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glossary of textile terms

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
(Click on any letter above to skip to that part of the glossary)

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

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 it's excellent sunlight resistance and wrinkle resistance. Apparel items, carpeting, and upholstery fabrics often contain acrylic fiber as a yarn component.

ASTM - Acronym for the American Society for Testing and Materials. This organization, headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, sets up standard methods of tests for textiles and other merchandise.

Brocade - Brocade was originally an elegant, heavy silk fabric with a floral or figured pattern woven with gold or silver thread, produced in China and Japan. Currently, any of the major textile fibers may be used in a wide range of quality and price.
Brocades are typically ornate, jacquard-woven fabrics. The pattern is usually emphasized by contrasting surfaces and colors, and appears on the face of the fabric, which is distinguished easily from the back. Uses include apparel, draperies, upholstery, and other decorative purposes.

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Brocade fabrics

Brocatelle - A fabric similar to brocade but with designs in high relief, made on a jacquard loom. The fabric usually has a firm texture and high yarn count. The pattern, a distinctive blistered or puffed appearance, generally is formed by warp satin floats. Uses include draperies and upholstery.

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.

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.

Converter - A business that develops fabric styles and has them printed or woven to order by a mill. Unlike the mill, the converter owns no printing or weaving equipment. In the past, the major function of a converter was to provide rapid response to fashion change, quick delivery and service, and to handle relatively small orders. Today, converters like Regal Fabrics are particularly known for creating exclusive, copyrighted designs and unique fabric constructions.

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.

Count of Cloth - The number of ends and picks per inch in a woven fabric. If a cloth is 64 x 60, it means there are 64 ends and 60 picks per inch in the fabric.

Crewel - A true crewel fabric is embroidered with crewel yarn (a 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.

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.

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Decorative damask

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.

Double-Width Loom - A type of loom that can produce fabric in widths up to 280 cm (108"). These are typically used to produce 140 cm (54") width fabrics by inserting a knife at the halfway point and adding a woven selvage at the center of the loom.

Elasticity - The ability of textile fibers to "bounce back" or recover when released from tension or stretch.

Elongation - The increase in length or deformation of a fiber as a result of stretching. Elongation is measured as a percentage of the original length.

End - One thread of the warp.

End and End - Term refers to fabrics with two colors alternating in the warp.

Epinglé - A special high loop construction produced in Belgium on velvet wire looms. It is essentially a velvet, but without the usual shearing process after weaving. They are often called Moquettes, which is the french word for "uncut". Usually, epinglés are made from the highest grades of cotton, producing a very soft hand and good durability test results.

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Cotton epinglé

Filling - An individual yarn (also known as weft, pick, or filling) which interlaces with a warp yarn at right angles in weaving fabric.

Float - The portion of a yarn in a woven fabric that extends or floats, unbound, over two or more adjacent ends or picks.

Finishing - A general term which refers to treatment of a fabric to add a desired quality. Different types of finishing processes include, but are not limited to: washing, drying, shrink control, needle-punching, napping, shearing, backcoating, and stain repellent finishes such as Scotchguard™ and Teflon.™
A finish often contributes to a fabric's "feel" or "hand." It may also contribute such characteristics as bulk or loft, and resistance to abrasion or stains. For example, washing a fabric adds softness and loft, whereas backcoating a fabric adds durability.

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.

Grospoint - A fabric which features large points of yarn on the surface of the fabric. See also Epinglé for photograph.

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 and flowers and birds is common. Jacobean designs are found most frequently as upholstery fabrics.

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Jacobean design

Jacquard - Intricate method of weaving invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the years 1801-1804, in which a headmotion 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

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A Jacquard loom from behind. The striped
yarns on the bottom are a tapestry warp. The
harness above the loom connects to the
electronic Jacquard head.


The pattern appears at the front of the loom.

Jobber - A distribution company that purchases fabric in full piece quantities from mills or converters and then sells smaller quantities of cut yardage to other wholesalers, decorators, or upholsterers.

Liseré - Term which refers to a specific type of fabric construction involving a supplementary warp. This supplementary warp, usually multi-colored, can be used to add color and detail in selected areas on the face of the fabric. Where the liseré effect is not seen on the face of the fabric, it is hidden along the back as loosely tacked "floats." Liseré effects are in some ways similar to a tissue pick, however liseré occurs in the warp direction. Most classic liseré designs are stripes, frequently used on wing-back chairs or in formal settings.

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Liseré fabrics

Martindale Tester - 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.

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A matelassé in several colors.

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 method of weaving. Moiré fabrics are used for coats, dresses, draperies, bedspreads, light upholstery, and luggage lining.

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.

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Typical paisley design.

Piece - One bolt or roll of fabric. A typical piece from Regal has 50 to 60 yards of fabric.

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 a velvet.

Pick - A filling yarn that runs horizontally in woven goods. The pick interlaces with the warp to form a woven cloth. See also weft, or filling.

Polyester - A synthetic, man-made fiber produced from the polymerization of ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephalate 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 Guilio 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 inexpensive upholstery fabrics due to its price and durability

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.

Quality - 1.) A term which refers to the type of construction of a woven fabric. 2.) A term which refers to a product's lack of deficiencies.

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.

railroaded
Railroaded

up-the-roll
Up-the-roll

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 layout the fabric on the furniture.

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.

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

Sley - The number of warp ends per inch in a fabric exclusive of selvage. A fabric of "high sley" has a high number of warp yarns per inch. Most of Regal's high-end upholstery fabrics have 9600 warp yarns across a 54" width.

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.

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.

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Tapestry fabrics

Tear Strength - The force necessary to tear a fabric, usually expressed in pounds or in grams. The most commonly used method for determining tear strength is the Elmendorf tear test procedure.

Thread Count - The number of warp and filling yarns per inch in a woven fabric.

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

Tissue Pick - Term which describes supplementary filling yarn or yarns which "float"along the back of fabric in bands, and are brought up in selected areas for added color detail on the face of a fabric. Sometimes tissue picks are referred to as "dead picks" because the fabric on the loom doesn't advance while the extra pick is applied.

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Casual and formal tissue pick designs.

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. See also railroaded for illustration.

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.

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Velvet fabrics

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 chenilles, 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 Tester - 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.

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