, where the dissolved polymer is converted into filaments by extrusion through the spinneret into a coagulating bath of chemicals, causing the filaments to solidify.
- Definition: Taffeta (fabsugar.com)
- Definition: Poplin (fabsugar.com)
- A-Z Interior Fabric Qualities (kothea.com)
Source Credit: R Haworth
We would always recommend 100% Cashmere Wool for luxury throws.
Cashmere wool is made from the fibres of the undercoat of the cashmere goal (capra hircus laniger). The fibres are extremely fine, not exceeding 19 microns. To ensure that the high quality undercoat fibres are used a criterion exists to ensure that 97% of the fibres are below 30 microns.
Cashmere wool thus feels ‘fine’, is lightweight and provides good insulating properties without the weight typified by other wools for the same degree of warmth.
No other commercially available wool offers as high a level of quality as cashmere.
So to ensure the best quality Cashmere Throw it is important to specify 100% Cashmere Wool – neither a blend nor any other wool is as good.
Fabric labels often have abbreviations and, as you will see below, some of these generally accepted abbreviations are for non-English words. So here is a handy little reference chart for all you interior designers out there showing what all those pesky abbreviations mean. Please comment if any are missing.
WO – Wool (Sheep by default)
WV – Virgin Fleece Wool
WP – Alpaca Wool
WL – Lama Wool
WS – Cashmere Goat aka Kaschmir and Cachemire and (incorrectly) Kashmir
WM – Mohair (Goat) Wool
SE – Silk / Seide
CO – Cotton / Baumwolle
LI – Flax / Linen
HA – Hemp / Hanf
CV – Viscose
CMD – Modal
CLY – Lyocell
PA – Nylon / Polyamid
PES – Polyester
PUR – Polyurethane
EL – Elastane aka spandex
ME – Metallic
AF – Other Fibers
Some Italian Translations and Abbreviations:
WP – can also mean baby alpaca Wool
VI – also means viscose
WK – camel hair wool
WA – angora wool
EA – elastane
PC – acrylic
PM – polyester
For more information on luxury cashmere throws or to request cuttings please visit www.kothea.com. For black faux leather upholstery fabrics try <here> and for mohair velvet and mohair velvet upholstery fabric please follow the links. Upholstery Linen is also one of our specialities as are luxury silk velvet fabrics.
- A-Z Interior Fabric Qualities (kothea.com)
- Guest Post: Choosing Furniture for Public Areas (kothea.com)
- Who is the best interior designer in the world? in Europe? (kothea.com)
- Interior Designers – What Should I write About On My Blog (kothea.com)
- Pinterest and Customer Interest : Interior Designers Pin their Boards to the Wall (kothea.com)
- Interior Designers and their financially lucrative ‘bit on the side’ (kothea.com)
- Beware of fake cashmere (frugallivingadvice.com)
- Yarn labelling – the story goes on (bromiskelly.typepad.com)
- How Is Wool Made Machine-Washable? (sweatyknitter.com)
We were asked about the suitability of “wool mohair” for upholstery.
There’s probably a little confusion here as wool and mohair both refer to animal hair. Technically mohair is wool; as wool encompasses animal hair from the Caprinae family (ie sheep, goats, llamas and rabbits). Assuming that the question means sheep wool then both could be woven together of course. But then the suitability of those fibres for upholstery really depends on how they are woven.
So neither wool nor mohair in themselves are always suitable for upholstery. It depends on how they are woven. To properly assess any fabrics suitability for upholstery you need to look at the fabrics rub test and its ability to be fire treated.
Pure natural fibres (sheep wool and mohair) are normally exempt from the match test for upholstery but still need to pass the cigarette test (please look elsewhere on this blog for information – or for definitive information look at http://www.textilesfr.co.uk).the fabric may or may no require treating, you will have to check.
Mohair can have a Martindale/rub test of over 100,000 (e.g. our Mohair Velvet) and so can be suitable for contract upholstery. Whereas one of our 100% sheep wool fabrics has a martindale of 23,000 again making it suitable for upholstery.
So really its probably best to find the Mohair/Wool fabric you like and then find out if that particular one is suitable for upholstery.
If you’re reading this you’ve probably already read my very brief history of natural dyes. The rest of the following discussion is not quite so brief and does get quite technical in a chemical sense but I’ve tried to omit as much of that as possible to make the information accessible to normal readers like you and me.
Within the space of 50 years mankind had changed almost totally from natural dyes to synthetic ones. Phase 1 of this change was the addition of Chromium. The subsequent, often parallel, phases are discussed below with a bias towards how they apply to fabrics.
The 8 subsequent developments of synthetic dyes from Chromium onwards are:
2. Triphenylmethane dyes
3. Anthraquinone dyes
4. Xanthene and related dyes
5. Azo dyes
6. Reactive dyes
7. Phthalocyanine compounds
8. Quinacridone compounds
9. Fluorescent brighteners
Phase 2: Triphenylmethane dyes
In 1858 Verguin (France) discovers ‘fuchsine’ a rose coloured dye made from aniline and tin chloride. This was the first of a series of dyes later called Triphenylmethanes and this marked the second phase of the growth of the synthetic dye industry. Adding excess aniline made aniline blue. Soon other variations were discovered and the chemistry understood; and before 1900 several hundred colours had been documented.
One problem with these dyes was solubility. That was overcome by the addition of sulphuric acid.
Phase 3: Anthraquinone dyes
In the 1850s and 1860s the understanding of how carbon is structured (tetravalency) led to scientists being able to plan how chemicals might react before doing the experiments. Alizarin and its derivatives (the anthraquinones) gave a huge number of dyes which constitute the second biggest grouping of dyes.
The addition of sulphur created a group of bright, fast dyes for wool. Indrathone blue, a brilliant blue vat dye, was discovered at the turn of the century and related compounds are still today used as pigments spanning colours from blue to yellow.
Phase 4: Xanthene related dyes
Fluorescein was discovered in 1871 but related discoveries were seldom used with fabrics until the late 1880s when some were used for silk. However the dyes had poor lightfastness and usage was stopped – only to be re-used 70 years later when they were found to be particularly good on acrylic fibres. Better products have been found since and now only one chemical dye in this class is used commercially (Safranine T).
Phase 5: Azo dyes
These form more than half of the commercial dyes used today.
The key is the reaction of nitrous acid with arylamine and then with phenols and aryl amines. This chemical reaction forms part of the production process of 50% of dyes in use today having been used since 1875, firstly for wool.
Methyl- related azo dyes were used extensively up until the 1970s but this has now stopped in many countries as they were carcinogenic.
The discovery of the azo dyes led to the development of method called ingrain dyeing. Here the dye is ‘made’ within the fabric. Since the process was carried out at around freezing point, some dyes were called ice colours. In 1912 Naphtol was found to form a water-soluble compound with an affinity for cotton, a major step in the development of the ingrain dyes. Naphtol is able to form a great number of possible end colours although many of these are not adequately colourfast.
Other Azo dyes became the most important commercial colorants because of their wide colour range, good fastness properties, and tinctorial strength (colour density), which is twice that of the anthraquinones, the second most important group of dyes. Azo dyes are easily prepared from many readily available, inexpensive compounds and meet the demands of a wide range of end uses. Cost advantages tend to offset the fact that these are less brilliant and less lightfast than the anthraquinones.
Phase 6: Reactive dyes
Reactive dyes are very adaptable and can create a huge number of colours.
The first reactive dyes utilized monoazo for bright yellow and red shades. Adding aniline gave the azo dye used in the first Procion Red.
Dichlorotriazinyl dyes are now produced by more than 30 dye manufacturers, since the early patents on these dyes have expired.
With the introduction of reactive dyes, cotton could finally be dyed in bright shades with azo dyes for yellows to reds, with anthraquinones for blues, and with copper phthalocyanines for bright turquoise colours.
Phase 7: Phthalocyanine compounds
Phthalocyanines, the most important chromium derivatives developed in the 20th century being introduced in 1934 and marketed as Monastral Fast Blue B and Monastral Fast Blue G.
Copper phthalocyanine is the most important and can be formed directly on cotton. Although not useful for PET and acrylics, some complexes are utilized with nylon. Chemical bleaching alters the shade to bluish-green and green.
Water-soluble versions were developed later by the introduction of sulphur based chemicals also producing a direct dye for cotton (Chlorantine Fast Turquoise Blue Gll), the first commercial phthalocyanine dye.
Such colourants all display strong, bright blue to green shades with remarkable chemical stability. These compounds exhibit excellent lightfastness, and their properties are in striking contrast to those of natural pigments that are destroyed by intense light or heat and mild chemical reagents. The high stability, strength, and brightness of the phthalocyanines render them cost-effective, illustrated by the wide use of blue and green labels on many products.
Phase 8: Quinacridone compounds
A second group of pigments developed in the 20th century were the quinacridone compounds. Quinacridone itself was introduced in 1958. Its seven crystalline forms range in colour from yellowish-red to violet.
Phase 9: Fluorescent brighteners
Raw natural fibres, paper, and plastics tend to appear yellowish because of weak light absorption. Bleaching can reduce this but the bleach must be mild to avoid damaging the material. Alternatively a bluing agent can mask the yellowish tint to make the material ‘appear’ whiter (hence the phrase a ‘bluey whiteness’), or the material can be treated with a fluorescent compound that weakly emits blue visible light. These compounds, also called “optical brighteners,” they are not dyes in the usual sense. The major industrial applications are as textile finishers, pulp and paper brighteners.
Well done for getting this far!
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A Brief History of Natural Dyes (Mordants)
A dye is a substance that gives colour to fabric. Usually in a way such that washing, heating or lighting does not change the colour greatly.
Dyes tend to be carbon based (ie organic in a chemical sense) whereas pigments are very fine powders ‘disolved’ in a liquid. Pigments generally give brighter colours and are man-made.
Dyes have existed for at least 4000 years and, before 1850, were almost entirely from natural sources such as plants, trees and lichens but also sometimes from insects. Here are some natural dyes, rarely used today, and their sources:
Seeds, stems and leaves of the weld plant
The inner bark of the North American oak ‘quercetin’
Dried petals of false saffron (safflower)
Crushed insect bodies from Coccus (cochineal) or it’s distant relation Kermes.
From indigo or woad
From the medium sized predatory sea snail ‘commonly’ known as Murex.
From the middle wood of the Logwood tree. This is still used today to dye silk and leather and is combined with Chromium. I have written other articles about how this ‘natural’ dye is one of the most damaging to the environment because of the use of chromium.
The art of the dye was historically a closely guarded secret with practitioners having their formulae to produce the colours and to retain them by the addition of various metal salts.
Cotton could not be directly dyed whereas wool and silk could. To add a dye to cotton the cotton had to be first treated with salts made from aluminium (red), magnesium (violet), tin, calcium (purple-red), copper, barium (blue) and iron (black-violet) and then dyed. These salts are called mordants.
The Start Of Synthetic Dyes
In the 1850s Chromium was found to give superior dye retention and so started the decline of the natural dye. Chromium mordants are still widely used for wool and less so for silk and nylon.
More precisely, the first commercially successful dye was ‘mauve’ discovered in England in 1856 and taken to market the following year. It was only sold for about 7 years but that was sufficient to start the dramatic decline of natural dyes and the investment in the science for newer and better dyes.
The Chromium discovery meshed well with the Industrial Revolution. The massively growing textile industry in Europe required a cheap and predictable manufacturing process. Natural dyes and mordants could require up to 20 steps in production, the colour could be variable and the dyes had to be transported unreliably from around the world. Because of these factors and the development of chemical science it is easy to see how by-products of coal tar extraction & coke production, abundant in Europe, became the foundation of the modern dye industry.
By 1900 nearly 90 percent of industrial dyes were synthetic.
Pre-war (WWI) Germany dominated the commercial dye market accounting for 90% of all output. Many German scientists worked with distilled cemicals from coal tar, an abundant by-product of the industrial revolution at the time. The German succes was probably due to their investment in the scientific method and in training scientists themselves. Some further ‘by-products’ of the research include aspirin and saccharin.
After WWI the industry gravitated to Britain (ICI), the USA and Switzerland, also moving away from coal tar to petroleum based research.
Perhaps only now with the ‘green’ movement are we seeing a resurgence of interest in natural dyes. KOTHEA cautions the environmentally conscious reader to look carefully at claims of dyes to be natural. Whilst they may well be made from natural materials the processes used along the way can be VERY damaging to the environment.
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Click the fabric company name for their web site:
Abbot and Boyd 020 7351 9985
Altfield 020 7351 5893
Alton Brooke 020 7376 7008
Borderline 020 7823 3567
Brian Yates 01524 35035
Brunswig 020 7351 5797
Bruno Triplet 020 7823 9990
Chase Erwin 020 8875 7441
Colefax 020 7244 7427
Colony Fabrics 020 7351 3232
Donghia 020 7823 3456
Gainsborough Silk 01787 372081
Henry Bertrand 020 7349 1477
Jab 020 7349 9323
Jane Churchill 020 7244 7427
Jrobertscott 020 7376 4705
KOTHEA 0870 285 4768
Kravet 020 7795 0110
Lee Jofa 020 7823 3455
Lelievre 020 7352 4798
Manuel Canovas 020 8877 6400
Nobilis 020 7351 7878
Pierre Frey 0207 376 55 99
Robert Allen 01494 474741
Sacho Hesslein 020 7352 6168
Silk Gallery 020 7351 1790
Turnell and Gigon 020 7259 7280
Watts Westminster 020 7376 4486
Zimmer and Rhode 020 7351 7115
Zoffany 08708 300 350
Many of these fabric companies sell a wide range of products including: chenille, contract fabric, faux / fake leather, mohair velvet, linen velvet, cotton velvet, wool, hand woven products, natural silk, cashmere and damask for upholstery, curtains and cushions.
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