Sunday, April 8, 2012

All About Fabrics: Cottons

  Cotton is one of the most popular fabrics today. Cotton is the fabric that is simple, clean-looking and inexpensive. It's easy to care for and looks good too!

  • Cotton is a safe choice for sewing. It is generally easily to handle and easy to sew.  

  • Cotton must be pre-washed! (It shrinks about 5%)

  • Cotton comes in a variety of types (see below) and a  variety of designs because it takes colour well. 

  • Caution: taking colour well also means that it will stain easily.

  • Use cotton thread  

  • The dryer can fade cotton faster than air-drying  and remember, it will need to be ironed!

      Different types of cotton fabric

    Diaper Cloth is a twill or plain woven absorbent cotton. It is so called because it is used, in many thicknesses in cloth diapers.

    Dimity is sheer, thin, white or printed fabric with lengthwise cords, stripes or checks.

    Duck is a heavy, durable tightly woven fabric. Is is also known as canvas. It is a plain-weave that becomes soften over time with laundering. Heavy weight drill is used in awnings, tents, artist's canvas, sneakers, totes, work clothes, etc. Lighter duck is used in summer clothing. Duck can be made from linen as well but is most common in cotton.

    Flannel cotton is soft and warm and it typically used for bed sheets and pajamas. It is a plain or twill weave with a slight nap on one or both sides. Flannel is sometimes used to line silks. Flannelette has a nap on one side only.

    Gauze is a sheer, lightly woven fabric similar to cheesecloth.It can be used as interfacing for cotton lawn and other sheer fabrics.
     Gingham is a lightweight, washable, stout fabric that is woven in checks, plaids or stripes. It is used in curtains, interior design and clothing. It is more commonly found as a blend today for easier cleaning.

    Lawn is a plain weave, soft, very light, combed cotton fabric with a crisp finish.While not completely sheer, it is a lightweight fabric. It comes in many designs and can be lightweight, cool and fun to wear.  This fabric needs a fusible interfacing like cotton organdy  This fabric makes great shirts, blouses, dresses and skirts.

    Muslin is a sheer to coarse plain woven cotton fabric. Muslin comes in “natural” color or is dyed. An inexpensive, loose weave, the name of this fabric is often used to describe the "draft" project that sewers use to ensure fit.
    Organdy is a very thin, transparent cotton with a crisp finish. It can come in silk or cotton. It can be used as an interfacing for more sheer fabrics.

    Outing flannel is a soft, twill or plain weave fabric napped on both sides. Used for baby clothes, diapers, and sleepwear.

    Oxford is shirting fabric with a lustrous, soft finish. It is characterized with narrow stripes and can be woven in plain or basket weave. Also a term used for wool fabric that has black and white fibers.

    Percale refers to the weave not the fabric. It has a thread count of 200 or more - it is tighter than most thin cotton fabrics. It can come in 100% cotton or in blends with polyester. It is typically a light-to-medium weight fabrics that can be found printed or in dark or light colors. Bed sheets, home decor and shirts are the traditional uses of percale.

    Pima Cotton, from Egyptian cotton, is an excellent quality cotton fabric. Its thickness makes it a durable cotton that will last years. Traditionally used in button-down shirts. This fabric stains easily.

    Polished Cotton is either a satin weave cotton or a plain weave cotton that is finished to, as the name implies, appear shiny. It is only sold in one colour per bolt. Sometimes, cotton strands are woven with satin strands to create more lustre. Otherwise, it a chemical finish is applied to the top of the cotton after it is woven -meaning it will fade with time. Used in home decor and increasing in casual dresses.

    Poplin is a plain weave fabric with a cross-wise rib. This was originally a fabric only made in silk but cotton has grown in popularity. It is associated with shirts.

    Sailcloth is a very strong, heavy canvas or duck made in plain weave. It is used in the making of sportswear and draperies. Today, sails are made typically from nylon but historically, sails have been made from cotton (hence the name) and linen.

    Sateen is a satin weave cotton fabric. (It can be made in rayon too.)
    This fabric was used extensively in clothing in the 1970s. It has since made a comeback in dresses, home decor and more! When sewing, it can be difficult to make bound buttonholes with satin because it is so slippery to work with. Try sewing with tissue paper, freezer paper or toilet paper to better control this slick fabric.

    Seersucker is a lightweight cotton fabric crinkled into lengthwise stripes. It is very recognizable because of its crinkled look, which is created when some of the threads in the weave are pulled tight. Today, some manufacturers use chemicals to achieve the crinkled effect. It is a very breathable fabric which makes it popular for summer clothing. It can be made from 100% cotton, or a cotton blended with rayon, linen or silk. During WWII, US army and navy nurses wore seersucker uniforms as did other government workers. Again, its uses include clothing for men, women and children as well as home decor.

    Swiss is a sheer, very fine cotton that can be plain or decorated with dots or other designs. It is usually very expensive and reserved for use in wedding gowns. More recently, it has been used in women's wear for summer dresses and lingerie. It is also used for table-wear -napkins, clothes, etc.

    Terry Cloth is a looped pile fabric that is either woven or knitted. Very absorbent and used for towels and robes. It is highly absorbent. French terry cloth is looped on one side and sheared pile on the other. It can sometimes be seen in linings and knitwear items.

    Twill (drill, chino cloth, gaberdine and denim are other names for this fabric) is a strong cotton (or sometimes cotton blend) fabric. It is identifiable by its parallel ribs running diagonally throughout the fabric. It i used in men’s and women’s pants as well as skirts. Denim is a common type of twill.

    Velveteen is an all cotton pile fabric with short pile. It is an imitation velvet. It does not drape as easily as velvet and has less sheen. This fabric has a nap which must be considered when cutting and sewing. 

    A knit cotton (sometimes made of other fabrics, including polyester). It has some characteristics of knits (it does not ravel and it is stretchy) and some of velvet (it has a rich appearance and has the nap of velvet). It has been used in clothing, costumes, upholstery (as an inexpensive alternative to velvet) and draperies.


    1. I didn't know there was two types of terry cloth. What about polar fleece?

    2. Polar Fleece isn't cotton - believe it or not! It's a synthetic fabric sometimes made from recycled plastics. I am going to cover all the fabrics - natural and man-made in my fabric series. So expect to read more on polar fleece!

    3. Just going on price, I use cotton-wrped polyester. It is a lot cheaper than mercized cotton and I have never had a problem.

    4. Pima cotton in clothing is most often used in shirts for both men and women.Men's socks can be made with pima cotton, but the socks often include some elastic to keep the socks from slipping down the leg.

      Luxury Sleepwear & Pima Cotton Sleepwear



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