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Decorative fabrics offer consumers a vast array of colors, weaves and styling for all parts of home furnishings including upholstered furniture, fashion bedding, window treatments and more. But fabrics go beyond simply being a fashion item, they can be constructed of many different fiber types and in an array of weaves.

The following is a list of technical terms for constructions, fibers and processes used to create the fabrics that are indeed driving home furnishings fashion businesses.

Weaving and Dyeing

Filament fibers A fiber of "infinite" length. Silk is the only natural filament fiber. But the synthetics, which are spun from chemicals (imitating the silk worm) are all filament fibers.

Staple fibers A material that comes in short, rather fuzzy pieces that must be straightened, aligned in some way and then spun into a long filament-like yarn. Fuzzy fibers like wool or acrylic, which trap air, make very warm fabrics.

Carded: The process of opening and cleaning the fibers -- usually cotton -- and laying them parallel.

Combed: The process of removing all the short fibers and impurities from cotton that has already been carded. Combed cotton yarns are finer and tighter than those which are just carded and are used for top quality cotton fabrics.

Spinning/Spun yarns: The process of twisting and winding short fibers into a smooth, continuous yarn.

Monofilament yarn: A single strand of filament forms yarn that cannot be separated, untwisted or unraveled.

Multi-filament yarns: Composed of two or more filaments combined to form a single yarn. They may be twisted or plied, but when separated, each filament strand can be counted.

Plied yarns: Made of two or more strands twisted together. Twisted is the operative word and plied yarns are identified by the number of strands involved, i.e., two-ply, four-ply, cable-ply, etc.

Denier: A weight-per-unit-length system for measuring the fineness of yarn, equal to .05 gram per 450 meters. Denier is a direct numbering system in which the lower numbers represent the finer sizes and the higher numbers the coarser sizes.

Microdeniers or Microfibers An important development in spinning technology which allows continuous filament fibers to emerge from a spinnerette less than 1 denier per filament in weight. This makes it finer than a silkworm's web or a human hair (which is 2 to 4 deniers per filament).

Yarn size Numbered to distinguish the size or fineness; in cotton, the higher the number, the finer the yarn and the more luxurious the fabric.

Dyeing The process of adding color to a fiber, a yarn or a fabric.

Solution dyed The process of dyeing the fiber as it's being spun, so the color is bonded in.

Yarn dyed The term for dyeing the yarns first and then weaving them, i.e., the process of weaving various checks, plaids and simple patterns by changing the yarn colors.

Piece dyed Dyed in the piece, i.e., the entire length of cloth plopped into a vat and dyed one solid color.

Cross dyed Different fibers take color differently, so a fabric that contains several fibers will not become a single solid color when dyed.

Braided fabric A type of narrow fabric made by interlocking several strands.

Woven fabric: The most common textile technique, which forms a fabric on a loom by interlacing the warp and filling yarns. This is basically a matter of over-one, under-one, over-one.

Warp The vertical threads put on a loom and which run lengthwise in the woven goods.

Weft The horizontal threads woven across those warp yarns. Also called filling yarns or pics.

Plain weave The very simplest and most basic weave consisting of over-one, under-one, over-one. Examples of plain weave are muslin, percale, gauze, voile, gingham, and flannel.

Twill weave A strong fabric identified by its diagonal lines. It's made by an over-one, under-two, over-one technique in a staggered pattern that produces that distinctive diagonal effect. Twill weaves include denim, chino and herringbone tweeds.

Satin weave The most luxurious and also the most fragile weave. The configuration here is under-one, over-three, under-one, over-three. The top floating threads give the fabric a gleaming shine, but it can be delicate. Satin weaves include satin, sateen and peau do soie.

Basket weave A simple variation of the plain weave, in which two or more filling yarns are interlaced with two or more warp yarns to resemble a woven basket.

Jacquard weave A type of complex, patterned weave done on a loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard. Some parts are plain weave and some are satin, creating an intricate design. Examples of jacquard weave are brocade, damask and matelesse.

Pile weave A technique in which certain yarns project from the foundation fabric and form a "pile" on the surface. Those pile yarns may be left in place or cut.

Printing and Finishing

Finishing The general term for treating a finished fabric to give it the desired surface effect, such as calendering, embossing, brushing, etc. In addition, fabrics may be mercerized, Sanforized or coated with Scotchgard or Teflon.

Calendering A mechanical finishing process that produces special effects such as a high luster, or glaze.

Embossing A process using engraved rollers and heat to produce raised patterns on the surface of the fabric.

Brushing A process using brushes to raise the nap of woven or knitted fabrics to give them a soft surface.

Mercerized Treating cotton fabric with caustic soda to increase its luster. This wet finishing process also allows the fabric to take deeper dyes.

Sanforized A registered trademark of Cluett, Peabody & Co. for fabrics processed so that residual shrinkage will not exceed 1 percent in either direction.

Scotchgard Fabric Protector A registered trademark of 3M Corp. for a fabric treatment which protects against soil, stains and rain and is used both on apparel and upholstery and outdoor fabrics.

Teflon A registered trademark of DuPont for fluorocarbon fibers with unusually high resistance to chemicals and heat. Teflon has a full range of industrial uses, coatings for nonstick cooking utensils and as a protective fabric finish.


Antique satin A sateen drapery fabric with horizontal slubs which imitate spun shantung silk. Sometimes the warp and weft yarns are different colors to create an iridescent effect.

Canvas Also known as duck but a bit heavier. It's a rugged, plain weave cotton used for sails, tarpaulins and all sorts of outdoor products such as awnings, cushions, etc.

Chambray A plain weave fabric made of a one-color warp yarn and a white fill. This gives the fabric an interesting sort of iridescence.

Chenille A fabric made with fuzzy yarns.

Chintz A glazed cotton fabric, often printed with large designs.

Corduroy A ribbed, cut-pile fabric. It's often blended with nylon or polyester.

Damask A firm, glossy, jacquard-patterned fabric. Damask is a rather dressy fabric, similar to brocade except that it's flatter, completely reversible and tends to have rather subtle patterns that reverse from matte to shiny.

Dobby General term for fabrics woven on the dobby loom. Patterns are possible here, but they are simpler, less complex things such as dots and simple geometrics.

Duck A generic term for a wide range of durable cotton fabrics with a plain weave.

Moire A type of fabric finished by passing it between engraved rollers which press the motif into the fabric. The signature look of moire is a sort of wavy or woodgrain effect.

Seersucker A lightweight cotton fabric with a crinkle effect that is woven in and therefore won't wash out. It's achieved by alternating slack and tension in the warp yarn.

Shantung A spun silk fabric with slubs that create interesting textures.

Taffeta A fine, plain weave fabric with a sheen. It may be solid, printed, or in yarn-dyed check or plaid patterns.

Toile de Jouy An unglazed chintz or cretonne that is printed in a single color with scenic prints of people and places from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Tweed Generally a rough, irregular woolen fabric with flecks of color.

Velvet A warp pile fabric with a short, closely woven cut pile. This is a double cloth with two layers woven face to face and cut apart by a reciprocating knife blade to produce two separate pieces of cloth.
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Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Apr 20, 1998

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