What's the Difference? This vs. That

Clarification on some commonly confused fabric terms.

by Melissa Wolck

You have probably been confused by some of the fabric industry terms before, either when buying fabric for your projects or when trying to explain them to your customers. It is very easy to overthink the meanings and become totally confused. So let us clear up any questions you may have. It could save you time and money on your next upholstery or interior design project!


Let's take a closer look at embroideries and jacquards, because they are in fact, very different.


On an embroidery fabric, thread is stiched onto a base cloth to create a pattern. Notice how the floral pattern on the left is stitched on top of a faux silk ground. This is an embroidery.


These beautiful fabrics are intricately woven on a jacquard loom. The pattern is actually woven INTO the fabric by the warp and weft threads. Jacquard looms can weave pretty much any pattern you can think of including florals, geometrics, medallions, and stripes. Take a look at the example on the right. The floral pattern is woven all the way across the fabric from selvedge to selvedge. The weave creates the design.

To put it simply, Chenille is a type of yarn, and Velvet is a type of construction.


Chenille is a type of yarn that when woven, produces a fabric that is also known as chenille. Although sometimes woven into a cloth that resembles the look of velvet, chenille in fact, is very different. Chenille is the French word meaning ‘caterpillar’ and this soft fuzzy yarn has a hairy caterpillar-like appearance.


Velvet is produced by weaving a double cloth construction, in which two pieces of fabric are woven together face to face with long threads. The center threads are then cut apart to create an even pile effect and producing two pieces of velvet.

These terms tend to be used interchangeably, but checks and plaids are different.


Traditionally, Plaid referred to a specific type of garment worn by the Scottish to protect them from cold, harsh winters. The pattern of the fabric was, you guessed it, Tartan. Today, the term Plaid refers to patterns inspired by traditional tartan designs, and the term tartan now refers to a type of plaid. Plaids consist of crossed horizontal and vertical bands in two or more colors. Plaids have many variations of band width, repeat, and/or color.


Check patterns are simpler than plaids. They generally consist of two alternating colors, but not always. Checkered patterns are symmetrical, consisting of crossed horizontal and vertical lines that form equal sized squares. Each line is intersected by the same kind of line in equal intervals and widths. There are many different types of check patterns such as Gingham, Windowpane, and Buffalo.

I hope this gives you a better understanding without getting into the technical details and will be a helpful resource for explaining the differences between fabric patterns and constructions to your own customers. 

Let us know if you have any questions or blog topics you would like to see added to our site. We love to be your number one resource for all things fabric!