A GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED ON THE SITE
DYEING AND SPINNING YARNS
TYPES OF WEAVE
TYPES OF FABRIC
WORKING WITH YOUR CLOTH
This mark is the standard used throughout the industry, a consistent and independent system of classifying fabrics which are free of harmful chemicals and are safe for human use. Their organic certification means that the textile and fabric products are grown according to strict guidelines on the use of petroleum-based fertilisers, pesticides and synthetic products.
Yarn dye means that the yarns are spun and dyed before weaving into cloth. Yarn dye is more time consuming, and marginally more expensive, but allows for a greater depth of colour.
Piece dyed fabric is woven using un-dyed yarn and then dyed off the loom. A cheaper process and one that produces a very consistent colour throughout.
A pigment dye is insoluble in water and most solvents. Pigment dyes typically last longer than other dyes but involve more inorganic compounds such as heavy metals. Indigo is a pigment dye. It cannot be absorbed by water and requires a process of oxidisation to trap the molecules onto the surface of the fabric and appear to dye it. That’s why indigo is a separate colour on the rainbow. It isn’t a colour at all but a process.
The indigo dying process takes the twisted warp thread and dyes it by the process of oxidisation. Only the outer layers of yarn take the dye while the core remains white. This is what gives denim its subtle, layered colour and signature fading. Sadly, most commercial indigo is a chemical variant and not the plant variety that we dreamily imagine.
Garment dye refers to dying a whole garment after it's sewn together. If you are contemplating garment dying, make sure you sew the garment with cotton thread as a polyester thread won’t take the dye. This can be quite a nice detail, but only if you intend to do it!
A spinning process in which the individual fibres are twisted together creating a very strong yarn. Double ring spun creates a very strong cloth in which both warp and weft yarns are ring spun.
Slub refers to the random thicker blobs on the length of the yarn created by spinning longer and shorter fibres together. Slubs are a distinctive characteristic of linen. The more prevalent the slub, the shorter the fibre used in the spinning process. Lustrous Irish linen is usually woven using long-staple fibres which do not yield much slub in spinning.
WEIGHT - GM² or OZ
Linen typically weighs from 110gm² for a handkerchief to 400gm² for tough upholstery weight.
In summer you might look for anything between 140gm² -195 gm² but in winter, a heavier 205gm² – 350gm² is ideal, depending on the project. Jackets and coats require weight and structure while dresses and tops benefit from lightness and drape. Most of our linen is between 185gm² and 205gm² to make it suitable for year-round wear.
Denim is weighed by the ounce whilst all other fabrics are weighed in metric. Confusing? Yes. Most denim is between 9 to 12 oz per square yard or metre (depending on the manufacturer or retailer) with the hardcore selvedge fiends preferring 14oz. Like, give them a raw selvedge jean and they’re practically swooning.
WARP AND WEFT
Warp threads run through the cloth from end to end or top to bottom and the weft threads run across from selvedge to selvedge.
The narrow tightly woven band at either edge of the fabric, running parallel to the warp. On modern wide looms the weft yarn is cut after every cross, creating the fringed selvedge that we see.
When you launder your fabric fold it lengthwise, selvedge to selvedge, right sides together, making sure that the fold is on the grainline. Then it’s ready to cut when you’re ready to start! Storing it right side folded inwards will help prevent fade marks too.
As it says, weft threads over and then under the warp. No pattern, just plain.
Twill is a type of weave with a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs, made by passing the weft thread over one or more warp threads then under two or more warp threads creating that characteristic diagonal pattern. The structure of the weave and the number of threads under the weft determine whether the twill is even facing (two warp threads crossing two weft threads) or warp facing.
The even-facing twill family includes silk foulard, herringbone, houndstooth, serge, worsted and flannel.
Warp-facing twill include cavalry twill, denim, drill, and gaberdine.
Broken twill is where the weft threads are reversed after no more than two passages of the warp to create the zig-zag design which is obvious in some denim brands. It creates a cloth with some stretch.
Herringbone is a type of twill with a distinctive ‘V’ shaped weaving pattern, making it resemble the backbone of a fish, hence the name. A twill weave is simple reversed after a few passes, creating the ‘V’ shape. Tweed is typically woven in a herringbone pattern.
Crosshatch can be any natural fabric created by combining uneven yarns in both the warp and weft directions. The slubs of the uneven yarns create a grid-like appearance and a lovely texture on the surface of the fabric.
In basketweave groups of warp and weft threads are grouped together and interlaced so that they form a simple criss cross pattern. Each group of weft threads crosses an equal number of warp threads by going over one group, then under the next, and so on.
Damask is a reversible cloth woven of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibres. Damasks are woven with one warp yarn and one weft yarn, usually with the pattern in warp-faced satin weave and the ground in weft-faced or sateen weave.
Seersucker is is a light cotton cloth woven in such a way that some of the threads bunch together, giving the fabric a wrinkled appearance in places. This distinctive weave causes the fabric to be held away from the skin when worn, facilitating heat dissipation and air circulation. It also means that pressing is not necessary.
HICKORY OR RAILROAD STRIPE
Hickory is a type of heavyweight indigo or navy blue seersucker which was used to make the overalls and work jackets of engineers and railroad workers in the US, hence the nickname 'railroad stripe'. This cotton fabric was durable like denim, cheap to produce, kept the wearer cool and obscured oil stains.
Gauze is a type of plain weave cloth in which the weft yarns are arranged on the loom in pairs and crossed before and after each warp yarn. This twisting or crossing of the yarns adds a little stability to an otherwise loose open weave. Think old school cotton bandages!
Chambray is yarn-dyed lightweight cotton typically 120gm². Chambray differs from denim in that the warp and weft threads alternate one over the other. One of those threads is usually coloured and so the fabric is the same colour front and back. In denim, the indigo yarn-dyed weft thread is on top, going over under one warp thread and so the reverse side is lighter.
Denim is a twill weave (one over two) which typically comes in heavier weights. The most common form of denim is indigo, in which the warp thread is dyed while the weft thread is white. Denim is usually 100% cotton but can be a mixture of indigo-dyed linen warp yarns and cotton weft yarns.
Bull denim is a tough un-dyed cotton twill usually at 12oz - 14oz or over in weight.
DUCK AND CANVAS
Duck used to be lighter than canvas but with a similar plain weave. Nowadays the terms are used interchangeably for a heavier weight, plain-weave cotton fabric.
Woven as gauze but two layers stitched together with tiny invisible threads dotted at random and undetectable on the right side.
A plain weave cotton, brushed on both sides for softness.
Checks are generally simpler than plaids or tartans. They usually consist of two alternating colours. They are symmetrical, consisting of crossed horizontal and vertical lines that form equal sized squares. There are loads of different types of check patterns such as Gingham, Buffalo, Windowpane and chequerboard.
A variation of the traditional chequerboard pattern with notched corners.
Similar to houndstooth but usually a little smaller so that the notched corners are blurred.
PLAIDS OR TARTANS
Plaid or tartan is a pattern formed by criss-crossing lines of varying widths in one two or three colours. Plaid usually refers to a design on cottons or flannels while tartan usually refers to the heavy woollen fabrics in kilts. Think Burberry plaid or Black Watch tartan.
Madras is a plaid design on very lightweight cottons or seersuckers originating from the Indian subcontinent.
Birdseye is a cloth woven with a pattern of small diamonds, each having a dot in the centre. The warp and the weft alternate two light and two dark yarns which cross each other to form a grid filled with little round dots.
Straight off the loom, onto a roll, no dyeing, washing or softening. Tough as old boots and shrinks like a shrinky thing. Selvedge denim is typically loom state, as is bull denim.
Organic enzymes eat away and break down the surface of cellulose fibres in fabric and then a rinsing process removes the projecting fibres. Enzyme washing kind of does treble duty, washing, shrinking and softening all in one. Enzymes are essentially proteins made from amino acids, usually used to soften and remove indigo from denim and to soften linen.
Garment washing is just that. The finished product is washed before sale. It’s what you do to your clothes before you wear them. As sewists we tend to wash our fabric before sewing to reduce the possibility that it might shrink (it was NOT that chocolate) and then we wash the finished garment to remove any of the marks or stains we’ve picked up along the way. There. You’ve just garment washed!
Stone washing is another form of pre-washing loomstate fabric in preparation for sale or manufacture. Sone washing denim typically happens once the garment has been made up. It removes colour and adds contrast, getting that all-important fade in the right place. With most other fabrics, and especially linen, stone washing usually happens prior to manufacturing garments. The stones in question are typically pumice and it gives the fabric a really soft and comfortable feel.
As above, but with acid rather than stones or enzymes. Acid washing produces random colour fades and was popular with George Michael and Andrew Ridgley in the 80’s. And Bananarama…
A process of stretching and manipulating cloth to reduce shrinkage.
Only very special and delicate cloth needs handwashing. Everything else can be washed in the machine and I recommend a 40℃ with a gentle detergent. Plain white linen can be washed at 60℃.
I recommend line drying in the open air but if this isn't possible then hang to dry indoors. I tumble dry my pure linens on a low heat but I don't tumble dry linen blends.
Iron while damp, on the reverse, and fold on grain to store.
It's crucial when working with any cloth that you try and establish where the grainline is. The grainline is the straight line following either the warp or weft threads. Folding and cutting accurately on the grainline will ensure that your garments hang correctly on the body and do not twist or distort, unless of course this is part of the design.
Straight grain is the direction of the warp threads (the ones that run end to end or top to bottom) and which run parallel to the selvedge.
Cross grain runs in the direction of the weft threads and runs perpendicular to the selvedge.
Locate either the straight grain or cross grain and the bias runs at a 45º angle to either grainline.
RIGHT SIDE/WRONG SIDE
Most printed fabric will have a very recognisable right side and wrong side. The print will be less vibrant and the edges less defined on the wrong side or it may not show through at all.
On some woven fabric, depending on the weave, the right side will be a different colour to the wrong side. On a plain woven, though, it may look exactly the same. Then it’s down to you to decide which side you prefer to use. But try to use the same side throughout your project to avoid getting different shades in your garment. It's a good idea to mark which side you'll be using with pins or a chalk marker which won't show or make a tailor's tack.
One way to tell which is the right side of a fabric is to feel for the tiny raised bumps down the selvedge. Sometimes these are almost imperceptible and sometimes you can’t miss them. All fabric is woven right side up and these bumps are where the warp threads have been attached to the loom for weaving. Locate these and you know that if they are raised, that’s the right side, if not it’s the wrong side.
Get into the habit of folding fabric on the grainline and storing it right sides together and then you’ll always know by the folds which way is right side and which is wrong. If you cut a piece which has no fold, mark the wrong side with a pin, or a fabric marker which won’t show or make a tailor’s tack.