Types of Fabric A to Z: Understand the Clothes You Wear

Bolts of Fabric
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For the best laundry results, it is good to have a working knowledge of fabrics and how to care for them. This glossary of types of fabric will help you interpret clothing care labels. Follow the links to find more information on how to remove stains and care for specific fabrics.

A

A manufactured fiber refined from cotton filaments and/or wood pulp, and acetic acid that has been extruded through a spinneret and then hardened.

  • Antron®

A type of nylon made by DuPont®.

B

Bamboo fabric is made from the pulp of the bamboo grass. It is light and strong, has excellent wicking properties, and is to some extent antibacterial. This antibacterial quality helps to reduce bacteria that thrives on clothing and causes unpleasant odors. In addition, bamboo fabric has insulating properties and will keep the wearer cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

  • Bisso

Crisp, fine linen which is sometimes called altar cloth and used for that purpose.

A term applied to a yarn or a fabric that is made up of more than one fiber. In blended yarns, two or more different types of staple fibers are twisted or spun together to form the yarn. Polyester/cotton is an example of a typical blended yarn or fabric.

  • Boiled Wool

Wool fabric that is felted to create a very dense final product used for coats, jackets and slippers.

  • Boucle

This fabric can be a knit or a woven but is made with a novelty yarn.

The finished fabric has protruding loops or curls on the surface. Care must be used when cleaning to prevent snagging.

C

  • Carbon-infused

A carbon fabric blends carbon-infused fibers by the burning of bamboo and blends them with synthetic fiber to create a durable, tech fabrication that is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, breathable and moisture wicking.

  • Charmeuse

A lightweight silk or silk-like fabric.

  • Chenille

A soft fuzzy fabric developed in France. The name means caterpillar in French. It can be made from cotton or a blended fiber.

  • Chiffon

An extremely sheer, lightweight, soft fabric made of silk, polyester, rayon or other fibers. It is made of highly twisted filament yarns.

  • Chino

Study plain or twill weave cotton fabric. Most of these fabrics are dyed a khaki color but can be navy, black or olive drab.

  • Chintz

A glazed cotton in a plain weave. Chintz has bright colors and prints, often florals.

  • Combed Cotton

Cotton in which a combing process removes the short fibers and any debris that may be with the fiber when it was in the field. This results in a cleaner, more uniform and lustrous yarn.

  • Coolmax

A polyester fiber designed to move moisture away from the body and out onto the surface of the garment for quick evaporation.

Usually made from cotton, corduroy is a durable pile fabric with lengthwise ridges cut into the pile called wales. Corduroy is available as a cotton/polyester blend to help prevent wrinkles.

A natural fiber that grows in the seedpod of the cotton plant. Fibers are typically 1/2 inch to 2 inches long. The longest staple fibers - longer than 1 1/2 inch, including the Pima and Egyptian varieties - produce the highest quality cotton fabrics.

  • Cotton Lisle

A hard-spun two ply cotton yarn made from long staple fibers and treated to remove all short fuzzy ends for a smooth finish. Lisle is a popular choice for fine men's knitwear, including tops and socks.

D

Damask refers to the type of weave used to create jacquard-woven florals or geometric designs. The fabric can be made from cotton, linen, polyester or from blended fibers.

  • Double Knit

A knit fabric in which two layers of loops are formed that cannot be separated. A double knit machine, which has two complete sets of needles, is required for this construction.

E

  • Ecosil polyester

Ecosil means the polyester fibers are spun very compactly to give the fabric a clean appearance, and a resistance to pilling and abrasion.

  • Egyptian cotton

All cotton grown in Egypt is "Egyptian" but it is not all extra-long staple cotton which is the most desirable and softest.

Elastane is just another name for an old fiber: Spandex. The word "elastane" is used in Europe while "spandex" is used in the United States. Elastane/spandex trade names are Lycra and Dorlastan.

  • Eyelet

A type of fabric with patterned cut-out designs, around which stitching or embroidery is applied in order to prevent the fabric from raveling. It can be made from cotton or man-made fibers.

F

  • Faille

A glossy, soft, finely-ribbed silk-like woven fabric made from cotton, silk, or manufactured fibers.

  • Fiberfill

Lightweight, synthetic fiber that can be used to line coats, vests and padded garments

  • French terry

A circular knit fabric with a looped pile back and smooth face. The fabric can be a natural fiber like cotton or bamboo or a synthetic fiber.

G

  • Gaberdine

Sturdy fabric with a twill weave. Can be made of cotton, wool or synthetic fibers.

H

  • Hydrophilic Fabric

Fabric that attracts water and is absorbent.

  • Hydrophobic Fabric

Fabric that tends to repel water.

I

  • Interlock knit

A rib stitch variation, interlock stitch fabrics are thicker, heavier and more stable than single knit constructions.

  • Italian Nylon

A very high quality knit fabric with 4-way stretch that comes from Italy. Italian nylon includes some lycra to give great stretch and recovery, abrasion resistance and anti-bacterial qualities.

J

  • Jacquard

Any fabric that has a pattern woven into the fabric rather than printed on it is a jacquard. Brocade and damask are types of jacquard woven fabrics. The fabric can be made with natural or synthetic fibers.

  • Jacquard Knit

A double knit fabric in which a Jacquard type of mechanism is used. This device individually controls needles or small groups of needles, and allows very complex and highly patterned knits to be created.

  • Jersey

A generic term for a plain knit fabric without a distinct rib. Originally made of wool, jersey fabric was first manufactured on the island of Jersey. Today jersey can be knit from many different types of fibers.

K

  • Knit

Knit fabrics are made the same way a knitted scarf is made by someone at home with two needles and a ball of yarn.

Knitting is a process that loops a piece of yarn in a row a few times, then links those loops with another row of loops and so on. Knit fabrics are naturally stretchy because of the loops in the natural or man-made fibers.

L

A woven fabric using flat silver or gold metal threads to create either the design or the background in the fabric.

Latex is made with rubber and thus has rubber-like qualities. It is used in some elastics to provide greater elasticity.

A fabric made from linen fibers obtained from inside the woody stem of the flax plant. Linen fibers are much stronger and more lustrous than cotton. Linen fabrics are very cool and absorbent, but wrinkle very easily, unless blended with manufactured fibers. Linen is one of the world's oldest textile fibers.

  • Lining

The name given to material sewn into the inside of a garment to make it more opaque or more comfortable against the skin. Lining fabrics can be made of natural or man-made fibers.

  • Lycra

Lycra is the trademarked spandex fiber produced by DuPont. It is lightweight and soft, but stronger and more durable than rubber and is used in compression garmentsswimwear and bras.

Lyocell is a cellulose fabric obtained by an organic solvent spinning process. This fabric is a sub-category of rayon. Tencel is the trademark name for lyocell.

M

Memory foam is often used to give shape to a garment.

  • Mercerized Cotton

Cotton that has been through a wet finishing process which swells the yarns of the fabric to give it a round smooth surface and stops the cotton from further shrinkage. This process results in a stronger and more lustrous yarn that is more easily dyed, producing brighter, deeper colors.

  • Merino Wool

Merino wool means the wool fiber is long and fine. The result is a fabric that is thin, soft and luxurious.

  • Mesh

An open-weave knitted or woven fabric that produces a net or sheer-like effect.

  • Micro Modal

Micro Modal® is a trademarked microfiber from an Austrian textile company, Lenzing made from spun beechwood cellulose. The fabric is delicate and light.

  • Microfiber

Fabric made with microfiber means that the fabric’s filaments are extremely fine and usually a blend of polyester or polyamide (nylon) fibers. Microfiber fabrics are thus lightweight, and look and feel luxurious.

  • Microfleece

Microfleece is an ultra-soft synthetic wool-like fabric.

Modal is made with cellulose from beech trees and is essentially a variety of rayon. Garments made in modal have anti-crease properties and are relatively easy care.

N

A synthetic rubber fabric used for swimwear, outerwear and high fashion clothing.

A completely synthetic fiber, nylon is known for its superior flexibility and excellent resilience.

P

  • Panne

velvet-like fabric that has been flattened to achieve a desired design or look.

  • Peau de Soie

A heavy twill-weave drapeable satin fabric, made of silk fibers or a manufactured fiber.

  • Peruvian Pima Cotton

Pima cotton that is grown in Peru and harvested by hand which reduces the scratchy impurities and guarantees a more brilliant white shade that can be easily dyed.

  • Pima Cotton

Pima cotton is a generic name for extra-long staple cotton grown in the U.S., Australia and Peru. The name honors the Pima Indians who grow the cotton for the USDA in Sacaton, Arizona.

  • Piqué

A medium-weight fabric, either knit or woven, with raised dobby designs including cords, wales, waffles, or patterns. Woven versions have cords running lengthwise, or in the warp direction. Knitted versions are double-knit fabric constructions, created on multi-feed circular knitting machines.

  • Polyamide

The basic fiber-forming substance for nylon fiber. It is also the European term for nylon.

This is both the name of a fabric and a fiber. Polyester has high strength, excellent resiliency and high abrasion resistance. Low absorbency allows the fiber to dry quickly.

  • Powernet

This is a two-way stretch nylon fabric used in high-end compression garments.

R

A silk-like fabric made from wood pulp, cotton linters, or other vegetable matter. It is a comfortable, but weak, fabric against the skin and absorbs moisture.

  • Rib Knit

A knitted fabric with alternating raised and lowered rows. More elastic and durable than plain knits.

S

  • Sanforized

Patented by Cluett, Peabody and Co., Inc. the label means permanent fit – the fabric shrinkage is held to just 1 percent.

A woven type of fabric with the characteristic of being highly lustrous on one side, and matte on the other. Can be made in a variety of fibers.

  • Silicone

A rubber like polymer, which maintains its elasticity over a wide range of temperatures. Often used inside the lace top of stockings to cling to the skin and keep the stocking up without garters.

A natural filament fiber produced by the silkworm in the construction of its cocoon. Most silk is collected from cultivated caterpillars and comes from Asia.

  • Soy

Soy fabric is made from the leftover dregs from soybean oil or tofu production making it eco-friendly. Similar to natural silk, it is common for find occasional slubs which adds to its natural beauty. Its care is the same as cotton fabric.

A synthetic fiber made from polyurethane. It is lightweight, highly elastic, strong, durable and non-absorbent to water and oils. In Europe, they call this elastane.

  • Spannette

A natural rubber latex/nylon stretch fabric with thousands of air holes for comfort and breathability.

  • Supima Cotton

The name "Supima" is a licensed trademark of a group of cotton growers. It is a 100 percent American Pima cotton.

  • Supplex Nylon

Supplex nylon is made by DuPont®. It is a cottony soft nylon that offers the performance benefits of a man-made fabric with the look of cotton.

T

  • Tactel

Tactel nylon is made by DuPont. It is a silkier softer nylon with a crinkle finish. It is lightweight and quick drying.

  • Tencel

Tencel is the trademark name for lyocell.

  • Themastat

synthetic fiber with a hollow core to keep you warmer and drier by wicking moisture away.

  • Tricot

This word comes from the French word "tricoter" which means to knit. Tricot is a finely knit fabric that stretches in both the lengthwise and crosswise directions. It can be made from nylon, wool, rayon, silk, cotton or other fibers.

V

  • Velour

Soft plush fabric with a close, dense pile.

Velvet is a woven fabric made of silk, nylon, acetate or rayon with a thick, soft pile of cut or uncut loops. A similar fabric, velveteen, is made the same way but from cotton.

  • Viscose

The European term for rayon.

A shiny, plastic-coated fabric typically made with a woven backing of polyester fibers that are then coated with polyvinyl chloride or a blend of PVC and polyurethane. 

W

Wool is a natural fiber that comes from the fleece of a sheep, goat, llama or alpaca.

  • Woven

Woven fabrics are made from two pieces of yarn that are stretched out over a loom and woven together in both horizontal and vertical directions. Woven fabrics do not stretch because their fibers run at 45-degree angles to one another. Woven fabrics include linen, denim, twill, satin, chiffon, corduroy, tweed and canvas.

X

  • X-Static Silver Fiber

X-Static silver fiber has a layer of pure silver permanently bonded to the surface of a textile fiber. It can be used in knits, wovens and non-wovens as either a filament or spun yarn. The addition of silver creates an anti-odor, anti-bacterial fiber.