Fabric Terms

Abrasion Resistance - The degree to which a fabric is able to withstand surface wear, rubbing, chafing, and other friction forces. Also known as double rubs.

Acrylic - A synthetic fiber consisting of predominantly acrylonitrile or related chemicals. Acrylic has a soft, wool-like hand, and is generally able to be dyed in a wide range of brilliant colors. Acrylic is also known for its excellent sunlight resistance and wrinkle resistance. Apparel items, carpeting, and upholstery fabrics often contain acrylic fiber as a yarn component.

Animal - A fabric that is made to resemble the skin or the fur of an animal such as a leopard, zebra, tiger, alligator.

Blackout  - Opaque fabric used to black out light. Blackout fabrics are most commonly found in hotel rooms as curtain linings or drapery fabrics, blocking much of the light that would otherwise enter through a window when the curtains are closed. 

Boucle – A French word meaning “buckled, curled or looped”. A fabric with a looped, textured surface that is woven or knitted using fancy “boucle” yarns.  Loops inherent in the yarn protrude from the surface of the fabric in an all-over irregular manner to form a loop pile on the surface of the fabric.

Chenille - A fuzzy yarn with a pile which resembles a caterpillar. Used mainly for decorative fabrics, embroidery, tassels, and rugs. Sometimes used broadly to define a fabric woven from chenille yarns. 

Chevron – A design, pattern or object having the shape of a V or an inverted V, which incorporates herringbone elements of zigzag stripes or joined Vs.

Chintz – A printed cotton fabric, glazed or unglazed. Used primarily for bed covers, quilts and draperies. 

Colorfast - A term used to describe fabrics of sufficient color retention so that no noticeable change in shade takes place during the "normal" life of the fabric. Virtually all textile dyes are rated according to their color life span. 

Contemporary – Belonging to or existing in the same period of time. 

Cotton - A soft, natural, vegetable fiber obtained from the seed-pod of the cotton plant. Cotton is the most widely used fiber in the world because of its versatility and ability to provide good comfort, particularly in apparel items. Its origins date back to 3,000 BC. The chemical composition of cotton is almost pure cellulose. In its raw, undyed form, the normal color of cotton is a light to dark cream, though it may also be brown or green depending on the variety. Cotton fiber lengths vary from less than one-half inch, to more than two inches. Generally, long length cotton fibers are of better quality. Commercial types of cotton are classified by groups based on fiber length and fineness, and the geographical region of growth. Egyptian, American-Pima, and Indian are examples of different cotton types. Cotton is used in a wide variety of products including apparel, home furnishings, towels, rugs, and sewing thread. 

Crewel - A true crewel fabric is embroidered with crewel yarn loosely twisted, two-ply wool) on a plain weave fabric. Traditional crewel fabrics are hand-woven and embroidered in India. The design motif for crewel work is typically outlines of flowers, vines, and leaves, in one or many colors. Modern weaving technology and inventive designers create traditional "crewel" looks with weave effects alone, without the use of embroidery. 

Crocking - The tendency of excess dyes to rub off. Napped and pile fabrics in deep colors are most likely to crock. The textile industry has set standards and tests to measure and prevent crocking. Yarns and woven fabric can be rated for both wet and dry crocking. 

Crypton Home – It is an engineered textile made with pre-tested and approved fabrics with specific fiber and construction requirements to ensure the name Crypton means consistent performance. Approved fibers are permanently transformed with stain and odor protection through an immersion process.

Damask - Originally a firm, glossy Jacquard-patterned fabric made in China and brought to the Western world by Marco Polo in the 13th century. Damascus was the center of fabric trade between East and West, hence the name. Damask fabrics are reversible and are characterized by a combination of satin and sateen weaves. The design motifs are typically distinguished from the ground by contrasting luster. Damasks are similar to brocades, but flatter. Used mainly for curtains, draperies, and upholstery.

Dobby Loom - A type of loom on which small, geometric figures can be woven in as a regular pattern. Originally this type of loom needed a "dobby boy" who sat on the top of the loom and drew up warp threads to form a pattern. Now the weaving is done entirely by machine. Dobby looms produce patterns which are beyond the range of simple looms, but are somewhat limited compared to a jacquard loom, which has a wider range of pattern capabilities.

Dupioni – A plain weave crisp type of silk fabric, produced by using fine thread in the warp and uneven thread reeled from two or more entangled cocoons in the weft. This creates tightly-woven yardage with a highly-lustrous surface 

Geometric - A pattern that is comprised of any variation of repeated geometric shapes.

Greige Goods - Term used to describe cloth woven on a loom with warp and filling yarns that have not been dyed. The woven fabric may be dyed later after weaving, as in piece dyed fabrics. 

Herringbone - A twill weave in a zig-zag pattern. Alternating direction in threading the loom makes the chevron design run selvage to selvage. 

Houndstooth – A woven or printed pattern of broken or jagged checks.  The pattern is reminiscent of the jagged back teeth of a hound.

Ikat – Fabric made using an Indonesian decorative technique in which warp or weft threads, or both, are tie-dyed before weaving.

Inherently Fire Resistant –The actual structure of the fiber itself is not flammable. For inherently flame resistant fibers, the protection is built into the fiber itself and can never be worn away or washed out.

Jacobean - Originally a type of English embroidery with a strong oriental influence, of the type first done during the Restoration period. Common motifs are branches, ornamented in color with fruits, flowers and birds are common. Jacobean designs are found most frequently as upholstery fabrics. 

Jacquard - Intricate method of weaving invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the years 1801-1804, in which a head motion at the top of the loom holds and operates a set of punched paper cards, according to the motif desired. Each punched perforation controls the action of one warp end for the passage of one pick. In modern looms, the punched cards have been replaced by diskettes, or the commands are directly downloaded from a network computer. Jacquard looms allow for large, intricate designs like a floral or large geometric. Damasks, brocades, brocatelles, and tapestries are examples of woven jacquards. 

Lattice – A criss-crossed ornamental print or pattern.

Lightfastness - The degree to which dye resists fading due to constant light exposure.

Lurex – Yarn or fabric that incorporates a glittering metallic thread.  

Martindale Test - European abrasion testing machine that is also used in ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests for fabric abrasion resistance and pilling resistance. 

Matelassé - A rather soft, double cloth or compound fabric. Matelassés give blistered, puckered, quilted, or wadded effects depending on the cloth construction used. Made on Jacquard looms, the heavier constructions are used for coverlets, pillows, and upholstery. 

Medallion – Printed or patterned fabric with connecting oval, lattice or circular designs.

Moiré - A textile finish which creates lustrous or dull effects on the surface of a woven fabric. Moire effects are achieved when crushed and the uncrushed parts of the fabric reflect light differently in a rippled or watermarked, pattern. This popular look is usually achieved by passing the fabric between engraved rollers that press a wavy motif into the fabric. Moiré effects may also be achieved by overlapping various colors in printing fabrics, or by the method of weaving. Moiré fabrics are used for coats, dresses, draperies, bedspreads, light upholstery, and luggage lining.

Novelty – Fabrics that are print or pattern with a specific theme in mind.  

Ogee – Is curve shaped somewhat like an S, consisting of two arcs that curve in opposite senses so that the ends are parallel. 

Olefin - A synthetic, man-made fiber in which the fiber-forming substance is any long-chain synthetic polymer composed of at least 85% by weight of ethylene, propylene, or other olefin units. Two major categories of olefin are polypropylene and polyethylene. 

Ombre - A graduated or shaded effect of color. An ombre may range from light to dark tones of one color, or may be a shading of three or more colors for a "rainbow" effect. 

Paisley- An oriental pattern motif which is shaped like a teardrop, rounded at one end with a curving point at the other. Generally the inside of the teardrop shape contains many abstract designs, many of Indian or oriental origin. Traditionally used on cashmere shawls imported to Europe from India, it was an important decorative motif in imitation cashmere shawls made in Paisley, Scotland and it is from this usage that the name is derived. 

Performance – Performance fabrics have been created for easy care, long lasting beauty and are excellent for high traffic areas and family use.  Durable fabric that is equally attractive.  Performance fabrics offer the following attributes: durable, cleanable, pet and kid friendly, fade and uv resistant.  Offered in a variety of beautiful texture and color.

Piece Dyed Fabric - Fabric that is dyed after it is woven, in full piece form. The greige goods for piece dying can be cotton, polyester, or blends. The construction can be a dobby, jacquard, epinglé, or velvet. 

Plaid - a pattern of unevenly spaced repeated stripes crossing at right angles

Polyester - A synthetic, man-made fiber produced from the polymerization of ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephthalate or terephthalic acid. Some characteristics of polyester include: crease resistance, ability to dry quickly, shape retention in garments, high strength, abrasion resistance, and minimum care requirements. Polyester is a very important fiber in upholstery fabrics. It is often used in warps due to its strength and because it is relatively inexpensive. Other yarns, particularly cotton, are often used as filing yarns on polyester warps to add texture and mixed color effects. 

Polypropylene - A textile fiber developed by Professor Giulio Natta, consultant to the largest chemical producer in Italy. It is obtained from propylene gas, a by-product of oil refining. This fiber may be used for satiny silk-like fabrics or for heavy wool-like yarns. Characteristics of polypropylene include: good strength, excellent elastic recovery, good resilience, and good stain resistance. This latter property has led to its wide use in carpets and upholstery fabrics. Polypropylene has a relatively low melting point and should not be ironed. Polypropylene is used widely in vinyl upholstery products also.

Printed Fabrics - Textiles with design elements or motifs which are applied to the surface of the fabric with colorants such as dyes or pigments. This is as opposed to woven fabrics in which the design is created in the weaving as part of the structure of the textile itself. Many different types of printing methods exist, some of which include: rotary screen printing, heat transfer printing, and block printing. 

Pull Up Leather – Leathers that have been colored with aniline dyes that are impregnated with natural-based oils and/or waxes instead of being coated with paints and pigments. The oils and waxes tend to darken the original aniline dye coloration, but "pull up" the lighter color when stretched and pulled.

Railroaded - Describes the orientation of a pattern's direction. When looking at a railroaded pattern, the filling yarns are in the vertical direction, while the warp yarns are in the horizontal direction. Some industries and manufacturers prefer railroaded patterns, while others prefer up-the-roll patterns for their application. For example, a sofa upholsterer may prefer a railroaded pattern in order to avoid excessive seams and waste fabric. 

Rayon - A man-made fiber composed of regenerated cellulose, or wood pulp. Rayon is characterized by a natural luster, pleasant hand or feel, good draping qualities, and the ability to take dyes beautifully. The two main types of rayon are cuprammonium rayon, and viscose rayon. Viscose rayon uses a solution of cellulose xanthate, and is the most popular method of producing rayon. Cuprammonium rayon uses a solution of cellulose in ammoniacal oxide. Cuprammonium rayon is no longer manufactured in the U.S. due to the cost of cleaning waste water to meet clean water standards, however several European countries currently manufacture this type of rayon. Uses for rayon fiber include apparel items, draperies, and upholstery. 

Repeat - Complete unit of pattern for design. Repeats vary in size considerably, depending on the weave, type of material, texture, and the use of the cloth. Measured vertically and horizontally, repeat information is used in defining how to lay out the fabric on the furniture.

Revolution Fabric – are true performance fabrics woven with 100% Olefin yarn, a Nobel prize winning fiber. These fabrics are inherently stain resistant, anti-microbial, exceptionally durable and light fast, yet soft to the touch. They wick away moisture, are 100% recyclable, and have NO chemical treatments.

Screen Printing – The pattern to be printed is applied to a rotary mesh screen by a photographic technique using soluble, light-sensitive chemicals.  Print paste is pumped through the center of the rotary screen and then pushed through the open mesh areas to print a pattern onto continuously moving fabric underneath.  A separate screen is required for each color to be printed.

Scroll – Ornamental element in design featuring spirals and rolling incomplete circle motifs, variations of scrolls may include plant forms such as vines with leaves or flowers.

Seam Slippage - A measure of a fabric's ability to hold together when sewn so that the furniture doesn't pull apart at the seams. Seam slippage may be due to improper woven construction or finish, or may also be caused by stitching that does not have proper holding power. There are laboratory tests that determine the seam integrity of a woven fabric. 

Semi-Aniline – A type of leather dyed exclusively with soluble dyes without covering the surface with a topcoat paint or insoluble pigments. The resulting product retains the hide's natural surface with the 'grain', i.e. visible pores, scars etc. of the complete original animal's skin structure.

Skin – A fabric that is made to resemble the skin or the fur of an animal such as a leopard, zebra, tiger, alligator.

Sheer – is fabric which is made using thin thread and/or low density of knit and which results in a semi-transparent and flimsy cloth. Some fabrics become transparent when wet.

Selvedge - The lengthwise, or warp wise, edge of a woven fabric. The point at which the weft yarns bind the warp to form a finished edge. 

Shibori – The Japanese word for a variety of ways of embellishing textiles by shaping cloth and securing it before dyeing. The word comes from the verb root shiboru, "to wring, squeeze, or press."

Slub Yarn - A yarn of any fiber which is irregular in diameter and characterized by contrasting fat and thin areas along the length of the yarn. The effect may be purposely created to enhance a woven or knitted material, or may occur in error as a yarn flaw. (slub texture)

Southwest – Fusing Native American and Spanish style, this pattern offers both bold colors and pattern that are warm and vibrant.  Colors noted in southwest design are primarily orange, red, gold and blue.

Tapestry - Originally ornamental Oriental embroideries in which colored threads of wool, gold, silk or silver were interspersed for adornment. In the textile industry, a tapestry warp differs from a typical solid colored warp in that it is multicolored. "True" tapestries have at least 6 different colors in the warp, but tapestry-type looks can be achieved with four-color warps. Because of the beautiful, multi-colored detail effects, tapestry constructions are popular in a range of styles from scenic novelties to intricate florals. 

Ticking Stripe - A narrow two-color stripe reminiscent of a design typically used in old style mattress covers (ticking). 

Tweed –Similar to the appearance of dress-weight tweeds, but made from thicker, heavier yarns and used for upholstery.  Tweed is a rough-surfaced woolen cloth, typically of mixed flecked colors, originally produced in Scotland.

UFAC - Acronym for Upholstered Furniture Action Council, an American association of furniture manufacturers and retailers. This association conducts research and disseminates information on voluntary guidelines for more fire resistant upholstery materials. Headquarters are in High Point, NC 

Up-the-Roll - Describes the orientation of a pattern's direction. When looking at an up-the-roll pattern, the warp yarns are in the vertical direction, while the filling yarns are in the horizontal direction. Some industries and manufacturers prefer up-the-roll patterns, while others prefer railroaded patterns for their application.  

Velvet - A warp pile cloth in which rows of short cut pile stand so close together as to form an even, uniform surface; appealing in look and with soft hand. First made of all silk, many different fibers are now used velvet constructions. When the pile is more than one-eighth of an inch in height the cloth is then called plush. 

Viscose - A special form of rayon that is produced by putting wood pulp or cotton linters through a specialized spinning and chemical process. Viscose yarn is popular in high end upholstery fabrics, particularly viscose chenille, because of the yarn's lustrous appearance and strength. 

Warp - The yarns which run vertically or lengthwise in woven goods. The warp yarns are threaded through the loom before weaving begins. In upholstery fabrics, the warp yarns are typically finer than the fill or weft yarns, but not always. 

Weft - The crosswise or filling pick yarns in a woven cloth, as opposed to the warp yarns. This term is popular in hand weaving circles in the USA, while in the industry the term filling is more popular, however both words have the same meaning. 

Wyzenbeek Test - An abrasion testing machine used in ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests for fabric abrasion resistance. 

Yarn - A generic term for an assemblage of fibers or filaments, either natural or man-made, twisted together to form a continuous strand that can be used for weaving, knitting, braiding, or the manufacture of lace, or otherwise made into a textile material. In upholstery fabrics, the most commonly used yarns are made of cotton, polyester, acrylic, rayon, and polypropylene. 

Yarn Dyed Fabric - Fabric woven with yarns that have been dyed prior to the weaving of the goods. This is as opposed to piece dyed fabrics, which are woven with undyed warp and fill yarns.