Musa textilis. Abaca is a similar plant to banana. Abaca, banana, sisal and manila hemp are all leaf fibres. The length and thickness of the fibre normally indicates the strength of these fibres. Each is different and are used for a variety of different usus. Abaca produces a fine white fibre, similar, but longer than sisal. This fibre is extracted from the inner leaf sheath, which forms the trunk of the abaca plant. The outer leaf sheath is removed in the form of 'tuxies' which are stripped to recover a course cream to brown fibre. See also banana, sisal and manila hemp.

abrasion test

A test used to simulate the wear performance of textile yarns and fabrics. This test is often done using a piece of equipment called a Martindale Abrasion Tester, designed by Dr Martindale in the early part of the second world war to test the wear and tear of gas capes worn by soldiers who rode bicycles. It is generally agreed, however, that abrasion tests using any one of a variety of pieces of equipment do not necessarily simulate effects produced during normal day-to-day wear.


A genus of shrubs and trees found in tropical climates and used in textile production in many forms. Acacia senegal, found in eastern and western parts of Africa, acacia arabica, found in India, yielding the best quality gum arabic (see gum arabic) and acacia farnesiana produces gum used normally in India for textile printing. Acacia leucophloea yields a coarse bast fibre used in the manufacture of string, ropes and nets. Acacia catchu known as catchu, cutch or kutch, gives a dark brownish grey when an iron mordent is used. Alum mordent will produce a yellow-brown and a mixture of tin and cream of tartar gives a darker brownish-yellow. See gum arabic.


Textile fibre invented in 1865 and patented in 1894, derived from cellulose. Produced as acetate rayon (see also viscose rayon), known as acetate, from wood pulp or short cotton fibre (linters) treated with acetic acid or acetic anhydride to make the liquid from which the fibre is spun. Because of its lustrous sheen, it is the one man-made fibre which closely resembles silk. See rayon and cellulose acetate.

acid dye

A chemical anionic dye used in dyeing protein fibres, including wool and silk, also polyamide fibres. This range of dyes is often referred to as brilliant dyes, are wet-fast and produce good results in fastness and brightness of colour. They can normally be applied in an acidic or neutral state. This large group of acid dyes, with a limited range of colours, is subdivided into four main classes:

  • acid levelling or equalizing dyes
  • acid milling dyes
  • half milling or perspiration fast dyes
  • super-milling or fast dyes
acrylic fibre

The generic name given to a man-made fibre derived from acrylic resins. As a soft and woolly fibre it is often used as a substitute for wool.


A traditional Nigerian resist dyed indigo fabric. See indigo.


This was formally a process in which printed fabric was exposed to a hot, moist atmosphere. Now the term is almost exclusively applied to the treatment of printed fabric in moist steam in the absence of air. Ageing is also used for the development of certain colours in dyeing such as aniline black.

airbag cloth

(details of this are in the pipeline)


An extract from certain algae or seaweed. Sodium alginate, a gummy nitrogenous organic compound used as a size for finishing cotton cloth or as a thickener in textile printing pastes. Alginic acid is extracted from algin, neutralized with caustic soda to form a spinning solution from which filament alginate yarns can be produced. Alginate yarns are soluble and non-flammable and have a low wet strength. Filament or staple alginate fibre can be blended with other fibres in the production of sheer fabrics where the alginate fibre is washed away to leave a sheer web of the supporting fibre. This is done when it would not be possible to spin a yarn from the supporting fibre alone. When areas of other fibres are embroidered onto 100% alginate woven fabric backing, the backing can be dissolved away leaving the embroidered area. This creates a lace effect. Latin: alga, seaweed. PVA (poly-vinyl alcohol) filament has now replaced algin in the production of soluble yarns.

all silk

This term is used when a yarn or fabric contains no other textile fibre than silk.


Girandina diversfolia. The local name given to a nettle plant 2 to 3 metres in height, grown at altitudes above 1500 metres in the forest areas of Nepal. The stem contains fibres which are strong, straight, lustrous with a fibre length up to 58 centimetres in length. Used for bags, belts and fishing nets. See also nettle.


Alpaca fibre is from the semi-domesticated animal of the same name or of the llama, both of which live in the mountains of South America. The fibre is soft and lustrous, from brown to cream in colour and 18 30 centimetres in length. See llama.


Aluminium potassium sulphate. Used as a mordant when dyeing wool. Usually combined with cream of tartar in a ratio of 3 parts alum to 1 part cream of tartar.


A half-bleached, coarse Irish linen fabric used mainly for sailors shirts.

american cloth

This term is used in the United Kingdom to describe a waterproof fabric produced by enamelling the surface of an oiled cotton cloth. Used for household applications and inexpensive upholstery, it has now been replaced by polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coated fabrics. See oil cloth.


The hair of the angora rabbit. Yarn spun with angora is extremely soft and in most cases contains a proportion of other fibre to facilitate easier spinning but is usually no more than 7% of the total amount of material. The soft lustrous hair from the angora goat is referred to as mohair. See mohair.


A dye obtained from the soft pulp covering the seeds of bixa orellana. Known variously as annetto, rocou, bixin and orean. Found in Central and South America and Asia. A fugitive orange dye used as a ground for other colours. Traditionally used for colouring butter and cheese for which its use is now highly regulated. Barely soluble in water can be dissolved in caustic alkali.

armistice cloth

A worsted cloth produced and used after the Boar War in South Africa.

artificial silk

Filament viscose or acetate rayon. Sometimes this term is shortened to art silk.


A fibrous texture mineral, containing silicate of magnesium and calcium with traces of iron and other minerals, obtained from rock. It is acid proof, rust proof and flame proof. The practice of spinning asbestos with other fibres into yarns to manufacture protective cloths is discouraged as small asbestos fibres can be easily inhaled and enter the lungs.

azoic dyes

A range of dyestuffs, which are formulated within the fibre by combining two components. The production of an insoluble azo compound on a substrate by interaction of a diazotized amine (azoic diazo component) and a coupling component (azoic coupling component). Also known as ice colours because of the necessity of lowering the temperature during processing. Traditionally used in the production of African prints, they have been superseded by other dyestuffs and become uneconomic, their use having declined.


back beam

The beam at the rear and full width of a weaving loom onto which the warp has been wound and from which the warp is subsequently taken to be woven. See beam, breast beam and double beam.

back grey

An absorbent undyed (greige) cloth used to support and carry the fabric being printed.  It protects the blanket from contamination by surplus print paste.  See greige. 

back strap loom

A loom without a frame.  The strap is put round the back of the weaver who maintains the tension of the warp by leaning back while the other end of the warp is attached to a wall or tree.  The length of the fabric produced on a back strap loom is limited in length, as with vertical (frame) and horizontal (frame) looms. The fell of the cloth moves along the loom instead of remaining stationary as with a conventional frame loom.


A term used in handweaving when an incorrect weft thread has been introduced across the warp and then taken out or unwoven.


A treatment using natural or synthetic tanning agents applied to improve wet fastness of dyed or printed silk or polyamide fabrics. See polyamide and Appendix Fibre Chart, polyamide.


A loosely woven woollen cloth, heavily felted and cropped to produce a fine nap on both sides. Traditionally dyed red or green.  From the old French word baie, a cloth dyed a brownish red colour used for clothing, lining cutlery draws and covering tables. The Spanish name for the same cloth is bayetta.

balanced cloth

The term describes a cloth made with the same thickness or diameter of yarn throughout, woven with the same number of ends in the warp as picks in the weft. The actual diameter of a yarn with a specific count can vary according to the compactness of the yarn.

balanced weave

A weave in which the average float is the same in the warp and the weft directions and in which the warp and weft floats are equally distributed between the two sides of the fabric.  See weaves.

ball warping

A method of transferring a prepared warp from the warping mill to the loom.  The leased warp, in the form of a thick rope, is wound into a ball by hand or by machine.  The end of the warp is attached to the back beam then, while under tension, it is gradually wound onto the back beam as it is being unwound from the ball. See lease.


Of the same family as abaca. Fibre is obtained from the leaf sheath of the non-edible banana plant. Used in spinning string, cord, fine cloth suitable for shirts (traditionally used in the Philippines as shirt fabric) or table cloths or coarse cloth suitable for sacking or matting.  Fibre is also obtainable from the edible banana plant but the yield is half of that obtainable from the abaca.  See abaca.

bandage cloth

Usually woven from un-mercerized cotton.  Warps: from 24s cc to 28s cc set at 40 epi.  Wefts: from 20s cc to 24s cc at 23 ppi.  Bleached and sized before rolling and cutting. Usually measured into 2 metre (80") roll lengths and cut into standard bandage widths of 2cm (1"), 5cm (2") and 10cm (4"). See mercerize.


Also known as bandhanna, bandhani, bandh, bandhnu, bandhara and plangi. A process of resist dyeing. Fine yarn is wound tightly  round small areas of cloth to resist the dye creating a small diamond shaped dot.  Several dots can be arranged into a pattern some of which are sometimes overdyed.  This process was exploited in the 16th century in the manufacture of handkerchiefs in Gujerat, India.  Using the same process pulecat handkerchiefs were made in Pulicat on the coast near Madras in southern India.  See also plangi and tie-dye.


A type of moleskin. See moleskin.


A tweed or suiting named after the Scottish town made famous by the Scottish victory over the English in 1314.  The fabric is made in 2 and 2 twill weave from marled cheviot woollen spun yarn prepared by twisting together two contrasting colours then weaving them together in the warp and weft to produce a mottled effect. See weaves.


A mark in the form of a bar across the full width of a piece of woven cloth which differs in appearance from the rest of the cloth.  Often a mistake in weaving caused by either incorrect picking or wrong weft or yarn tension.  Barry or barriness.


A fabric traditionally woven with a spun silk warp and worsted weft.  Now usually woven with worsted yarns throughout.  Recognized by a combination of twill and hopsack weaves which produce a characteristic pebbled appearance.  The cloth is commonly dyed black or dark blue and used as a suiting.

bark cloth

The inner bark of a tree, such as the paper mulberry Brousonnetia papyrifera or another tree Pipturus albidus, which is soaked and beaten with a mallet into a thin sheet. It can be bleached, dyed or painted. Called tapa in Hawaii and kapa in Fiji.

basic dyes

Dyes which are applied with the assistance of a mordant. Used for dyeing cotton and cellulosic fibres. Not in common use.

basket weave

This term is used to describe a simple weave using two or more warp ends and picks woven parallel to each other as one, in a plain or tabby weave formation.  See weaves.

bast fibres

Also known as stem fibres.  Fibre obtained from between the inner and outer layer of the stems or stalks of many plants such as: allo, flax, hemp, hop, jute, kenef, nettle, ramie, roselle, sunn hemp, urena.  They are strong, long fibres and can be used to make ropes, string, gunny, hessian, sacking and fishing nets.

bateman weaves: park, boulevard, and chevron

supplementary-weft structures with tie-down ends and a plain weave ground cloth. In the threading 'units,' one, two, or three tie-down ends are followed by pattern ends (usually in a twill sequence) to form a block. The pattern ends in one block share shafts with pattern ends in other blocks; therefore there is no independent threading unit. In park weaves one tie-down end is threaded on shaft 1; in boulevard weaves, the tie-down ends are threaded 1-2-1; in chevron weaves, the tie-down ends are threaded 1-2-3-2-1.


The word batik is derived from the Javanese word membatik which means drawing or painting on cloth.  It is the general term which describes a form of dye resist by wax on cotton cloth. The craft of batik making is practised in India, parts of Africa and is renowned in Java. Resists of rice flour paste in India or Africa are painted or printed on the cotton cloth. In Java hot wax, prepared from 1 part paraffin wax and 3 parts resin, is applied to the cotton cloth to resist the dye by either a block called a tjap or drawn onto the cloth with a canting sometimes called a tjanting. The wax solidifies and cracks on handling.  The waxed areas resist the dye.  When the wax is washed out of the fabric there remains the characteristic veining effect where the dye liquor has penetrated the cracks. See canting.


The frame containing the reed which is pulled to and pushed from the weaver when beating up the weft into the fell of the cloth. Known also as a sley or beater.  See fell, fly shuttle and reed.


The continuous filament bave is exuded by the silkworm to form its cocoon.  It is composed of two brins which are stuck together with sericin or silk gum.  The two brins are extruded from a pair of silk glands in the silkworm's head.  The length of bave varies with the breed of silkworm, from 300 m to 1500 m. The thickness of the bave varies from 1.8 denier to 3.0 denier.  See also brin.


A cylinder of wood or metal with end bearings for mounting into flanges either at the front or rear of a loom. A double beam refers to two beams which can be fixed to the rear of the loom when two warps are taken up in the weaving under two different tensions.  See back beam, breast beam and double beam.

beam dyeing

The process of dyeing a prepared warp having been wound on a perforated metal back beam and dyed prior to weaving.  The dye is passed through the beam, the perforations and the warp under pressure.


Often referred to as the sley or batten. Used to beat up the weft into the fell of the cloth. See batten, fell and sley.

beating up

Or beat up. See beaten and fell.

bedford cord

a complementary-weft structure. One weft weaves plain weave with one group of warp ends and floats across the back of the next group. The second weft floats behind the first group and weaves plain weave in the next. A non-interlacing stuffer warp puffs the warp-wise ribs formed by the plain weave on the face and the floats on the back of each section.

Originally known as a cord broadcloth it was woven in Britain by Flemish weavers during the reign of Edward III in the early 14th century. Later in the 15th century this cloth was adopted by the Duke of Bedford for his troop's uniforms. Bedford cord can be made with either man-made fibres, cotton, worsted wool or a combination of all three. The character of this warp directional rib or cord is produced by the weave, similar to corduroy. Depending on the size of the yarn used and modifications made to the weave, other corded fabrics are also produced, such as the heavier London cord. In France Bedford cord is called côte de cheval and in South America, diable fuerte.


A group of 40 warp threads. Also a group of spaces used in reed-counting, eg. the number of 20 dents in 37 inches which traditionally indicates the reed count.


A bundle or sheaf of tied flax or straw.


A mechanical treatment that uses beetlers or fallers (hammers or mallets) to give the surface of a linen or cotton fabric a flattened appearance. The spaces between warp and weft of the fabric are closed in producing a flat lustrous surface.


a subset of lampas (a form of double weave with a main or foundation structure and a secondary or patterning structure). In beiderwand, free double cloth appears in the areas where the main structure is woven on the top surface of the cloth (usually the pattern areas). In the other areas (usually the background) the secondary weft weaves over the main structure, but the secondary warp remains underneath, causing the two structures to be interconnected. The ratio of main warp ends to secondary warp ends in beiderwand is 4:1; the ratio of main weft to secondary weft is 1:1. The main and secondary structures are both plain weave.


a supplementary-weft unit weave with three tie-down ends and a plain-weave ground cloth. The ratio of tie-down ends to pattern ends is 1:1; there are 16 ends in a structural unit; each block requires one pattern shaft; tie-down ends alternate with pattern ends in the threading; tie-down ends are threaded in 'rosepath' order (3-1-2-3-1-3-2-1). The threading for one unit of Block A is 3-4-1-4-2-4-3-4-1-4-3-4-2-4-1-4. A block can be smaller than the structural unit: 3-4-1-4-2-4-3-4-1-5-3-5-2-5-1-5 is one unit but contains both A(4) and B(5).

billiard cloth

Made from the finest merino wool. A compact cloth, usually woven in a 2 and 1 twill with great precision, heavily milled and cropped to produce a perfectly smooth fabric which is soft yet firm, waterproof and capable of resisting the dampest atmosphere.  Traditionally dyed green, as the name describes, is used for covering billiard table tops.  During the 19th century it is said that billiard cloth was exported from the West of England mills to India where the green dye was extracted and re-used to dye yarns for Kashmir shawls. See weaves.

binder or binding warp

the secondary warp of lampas. The binder (or secondary) warp interlaces with the secondary (often called pattern) weft. Binder is also more loosely used to describe any warp or weft that binds a float or completes an interlacement. Binding system in some sources is synonymous with order of interlacement.


A breed of mulberry silkmoth which produces two generations per year and lays hibernating and non-hibernating eggs.  The monovoltine silkmoth produces one generation per year and multivoltine or polyvoltine up to eight generations per year.  Multivoltine or polyvoltine are tropical varieties which, unlike bivoltine or monovoltine from temperate regions, have no dormant period. See monovoltine, multivoltine and polyvoltine.


The Scottish Blackface sheep produces wool with a staple length of 20 30 cm and of outstanding quality which is most suitable for tweed and carpet manufacture.


From the French word blankete, derived from blanc meaning white.  Blankete was an undyed woollen cloth chiefly used as a warm heavy bed covering.  Traditionally constructed with woollen or shoddy yarn in a 2-and 2 twill weave and then brushed, some blankets are woven with a cellular or honeycomb weave and remain unbrushed.  The term blanket is also used in textile manufacture terminology to describe a sample length of cloth usually with a variety of different patterns and colourings in one piece. See shoddy and mungo.

blazer cloth

From the French word blason, a coat of arms or badge worn as identification.  Traditionally blazer cloth is woven either in solid colours or in stripes using a
5-end satin.  Worsted wool or wool/polyester yarns are usually used in the production of this fabric.  Imitation blazer cloths are sometimes woven in plain weave using wool, cotton or man-made fibres, then raised to produce lightweight jacket cloth. See weaves.


A chemical which whitens yarn or fabrics. Sodium chlorite (chlorine), hydrogen peroxide or reducing agents such as sulphur dioxide or sodium bisulphite are the most common bleaches. Bleaching is used to remove natural and other types of impurities and blemishes from fabrics prior to dyeing and finishing. The removal of colour from dyed or printed textiles is usually called stripping.


Colour which run together from wet, dyed material onto a material next to it.  It has been known that the property of bleeding, sometimes caused through the  use of fugitive dyes or bad dyeing techniques, enhances its acceptability in certain markets. A range of striped and checked cotton cloths woven in India known as Bleeding Madras.


A process of combining  two or more types of staple fibres in one yarn to achieve a blend or mixture of either two types of natural fibre, a natural fibre with man-made fibre or several coloured fibres to achieve a colour mixture. See staple fibres.

block printing

Blocks for printing cloth are be made from wood, linoleum or copper; a seperate block being used for each colour. A design is carved from the flat surface of the block, printing ink or dye applied to the raised surface of the block which is then put down on the cloth and tapped once to transfer the ink or dye to the cloth.

block weaves

weaves in which the same warp and weft threads can produce two different interlacements, one that is considered 'pattern' and one that is considered 'background.' A single block is formed by all of the warp and weft threads that always produce pattern or background together.


A large area or background area of a design printed in a uniform colour.

blotch printing

Printing a fabric with any dyestuff over the entire surface with an open screen.


A finishing process which opens the fibre and sets the weave of a fabric. Steam is passed through a cloth which has been wound onto a large perforated roller covered in an endless roll of cotton canvas between which the cloth to be blown is sandwiched.


A spool or cylindrical barrel onto which yarn is wound for use either in the shuttle for weaving or for carrying the under thread in a sewing machine. The term is usually qualified to indicate the purpose or process for which it is used: ring bobbin, spinning bobbin, condenser bobbin and weft bobbin. A brass bobbin is used on lace making machines.

boiling off

The process of degumming or the removal of sericin or silk gum from yarn, fabric or silk waste prior to spinning. The process is done by means of a controlled hot mildly alkaline treatment having little or no effect on the underlying fibroin.


See cotton boll.


Synonymous with a piece of cloth. Also a roll of ribbon traditionally 10 yards (approx. 9 metres) long.

bolting cloth

Plain woven sheer silk fabric used for sifting. From the French word blutage meaning sift (flour).  Also known as miller's gauze.


A white or brownish seed fibre from the malvaceae family of plants found in South America, India and Africa.  Known as Bombax cotton.  Lacking in strength and elasticity is used primarily as a pillow stuffing or wadding.  Mixed with other fibres can be spun into yarn.

bombyx mori

The mulberry silkworm which feeds solely on white mulberry leaves and produces the finest white-yellow silk.  See silk.


The standard term to describe a bundle of sixteen to twenty skeins or hanks of raw silk compactly packed weighing 2 to 2.5kg.


A term applied to merino wool tops, yarns or fabrics. See merino.


A French word meaning curled, used to describe a looped or curly effect in a knitting yarn or in a knitted or woven fabric. See fancy yarn.


The simplest form of fabric which is woven or plaited flat, in the round or as a tubular narrow fabric.  Braiding or plaiting yarn, narrow strips of fabric, flexible wire or metallic threads, to make shoe laces, candle wicks, ropes and cord.


A honeycomb weave.  See cellular fabric and honeycomb.


Two brins are exuded from the head of the silkworm to form the bave or silk filament.


An elaborate and richly figured fabric woven on a Jacquard loom using satin weave.  The warp float give a raised appearance.  Originally woven in silk, but now can be made with man-made fibres, with additional silver or gold threads. Was first produced in China.  Light weight brocade is used for apparel and heavier weights for furnishings.  A brocatine is a brocade with a raised pattern imitating embroidery.  Latin: brocare meaning to figure.


Similar to but heavier than brocade. The pattern, woven with two or more wefts with extra binder warp, in high relief on a Jacquard loom. 


A brocade fabric that is figured with additional weft threads introduced by means of swivel or lappet weaving. French: broché, figured. See lappet.

broken twill

the diagonal line characteristic of twill is broken by an interruption (either in the threading, the treadling, or both) of the usual twill sequence in which adjacent warps interlace with adjacent wefts.

bronson lace

a unit weave with (usually) six ends and six picks in a unit. Either plain weave or lace can be woven in each independent unit. To produce lace, two of the six warp ends and two of the six picks do not interlace in plain-weave order but instead float over five (picks or ends) and are caught by the sixth.


A stiff fabric made of normally of cotton, linen, hemp or hair. A plain weave, open-sett fabric impregnated with fillers or stiffeners.  Also made by gluing two open-sett sized fabrics together.  Used as lining, bookbinding, sometimes known as Library Buckram, and in millenary.  Also a 16th century English woollen fabric used for church vestments. 

bullion cord

An highly twisted yarn made from continuous filament yarn components which has a coarse central core covered with either a finer yarn.  Used in the manufacture of bullion fringe, often covered with metallic threads and used in furnishing fabric decoration or military braiding.


A tall slim box fixed to the side of the Malaysian hand weaver's loom seat in which the long thin palm tree bark patterning sticks, bilah, are deposited during weaving.

bump yarn

A thick, coarse condenser yarn, usually spun from cotton waste. The count is traditionally expressed in yards per ounce and has normally ranged from 25 to 120 yd/oz (600 to 250 TEX). Woven into bump cloth normally used as absorbent floor cloth and oven gloves. See Appendix: yarn counts.


The expression to bunt, from the old English word meaning to sift, was a process used after grain milling when an open weave woollen cloth was stretched across the bunt or sieve. Coincidently the German word bunt means strong bright colours which are characteristic of bunting.  The German word for coloured fabric is buntgewebe.  Both these terms could be linked as they both describe the present day plain woven, crossbred cloth called bunting which is normally dyed in basic armorial colours of red, blue, yellow, white and black, with additions of green and orange, used for making flags or banners.  Bunting is known as etamine in France.


The North American term for sacking or hessian.


Removal of loose threads, knots, slubs, burrs, and other extraneous material from fabrics, before finishing without damaging them, by means of a burling iron or tweezers. A burl is a small knot or lump in a thread or fabric.

burry wool

Wool containing vegetable matter in the fleece.


A block printed cotton fabric produced in Turkestan used for bedcovers or horse blankets.


Also known as buti. The floral decorative motive sometimes referred to as the paisley pattern originating in Persia and associated with the Mughal period. Derived from the shape of the mango, almond or pine cone. See paisley.


The red flowers from butea frondosa containing an almost colourless dye principle called butin which, when steeped in cold water, converts into the orange dyestuff called butein.



Two or more yarns folded together. A cable twist can be a cord or rope constructed in which each successive twist is in the opposite direction to the preceding twist.  This type of cable is defined as S-Z-S or Z-S-Z.


A single cylindrical package of yarn not supported by an internal tube or bobbin (3½in (9cm) high, 6in (15cm) external diameter, 4in (10cm) internal diameter), normally of continuous-filament yarn produced in the viscose spinning industry.


A process used to flatten cloth by passing the cloth through alternate smooth metal and softer cloth-wrapped or paper-wrapped rollers. Works very much like a domestic iron. The machine is called a calender. A friction calender is used to give a glazed (as in glazing chintz), moiré or watermarked finish to certain fabrics which have been soaked in starch, wax or resin.  Also used for coating fabrics with rubber or plastics. See ciré.


The term calico, which is still used today, was introduced into Britain in the 17th century and was used to describe a plain weave cotton cloth made from carded unbleached cotton which had retained the small dark flecks (leaves or other vegetable matter) normally taken out in further spinning processes and bleaching. The name calico was given to all types of cotton cloth coming from the small town of Kozhikode (from Kolikodu meaning Cock Fortress), known as Calicut, on the Malabar coast  of south west India.  An act was introduced in 1720 by King George to encourage the manufacture of silk and woollen fabrics in Britain, to effect the employment of poor people, by prohibiting the use and wearing of calico.


A plain weave soft cotton or linen fabric calendered to give a slight lustre on the face of the fabric.  Originally a linen fabric woven in Cambrai in northern France. Also refers to a calendered fine bleached cotton muslin. Cambric grass is another name given to the ramie plant.  See also chambray.

camel hair

A luxury textile fibre which comes from the two-hump Bactrian camel or the single-hump dromedary found in parts of Asia from Turkey to China and as far north as Siberia. The main hair is coarse and strong ranging in length from 13 to 15cm. The soft underwool, used in the production of fabrics for clothing, is between 4 to 5cm long.


Thick, soft condenser yarns, of about 1s cotton count, twisted, plaited or braided together to make a much thicker soft yarn, commonly used for wicks in candles or in oil lamps. The term is also used to describe a fabric, often used as bedspreads, where the surface of the fabric is covered with tufts of cotton yarn which have been introduced into the fabric by a needle or hand operated tool.


Sometimes known as tjanting, is the name given to the Javanese instrument used to draw a design in wax on cotton cloth to resist the dye and becomes a batik.  There are two types of canting.  The Rengrengan canting with a single spout, used for drawing the outline figure of a design, and the Isen canting with two or more spouts, used for filling in the main areas of the motif and the background to the design.  See tjanting.


Canvas has become the generic term to describe many heavy, closely-woven cotton, linen, jute or hemp cloth.  The use of man-made fibres has now superseded cotton and linen in the manufacture of sail or tent canvas. Some commonly know types of canvas include: prelate canvas, manufactured for sails which can be treated with tar, oil or varnish, artist's canvas, cotton or linen canvas stretched onto wooden frames, sometimes referred to as kit-cat canvas, and a wide range of embroidery canvases for needlework and embroidery.  Some popular embroidery canvases include:  Berlin canvas, Java canvas, bincarette or ada canvas - a basket weave cloth, hardanger, panama canvas - a hopsack or matt weave, penelope canvas - a loosely woven stiff fabric in 2-and-1 weave. The word canvas comes from the Early English word canevas which derives from the Latin for hemp: cannabis. See duck.

cap spinning

A spinning system in which the spindle supports a stationary cap the lower edge of which guides the yarn onto the revolving spinning package.  See spinning.

carbon fibre

A modified form of acrylic (polyacrylonitrile) fibre. As strong as glass fibre and five times as stiff.  Developed at Farnborough, United Kingdom, between 1936 and 1964. Each fibre is finer than a human hair often about 7 microns in diameter. Is light in weight and is ideal for use in reinforced plastics. 


A chemical process of eliminating cellulosic matter from animal fibre. Cloth is treated with either hydrochloric acid gas (dry process) or sulphuric acid solution (wet process) followed by a heating.


A process of opening, disentangling, cleaning, separating and making parallel fibres, on a machine called a card, to produce a thin web which is then condensed into a single continuous strand and in turn, after further drawing, is spun into a yarn. The fibres which produce carded yarn have not been combed. Combing is the additional process by which a superior quality smooth cotton yarn is produced. See bump yarn, combed yarn, condenser yarn, cotton carding and cotton combing.


Cards used in conjunction with a machine invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752 1834) between 1801 and 1810, for weaving, complex and elaborate patterns. A Jacquard mechanism, similar to the simpler dobby system, operated by punched holes in card. Each hole in each card allows for selection of a single warp thread. Each card represents one pick in the weft.  The most common sizes of cards have space for 200, 400 or 600 holes in each.  Further developments of the Jacquard mechanism have been made, some of which are used in knitting machines.  Modern Jacquard looms are operated electronically with computers determining the patterns. See Jacquard.


Neoglazovia variegata. Native to Brazil, yields a soft, white, flexible fibre with a tensile strength three times that of jute. It has a soft lustre and can be anything from three to seven feet in length. Used principally for cordage, rope and very coarse fabrics. Also known as caraua, caroa, carao, craua or croa.


Low to medium lustre hair from the downy undercoat of a hybrid goat; the male angora goat crossed with a feral female cashmere goat. 


The fine, soft hair, resembling wool from beneath the guard hair of the Asiatic goat (capra hircus laniger).  Similar to the pashmina (Persian for woollen) goat found in northern India (Kashmir and Himachel Pradesh), Nepal, Tibet and China. Attempts have been made to produce similar quality fibre from feral goats bred in Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. See also pashmina.

caustic soda

Sodium hydroxide. Used in many textile processes including viscose rayon production, mercerizing, boiling-out, dyeing and printing.  Causticizing is a treatment given to cellulosic fabric to improve the colour yield in printing and dyeing particularly with reactive dyes.

cellular fabric

A honeycomb, leno or mock-leno loosely woven cloth with an open-weave construction.  Aertex is probably the most famous cotton cellular fabric ever produced.


A carbohydrate polymer found in organic woody substances of most vegetation. The basic raw material in the production of rayon and acetate fibres. Cotton is 96% cellulose.

cellulose acetate

Filaments spun from a solidified acetic acid ester of cellulose.


The same as hopsack weave. See hopsack and Appendix weaves.


A woollen blanket or large shawl woven in India.  Also called chadur, chadder, chadar, chaddah or chudder.


A white fabric handwoven from handspun local cotton in Ethiopia. 


The chambon croissure (French) is composed of two groups of silk filaments which cross between the cocoon and the distributor on a silk reeling machine.  The reason for doing this is to allow agglutination of the silk filaments of several cocoons to form a compact yarn.  The cross also squeezes out water from the yarn as it is being reeled.  This process also acts as a form of quality control as the weak filaments break under its tension.  An alternative Italian device is called a tavelette.


A lightweight cotton cloth, usually woven in checks or stripes and used in the manufacture of dresses and shirts.  The word comes from Cambrai, a town in the northern part of France near the Belgian border where the fabric originated.


An Indian spinning wheel. Also hand or foot operated spinning machine. All hand and foot operated spinning machines in India are used to spin cotton, wool or silk yarns for khadi (hand-spun,hand-woven) cloths. Also spelt charaka. See khadi.


Newly hatched silkworm.


A cylindrical package of yarn, cross-wound on a parallel sided central core made of either paper, plastic or wood.

cheese cloth

An inexpensive, lightweight, open cloth woven with carded cotton yarn, made originally for the sole purpose of covering cheese during its manufacture.  Was also used for covering bacon and packing tobacco.  Sometimes referred to as gauze, flag bunting or scrim.

chemical dyes

More often referred to as synthetic dyes. First manufactured synthetic dyestuffs were derived from coal tar in 1856. Synthetic dyes may be categorized into the following dye groups:

Wool and hair fibresAcid
SilkAcid, Direct, Reactive
Cotton Flax, Jute, Viscose rayonDirect, Vat, Azoic, Sulphur, Reactive
Acetate RayonDisperse
NylonAcid, Disperse
AcrylicsBasic, Disperse
See pigment and dyeing


Bleaching non-protein fibre with dilute hypochlorite solution.


A Scottish mountain sheep which produces both coarse and fine qualities of wool with an average staple length of 10 cm used in the manufacture of tweed and blankets. Used in the production of high quality tweed such as bannockburn tweed.
See Appendix: British breeds of sheep.


A type of embroidery found in north east India, in and around Lucknow.  Traditionally the embroidery was done with silk thread on muslin, is now done with cotton thread on slightly coarser cotton cloth. 


A very light, diaphanous fabric.  Both warp and weft yarns used are highly twisted crêpe. Unlike in crêpe de Chine, the weft yarn is either S or Z twist. The characteristic wrinkles in the finished fabric are created by the weft yarns being pulled in one direction. From the French word literally meaning a rag.


A cotton twill dyed khaki.  Woven from 2-ply combed cotton, the fabric is then mercerized giving it the characteristic shine.  Originally manufactured in Manchester and exported to India, then re-exported to China where it was used to make uniforms for the United States army stationed in the Philippines before World War One until 1925.  The term chino derives from the fact that the fabric was purchased in China although the British army had, for many years, used this hard wearing fabric for uniforms.


Chintes is the plural of the hindi word chit, meaning spotted or variegated. Chintes or chintz is a plain woven cotton fabric decorated with birds plants and flowers, originally painted by hand in India. Also a printed cotton cloth glazed with wax or resin. The term fully-glazed chintz is used if the cloth has been stiffened with starch or other substance and friction-calendered.  Semi-glazed or half-glazed means chintz which has been friction-calendered only.


Used as a mordant in dyeing cotton.  Use is now limited because it may, if used to dye fabric for clothing, cause skin allergies.  These adverse effects are eliminated when chrome is used in association with formic acid while enhancing its fastness properties.  The most common chrome mordants are bichromate of potash, potassium dichromate or sodium dichromate.  These mordants are light sensitive and must be kept in dark containers.  See chrome dye.

chrome dye

Chrome dyes are related to acid dyes but require the addition of bichromate of potash, potassium dichromate or sodium dichromate.  They are the fastest dyes to wet processing and are used principally for dyeing wool to achieve maximum fastness.  A wide range of colours but are duller than acid dyes.  See chrome.


A cloth finishing process which produces a high polish to the surface of the fabric with the use of wax or other compounds and then hot calendering. Can also be a finished obtained by applying heat to fabrics made with thermoplastic yarns. Derived from the French word ciré meaning wax.

clean cut

a term to describe the clean edges of the design in turned twills and turned satins. Every warp and weft must interlace (exchange faces) at the design's edge to produce a clean cut.


One season's yield of sheep's wool. See fleece.


A generic term given to all textile fabrics, usually to describe any woven fabric. A medieval English worsted fabric measuring 6 yards by 2 yards wide. The word material, although not technically true, is often used to describe any fabric or cloth.


A term used for re-dyeing woollen fabric which is off-shade or uneven in colour.


A dye prepared from the ground dried bodies of the coccus cacti insect which live on the prickly pear cactus found in Mexico, Peru and the Canary Islands. Gives a magenta colour when alum is used as the mordant, crimson when a mixture of alum and cream of tartar is used, chrome alum producing a deep purple, oxalic acid and cream of tartar a deep geranium red, tin crystals with cream of tartar a bright scarlet and with iron as the mordant a deep purple-grey.  Traditionally used also as a food colouring but now restricted by food and hygiene laws. Similar to lac found in India.

cockspur willey

Also known as tenterhook willow, fearnaught, teazer, battering willey, single or double cylinder willey, dust and wool willey.  A variety of machines consisting of bladed or pinned rollers for opening, cleaning and mixing staple fibres before scouring or carding wool.


The oval casing of filament silk, or brin, spun by the silkmoth larvae or caterpillar, the silkworm, to protect itself when it changes into a chrysalis. The silkworm extrudes through the silk glands in its head a viscose fluid building up round itself layer upon layer crossing the filaments in a figure of eight. Colour of cocoons, which is contained in the sericin is removed in the degumming, range from white to yellow, golden yellow and brown.  The cocoon grading system in France has become the standard for Europe and India.  They are sorted into nine different grades:

  1. Good cocoons, Perfect for mechanical reeling
  2. Pointed cocoons, No good for mechanical reeling
  3. Cocalons, Larger than normal
  4. Duppions, Double cocoons
  5. Soufflon, Loose or transparent
  6. Perforated, Pierced or broken
  7. Good choquettes, Containing dead chrysalis
  8. Bad choquettes, Rotten cocoons
  9. Calcinated, Containing petrified chrysalis

Coconut fibre.  A reddish-brown coarse hydrophobic seed fibre obtained from the fruit of the coconut palm, cocus nucifera. The longest and finest fibre is obtained from the unripe fruit and used for spinning into yarn to make mats and ropes obtained usually from India.  Coarser fibre or bristle fibre and short fibre used for filling mattresses and for upholstery are mainly from Sri Lanka.  The waste fibre can be used for composting and mulching in the garden. See seed fibre and fruit fibre.


Any colouring matter, eg. dye or pigment.


A strong fine bast fibre from urena lobata. Originated in China and now found throughout the western hemisphere. Also known as cadillo, patta appell, akeiri, guaxima, uaixyma and bun ochra.  Used for string and ropes.


A sensation of light in the eyes induced by certain frequencies, each colour of the rainbow as we know it, having a different frequency.  Colour is applied to textiles by dyeing and printing.  The basic, so called primary colours, are red, blue and yellow.  Secondary colours are made up of a mixture of two of each of the primary colours: red + blue = purple; blue + yellow = green; yellow and red = orange. The word hue normally means red colour, blue colour and yellow colour. The word shade is a colour which has been made darker with black. A tint is a colour which has been lightened with white. The word tone, often mis-used, means lightness, darkness or brilliance of colour.

colour abrasion

Sometimes called frosting. Colour change in localized areas of a fabric where differential wear has taken place.

colour and weave effect

The visual effect created in a fabric, using a particular weave and by grouping coloured warp threads and crossing them with groups of coloured weft threads.

colour fastness

All textile dyes are rated according to their performance. The term colourfast describes a fabric which has retained sufficient colour after dyeing so that no noticeable change in shade has taken place. See Appendix: fastness, wet-fast, light-fast.

colour index

The Colour Index categorizes dyes by their trade names and colour.  The first edition of the Colour Index was published in 1928.  Since then it has been updated and consists of nine volumes.  The Colour Index is now available on CD-ROM.


A reed with one baulk used to keep the warp ends parallel during warp preparation.

combed yarn

During the series of pre-spinning processes fibre is always carded to remove most of the impurities and straighten the fibres.  A further process of combing, with combs and brushes, is used to straight the fibres, to make them parallel, remove the short fibres and any remaining impurities.  Traditionally used in pre-spinning cotton processing.


A fabric made with two types of silk yarn of which one is single twisted and the other is untwisted.  When twisted together, the resultant yarn crinkles up along its length giving a knobbly appearance.

complementary sets of elements

two or more sets of warp ends that are coequal in the fabric and are both necessary to complete the interlacement with one set of wefts, or two or more sets of wefts that are coequal in the fabric and are both necessary to complete the interlacement with one set of warp ends.

compound sets of elements

two or more sets of weft sor two or more sets of warp ends. The additional warp (set) or weft (set) may be supplementary as in overshot and summer and winter or complementary as in swivel, Bedford cord, summer and winter polychrome.

compound weaves

two or more weave structures (separate sets of warp-and-weft) form one cloth. The structures are connected in one of several ways (see double weave).

condenser yarn

Usually a thick woollen yarn usually spun directly, with the minimum amount of twist, from the sliver. Occasionally cotton yarns are made by this method. see bump yarn.


A yarn package spun on a mule or ring spindle. A paper, cardboard, wooden, plastic or metal tube is used as the core of the package.


From the French expression cord du roi. A hard wearing fabric woven in a special weave on a fine cotton warp. The weft floats of soft cotton yarn are then cut to produce wales, ribs or cords running the length of the fabric. There are a variety of different types of corduroy: needlecord 16 to 21 cords per inch, partridge cord or thickset cord 8 to 11 cords per inch, constitution cord 5 to 7 wales per inch and elephant cord, with very wide wales of only 3 to 4 wales per inch, algoa cord, which is a fancy cord, and knitted corduroys. Originally developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in France where it was used extensively for servants' clothes in the royal households hence it became known as cord du roi. Known today in France as velours cotele, in Spain as pana.

core yarn

A yarn produced by a spinning process which puts a continuous filament or core yarn, such as an rubber elastic, elastomeric filament  (for elasticity) or polyester filament (for strength), under tension and covers it with a sheath of other types of staple fibres such as cotton or wool.

cottage basin

A type of hand or power operated silk reeling machine commonly used in villages. A simplified version of a multi-end reeling machine. Requires seperate cocoon cooking system and re-reeling is necessary.


The word comes from the Arabic word qutn or qutun meaning cotton.  A long unicellular seed fibre grown on the outer skin of the cotton seed. Belongs to the mallow family as do hibiscus and okra. Vary from 10mm to 55mm in length, wild varieties, gossypium thurberi, are brown in colour and cultivated hybrid types, from which they derive, are white.

cotone Italy
quoton or gotonEgypt
puca or katanIndia
hoa meinChina

The length of cotton fibre, known as staple length, is classified in three main groups:

  • Fine, over 30mm long staple, high lustre fibre

Best quality cotton: Sea Island (39mm and over in staple length, grown in the West Indies, Central America and Mexico), Egyptian, Sudanese, Peruvian, American Pima and East African (between 30mm to 38mm)

  • Medium, between 26mm to 29mm long staple American Upland (the bulk of production in the United States of America)
  • Short, below 26mm long staple, coarse fibre India and China

Before cotton is spun into yarn the fibre is put through a series of pre-spinning processes:

Bales of cotton are sent from the ginnery (the gin) and arrive at the spinning mill and are first put through the bale-breaker and then onto the opener. The opener literally opens the compressed cotton fibre ready for the following rigorous processes. The cotton, having then been cleaned in the picker (or scutcher) and all the seeds and heavy impurities are extracted, enters the lap former which produces a continuous roll, 50mm thick x 1000mm wide, of semi-cleaned cotton fibre, called a lap.

The lap is passed through a set of revolving cards which disentangles and begins to align the fibres. As the carded cotton comes off the card (carding machine) a thin web, about 10mm thick, is produced and is rolled into loose rope of fibre called a sliver.

The finest quality cotton yarns are spun with combed cotton, therefore the importance of this process is to eliminate all short fibres and parallel all the remaining long fibres. The short fibres, called noils, are usually blended with shorter cottons and spun into cheaper, carded yarns. The combing process produces a continuous rope (20mm diameter) of clean straight cotton fibre called a sliver.

Several slivers are combined and blended through the draw frame, eliminating any further irregularities, to form a single sliver.  By combining the slivers to make one sliver, in this process, it ensures that any variations in the ultimate yarn are eliminated.

The sliver is drawn out still further into a finer strand about the 8mm thick and a slight twist put into it to form the roving.

The roving is now drawn out still further and twisted to produce a single yarn.  It is at this stage that the speed of the roving entering the rollers of the spinning machine is strictly controlled to produce a specific size (count) of yarn.  The singles yarn can then be doubled on a doubler to produce a two-fold yarn.

cotton boll

The seed pod containing the cotton seeds and cotton fibres. As the pressure in side the pod increases during the growing period, the expanding cotton seed hairs build up. The pod bursts open revealing a fluffy ball of cotton known as the boll.

cotton gin

A machine invented by Eli Whitney 1794 to mechanically strip and separate the cotton fibre from the seed.  Ginning is normally done in or near the field where the cotton is grown and before it is transported in bales to the mill.

cotton waste

Hard cotton waste comes from spinning, reeling, winding machines and looms. Soft cotton waste comes from the earlier processes where the fibres are looser with no twist and not compacted. Hard cotton waste can be used for cleaning down machinery. Soft cotton waste is often reprocessed to produce a batt or web of cotton wool for medical or cosmetic purposes.


A system for measuring the fineness or thickness of yarn by spinners, weavers and knitters. In Scotland the term is known as grist. In all other English speaking countries the term count is used.

nummer Germany
numéro or titre France
numero or titolo Italy
número or título Spain
número or título Portugal

A number is used to indicate the size of the yarn and is calculated from one of the following indirect or direct systems:

Indirect fixed weight system
The number of length units per weight unit


the number of warp ends away from the previous warp the satin interlacement moves with each successive pick; also called the interruption factor, distribution factor, count number, rising number.


when a weave structure and its reverse appear on the same surface of the cloth to create pattern with one and background with the other.

counting glass

A small magnifying glass mounted in a small hinged metal frame with a fixed focus the base having an aperture measuring either one square inch or one square centimetre. Used for counting the ends and picks, courses and wales in a fabric. Also known as a linen prover or pick glass.


a supplementary-weft structure with a plain- weave ground cloth. Crackle is usually woven on four shafts and forms four blocks of pattern. The supplementary weft float passes over three threads and under one in the pattern block, under three and over one in one of the background blocks, and over three in one pick and over one in the alternate pick in the other two background (halftone) blocks. Adjacent blocks cannot produce pattern or background at the same time: crackle is not a unit weave.


A coarse, rough linen or cotton/linen twill or granite weave fabric possibly originating from Russia where it was woven from unbleached linen.

cream of tartar

A white crystalline compound made by purifying argol, potassium hydrogen tartrate. Used often in combination with alum as a mordant in vegetable dyeing.


A frame to hold spools, cheeses, cones or any package from which yarn is taken to produce a warp.  Creels can be horizontal or upright depending on the type of package used. 


A general classification of fabrics made of silk, cotton, wool or man-made fibres or combination of fibres to produce a range of crinkled, grained or textured surface effects. Can be made by using hard twist yarns, chemical treatments, weave constructions or embossing.

crêpe de chine

A soft, thin, opaque and lightweight fabric with a crinkled effect.  Woven with alternate S and Z highly twisted weft threads and untwisted warp threads. Alternate picks are of opposite twists resulting in a crimpy appearance on the fabric.

crêpe de laine

Sheer lightweight fabric woven with a crêpe weave, originally made of wool.

crêpe suzette

Synonym for crepon geogette in which the weft yarn has the same direction of twist.


A printed fabric heavier than chinz.  Often used for curtains or loose covers.


The waviness in a fibre or in a yarn.  Produced naturally as in sheeps wool or mechanically introduced.


Synonym for rubbing when referring to fastness by rubbing of dyed or printed fabric.  The use of a crockmeter determines the fastness to rubbing of dyed or printed fabrics.

cross twill

diagonals within the twill (treadling or threading) repeat move in opposite directions.


When two or more different fibres are either spun together in the same yarn or woven or knitted in the same fabric, each being dyed with its appropriate dye in the same dyebath or in seperate dyebaths. See chemical dyes.


The term given to wools, tops, yarns and fabrics produced from medium quality  wools from sheep of mixed breed.


A 3 and 1  twill, also known as crow weave, crow twill or broken crow, used in wool and worsted fabrics.  See Appendix: weaves.

crystal gum

Often known as Nafka crystal gum and is produced from vegetable gums such as gum karaya. Used as a printing dye thickener mainly for acid and discharge printing.


A length of fabric in loom or grey state, or a length of warp to produce it, usually 45m to 90m (50yd to 100yd).


To fold a finished fabric down the centre, known in the woollen industry as rigging, and placed in transverse folds.  Sometimes fabric is not folded and usually placed in folds in open width.


dacca muslin

A very fine quality of muslin produced in Bangladesh. Traditionally the cotton yarn was handspun to 400s cotton count. Ten yards of this fabric would weigh only three or four ounces.

  1. A heavy jacquard woven fabric woven in silk, linen, cotton, worsted wool and man-made fibres. Traditionally woven with an 8 and 8 satin weave. The reversible pattern is distinguished from the background by contrasting lustre. The word derives from a rich silk fabric introduced into Europe through Damascus.
  2. a simple weave in which areas of warp-float satin and areas of weft-float satin appear on the same surface across the width and length of the cloth, syn. turned satin. When satin units of five ends are threaded, the damask is often called 5-shaft (or 5-end) damask even though l5 shafts are required for three blocks, 20 for four, etc. When units of six ends are used, the cloth is often called 6-shaft (or 6-end) damask even though satin on six shafts is not true satin.
damask diaper

damask in small all-over block designs.


Also known as decating. A process used to improve the handle and appearance of fabrics usually containing wool. The fabric, interleaved with a cotton canvas wrapper forming an endless belt, is wound tightly round a perforated roller through which steam is passed under pressure.


The removal of grease, sometimes known as suint, natural fats, oil and dirt from wool by organic or synthetic solvents. degumming The process of removing of sericin (the gum) from silk filament, silk yarn, cloth or silk waste prior to spinning, by controlled hot, mildly alkaline treatment without effecting the fibroin. See discharging.


A direct fixed length count system to determine the size of a filament yarn. Denier is the number of grams per 9000 metres of yarn. The word denier comes from denarius, a Roman coin dating from AD 14, having a diameter of 18mm and was the forerunner of the French denier coin. See count.


A hard wearing cotton twill cloth originally woven in Nimes in Southern France where it was known as serge de Nimes and used as sail cloth for ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The warp is usually a hard twist indigo dyed cotton yarn with a softer undyed yarn in the weft. Woven in either a compact 2-and 1 or 3-and 1 twill weave. Used in recent years in the manufacture of jeans is also ideal for making work cloths and uniforms. There are some lightweight striped cloths, similar to denim called galatea (multi-coloured) and fodens (blue and white) traditionally used for fishmongers', butchers' and milkmen's aprons.


The space between two adjacent wire in a reed. The number of dents per inch determines the sett of the warp. Also known as split.

design paper

Sometimes referred to as point paper. Paper ruled with vertical and horizontal lines to form equally spaced squares divided by heavy ruling in blocks of eight. Used to show weaves or designs in diagrammatic form. designer's blanket Also known as a pattern blanket. A cloth woven with a number of warps, usually of a specific range of yarns either in solid colours or in stripes and woven with the same range of weft colours or stripes in the weft in the same sequence as the warp. See blanket.


A process of printing with certain chemical printing pastes onto specially structured cloths to produce burnt-out effects or sheer areas of a fabric. Fabrics constructed from blends containing nylon and viscose, nylon and cotton, nylon and cuprammonium rayon can be printed with: 15 20% Aluminium Sulphate, 20 15% water, 5% glycerine, 60% thickening. Bake the cloth after printing for 25 seconds at 165°-180° C. Wash off in hot water and follow with neutralizing treatment in 1gm to 1 gallon sodium carbonate at 45° C for 10 minutes. Rinse well in cold water and dry.


Durrie or dari -A reversible flat, plain weave floor covering usually made with a hard twist cotton warp, also forming a fringe, and either cotton, wool or silk weft.


A light weight, sheer, plain weave cotton cloth with well defined, raised warp. From the Greek word dismitos (dis = twice; mitos = warp threads).

direct count

Direct fixed length count (numbering) system. The number of weight units per length unit. See count.

direct dye

Of all the types of dye available for dyeing cotton direct dyes are the simplest to use. They can easily be applied to cotton or other cellulosic fibres without the need of pre-treatment or mordant, by heating the dye solution and adding common salt or Glauber's salt to increase dye take-up. Poor to moderate fastness to wet treatments. Light fastness varies from poor to very good according to group, for example:

  • Moderate light fastness: Chlorazol (ICI), Diphenyl (Ciba-Geigy), Benzo (Bayer)
  • High light fastness: Durazol (ICI), Chlorantine fast (Ciba-Geigy), Sirius supra (Bayer)
discharge (printing)

Method of printing with bleaching or colour-destroying chemicals on dyed fabric to produce white areas. Coloured patterns on a dyed ground are possible by adding a dye to the bleaching paste which will not be affected by the bleach.


The process of boiling off and removal of gum from silk. See degumming.

disperse dye

Developed in the 1920s to dye synthetic fibres which could not be dyed with existing, traditional methods. Available in powder or liquid form, they are also used in the manufacture of inks and crayons. The dyes are absorbed into the fabric only at high temperatures (90 - 100°C).

distribution factor

see counter.

district checks

Scottish district checks are synonymous with glenchecks which are woollen check cloths or tweeds designed for use as the livery of Scottish estates. See glen checks.


A mechanism which controls the shafts or harnesses to permit more complex geometric weave patterns than those obtainable on simple cam, tappet, countermarch or counterbalance looms and simpler than those obtained by the use of a Jacquard mechanism.


A straight-edge metal blade mounted either parallel to a printing roller or on the face of a fabric to remove excess or unwanted print paste.


A pattern made with four dark coloured threads in the warp and weft alternating with four lighter coloured threads using a 2-and 2 twill weave. See houndstooth.


A machine normally used for washing open-width cloth which is sewn end to end and passed continuously through the washing liquor.

dooputty Dupatta

A hindi word for a piece of cloth. In north east India the word also meant that a one piece garment cloth was made from two pieces of cloth sewn together and worn by low caste Bengali women.


During the production of man-made fibres, a colourant is introduced into the chemical spinning solution, known as dope, before extrusion into filaments. Often pigments, which withstand high temperatures during the production process, are used as colourants.


A hindi word for an inexpensive coarse, double thread cotton fabric. See duck.

double cloth

A compound fabric in which the two component fabrics are woven with either centre-stitching, self-stitching or interchanging.

double damask

sometimes used to describe damask that is woven with reciprocal complementary wefts of two different colors that produce a weft-float on both sides of the cloth; the two wefts (therefore the two colors) exchange positions in pattern and background areas. Double damask has also been used to identify damask with a weft to warp ratio of 2:1.

double jersey

A weft knitted fabric which is produced on a rib or interlock knitting machine. Usually made on a 10 gauge circular knitting machine, or finer, it is often referred to as non-jacquard or jacquard double jersey. See jersey.

double two-tie unit weave

a supplementary-weft unit weave with two tie-down ends and a plain weave ground cloth. The threading unit requires two pattern shafts ('double') for each block. Each block can produce pattern, background, or halftones independently. The label is applied to the specific threading (1-3-2-4, 1-5-2-6, etc., also called double summer and winter) but not to other unit-weave threadings with two pattern shafts per block and two tie-down ends (1-3-4-2-3-4; 1-2-3-4-3-4-; 3-1-3-1-3, 2-4-2-4-2, etc.). A 'double two-tie unit weave' threading can produce many structures other than supplementary weft; its most frequent uses are to expand twills and to combine structures.

double weave

a compound weave in which two sets of warp ends each weave with a respective set of wefts. The two structures are usually connected to each other in one of several ways: a) the structures exchange positions from face to back or vice versa, b) the structures are 'stitched' together by warp ends or wefts of one structure (or extra warp ends or wefts) interlacing with wefts or warp ends of the other, c) the warp of one structure interlaces with its weft on opposite sides of the other structure—or by a combination of these three ways.


when two complementary sets of warp (or weft) are reciprocal, forming an identical structure on both sides of the cloth.


Combining, plying or twisting two or more yarns together to make a single yarn. The process is often carried out on a machine called a doubler.


See leno weaving.


The order in which warp threads are drawn through the heddle or heald eyes. This will determine the weave of the fabric when the shafts, holding the heddles or healds are mounted into the loom. See heddle and healds.


Swedish term usually used to describe weaves in which warp-float areas contrast with weft-float areas such as turned twills and turned satins, especially when they are simple block designs woven on eight or ten shafts

dräll damask

damask patterning produced on a shaft loom or (more rarely) shaft drawloom. Dräll patterning is less elaborate than figured drawloom or jacquard damasks. The edges of the design are stepped in squares that are the size of a unit or half-unit of the satin structure being woven.


When a fabric hangs in soft, gentle folds.

draw frame

A machine which draws out and combines several slivers of carded fibre into one sliver, which is then drawn out still further into a roving, then spun into a yarn. drawing in See drafting.


see Profile Draft


Woven with hard-twist coarse cotton yarns in a 3-and-1 weave. This type of cloth is often used in making lightweight, washable uniforms. From the Greek word drillich, which broadly means three warp threads. The French word for drill is contil and the fabric, sometimes called coutille, is commonly used for making mattress covers whereas lighter qualities were traditionally used in the manufacture of brassières.

drop spindle

The simplest and oldest method of intermittent spinning. Used for thousands of years this simple device takes the form of a short stick, forming the spindle, and a weight or whorl, which can be a stone, dry mud or bone. Known as a takli in India.


Derived from the Dutch word doek meaning a linen canvas which was used for sailors' clothing. There are now many types of duck or fabrics referred to as duck. A very tightly woven cotton fabric made with double warp threads and double weft threads in plain weave. The duck family includes: number duck, army duck, flat duck, ounce duck, sail duck, belting duck, hosepipe duck, boat or bootleg duck, linen duck, shoe duck, plimsoll duck (used for sneakers, track shoes or tennis shoes, wagon cover duck, tent duck and naught duck. A heavy duck cloth made in for tents in India is called dosooty. See dosooty.


From the hindi word dungri or dongari to describe a low-priced coarse cotton cloth, traditionally dyed brown, woven originally in the Rajapur and Karwar areas of Goa. The fabric was originally exported in the 17th century to the Malaysian islands including those owned by the Dutch and eventually becoming an important export from India to Britain. The Dutch called it dangerijs. This cloth is similar to denim woven with yarn dyed blue in a 3 and 1 or 2 and 1 weave, but sometimes piece dyed. Has also been known as bluettes.


Dupion silk is a irregular, bumpy or nubby silk yarn which usually quite coarse produced from double cocoons. Often inferior quality cocoons are combined with the silk from the double cocoons in the reeling process. Used in weaving shantung, nankeen and pongee cloths.


The process of colouring yarn or cloth through immersion in a liquor containing either mineral, vegetable or animal dyes or synthetic chemical dye compounds together with other chemicals to fix the dye into the fibre. The process of dyeing, to give colour to a fabric is used in the context of any of the following: batik chemical dyeing, cross-dyeing, dope-dyeing, ikat natural dyeing, patola piece-dyeing, plangi space-dyeing, tie-dyeing, top-dyeing, vat-dyeing, yarn-dyeing.


Dyes and dyestuffs are classified as follows: Reactive Vat Disperse Modified basic Chrome Azoic Direct Acid Pigment Natural or Vegetable.



The term used for a fabric or yarn which has the tendency to recover the original form or size after having been stretched. Usually refering to natural rubber elastic or elastomeric filament. See elastomeric.


Similar to cavalry twill but finer with a diagonal rib which gives a smooth surface and soft handle. elastomeric The term given to a stretch yarn made chiefly from a filament of highly elastic polymer, such as polyurethane. Often elastomeric yarns can be covered with non-stretch fibres for greater control in weaving and knitting. The wrapping or covering is done by either core spinning or uptwisting. See elastic.


A calendering process which produces a design or pattern on a fabric in relief. The design is pressed into the fabric by passing it through hot engraved rollers.


The term used for ornamenting a fabric with needlework using threads of one or several thicknesses. Embroidery is made either by hand, with a sewing machine or on an electronic, computer controlled machine. Unlike lace embroidery always requires a base or ground fabric. See needlework fabrics.


An individual warp yarn (single, plyed or corded). The term is used to describe an individual sliver, roving, thread or cord. Also the term is used to describe a length of finished fabric less than the standard unit length or piece (in certain places a half-piece).

end and end

Alternating warp ends using yarns of similar counts and different colours or different counts with different colours. See pick and pick.


An Indian fabric, plain woven from spun eri silk and dyed red or dark reddy-brown.


A dyeing fault when the colour changes from one end of the fabric to the other or when the colour changes from the main bulk of a fabric to the end of the fabric.


Eri silkworms, found in northern parts of India and Bangladesh, thrive on castor oil leaf to produce their cocoons which are usually white but often golden in colour.

estate tweed

See glen checks.

extended summer and winter ('-tied beiderwand')

a supplementary-weft unit weave with two tie-down ends and a plain-weave ground cloth. The ratio of tie-down ends to pattern ends is 1:2 or 1:3 or 1:4 (or more); there are six to ten (or more) ends in a threading unit; two pattern shafts are required for each block; the tie-down ends are threaded at the beginning and at the middle of the unit; the tie-down ends interlace with the pattern weft in plain-weave order; the threading for a unit of A is 1-3-4-2-4-3 or 1-3-4-3-2-3-4-3, etc.



From the French word épingler meaning to pin. Originally made in silk this fine lustrous corded dress fabric is now made of man-made fibres or fine worsted yarns either in a single colour or with the ribs in contrasting colours.


A lightweight, open weave fabric woven with hard spun, course yarns. The term is derived from the French word étamine meaning sieve or strainer.


A French term for all sorts of woven fabrics.



Fabrics are woven, knitted, felted, tufted, braided, embroidered, made of lace or net and some produced by a range of non-woven processes. Sometimes referred to as cloth.

fabric care

Soiled fabrics are either washed or dry cleaned. The cleaning treatment given to each type of fabric varies according to the fibre content, construction or finish of the cloth, including the types of dye used. An International Textile Care Labelling Code was introduced in 1974 in Europe.

fabric widths

Standard fabric widths in centimetres and inches:

65 cm 25 in dress
70 cm 27 in dress
80 cm 32 in dress and non-woven interlinings
90 cm 36 in dress
100 cm 40 in dress
105 cm 42 in dress and furnishings
113 cm 45 in furnishings
120 cm 48 in furnishings and coatings
125 cm 50 in furnishings and coatings
138 cm 54 in furnishings, coatings and sheetings
150 cm 60 in furnishings and sheetings
170 cm 68 in furnishings and sheetings
180 cm 72 in furnishings, sheetings and knitted jersey

fancy yarn

Decorative yarns used in weaving or knitting which are usually produced from a combination of two or three of the same or different single, 2-fold or three-fold yarns. Often made on conventional doubling machinery or on specialized machines. Fancy yarns include: spiral, loop, gimp, cloud, knop, eccentric, stripe, slub, snarl or chenille types.


This term applies to the resistance to change or fading, either by water, washing with soap or detergent or by daylight, which the dye possesses. Sometimes referred to as colour-fastness.


The last weft thread which is introduced through the shed of the warp, forming the woven fabric.


A cloth formed directly from fibre without the formal structure of a weave or knit. Usually short staple loose wool fibre or noil compacted together by milling with soapy water. Some felts can be made with a combination of wool and cotton, rayon or sometimes kapok. Compared with wool felt, fur felt is softer, smoother and is often more water resistant. Fur felt, used in hat production, can be made from the short fibres of rabbit, muskrat and the better grades of beaver. Felt is probably the earliest form of fabric. Nomads all over Asia were able to travel through extreme terrain and climates using felt for protection. In the fourth century BC China was called 'the land of felt'.


Synonymous with remnants of short lengths of cloth, cut from a piece, end or lump of cloth, having been accumulated either at the mill or sometimes in the wholesaler's or retailer's store, and often sold at cost or below cost price.

fibre length

The length of each individual natural or man-made fibre. See staple length.


A protein chemical substance which is the chief constituent of silk, not soluble in water and which forms the core of the silk filament.

figured double weave

two equal and independent structures (two warps each weave with a respective weft) exchange positions from the face to the back of cloth for the purpose of patterning; sometimes called 'block double weave' or 'patterned double weave.'


Linum usitatissimum L. Linaceae - A stem fibre commonly grown in Europe and Russia. The fibre, produced after retting and put through the scutching process, is used in the production of linen and paper. The seed of the flax plant produces linseed oil. See linen.


The complete crop, in one go, of wool from a living sheep. The first clip of the sheep is called lamb's wool while subsequent clips are called fleece wools.


see warp float and weft float


The loose silk round the cocoon which is retained, before reeling is started, and used in the production of spun silk. It is also the name given to some low twist silk embroidery yarns.


The fly-shuttle technology is the basis of all power shuttle looms and some handlooms where a batten is used. The shuttle is propelled from side to side by being hit with a picking stick or picker.


Twisting together two or more single yarns to form a folded, plied or doubled yarn.


A 2 and 2 twill soft, lustrous, silk fabric originally woven in India.

four- (or more-) tie unit weaves

supplementary-weft unit weaves with four (or more) tie-down ends. The tie-down ends can interlace with the supplementary weft in plain-weave or twill order. All other characteristics and potential variations are the same as for two- and three-tie weaves. The cloth can be plain weave, twill, or satin.

frame loom

A handloom which is usually made of wood, although other materials can be used, such as bamboo, palm tree, metal, concrete or any material with which to build a simple frame form which to support the back beam, the front take-up beam, shafts and peddles, and the sleigh or beater carrying the reed.

fruit fibre

Fibre obtained from the mature seed (or fruit) of a plant. Typical examples are: the cotton boll and coir from the coconut fruit.

fur felt

See felt.



From the Medieval Spanish word gabardina. A Hebrew garment called a gaberdine (worn by Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice). Therefore the word is used to describe a cloth and a garment. Traditionally woven with fine worsted yarns although cotton and man-made fibres are now used. A tightly woven cloth which is recognized by the fine steep twilled wale on the face and smooth back. Is water repellent and hard wearing. Can be used for uniforms.

garnett machine

A type of carding machine fitted with rollers and cylinders covered very coarse metal teeth. Used to loosen highly matted wool fibre, waste fibre and in tearing apart woollen rags during the primary stage in the preparation of regenerated fibre for the production of shoddy cloths.


A very fine sheer fabric called gazzatum was produced originally in Gaza, Palestine. Traditionally woven in silk, cotton or linen with a leno or gauze weave construction, it was used for veiling and mosquito netting. Although surgical bandage is often referred to as gauze it is in fact plain woven fabric similar to cheesecloth. The French word for gauze is gaze, from which the names many types of fabric derive, such as gaze de fil (linen), gaze de voilette and gaze fond filoche. The French term for leno or gauze weave is gaze tour anglais.


A very thin, transparent or semi-transparent fabric, which is more grainy than crepe. This quality is the result of highly twisted warp and weft threads.


Known as the cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, which separates the cotton fibre from the cotton seed. The process is called ginning and is carried out in a ginnery.


A cotton checked cloth usually woven with equal numbers of dyed and undyed threads alternating in the warp as well as the weft. Although it is said that the term guingan originates from north east India, meaning a striped or checked cloth made from cotton and tussah silk, it is also alleged that the word gingham derives from the town of Guingamp in Bretagne, France, where gingham was traditionally made. Some say that it comes from the Javanese or Malay word ginggang but a similar sounding word, kindan is used in Tamil Nadu in south India, for a similar cloth. A type of gingham is woven in Peru called cerifos check. Another term for gingham is zephyrs.

glen checks

Sometimes referred to as Scottish Estate Tweeds or in the United States of America as Gun Club Checks and are synonymous with Scottish district checks. These distinctive woollen tweeds, with bold but sometimes subtle checks were, and continue in some cases, to be woven in the Highlands of Scotland. Originally designed as the livery for the landowners and their estates they identify the people who live and work in the same area whether they are related or not. Modified versions of glen checks were adopted by some individual regiments in the British army and often worn by officers when out of uniform as 'plain clothes', sometimes referred to as mufti. The word glen is Scottish for valley. See district checks and tartan.

The most famous estate checks or glenchecks are:

Aberchalder, Altnaharra, Affric, Altries, Altyre, Ardtalla, Ardtalnaig, Ardtornish, Ardverikie, Ardvorlich, Arndilly, Old Atholl, Atholl, Auch, Auchleeks,Auchnafree, Badanloch, Baillie, Balavil, Ballindalloch, Ballogie, Balmoral, Balnakeilly, Bateson, Ben Alder, Ben More Assynt, Ben Loyal, Black Mount, Blairquhan, Bolfracks, Boreland, Braulen, The Brook, Camusericht, Camusrory, Canacraig, Cardrona, The Carnegie, Carnousie, Castle Fraser, Cawdor, Coigach, Ceannacroc, Conaglen, Corrour, Cruach, Dacre, Dalhousie, Delgatie, Delnabo, Dinnet, Dorback and Revack, Dougarie, Drummond, Dunbeath, Dunlossit, Dunecht, Dupplin or Hay, Edradynate, Erchless, Eilanreach, Esslemont, Fairburn, Fannich Farleyer, Farr, Finzean, Ford and Etal, Fyvie, Gairloch, Gannochy, Garden, Glenample, Glenavon,Glenbuchat, Glencanisp, Glendelvine and Riemore, Glendoe, Glen Dye and Fasque, Glenfeshie, Glenfinnan, Glenisla, Glenkinglass, Glenlivet, Glenmoidart, Glen Moriston, Glenmuik, Glen Orchy, Glenogil, Glen Quoich, Glensanda, Glen Tanar, Glenurquhart, Guisachan, Inge, Innes, Invercauld, Inverailort, Inverailort, Inverary, Invermark, Islay, Kinchoan, Kilfinichen and Tiroran, Killiechassie, Killiechonate, Kincardine Castle, Kingairloch, Kinloch, Kinnaird and Balnaguard, Kinlochewe, Kinnell, Kinnordy, Kinpurnie, Kintail, Knockando, Knockdolian, Kylnadrochit, Lairg, Lairgie, Langwell, Laudale, Lawers, Lochan and Bandirran, Letterewe, Lochiel, Lochbuie, Lochmore, Lochs, Logie Buchan, Lothian, Lude, Glen Quoich and Barrisdale, The Lovat Mixture, Mamore, Meggernie, Mansfield, Mar, Millden, North Uist, Otter, Phones, Pitcastle, Portmore, Pitgaveny, Ralia, Reay, Rothiemurchus, Sannox, Scatwell and Cabaan, Seaforth, Skelpick and Rhifail, Snaigow and Glenquaich, South Chesthill, South Uist, Strathallan, Struy, Strathconon, Strathspey, Tarbert, Tillypronie, Tulchan, Urrard, Wemyss and March, West Monar and Patt, Wyvis and by no means last, The Shepherd check.
See tweed.


A building or set of buildings in which disease-free silkworm eggs disease-free-layings (DFL) are produced under strict, hygienic conditions. From the word grain meaning seed. greasy piece Woollen cloth, the yarn from which it has been woven containing spinning oils, that comes straight from the loom.

greasy wool

Sheep's wool that contains natural grease and lanoline. The wool is usually scoured before being prepared for dyeing or spinning. greige Undyed, unprinted, unbleached and unfinished 'grey' cloth straight from the loom.


Grenadine is the name given to a tightly twisted yarn in which two or three single twisted strands are plied and double twisted in the opposite direction more tightly than organzine giving it, extra strength in weaving and a dull appearance to the fabric.


A silk fabric with pronounced ribs across a heavy cloth. From the French gros, meaning large and grain, meaning cord.

ground vs.pattern

Ground usually refers to the cloth structure on which a pattern warp or pattern weft floats. If the (supplementary) pattern warp or weft is cut away from the cloth, the ground structure remains intact. Such grounds are found in overshot, crackle, summer and winter, and other tied unit weaves, but not in M's and O's, lace weaves, double weave, or damask, though these can also be block weaves or unit weaves or both. Pattern, an even more general term, refers to the area of cloth where the pattern warp or weft appears on the surface, but it can also mean any part of the design that the weaver designates as pattern on what is also an arbitrary designation of background. In beiderwand, for example, the 'pattern' weft usually forms the background.

ground warp vs. pattern warp

Pattern warp most often refers to a supplementary warp that floats on a ground cloth to produce pattern. In tied unit weaves, the warp ends which determine pattern by remaining above or below a supplementary pattern-weft pick are often called pattern ends. In summer and winter, therefore, the ends in each unit that are not threaded on shafts 1 and 2 (which carry the the tie-down ends) are the pattern ends, and the shafts on which they are threaded the pattern shafts. Ground warp is used to distinguish the warp that weaves the ground cloth from a supplementary pattern warp. It also is sometimes used for the main warp of a lampas structure. It is not usually used to refer to the warp in supplementary weft structures.

ground weft vs. pattern weft

The ground weft weaves with all of the warp ends to form the ground cloth. In tied unit weaves, the ground weft weaves plain weave (the ground cloth can aso be twill or satin) with all of the warp ends. The pattern weft creates pattern by floating above groups of warp ends (or beneath them) interweaving with only the tie-down ends. (The main weft in lampas is sometimes called the ground weft and the main structure the ground structure. The secondary weft in lampas is sometimes called the pattern weft.)


A cloth handwoven in Zimbabwe from the softened inner bark from either the munhondo or mupfuti trees. The cloth is used for making blankets, bags, arrow quivers, storage pouches for food or beer filters. guard hairs The coarse long hairs which protect the short fine wool-like undercoat of some mammals. For example the coarse hair which protects the fine wool of the pashmina goat. See pashmina and cashmere.

gum arabic

A gum obtained from several species of acacia. The best gum is obtained from A.senegal and A.arabica. Used as a dye thickener for textile printing and in the manufacture of inks and adhesives.

gum tragacanth

Sometimes known as gum dragon. Obtained from the leguminous plant, Astragalus gummifer, and in its old form was sold in white or yellow horny scales known as devil's toenails. Is now obtained in powder form and used, sometimes in combination with starch, as a thickener in the preparation of textile printing paste.


A sacking fabric woven from jute yarn in India and Bangladesh. From the Hindi word goni meaning sacking. Chiefly exported from Pondicherry, South India, to West Africa as negro's clothing in the 17th century. Throughout its long history gunny has been known as chatee, gunnys, guiny, guinea-stuffs, guinees, goeneys and even goonies.
See burlap, hessian, jute, osnaburg and sacking.



A lightweight Japanese silk fabric. Sometimes referred to as Jap cloth.


Animals which live in cold climates, such as the pashmina goat, usually grow a soft down like wool under a protective hair called guard hair. The hair of the llama, alpaca and camel are spun by hand into coarse yarns and woven into cloth for bags and floor covering. The fine hair of the angora rabbit is so soft that it is mixed with fine wool and spun into knitting yarns. Most different animal hairs, even human hair, can be spun and woven or knitted into a textile. See haircloth and horse hair.


Woven from twisted cotton or linen warp with horse hair, goat hair or camel hair in the weft. Traditionally used for interlining in the tailoring of coats and jackets. See hair and horse hair.


Swedish term used for weaves in which patterning is formed with supplementary-weft floats (such as overshot or crackle); the term usually applies to four-shaft weaves. These are also called simplified dräll weaves. Halb (half) and simplified indicate that these weaves require fewer shafts per block than dräll weaves.


a supplementary-weft unit weave with two tie-down ends and a plain weave ground cloth. The ratio of tie-down to pattern ends is 1:2 or 1:3 or 1:4 (or more); there are six or more ends in a unit; the tie-down ends are threaded at the beginning and in the middle of the unit; the same tie-down end is always lifted and the other always remains down for the supplementary pattern weft pick. One unit of A is threaded: 1-3-4-2-3-4 or 1-3-4-3-2-3-4-3, etc.


a supplementary-weft unit weave with three tie-down ends and a plain weave ground cloth. The ratio of tie-down ends to pattern ends is 1:1; there are six ends in a unit; the tie-down ends alternate with the pattern ends in the threading; the tie down ends interlace with the pattern weft in twill order. One unit of A is1-4-2-4-3-4.

han damask

an historical term for a simple, self-patterned float weave (that is not damask). Floats over three threads form the pattern; the background is plain weave. Where warp floats appear on one surface of the cloth, weft floats appear on the reverse. The three-thread floats are 'alternately aligned': they are bound by alternate ends (or picks) in alternate rows, i.e., 'tabby' order. The second and fourth ends (and the second and fourth picks) bind the floats.


The term used to describe the feel of a fabric. See drape.


A continuous loop of yarn, without a specific measurement or weight the circumference of which can be a yard, metre, 45 inches or 60 inches depending on the type of textile trade. See skein.

harris tweed

One of the most well known woollen tweeds Woven in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland on the islands of Harris and Lewis. Traditionally made from a blend of strong Scottish wools, which are scoured, dyed and spun into yarn centrally in local spinning mills. The yarn is distributed to the outlying crofter to be woven in 2 and 2 twill weave on either traditional wooden handlooms or Hattersley domestic treadle looms. Once woven and taken off the loom the tweed, which is approximately 78 metres long, is collected in its greasy state and taken back to the mill for finishing. In 1909 the Harris Tweed Association was formed and the familiar Orb Mark was registered as its trademark and authenticates the tweed as having been handwoven from 100% pure new wool on the isles of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra. The Orb Mark protects Harris Tweed from other weavers attempting to copy it on neighbouring islands or in other countries.

hat Haut, hath, huth or hut

A hindi word meaning hand or forearm. A cubit equal to the measurement from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow. Between 18 and 22 inches (between 45 and 56 centimetres). Also hindi for a market.


Twisted galvanized wire or stamped out narrow, stainless steel, strips with a central hole or eye through which the warp end is passed. Healds have a loop at each end with which to attach it to the shaft frame. See heddle.


Looped cord or varnished string with central loop through which the warp end is passed. Sometimes the heddle has an extra loop at each end which is attached to the shaft. See heald.


A bast fibre from the stem of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L. The hemp plant grows from 1 to 5 metres high in temperate climates. The fibre varies from creamy-white to grey-brown and is lustrous and as strong as flax. As with flax, hemp is either dew retted or water retted. Used as a textile fibre for thousands of years is still widely used in the manufacture of string, cord, rope and can be spun into yarns resembling flax although the cloth from which it is made is much coarser. The word hemp comes from the Anglo-Saxon word henep. See flax.


A coarsely woven, yet open, fabric made from jute yarns in a plain weave. Can be used for embroidery and in the making bags, wallpaper and theatrical scenery. Known in the United States of America as burlap. See burlap, gunny, jute, osnaburg and sacking.


A fabric which is traditionally handwoven from handspun yarns. See khadi.


A tightly woven jute or hemp fabric made with a weave which was to become known as hopsack (see weaves). A 2 and 1 twill weave is now used to weave hop-pocketing and as the term describes, is used in the manufacture of very large bags in which to transport dried hops from the fields to the breweries.


Chinese horse hair, from the tail of the mare only, is used in the manufacture of specialized upholstery fabrics. One kilogramme bundles of horse hair are sold in three main colours, black (84omm long), mixed grey (840mm long) and natural white (685mm long). The natural white is shorter because of noticeable staining and is in short supply because of alternative uses, such as violin bows and specialised wigs. Traditionally woven with a cotton or linen warp although silk is now sometimes used, the horse hair is used only in the weft and can be dyed. The traditional horse hair upholstery cloth is black hair woven on a black cotton warp with sateen weave, although fancy dobby designs in a variety of colours are also produced. See hair and haircloth.


A colour and weave effect produced with a combination of 4 and 4, or 8 and 8, threads of contrasting colours in the warp crossed with similar wefts and woven in a 2 and 2 twill to form a jagged check. See shepherd's check.

huck lace

a unit weave with at least six ends and picks in a unit. The threading unit is divided into half units each with an odd number of ends (3/3, 5/5, 7/7). Three combinations of interlacements can be woven: a) plain weave in both half units, b) plain weave in one half unit alternating with warp floats or weft floats in the other (often called huck texture or 'huck'), or c) warp floats in one half-unit alternating with weft floats in the other (often called huck lace). Treadling half units for huck texture and huck lace also alternate warp and weft floats.



When either the warp or the weft are tie and then dyed to create a pattern in the cloth. indigo Indigofera tinctoria.


A narrow tape or braid. Also refers to the thread or yarn from which the tape or braid is made. Often a linen warp with a wool weft similar to an Old English cloth called Linsey Woolsey, only narrow. An inkling is something small and inkle was produced and sold in London in the 18th century by itinerant traders, each weaving his products on an inkle loom. See inkle loom.

inkle loom

A simple loom, usually made of wood, for weaving narrow fabrics like belts and ribbons. Used by itinerant traders, of which there were about 4000 in the Spitalfields area of London during the 18th century, to weave inkle. See inkle.

inner warp

usually refers to the warp ends in a double-faced complementary-weft structure that do not interlace with any set of wefts and are hidden, adding to the bulk and stability of the cloth.

interruption factor

see counter.


Indigo dye

Indigo is a dark blue dye which comes from the leaves of a sub tropical bush. The leaves are processed by fermentation and the sediment collected, dried and ground. The best quality indigo comes from lower Bengal.


jack loom

A pedal handloom with a rising shed. Used in the United States of America.

jacob (sheep)

A four horned, piebald or spotted sheep which grows a coarse wool ideal for making tweed.  The colours of the kempy wool vary from dark brown to off-white and can be separated to spin solid colours or combined in the carding to produce a neutral mixture. 


A device for weaving elaborate designs by a machine invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752 1834) between 1801 and 1810. The Jacquard mechanism is attached to a loom and operated by a punched card system which selects individual warp threads.  A variety of mechanically operated jacquard machines exist providing control over 100, 200, 400 or 600 ends.  Jacquard systems can now be electronically controlled.  There are also Jacquard systems for knitting machines. See also draughting and point paper.


A very fine cotton muslin fabric, often used for saris, woven with an extra figuring cotton or gold weft threads, producing complex patterns.  Originating in the north eastern part of India, chiefly on the plains of Dacca.  Sometimes spelt jamdhani or jamdanee.


The Jenny was the first intermittent spinning process and was developed by James Hargreaves in 1764, who called it the Spinning Jenny. A mechanism operated by hand, a single Jenny imitated the actions of about ten spinners each using an single spinning wheel. Richard Arkwright then invented the Water Frame Spinning Machine in 1769, which was followed by a development in 1779 by Samuel Crompton called the Mule, a similar machine to the Jenny but with many more spindles. See spinning and water frame.


A knitted garment or knitted fabric. A jersey is a knitted garment with sleeves, usually made of wool without buttons, known also as a pullover or as a sweater in the United States. The Edwardian actress Lillie Langtry, the daughter of the Dean of Jersey, adopted the fashion of wearing a long tight knitted jersey garment with a long tight skirt becoming known as Jersey Lil. Jersey cloth, either single jersey or double jersey, is the term given to fine gauge machine-knitted fabric.


An attachment to the silk reeling machine which simplifies the process of taking in fresh filaments from the cocoon during reeling.


Co  rchorus capsularis L., white or China Jute. Corchorus olitorius L., Brown or tossa jute. Tiliaceae. A stem fibre grown in tropical countries, typically in Bangladesh and in north east India. Used in the production of sacking, gunny, hessian, twine and carpet backing.



Kain is the Malay word for cloth.  Kain tenunan is Malay for handwoven cloth and kain ginggang is Malay for gingham.


Traditional kalamkari is hand painted cloth produced in Sikalahasti, India. The design is first hand drawn with a pen or kalam. From the preparation of the gada cloth, the drawing and painting of iron black, pabuku red, karakapuwu yellow and indigo blue, the cloth is mordanted and processed through eighteen stages.


A Japanese process of dyeing yarn is similar to ikat or patola, when thread is wound round the yarn to be dyed to act as a resist when dyeing.  In Japan when kasuri yarn is used for the warp it is called tate-kasuri or when used in the weft, when it is called yoko-kasuri. Itajime-kasuri is a method of clamping the yarn between carved wooden blocks instead of using the thread tying method.  See ikat and patola.


The Malay word for a hand weaving loom. 


Course animal fibre found in wool from the same fleece. Shorter than other fibres in the fleece, it tapers sharply towards the root end. Often is noticeable in woollen fabric as a white or tinted fibre because the kemp is flatter and therefore does not absorb so much, if any, dye. A yarn or cloth containing kemp can be called kempy.


A woollen cloth which traditionally was a heavily milled fabric with a short lustrous nap obscuring the twill weave from which it was made.  Similar to a melton cloth although kersey is heavier and more lustrous.  Until the end of the 19th century a fine cloth called kerseymere, a corruption of cashmere, was woven from the best quality wool and pashmina in India. The term kersey derives its name from the village of Kersey in Suffolk, England, where it was originally made. See Linsey-Kersey.


The Hindi words khadi and khaddar mean handwoven cloth produced from handspun yarn. In 1947, during the period of independence and in retaliation of mass produced cotton cloth from British and Indian mills, Mahatma Ghadi promoted the idea of one man, one loom.  The Khadi and Village Industries Corporation was then established and is responsible, although not exclusively, for the employment of millions of hand spinners and handloom weavers in India today. 


Used to describe either a colour or often used loosely to describe a fabric of this colour.  The Hindi word khaki, khakee, kharki or kharkee, means dusty or mud coloured.  English army records show that in 1848 Harry Burnett Lumsden equipped his troops, who were fighting in Afganistan at the time, with uniforms dyed an earthy, yellowy colour which he called khaki.  In India, at the time of the Indian Mutiny in 1857-58, some of the soldiers at Lucknow dyed their uniforms a light brown or dust colour with a mixture of black and red office inks.  These looking drab uniforms replaced the red ones which ultimately gave the British soldiers the nickname Lal Coortee Wallahs.

kinky yarn

A snarled, lively yarn.


Knitting is the interlocking loops of yarn.  There are two types of knitting:

  • Warp knitting, when a yarn is looped across the fabric.
  • Weft knitting, when several yarns are looped together the length of the fabric.

The Hindi word kukri originally meant a twisted skein of thread, from kukna meaning to wind and later anything curved, hence the name of the curved weapon which is carried by all Gurkha soldiers.


a Finnish word used widely as a synonym for tied unit weaves, particularly summer and winter. Kuvikas is also used as a synonym for pattern in Finnish texts.


lace weaves

simple weaves with floats caused by an interruption of plain-weave interlacement. Warp floats alternate with weft floats or warp (or weft) floats alternate with plain weave. As in spot weaves, the same warp or weft forming a float in one area forms plain weave or the opposite float in the adjacent area.


A 7 foot long fringed, brightly coloured shawl, hand woven in Madagascar.  Worn as a ceremonial robe by men and women.  Often used as a burial shroud.


a double weave in which a main structure is patterned by the weft of a secondary structure. The resulting cloth can be either completely interwoven or contain areas of double cloth where the main structure is on the top surface of the cloth. The main and secondary structures can each be plain weave, twill, or satin. Areas where the secondary weft appears on the face of the cloth are usually considered the pattern areas. In beiderwand, however, areas where the main structure appears on the face are considered pattern. The two structures do not exchange positions as they do in figured double weave. The main warp and weft can weave on the face of the cloth (while the secondary structure weaves on the back), but only the secondary weft can pass above the main structure; the secondary warp always interlaces with the secondary weft beneath the main structure, syn. diasper, tissue.

lappet weaving

A method of weaving, on a special loom, small designs or spot effects on the surface of a fabrics. Unlike swivel weaving, the design is stitched into the fabric by needles and has the effect of embroidery. The lappet design is made with one continuous additional weft yarn being carried on the back of the fabric as it is being woven. The floating yarn is cut away later. see swivel weaving.


A fine linen cloth used for clerical garments woven in Laon, northern France.  This fine sheer cloth is now woven in cotton and although crisper than voile is not as crisp as organdie.  There are many types of lawn including Indian lawn, Victoria lawn, Persian lawn, Egyptian lawn and bishop's lawn.  Liberty of London made famous their Tana lawn which began manufacture in the 1920s.  Tana lawn is named after Lake Tana in Sudan where the raw cotton was grown.


Sometimes referred to as gauze weave. A weaving technology, requiring special heddles or healds and shafts, which allows one warp end to be crossed with its neighbour and securely holding the weft in place. This construction can be used for light, open fabrics and to secure the edges of cut pieces of cloth like scarves.


Linen is the fibre obtained from the flax stalk. Traditionally linen is obtained from pulled flax, to preserve the fibre length, and is then retted or rotted in water to seperate the linen fibre from the surrounding soft material. It is considered to be the strongest natural fibre. Evidence shows that linen could be the oldest textile in the world. Can be used in the production of clothing and household fabrics. See flax.


A coarse, loosely woven cloth traditionally woven with a linen warp and woollen weft.  The name derives from the village of Linsey, Suffolk, England.  See tartan.


Cloth made from llama's hair. The hair of the llama is coarser than that of the alpaca and is rarely used in the manufacture of clothing but often in making mats and bags. It's colour varies from black, brown to white.  The llama, a pack animal no more than six feet high, and its close relation the alpaca are both derived from the much larger guanaco.  All three are cameloids, but without humps, and together with the vicuna are found in South America. lama guaicoe. See alpaca and vicuna.


A mechanism on which to weave cloth.  The simplest loom is a wooden frame onto which warp yarns are stretched and fixed to two opposite sides.  The weft is then passed up and over the warp threads to make a fabric.  There are many types of loom: upright looms, backstrap looms, table looms, pit looms, horizontal looms, counterbalance looms, countermarch looms, inkle looms, tapestry looms, handlooms, treadle looms and power looms.  The powerloom was invented by Edmund Cartwright in 1790.  Handlooms prevail in India and in many developing countries where the local economy depends on handcraft.


M's and O's

a simple weave forming two blocks of pattern with four shafts. The warp ends in one block weave plain weave as individual ends while groups of warp ends interlace in plain weave order with the same weft in the alternate block. Since pattern cannot be woven in both blocks at the same time, M's and O's is not a unit weave.


a double cloth with decorative stitching. Sometimes matelassé is stuffed. Often the face cloth is twill or satin. The back (or stitcher) warp is usually not held at greater tension than the face warp as it is in piqué.



A closely woven cotton cloth the surface of which is treated with a solution of rubber, making it waterproof.  Invented by Charles Macintosh (1766-1843).


Macramé is a hand knotting technique which is similar to tatting and net-making. 


A fast natural red dye from the root of the eurasian herbaceous perennial rubia tinctoria.  Used to produce Turkey red on cotton and wool.  See natural dyes.


The term madras has become synonymous with bold, colourful striped and checked handwoven cotton cloth from India.  It gets its name from Madras, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, south east India.  Many types of madras cottons are produced in Tamil Nadu: madras shirting, madras gauze, madras muslin, madras gingham and madras handkerchiefs, which in the early 19th century were woven with a silk warp and cotton weft.  Sometimes the methods used in dyeing the cotton yarn, before weaving, are very haphazard.  The dyestuff used are not always tested for light or wash fastness and quite often the dyed yarn is never given a very rigorous final wash so that surplus dye is still on the surface of the yarn. Many types of garments made from madras cotton were exported to the United States of America in the 1950s and 1960s. The impermanence of the colour was marketed a positive feature and became to known as bleeding madras.

manila hemp

Another name for abaca. See abaca.


Warp ikat silk, dyed and woven by Isan or Cambodian immigrant weavers in the north-eastern part of Thailand. See ikat.


A process which produces a smooth lustrous finish to cotton, or other cellulosic fibre, yarn and fabric. Mercerizing causes the cotton fibres to swell giving it greater dye affinity and also making the fibre stronger. The yarn or fabric is usually singed before mercerizing, but can precede or follow bleaching. The yarn or fabric is then passed through a solution of caustic alkali (caustic soda), then washed off. There are two types of mercerizing: hot mercerization, for uniform penetration into the fabric, and slack mercerization in the absence of tension. Discovered by John Mercer in 1844, the process was enhanced, to increase the lustre, by Horace Low in 1889.


The most internationally well known sheep is the merino of Australia which came originally from Spain.  The climate in Spain was ideal for rearing sheep and the merino was developed in Tanaconensis, some two thousand years ago, by crossing the Tarentine with the Laodicean from Asia Minor. 


Long, white, lustrous hair from the angora goat.  Length ranges from 10cm to 30cm (4in to 12in).  A native of Asia minor the name comes from the province of Angora in Turkey.


As the name suggests, moleskin is woven and finished to simulate the short, soft, fine fur of the small tunnelling rodent.  It is a cotton pile fabric woven with a satin weave construction with closely woven floats on the face of the fabric.  The floats are cut, steamed to open the fibres to produce a dense nap looking like a heavy suede.  Moleskin is a hard wearing fabric and lighter weights are used for trousers and working cloths.  The heavier weight, with a longer pile, can be used for winter coat lining.  The term bannigan was given to a moleskin fabric which was at one time produced specifically for work cloths in the potteries of Staffordshire.  Dry clay or mud can easily be brushed from the dense pile of moleskin.


Sometimes referred to as univoltine. A breed of mulberry silkmoth which produces only one generation per year. Found in temperate regions and hatch only in the spring. See bivoltine.


The literal meaning of the French word moquette is tufted cloth. Similar to velvet, although with moquette the loops normally remain uncut, therefore it is possible to have cut and uncut moquette, or both in the same fabric. Usually made with wool or mohair pile with a cotton backing, often made with man-made fibres. An excellent upholstery cloth, particularly for public transport.


The term is generally applied to metalic salts or a metalic compound. During the process of dyeing natural fibres mordants are normally used to fix natural dyes into yarn or fabric.  Alum is the most commonly used mordant. Other mordants include chrome, copper, iron, tannic acid and tin. An early reference to the use of mordants in dyeing fabric was made by Pliny the Elder in AD 70 saying that mordant dyeing was practised by the Egyptians. Much later in 1742, it is recorded that a similar process was used in Pondicherry, India, where the tradition continues today. Most mordants are poisonous and should be used with care.


An unsupported (by cardboard tube), cross-wound package of yarn. Similar to a mock cake.  Traditionally the term muff means a ladies garment (a tube of cloth) in which she could put her hands to keep them warm.

muga silk

muga silkmoths, found in Assam, northern India, belonging to the same genus as tussah, live on leaves from hance (liquidambar  formosana).  The muga silkworm produces a fine, strong, golden coloured silk.


The mule is a multi-spindle spinning machine which was developed by Samuel Crompton in 1779 at Hall i' th' Wood, near Bolton, Lachashire, England.  The mule was a cross between the Spinning Jenny, invented by James Hargreaves in 1764 and the Water-frame, which was patented by Richard Arkwright in 1769.  See jenny.


From the Hindi word mulmull which means muslin.  A soft, fine, pliable cotton fabric originally produced in Bengal, north east India.  Although mull is commonly used in garments, plain mull is also used in book binding.  See also muslin.


Also known as polyvoltine.  A silkmoth variety which produces several generations per year and lays only non-hibernating eggs.


Cloth made from regenerated wool fibre. See shoddy.


Although not always considered to be a fine, lightweight cotton fabric, muslin is thin and sheer.  The name comes from mussolin which was woven in Mosul, a city in the northern tip of Iraq near the boarder with Turkey on the river Tigis. Muslin is produced in India and many Hindi names are used to describe it: malmal, mallmol or mulmull from which the word mull is derived.  There are several other local Indian names used to describe different muslins: alabalee, ajiji, alliabably, jhuna, shabnam and sullah.  Book binding muslin has a hard, stiff finish, but not a true muslin. See Dacca muslin.


Also spelled matka.  A silk cloth woven from handspun mulberry silk waste



A lightweight, plain-weave, cotton cloth with a soft finish, although French nainsook has a crisp finish.  Sometimes this fabric is made with a closely woven satin or twill stripe forming a corded effect at intervals across the fabric.  Often used in the manufacture of lingerie and dresses.  The word nainsook comes from the Hindi words nain, meaning eye, and sukh, meaning delight.  This fabric dates back to seventeenth century India when it was sometimes called nansook, nyansook or nainsook and was thought to give 'pleasure to the eye'.


A soft surface covering either one or both sides of a fabric.  Can be achieved by raising the surface fibres of a woven, knitted or felted fabric, sheared to a uniform length and then brushed with wires or teasel burrs.  Not to be confused with pile.  See pile.

narrow fabrics

A fabric not exceeding 45cm in width.  In the United States and for the purpose of EC tariff coding the maximum width is 30cm (12in) and having a selvage on both edges.  Woven, knitted or non-woven ribbons, braids, labels, webbings and tapes are narrow fabrics.  Known also as smallwares.  See braids, inkle, labels, ribbons, tapes or webbing.

natural dye

Dyestuffs obtained from  vegetables, fruits, lichens, insects (see also cochineal), shellfish and minerals. See NATURAL DYE table. 


A fine instrument used for sewing by hand or in a sewing machine.  A fine instrument used in hand knitting.  Also a fine instrument with a beard, latch or hook at one or both ends used in machine knitting.


A non-woven fabric, resembling felt, where the batt or web fibres have been mechanically interlocked by barbed needles. See non-woven.

needlework fabrics

Several types of fabric are specially made for needlework and rug making. Generally they are made of cotton, linen and sometimes other plant fibres, such as jute. They are usually stiffened which makes working on them easier. The stiffening material normally washes out if necessary once a piece of work is finished. The most common embroidery fabrics are:~

  • Linen Twill, Used for traditional Jacobean or crewel embroidery. Crewel curtain fabrics, which are produced in Kashmir, India, are embroidered on cotton fabric
  • Medium Weight Linen, Suitable for tablecloths and should be embroidered with stranded or twist cotton
  • Shere Linen, Lightweight, fine linen for handkerchiefs to be embroidered with stranded cotton or silk
  • Evenweave Linen, Known sometimes as art linen. Varying weights. Used for counted or drawn work and Florentine embroidery
  • Evenweave Cotton, Similar uses to Evenweave Linen
  • Hessian, A jute cloth suitable for embroidery with wool, appliqué work and rug backing
  • Danish Hardanger, Plain weave cotton cloth used for hardanger embroidery and drawn thread work
  • Calico, Lightweight cotton fabric used for all types of embroidery and needlework
  • Crash, A heavy cotton fabric made with slubby yarns and used in many types of needlework
  • Binca, Bincarette or Ada Canvas, A stiff, mock leno-weave, open canvas with mesh of various sizes. Used for binca or cross-stitch embroidery
  • Plain Weave Cotton Cloths and Canvas, Various weights of these cloths are used for gross point, petit point, tent stitch, Bargello and cross-stitch
  • Lockthread Cloth, An open leno weave canvas used for large embroidery and rug making
  • Panama Cloth,A mock-leno cotton fabric used for cross-stitch embroidery
  • Aliganate or PVA Fabrics, Used in machine embroidery when the background, supporting fabric is dissolved away leaving only the embroidered thread. See algin.
  • Felt, Made of wool or man-made fibres. Used for appliqué work and toy making. See felt


A very open mesh fabric produced either by hand or by machine in which the structure is ensured by some form of twisting or knotting of threads. Produced with yarn made with most fibres, it may be produced by leno or gauze weave, knitting,knotting or macramé. Net is also produced on a lace machine such as a roller-locker, Levers lace machine or Barmen lace machine. Types of net include: curtain net, mosquito net, fishing net, tulle, cable net, Brussels net, Bretonne net, stirrup net. See netting.

nett silk

A filament of silk which is drawn off the cocoon as a continuous thread.


A method of entwining and knotting yarns, cords or ropes to produce a mesh. See net.


A nautical term for a small line or cord made of two strands of rope yarn.  Also a short fine flax-like, bast fibre from the stalks of the various plants of the nettle family, urtica dioica, urtica urenaandurtica ceæ (Nepalese allo), by retting or decorticating.  See allo and nilghiri nettle.

nilghiri nettle

A long fine bast fibre from girardinia heterophylla.  Found in the Himalayas, Central India and Sri Lanka.


The short fibres, usually of wool, which have been separated from the long fibres during combing in the fibre preparatory processes before spinning.


A range of fabrics made from different fibres which can be bonded together by heat processing, mechanical or chemical means and which are neither woven, knitted or felted. There are basically two types of non-woven fabrics:

  • Long Life Non-Wovens, made of various textile fibres by needle punching, (See needlefelt), bonding with natural or synthetic rubber and impregnating with resins.
  • Short Life Non-Wovens, usually made of cellulose fibres which are disposable. There are several hundred different non-woven disposable products manufactured, which include: bandages, adhesive bandages, handkerchiefs, interlinings, iron-on or sew-on interfacings, industrial and domestic cloths, filters and surface tissues for glass reinforced plastics and resins.

A very strong man-made polyamide fibre.  The generic name given to fibres composed of long chain polyamide derived from coal and petroleum.


oil cloth

A plain woven cotton fabric which is coated with a mixture of linseed oil and a pigment.  The pigment is often white but can also be tinted.  A glaze finish is given to the finished cloth in creasing its waterproof quality and which can easily be sponged down.  Oil cloth has now been replaced by more durable and pliable plastic coated fabrics.  Known as American cloth in the United Kingdom, it also has been called enamelled cloth, leather cloth and a marbled variety, Lancaster cloth.  At one time oil cloth was used for kitchen tablecloths, shopping bags and sometimes rainwear.


A loosely woven plain weave cotton cloth, although silk is often used, impregnated with linseed oil which oxidizes to a hard, smooth, translucent finish making it completely waterproof.  The cloth, which becomes stiff, retains its distinctive smell of linseed oil and its golden yellow colour.  Before the invention of flexible plastic fabrics, oilskin was the only available fabric used in the manufacture seaman's waterproof clothing, slickers and sou'westers.  A fine silk fabric impregnated with boiled linseed oil was at one time used for surgical purposes.

one-tie weave

a weave in which one warp end in a threading group is designated as a tie-down end. If such a weave is also a unit weave, it is a one-tie unit weave. A one-tie weave allows for a pattern weft to be tied on one surface. If the pattern weft passes above the cloth in one area and below it in another, two tie-down threads are usually used, one to tie it from above and one to tie it from below. Summer and winter has sometimes been called a 'one-tie' unit weave when only shaft 1 is lifted for all pattern picks, but shaft 2, though not lifted, ties the float on the bottom.


A machine used to separate closely packed fibres, such as baled cotton, during the preliminary stages of processing raw materials before spinning.


(from Sweden) a supplementary-weft structure with a plain weave ground cloth. All of the warp ends weave the plain-weave cloth. A supplementary weft floats either over all of the ends or under all of the ends in each block to create pattern. Since the pattern area is limited by float length (blocks cannot form pattern independently) opphämta is not a unit weave. (Opphämta is woven in other European and Scandinavian countries under other names.)


Organdie or organdy is a very light, thin fabric woven from tightly twisted cotton yarns.  It appears to be transparent and usually has a permanent, crisp, starched finish.  Although some stiffening treatments can be washed out, organdie can withstand repeated laundering and only needs to be ironed to bring back its original crispness.  Organza is a pure silk fabric which resembles organdie.  Organzine is a fine, folded, slightly twisted, filament silk yarn commonly used as warp to weave silk fabrics.  See organzine.


A strong silk yarn made from high quality filament silk.  Single raw silk yarn is twisted and then doubled.  The compound thread is twisted once again in the opposite direction resulting in 350 to l300 tpm. Organzine is mostly used as a warp yarn.


A rough, tough plain-weave, cotton cloth made with coarse yarns sometimes spun from cotton waste.  Commonly used in its unbleached state for bags for sugar, grain or cement. At one time Osnaburg was made of linen and originated from the city of Osnabruck, north west Germany.


a supplementary-weft structure with a plain-weave ground cloth. The supplementary weft floats a) over an entire block, b) under an entire block, or c) over and under alternate ends in a block to form halftones. Since the pattern area is limited by float length (blocks cannot form pattern independently), overshot is not a unit weave.

oxford cloth

Oxford cloth was never woven in Oxford but gets its name through its popularity as a shirt fabric worn by the undergraduates of Oxford University because it wears well and launders well.  The fabric is a soft, absorbent, sturdy, cotton fabric shirting with a lustrous finish.  Button down collared shirts made from Oxford cloth became very popular in post, World War 2, United States of America, and was the height of Ivy League university fashion for men. This cloth is now manufactured and converted into shirts in many other countries.  Made in plain weave with two fine warp ends woven as one giving the effect of a 2 and 1 matt weave.  Oxford cloth is now woven in a various blends of cotton and man-made fibres.



This term is normally used when referring to a quantity of yarn which has been wound onto a cardboard, wooden or plastic cylindrical tube or support. Yarn packages include: tubes, cheeses, pirns, cones, perforated cones for dyeing, spools, bobbins or beams. If there is no support or centre the package is referred to as a cake. Sometimes a hank or skein is referred to as a package. 

paired-tie weaves

('tied Lithuanian,' also called dimai or perverai; 'tied Latvian'): supplementary-weft unit weaves with two tie-down ends and a plain-weave ground cloth. The ratio of tie-down ends to pattern ends is 2:4 (or more); there are six or more ends in a unit; the two tie-down ends are threaded together at the beginning of the unit. In 'tied Lithuanian' the same tie-down end is always lifted and the other always remains down for the pattern pick; in 'tied Latvian,' the tie-down ends alternate to tie the float. A unit of A is threaded 1-2-3-4-3-4.


Between 1805 and the early 1870s, shawls were handwoven in Paisley, a town near Glasgow, Scotland, with designs based on what was known as the pine motif. The pine motif, which became synonymous with the paisley pattern, came from Kashmir, India, where for centuries was the design source for all the shawls so elaborately handwoven from pashmina wool.  It is believed that the pine motif, which sometimes looks like a cypress tree, originated in Persia and travelled east to Kashmir.  In India it is more identifiable as the cashew fruit and seed pod, which has been the symbol of fertility for thousands of years.  Kashmir shawls or jamawars were highly valued as far back as Roman times.  These highly decorative shawls were introduced into France and then into England by way of Napoleon's officers returning from Egypt.  The fashion for Kashmir shawls swept Europe and cheaper reproductions were produced in Lyon, Norwich and Edinburgh, but it didn't take long for the expertise of the weavers of Paisley took over the sole production of the shawls in Britain.  The paisley pattern has now become a classic design motif.


Also palempore.  A chinz bedcover hand painted traditionally in Masulipatam and Satras, South India.  A hybrid of the Hindi and Persian word palang-posh.


A Persian word meaning woollen or like wool. Short fine, soft wool sometimes referred to as cashmere grown under the long, hard guard hair of goat (capra hirus laniger) found at 4000 metres in Central Asia. While the female goat produces about 200 gms annually, a male produces 400 gms.  See also cashmere.


A French word to describe trimmings, braids, cords, gimps, beads or tinsel.  See narrow fabrics.


A silk, double ikat fabric produced in Patan, India. The silk warp and weft are prepared and tied and dyed according to a graph design. Sometimes there are four colours so each time a new colour is dyed the whole process of untying and re-tying and dyeing is repeated. the weft is placed carefully across the warp and intricate images and patterns emerge. Traditionally the process of patola is used in the production of very expensive saris. Because it is a very time consuming process, a sari will take months to prepare and complete. See ikat

pattern warp

usually refers to a supplementary warp that weaves pattern on a ground cloth. It is also used to identify warp ends in supplementary-weft structures that determine pattern by remaining above or below a pattern float.

pattern weft

usually refers to a supplementary weft that floats to form pattern. In some sources the secondary weft of lampas is called a pattern weft. Less frequently it refers to a weft that determines where a pattern warp float appears by remaining over or under it.


A fine smooth cotton, plain weave fabric.  Ideal cloth for the manufacture of bedsheets and lightweight summer clothing.  The term originates from the Persian word pargalah.


A machine or wooden frame over which a fabric is inspected for faults, illuminated from behind by natural or artificial light.


A highly decorative embroidery.  The term is used in northern India, particularly in the Punjab, for a piece of cotton about 80cm x 160cm embroidered, to cover the complete surface of the cotton cloth, in silk by village women, particularly Jats.


A weft thread in a fabric. Sometimes referred to as a shot. When weaving, to pick is process of passing the weft through the warp shed.


Sometimes called a linen prover or counting-glass. See counting glass.


  1. A simple device, known as the John Boyd Picker, invented and patented in 1872 by John Boyd of Castle Cary, Somerset, England, to select a single length of horse hair at a time, picked up by a rapier, instead of a shuttle, and introduced into the warp shed during the manufacture of horse hair fabric.  Until the Education Act of 1870 the selection of each horse hair had been done by hand by children. 
  2. Also a part of the picking mechanism of a loom that strikes the shuttle to propel it through the warp shed during the weaving process. See pick.
  3. Also a machine used in cleaning and processing cotton fibre before spinning. See spinning.

Dyeing a piece or length of fabric, rather than dyeing the yarn first before it is woven or knitted.


Any fabric sold by the piece (or length). 


The extra yarn or fibre which projects from the main structure and surface of the fabric.  Pile can be cut, as in velvet, corduroy and carpets or uncut as in moquette and terry towelling.  The word is derived from the Latin pilus meaning hair. See velvet.


Ananas comosus L. Fibre can be extracted from the sword-shaped leaves of the pineapple to produce fine yarns or twine.  Pineapple is grown in the Phiippines, Taiwan, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the West Indies.  Of the four most common varieties grown in the Philippines the Spanish Red and native varieties are grown solely for fibre, which are used to produce a sheer fabric called pina and made into shirts, while the Queen and Smooth Cayenne varieties are grown for the fruit.

  1. a) fast-back piqué: a stitched double cloth with a supplementary (stuffer) weft; or b) loose-back piqué: a supplementary (stitcher) warp and supplementary (stuffer) weft structure. The back (stitcher) warp ends in both are held at greater tension than the face warp ends and are lifted over face weft picks (usually two) to stitch. The stuffer (also called wadder) weft adds to the puff of the unstitched areas. The ratio of face warp and weft to back warp and weft is usually 2:1.
  2. Usually a fine cotton woven with a special weave structure to give a three-dimensional, quilted effect.  A pin wale piqué is a very fine, corded cloth while a waffle piqué is made in a small honeycomb pattern. Used in the manufacture of dresses, sports clothes and men's traditional dress shirts.  The term piqué comes from the French verb piquer meaning to quilt.
pit loom

This type of loom is constructed above a pit in order to economize with construction materials.  The weaver sits on the edge of the pit to control the peddles in the pit.


A piece of tartan woollen cloth approximately 1800mm wide by 3600mm to 5400mm long, and used as part of the older form of Scottish Highland dress.  The plaid was pleated so that the width was adjusted to the girth of the wearer.  Secured by a leather belt and pinned on the left shoulder with a large brooch, it was known as the belted plaid.  Conveniently it could also be used as a blanket.  The Scottish kilt, measuring 760mm wide and between 6000mm and 7000mm long, unpleated, is a development of the belted plaid. In the United States of America tartan is often referred to as plaid.  See tartan.

plain weave

a simple weave in which each weft passes over one warp end and under one end. The adjacent warp end and weft pick reverse the actions of the first. The minimum number of threads required for plain-weave interlacement is two warp ends and two wefts.


Synonymous with a braid. The intersection of the strands of a braid.


The Indonesian word for rainbow. A dyeing process to produce a variegated effect of different colours.  See bandhana.

plied yarn

An alternative expression for folded yarn, as in 2-ply or 2-fold yarn, meaning two yarns lightly twisted together.  The term doubled yarn means two yarns plied together.


A plain weave cotton cloth with wrinkled, crinkled or pleated effects produced by printing a solution of caustic soda in stripes or patterns to shrink the treated areas.  The effect is permanent and the effect cannot be ironed out. Often confused with seersucker, a similar effect being produced by the construction of the cloth using special yarns in the warp. Used for dresses, shirts and bedspreads.


An exaggerated velvet with a deep dense pile.  Traditionally woven from wool or mohair, it can be woven from cotton, silk or man-made fibres.  Used in the manufacture of coats and furnishing fabrics, it is extensively used in the making soft toys like teddy bears.  Plush can also be knitted.  The word plush comes from the French peluche meaning shaggy or hairy.


When two or more threads or yarns are plied or twisted together.  The industrial term for ply is fold.

point paper

The same as graph paper used for drawing weave patterns. Used particularly in designing Jacquard fabrics.


A man-made fibre usually referred to as nylon.


A strong, thermoplastic, man-made fibre produced from petrochemicals (petroleum-chemicals). Used in filament form, by itself or blended in staple form with other fibres.  A wide range of uses in apparel, furnishings and industrial fabrics.


A large molecule built up from a combination of many smaller units of different chemicals.


A plastic material which in one form, can be produced as a foam sheet for laminating to other fabrics. As a textile fibre its more commonly known as a synthetic elastomer fibre or by the generic term elastine or by one of it's trade names, Lycra. Used extensively in the apparel and furnishing fabric industries.

polyvinyl chloride

Commonly known as PVC. In sheet form is used extensively for domestic and industrial uses. Also can be used to coat woven or knitted fabrics as a waterproof finish.


The Chinese word  pen-chi means hand woven or woven at home.  Other types of pongee are:  shantung, hohan, antung and ninghai.  The warp is finer than the weft which is usually a dupion yarn often mistaken for so called wild silk because of its creamy colour.


The term poplin comes from the French word popeline, which is a fabric used for church vestments originally made in the papal city of Avignon in southern France.  Poplin is a lightweight, closely woven cotton fabric with very fine ribs across the width of the cloth.  The ribs are created by using a fine mercerized yarn in the warp and a thicker one in the weft.  Although traditionally made in 100% fine, high lustre cotton, poplin is now woven with cotton and staple polyester fibre blends.  There are many weights and types of poplin the most common of which are used for shirts or pyjamas.  Historically poplin was originally woven with silk in the warp and a fine worsted weft.  Sometimes referred to, even now, as popeline or Irish poplin.


The method of transferring a pattern onto another surface by dusting fine charcoal through a perforated paper, skin or metallic foil stencil.


There are several basic methods or techniques used in printing textiles:

Hand methods

  • Block. Usually the blocks are made of wood, engraved by hand, or imbedded with wire nails or metal strips, or pieces of rubber to form a design. Used extensively in India.
  • Screen. A wooden or metal frame on which a fine even silk or polyester fabric is stretched and blocked in predetermined areas by a variety of processes to allow a dye-gum to be pressed through the open areas with a squeegee.  The blocked areas act as a stencil. Practised in Japan since the eighth century.  Known as Table printing in the United States of America.

Mechanical methods


  • Screen. Similar to the hand method but more automated with the squeegee  being mechanically passed from one side of the screen to the other.
  • Rotary screen. While the squeegee is static, unlike the flat screen method, the engraved cylindrical metal screen rotates as the cloth is moved.  Sometimes as many as 12 to 14 cylinders, each printing a seperate colour, can be used on the same print table.
  • Roller. The design is engraved by line into the surface of a metal roller, the engrave line being filled with the dye and then transferred to the cloth under slight pressure.
  • Duplex. Printing by rollers on both sides of the fabric at the same time so that the design coincides and produces a reversible fabric.
  • Sublistatic. Printing a fabric, usually polyester, from a pre-printed (with dye) patterned paper.  Sometimes referred to as transfer or heat transfer printing. 
profile draft

a graphed design for block weaves. The profile threading draft consists of rows representing the blocks required by the design (A, B, C, and D for four blocks). For each unit weave a different threading formula is substituted for one square on a profile threading draft. (1-3-2-3 equals one square on a profile threading draft row for block A in summer and winter.) The profile drawdown is the design that results when pattern is produced in the block(s) indicated by the profile tie-up and profile treadling order.

pure dye silk

Similar to pure silk.  No weighting of any kind is used even during dyeing.

pure silk

Any silk yarn or fabric which contains no metallic or other weighting agents except those essential ones used in dyeing.


A piece of homespun woollen fabric originally made from the hair of the Kabul goat. Originating in the Himalayas a derivation of the puttu became known as puttee (approximately 150mm wide and 3600mm long) when adopted by the army to spiral round their legs for protection.  The Hindi word puttu has other local spellings: puttoo, pattoo, pati - meaning bandage. Shawls and blankets are given local names in India: puttu chet, pattu pashmini,  pattu abshar - a striped cloth, and pattu kundrang - a fine blanket made with camel hair and then embroidered.



a supplementary-weft unit weave with four tie-down ends and a plain-weave ground cloth. The ratio of tie down ends to pattern ends is 1:1; there are at least eight threads in a unit; one pattern shaft is required for each new block; the tie-down ends alternate with the pattern ends in the threading; the tie-down ends are threaded in straight or point order and interlace with the pattern weft in straight or point order. One unit of A is 1-5-2-5-3-5-4-5 or 1-5-2-5-3-5-4-5-3-5-2-5.



A leaf fibre from the raphia spp. palm.  grown in Tropical America and Madagascar.  Used in the manufacture of decorative household items, ropes and in the garden.


A strong soft bast fibre, usually about 800mm or more in length, obtained from the stems of various species of the genus Boehmeria nivea (L.) of the Urticaceae nettle family. Ramie is sold in various forms: China grass (sometimes bleached), Ribbons (complete stem), de-gummed fibre, tops, roving or yarn.  Used in the production of clothing fabrics, furnishing fabrics, netting, canvas, rope and string.  Can be blended with other fibres and spun into knitting yarn.  Cultivated in China, India, Philippines, and Brazil.

raw silk

Continuous filaments of silk, with no twist, which have been reeled from cocoons but as yet, unprocessed and still containing sericin.


Rayon (viscose rayon) is the oldest of all the man-made fibres and was originally produced by dissolving nitro-cellulose into a solution which could be extruded through a nozzle and made into a filament. The process was patented by Count du Chardonnet in 1884, whose recipe was similar to that of producing gun-cotton and was too dangerous. Towards the end of the 19th century further experiments were carried out to make artificial silk by the cuprammonium process. This process was much safer. Then, in 1892, the viscose process was patented by C.F.Cross and his partners. The first filaments of viscose rayon were made in England in 1904 by Samuel Courtauld and Company, silk weavers. Rayon is made from cellulose and the highest yield of high-grade cellulose is from Scandinavian and Canadian Spruce and South African Eucalyptus. Viscose can be used in filament form or as staple fibre.

reactive dyes

Can be used on all types of fibre and can produce a wide range of colours. They are called reactive dyes because they react with the fibre molecules to form a covalent dye/fibre bond. A great deal of experimentation went into the development of reactive dyes. The first reactive dyes were marketed by ICI in 1955 under the brand name Procion, which was developed by Professor Ratee and Dr Stephens.


complementary sets of warp ends or weft picks forming an identical interlacement on opposite faces of a cloth; one set appears on one face when the other is on the opposite face.


The reed determines the arrangement or spacing of the warp threads across the width of the fabric. When the weft is placed into the fell of the cloth the reed beats it into position evenly. Usually made of thin metal strips bonded at equal distances between baulks. In order to seperate the metal strips evenly, they are spaced by smooth string which is wound round each baulk. Traditionally, the baulks are usually covered with pitch and then paper to hold the string and metal strips in place. In some countries reeds made from slivers of bamboo, or reed, are still produced and used by handloom weavers. See batten, fell and fly shuttle.


The term used to determine the weight of cocoons in kilograms to reel 1kg of raw silk.


A narrow fabric of varying widths, having selvedge edges.  Traditionally made in silk but more commonly can be made from cotton or man-made fibres. Derived from the Old French word riban (modern French: ruban).  See narrow fabrics.


An alternative method of retting whole stems which rets the outer part of the plant stem. Known as ribboning, it produces strips of fibre containing bast. A simple ribboner is the bicycle ribboner.  The Alvan Blanch ribboner is based on an existing small-scale rice thresher.

Advantages of ribboning:

  • Less water required for retting
  • Valuable plant nutrients are returned to the soil
  • Less weight of material to transport

Disadvantages of ribboning:

  • Additional labour required for green stem stripping by hand
  • Mechanical ribboning requires high capital outlay for ribboners
  • Retting fibre from ribbons tends to be inferior to fibre from retted whole stems
ring spinning

A continuous mechanical spinning process which is mostly used in the cotton industry and in spinning most short staple fibres in a wide range of counts.  With the expansion of the domestic, cottage based industry of textile production and the further development of factory systems in the late eighteenth century, for the mass-production of textiles, came several spinning inventions. See jenny and mule.  The ring spinning process was developed in the United States of America in 1828 but was not immediately adopted in Britain or elsewhere in the world.  The simple principle of ring spinning is similar to cap spinning except that the yarn is guided onto the spinning bobbin by a ring and traveller arrangement rather than the edge of the cap.  Although ring spinning is still very popular in the spinning industry it has reached its peak of development and has now been superseded by new spinning methods, such as rotor spinning.  


A strong, thick cord produced by twisting, braiding or cabled vegetable fibre or man-made fibre or filament rope yarn.

rotor spinning

A continuous supply of fibres either in the form of a sliver or straight from the cotton opening unit is sucked down a fibre delivery tube and into the rapidly rotating rotor. The fibre is peeled, at speed, from the grove in the rotor, through the trumpet, through the yarn tube and at the same time twisted, then through the take off rollers and wound onto a package. In comparison with ring spun yarns, for instance, rotor spun cotton yarns are:

  • More uniform in appearance
  • Less variable in strength
  • not as strong
  • more extensible
  • bulkier
  • more absorbent
  • more abrasion resistant

The name of the process and the product. The final stage in fibre preparation before spinning. The roving is drawn out from the sliver. Since the roving has no strength at this stage, a slight twist is inserted into the roving to hold the fibres together in a thin rope about ¼" (5mm) in diameter.


sack cloth

A very coarse, rough cloth said to have be woven from goats' or camels' hair and worn in mourning or as penitence.  The term has also been used to describe a solid colour flannel. See burlap.


Generally applied to a variety of coarse fabrics chiefly used for making bags and sacks.  Often made from jute, hemp, flax or man-made fibres such as polyolefin.  See gunny and osnaburg.


A tightly woven heavy canvas traditionally made of cotton or linen and used in the manufacture of ship and yacht sails.  Now often made of nylon (polyamide) or polyester for lightness, durability and strength. Cotton sailcloth is often used for sports shoes and upholstery.


see weft-faced compound twill.


A weft face weave which is normally associated with cotton cloths, although man-made fibres are sometimes used either by themselves or blended with cotton.  A smooth fabric, free of any twill direction, where the the weft thread is usually coarser than the warp.  A fabric made with this weave is often referred to as a sateen fabric.  See weaves. 


a simple weave with warp floats on one surface of the cloth and weft floats on the other. The order of interlacement of warp and weft is regular and dispersed: no two adjacent warps or wefts interlace. Warp ends and weft picks pass over or under every thread but one in the repeat (4/1 or 1/4 in 5-end satin; 1/7 or 7/1 in 8-end satin, etc.). Shafts are usually threaded in straight order beginning with the first shaft and ending with the last shaft. In true satin the warp that binds each weft is the same number of warp ends away from the warp binding the preceding weft. If it is not, the satin is irregular.


A soft hard wearing woollen cloth woven from 60s, or finer, woollen spun yarn. Also sometimes woven from soft worsted yarns.  A lightweight tweed suitable for clothing.  The name comes from the Saxony area of northern Germany, where this type of cloth was first woven.

schappe silk

Spun silk woven fabric which has been de-gummed by fermentation.


The process of scouring. Washing all types of textile fibres, yarn or cloth to remove dirt, natural fats, waxes, proteins, oil or other impurities.


An open-mesh, plain weave coarse cloth made either from jute, hemp, cotton or flax.  Used in embroidery, for gluing to the inside of wooden panelling to prevent shrinkage, to reinforce plaster when casting models, for curtaining and in theatrical scenery where a transparent area is required.


Used to describe the rustling sound produced when silk yarn or cloth is handled. Sometimes the same sound comes from certain cellulosic fibres, yarns or fabrics which have had specialized finishing.


The process of scutching has various definitions:

  1. The process of opening cotton mechanically and cleaned, then formed into a continuous lap.
  2. The operation of separating the woody part of retted flax from the flax fibre.
  3. The process carried out on a scutcher, in the finishing process, for opening a rope of fabric.

The old Persian phrase for milk and sugar, shír o shakkar, aptly describes the character of this fabric. Usually a warp striped plain weave cotton fabric, its design is of smooth stripes contrasting with puckered or crinkled stripes.  Sometimes the stripes are dyed in contrasting colours. The fabric can be produced in three different ways: by each stripe in the warp being woven under different tension, by using two yarns in the warp of varying twist or by printing a resist on a cotton cloth which is then treated with caustic soda which then crinkles the resist free areas of the cloth.  Requires little or no ironing. 


The two longitudinal edges of a woven fabric. The selvedge is made when the weft turns round each of the extreme warp ends when the weft passes through the warp.


The protein liquid, known also as gum, which coats the silk as it is exuded by the silkworm.


The cultivation of silkworms, or lepidoptera larvae, for the production of cocoons from which silk is unwound to produce a textile thread.


Alternative spelling: set. This term is used to indicate the density of the ends and picks in a woven fabric.  Usually expressed by the number of ends per inch or centimetre and the number of picks per inch or centimetre.  For example a square sett cloth would have the same number of ends and picks in a square inch or centimetre.  The state of the fabric should be described at the same time, for example: loomstate sett or finished sett. Sometimes the term pitch is used to mean the same. See tartan.


A shawl or light blanket woven from the underwool from the Tibetan antelope or Chiru, a rare and now endangered animal found in the remote high mountain regions of Kashmir, northern India.  Shahtoosh is literally a very soft wool (toosh) fit for a king (shah) which has been handspun.  It became illegal to trade in this rare wool in 1976.  See pashmina.


From the Persian word säl. An oblong or square piece of any textile, either wool, cotton, silk or other fibre worn chiefly by women as a covering for the shoulders or head. 


The opening for the weft to pass through selected lifted warp ends leaving the remainder lowered. For instance when weaving a plain weave fabric, the warp ends are lifted and lowered alternately. 


Any animal of the ruminant genus ovis. Sometimes horned, especially the widely domesticated species ovis aries, which is reared not only for meat and skin but the wool from which many different types of textiles are made.  There are over 50 pure, half and rare breeds of sheep in the United Kingdom.  Three main breeds of sheep in the southern hemisphere are reared in large numbers for their wool: merino, polwarth and corriedale.  See wool.

shepherd's check

A check effect, normally using in black and white yarns. The yarns are usually arranged in groups of either 4 white and 4 black, 6 white and 6 black or 8 white and 8 black. Woven in a 2 and 2 twill weave. Similar checks are called dog's tooth or hound's tooth checks. See glen checks.


Japanese tie-dye or stitch-resist technique. Usually on silk or cotton fabric using indigo dye. See bandhini, plangi, tie-dye.


A woollen cloth made from reprocessed or regenerated wool fibre often obtained from old woollen rags.  The process of was developed in Britain in 1806 by two Yorkshiremen, Messrs Law and Parr.  By 1832 the term shoddy to mean woollen cloth made from recycled, shredded woollen rags and became the mainstay of the West Yorkshire woollen trade providing warm clothing for the mass market.  The shoddy industry has now moved to Italy and northern India. See mungo.

shoddy shaker

A machine used to shaking dirt from the waste short staple wool or shoddy, after carding.  Also known as Issit's shaker.

shot silk

An iridescent effect in a silk cloth, like taffeta, woven with one colour in the warp and contrasting colour in the weft.


The yarn-package (such as a pirn) carrier that passes through the shed (of the warp) to insert the weft during weaving.  There are many types of shuttle.


The protein filament formed into a cocoon by the larva of the silk moth during the process of sericulture. see Chinese

  • silk  - English
  • soie  - French
  • scide  - German
  • serikon  - Greek
  • seta  - Italian
  • sir  - Korean
  • sericum  - Latin
  • sutera   - Malay
  • seda  - Spanish
  • sheolk  - Russian

See also raw silk

simple weave

a weave with one warp and one weft, i.e., one set of warp ends that perform the same function and one set of weft picks that perform the same function. Plain weave, twills (including turned twills), satins, (including damask), lace weaves, and spot weaves are simple weaves.

single two-tie unit weave

a unit weave that requires one pattern shaft ('single') for each block and two tie-down ends (as in summer and winter).


A leaf fibre, which is over a metre in length, is extracted from Agave sisalana Perrine.  The fibre is hard, strong and pale cream in colour.  The fibres are imbedded in the soft tissue of the long, pointed leaf and can be extracted by scraping away the soft tissue.  The fibre is used in the manufacture of string, binder twine and rope which are used to make bags, brushes, floorcovering and matting. It resembles henequen (Agave fourcroydes) which is quite often confused as sisal.  Originally grown in South America, Agave sisalana was introduced into West and East Africa in the early 1900s. Sometimes referred to as Bahama hemp.


There are various different sizes, which are usually glutinous in consistency: starch, animal glue size, gelatin size, rice size, linseed oil and chemical sizes such as polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and polyacrylic acid. Often size is applied to warps, and sometimes wefts, to lay the hairiness of some yarns and increase their strength. The sizing is done before weaving, and in some cases during warp preparation, to protect the yarns from abrasion on the healds and reed.


A continuous length, of no set measurement, of yarn or thread coiled into collapsible coil obtained by winding a definite number of turns on a reel with a set circumference.  The circumference of the reel can measure a yard or a metre, 45 inches or 60 inches often depending on the type of textile trade.  Often referred to as a hank.


The frame, which hangs in front of the shafts on the loom, supports the reed through which the warp ends are threaded in order.  The slay is pushed back and forth during he process of weaving, to press the yarn firmly into the fell of the cloth.  Sometime referred to as the beater, batten, lay, lathe, going-part or fly-beam. See batten.


A continuous untwisted rope of assembled fibre with a uniform cross-section.  A sliver is produced after fibre has been carded.  Several slivers can be processed further by putting them through a drawframe to produce a single, well blended and straightened sliver.  The sliver usually goes through further processing by drawing out into a roving.  The same term is used throughout the woollen, worsted, cotton and man-made fibre industries.


Soosie, soosey, susi or soucis. From a Hindi word given to a coloured stripe silk or silk and cotton fabric loosely handwoven in plain weave. Possibly the source of the proverb which says that a silk purse cannot be made from a sow's ear (soosee).


The process of applying one or several colours on a single yarn by printing, spraying, tie-dyeing, wax resist or any other method.


The process by which a mass of staple fibres is converted into a yarn or thread to meet required specifications of thickness, evenness, twist and composition.  Spinning can be done by hand, by hand controlled machine (like a spinning wheel) or mechanically.  There are many types of spinning mechanisms all based on five different principles:

  • Fly spinning
  • Cap spinning
  • Ring spinning
  • Centrifugal or pot spinning
  • Rotor spinning

See ring spinning, rotor spinning, jenny and mule 

spot weaves

simple weaves with spots of pattern formed by floats on a background of plain weave. The same warp end or weft that weaves plain weave in the background areas forms the pattern float. Since the pattern area is limited by float length (groups of threads cannot form either pattern or background independently as desired), spot weaves are not unit weaves.

spun silk

Yarn spun from waste silk which has been processed and spun like cotton.


Used to describe a small mass or tuft of animal, vegetable or man-made fibre illustrates the fibre length, hence, for example, the terms 'short staple wool' or 'long staple cotton' or 'short staple polyester'.

staple fibre

Usually used to describe man-made fibres which have been cut or broken into pre-determined lengths, for example, 50mm polyester staple fibre.

staple length

The length of staple fibre compared to the length of natural fibres, for example, 'mountain wools have a staple length of 50mm'or'the staple length of Indian cotton averages 20mm'.


One of a series of finishing processes when the selvedges of an open-width textile fabric are held at a predetermined width and the tension maintained.  The attachment to the selvedges can be by needles, hooks or clips.  Traditionally done on simple frames, is now done in a stentering machine which usually contains a dryer.  The term stentering is used for passing a fabric through a stenter, or tenter. Stentering is done for a variety of reasons:

  • drying and setting fabrics
  • heat-setting of thermoplastic materials
  • dye fixing
  • controlling the width of fabrics

A flexible stick, called a stenter or tenter, is often used when weaving on a handloom to maintain a constant width of the fabric under an even tension, as it is being woven.  Hence the term 'to be under tenter hooks' means to be tense.

stitched double cloth

two independent structures 'stitched' together: warp ends of one structure interlace with wefts of the other, or a supplementary warp or weft weaves with wefts or warp ends of both structures. Stitching can be done decoratively or invisibly.


A single knit fabric which derives its name from stocking stitch traditionally used in the manufacture of socks and stockings.  Stockinette is now associated with cotton cleaning cloths, although it can be used for nightwear or dresses.  Although similar in weight it is generally looser than the knitted fabric used in the manufacture of T shirts.


A method of vigorously washing and tumbling a fabric or garments, to create a 'peached' or suede surface and soft handle, using water, sand or pebbles.  The process is used in finishing silk and cotton fabrics and garments. 

straight draw

shafts are threaded in succession (1-8, 1-8, or 8-1, 8-1, etc.).


A single or multiple yarn used as a component of a rope or cable.  The term also refers to a strand of raw silk which is composed of filaments reeled from several cocoons at the same time. 


A fine stripe or streaky effect, created (sometimes by accident) in the length of the fabric produced by random warp yarns having been dyed in a variety of tones of the same colour.


A thick, folded yarn made from jute, hemp, sisal, cotton or any strong fibre.  String yarn is coarse mercerized yarn often used in the manufacture of gloves.


Often refers to woven cloth, specifically worsted, which has not been made into a garment. The word stuff derives from a French word for cloth: étoffe.


A broad term used for a range of wool, silk, cotton or man-made fibre fabrics that have body and can be tailored into men's and women's suits.

summer and winter

a supplementary-weft unit weave with two tie-down ends and a plain-weave ground cloth. The ratio of tie-down ends to pattern ends is 1:1; there are four ends in each unit; each block requires one pattern shaft; the tie-down ends are the first and fourth ends in the unit; the tie-down ends interlace with the pattern weft in plain weave order. One unit of Block A is 1-3-2-3.

summer and winter polychrome (without tabby)

a complementary-weft structure using the summer and winter threading system. Three or more heavy wefts (each of a different color) form one structural pick. One of them appears on the face of the cloth in any given area (over three warp ends, under one) and the others appear on the back (over one, under three). Pattern is formed by the colors of the wefts selected to weave on the face, syn. taqueté. The same structure can be woven as a complementary-warp structure.


Or songket in Brunei or sungket in Malay.  A highly decorative woven cloth approximately 2m by 84cm wide.  Used as a ceremonial garment and worn by men like an apron or kilt over a silk suit.  The term comes from the Malay word menyongket meaning 'to embroider with gold or silver threads'.  Sungkit is not embroidered but is a woven fabric belonging to the brocade family of fabrics.


A soft, bast fibre obtained from the stalk of the Crotalaria juncea L. plant.  It is light in colour and lustrous. Also known as sunn hemp, san hemp, sana, sewnee, itarsi, Indian hemp, Jubbulpure hemp, Madras hemp, Benaras hemp or Bengal hemp, although it is not hemp.  Used to make string and used in paper making.  Chiefly grown in India and Sri Lanka.  See hemp.

supplementary pattern weft

also called extra weft, pattern weft, supplementary weft, a structurally non-essential weft used to add pattern to a ground structure. The supplementary pattern weft usually alternates with a ground weft as in summer and winter or overshot.

supplementary set of elements

a set of warp ends or set of wefts (or both) added to a structure usually for the purpose of patterning. In overshot, a supplementary weft patterns a plain weave ground. Supplementary wefts or warps can also float between two structures to add stuffing, as in pique or Bedford cord, or to stitch two structures together.

surgical cloths

See bandage and gauze.


A simple metal or wooden frame normally 36" or 1 metre in circumference and supported on a stand, rotated by hand or motor.  A simple device to support a hank of yarn from which to unwind it.

swivel weaving

A special type of loom mechanism allows for small decorative effects, such as dots, to be interwoven on the surface of a fabric while being constructed on the loom. The interweaving of the spot requires extra weft yarns which are introduced across the warp by a row of small shuttles. Each spot or figure can be of a different colour as it has its own shuttle. see lappet weaving



plain weave. As an adjective, 'tabby' is most often used for the weft that weaves plain weave while another weft weaves a supplementary pattern float. It is also used in the phrase tabby order to describe something done in alternation, first one and then the other. For example, the supplementary pattern weft in summer and winter is said to be tied in tabby order.

tablet weaving

One of the simplest methods of weaving a narrow fabric by hand. Instead of a loom the warp is manipulated by small square cards, approximately 60mm x 60mm, with a small hole at each corner. Each hole takes one warp end (four warp ends per card). A series of cards can be rotated to lift the warp and create a shed through which the weft is inserted.


A narrow woven fabric, traditionally of cotton or linen single ply yarns. Zipper tapes and Rufflet a tapes are in this category. See narrow fabric or inkle.


There are three interpretations of the term tapestry:

  1. A handwoven picture using a ribbed plain weave structure. The warp is traditionally of wool, cotton or linen. The weft, which is used to form the picture and covers the warp, is traditionally of wool.
  2. A type of hand embroidery using a needle, threaded with wool or cotton thread, to sew into an open mesh, base canvas. Often referred to as cross-stitch embroidery, with variations called needlepoint, gros point or point de croix.
  3. A Jacquard woven figured upholstery cloth. Constructed to produce a well defined, flat closely woven pattern.

The word tapestry is derived from the French word tapis meaning carpet or covering (for a table).

tappet loom

A loom with tappets or cambs which raise or lower the shafts to weave simple fabrics. Positive tappets raise and lower the shafts. Negative tappets move the shafts in one direction and require springs to return them.


see weft-faced compound tabby and summer and winter polychrome (without tabby).


A metal strip, attached to a silk reeling charaka, pierced with four small holes through which the silk passes during reeling. The strip of metal is parallel to the floor above the vessel containing the cocoons and hot water.


Traditional, authentic tartan cloths are usually made of wool in a twill weave. It is, however, possible to weave tartan, with any textile fibre provided that the sett (number of threads per colour in each warp and each weft stripe) is accurate and accredited by The Scottish Tartan Society and recorded in the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans. The Falkirk sett, the earliest known tartan woven from the undyed brown and natural white wool of the Soay sheep, dates back to the 3rd century AD. There are three types of tartan pattern:

  • Symmetrical setts
  • Asymmetrical setts
  • Equal check

Although tartans were woven and used earlier than the 18th century, clan tartans had not yet emerged. Sometimes the term tartan is confused with the term plaid. The word tartan is derived from the French word tiretaine meaning linsey-woolsey. See plaid and linsey-woolsey.


The Italian method of crossing and twining several silk filaments as they pass between the thread guide to the silk reeling swift. Known as the tavelette croissure. See chambon


The dried seed head of the species of Dipsacus, especially D. fullonum. Its head with hooked bracts are traditionally used in raising a nap on cloth. In many woollen mills teasel raising has been replaced by using rotating wire brushes. Spelt also teazle or teazel.


The unit of the tex count system. This is a direct fixed-length count system which is used often in Britain. See count.

three-tie unit weaves

supplementary-weft unit weaves with three tie-down ends. As in two-tie weaves, the tie-down ends alternate with other ends. The other ends (the 'pattern' ends) determine whether the float appears on the top surface or the back of the cloth. All of the ends in the unit weave the ground cloth (which can be plain weave, twill, or satin). Three-tie unit weaves differ in: a) the ratio of tie-down ends to pattern ends, b) the number of ends in the unit, c) the number of pattern shafts required for each block, d) the position of the tie-down ends in the unit, and e) the order in which the tie-down ends tie the supplementary weft float.


The process which links the production of raw silk with weaving. Individual filaments of de-gummed silk are so fine that they become separated if not twisted or thrown. Throwing will strengthen silk for weaving, particularly in the preparation of warp yarn, and also increase the diameter and denier of a silk yarn, depending on the type and weight of fabric to be woven. Throwing consists of four operations, each requiring special machinery:

  • Bobbin winder
  • Uptwister
  • Ring doubler
  • Hank winder

(to tie) when a tie-down end is lifted and the pattern weft passes under it but over the other ends of the unit, it is 'tied' by the tie-down end to the top surface of the cloth. When the pattern weft passes over a tie-down end and under the other ends in the unit, it is tied by the tie-down end to the back of the cloth. In a single pattern pick, one tie-down warp end ties the weft to the top surface of the cloth in the pattern areas and a different tie-down warp end ties the weft to the back of the cloth in the background areas.

tie-down end

a warp end with the specific task of tying a pattern weft float to a ground cloth. (Binder and binding warp have sometimes been used as synomyms for 'tie-down,' but they are also used for the secondary warp of lampas.) 'Tie-down' can also indicate a weft that ties a supplementary warp float. In tied unit weaves, specific ends in the threading units are designated as the tie-down ends (1 and 2 in the summer and winter unit, for example).


A resist-dyeing process which is done by knotting, binding, folding or sewing parts of a cloth, or yarn, so that the dye cannot penetrate those areas. See ikat, patola and shbori.

tied overshot (star-and-diamond weave)

a supplementary-weft unit weave with two tie-down ends and a plain weave ground cloth. Each threading unit contains two half-units (even-tied overshot with an even number of ends in the half-unit and uneven-tied overshot with an uneven number of ends). In the pattern area the supplementary weft floats over one half-unit and weaves tabby (halftone) in the other. In the background area the supplementary weft floats under a half-unit and weaves tabby (halftone) in the other. Each half-unit of treadling reverses the halftone/float position of the preceding half-unit. The ratio of tie-down ends to pattern ends is 1:1; there are at least six ends in a unit; one of the tie-down ends alternates in the first half-unit and the second tie-down end alternates in the second half-unit; one tie-down end is lifted for one half-unit of treadling, the other for the next half-unit of treadling. One structural unit usually contains two blocks A: 3-1-3-1-3; B: 4-2-4-2-4; blocks are usually threaded in point or straight order.

tied unit weaves

supplementary-weft unit weaves in which each unit contains specific warp ends that act as tie-down ends to tie supplementary pattern weft floats to a ground cloth (usually plain weave). The structural unit is complete when all of the tie-down ends in the sequence have been threaded. Each unit alternates tie-down ends with pattern ends; the number and ratio vary. The number of tie-down ends and the order in which they tie the supplementary weft floats also vary.


The French term used for woven fabric. Tissue is, however, commonly used to describe lightweight woven cloths.


During the scutching process, which is done to produce fibre long enough and straight enough to be carded and combed, short flax and hemp fibres are removed. The short fibres are the used to produce thicker rougher yarns. The short flax or hemp fibres are referred to as tow.


Towelling is used for drying and appropriately should be made from absorbent fibres, such as short to medium staple cotton. However, towelling is also made with linen and other natural, absorbent fibres. Can be woven or knitted with Jacquard patterns or simply in plain weave with the loops as extra warp. There are several types of towelling, which include: terry cloth or towelling, turkish towelling, huckerback towelling, honeycomb towelling, crash or knitted towelling also terry velvet. Terry, which is synonymous with turkish towelling usually to means an uncut loop, warp-pile fabric. The loops are created by applying a high tension to the ground warp and varying the tension of the pile warp, which is wound on a second backbeam. The pile is created by varying the position of the fell of the cloth with the position of the reed. The word towel comes from the High German word dwahan, meaning to wash, from which the modern German word zwehle comes.


Tram is medium twisted thread formed by twisting 2 to 3 silk yarns together with low twists of l00 to l50 tpm (twists per metre). It is moderately strong, soft and has a good handle (feel) and is mostly used as weft.


Refers chiefly to cotton trash meaning the foreign matter, such as sand, soil, stones, broken seeds and bits of wood found in the bales of raw cotton. Fine trash refers to cotton dust.


The French verb tricoter means to knit. The term tricot has become synonymous with fine warp knitted fabrics like milanese.


Usually refers to a type of narrow fabric generally used in decorating curtains, upholstery or clothing without any other functional use. See narrow fabrics.


A method of implanting a soft, spun yarn into a backing cloth to produce a pile fabric. Used in the manufacture of carpets and candlewick cloths.


A net fabric which was traditionally made of 100% silk and now can be made from cotton or man-made fibres. The distinctive feature of an hexagonal mesh was first produced on a type of lace machine in Nottingham, England in 1768 and in 1809 the bobbinet machine was invented. In 1817 the industry expanded when a factory opened in Tulle, France.


Curcuma domestica, a plant known as halda produces a fugitive yellow dye.


see counterchanged.

turned satin (damask)

warp satin and weft satin form pattern and background on the same surface of the cloth. Turned satin is damask.

turned twill

warp twill and weft twill form pattern and background on the same surface of the cloth. Three-end turned twill (2/1 and 1/2) is sometimes called 'dimity,' and four-end turned twill (3/1 and 1/3) is sometimes called 'twill diaper.'


From the Hindu word tasar, derived from the Sanscrit tasara meaning shuttle. A variety of hard silk from the cocoon produced by the tussah silkworm, from the genus antheraea, which spins its cocoon on the branches of the terminalia tree, the leaves of which it eats. Often referred to as wild silk. Found in Japan, China and India.


A term given to a long list of medium weight, rough woollen fabrics, usually made with a 2-up and 2-down weave, such as twill weave or hopsack weave. Tweed can be made in solid colours, mixtures, blends, stripes, checks, with dobby patterns or Jacquard patterns, but all should traditionally be made of 100% wool. The word tweed came about by accident, by the slip of a London cloth merchant's pen in about 1840, when referring to a consignment of 'tweel cloth' woven with a twill weave in the Borders of Scotland. Coincidently much of the tweed industry developed and remained for many years along the banks of the River Tweed, in the Borders of Scotland. Tweed has a variety of uses including jackets , suits, skirts and hats. Some of the most well known tweeds are: Bannockburn, Connemara, Harris, Irish, Knickerbocker, Linton, Lovat, Shetland and Thornproof.


each warp passes over or under more than one weft and each weft over or under more than one warp in the interlacement sequence. The minimum number of threads required for a twill interlacement is therefore three warp ends and three wefts (the weft passes over one warp and under two or over two warps and under one). Each successive pick begins the same interlacement on an adjacent warp end, either to the left or to the right, creating a diagonal line.

twill diaper

turned or counterchanged twill. Twill diaper designs are usually small all-over squares or simple block patterns.


A strong folded, doubled, plied or multi-plied yarn usually made of long staple vegetable or man-made fibres. Usually stronger than string.


The amount of twist in a yarn plays an important part in determining its character, in particular its hardness or softness and strength. Variation in twist will have considerable effect on the appearance of a fabric and shows in the dyeing and finishing. The measure of twist hardness is a number called the twist factor (twist multiplier).

Twist factor (measured in any indirect yarn count system such as cotton) = Twist, Turns Per Inch (T.P.I.) divided by the square root of the yarn count.
Twist factor (measured in any direct yarn count system, e.g. Tex) = Twist, Turns Per Inch (T.P.I.) multiplied by the square root of the yarn count.

Sometime Twist factors are calculated on the basis of Turns Per Metre (T.P.M.)


In the case of yarns which are spun by intermittent methods, for example the drop spindle, spinning wheel or Indian charkha, the twist is inserted into the yarn by rotation of the spindle, one turn of the spindle per one turn of twist in the yarn.  Yarns spun by the continuous methods twist is inserted into the yarn if one end is held and the other swung round in a circular path and simultaneously wound onto a bobbin or other type of collector. Testing the twist (T.P.I. or T.P.M.) of yarn can be done using a simple twist testing device.

two-tie unit weaves

unit weaves with two tie-down ends that 'tie' a supplementary pattern weft float to a ground cloth (plain weave, twill, or satin). The other ends in the unit are often called pattern ends since they determine whether the float appears on the face or the back of the cloth. All of the ends in the unit weave the ground cloth. (The structural unit  must contain the complete threading sequence of the tie-down ends. The block, determined by the threading of the pattern shafts, can be smaller than the unit; see Bergman.) Two-tie unit weaves differ in: a) the ratio of tie-down ends to pattern ends, b) the number of threads in the unit, c) the number of pattern shafts required for each block, d) the location of the tie-down ends in the unit, e) and the order in which the tie-down ends are lifted to tie the supplementary weft float.

two-tie weave

a weave in which two warp ends in a threading group are designated as tie-down ends (i.e., the 1 and 2 in summer and winter). Most two-tie weaves are also unit weaves; summer and winter is a 'two-tie unit weave.'



There are three definitions of union cloths:

  1. A fabric manufactured in England from a cotton warp and shoddy weft. The cloth is heavily napped.
  2. A fabric made with the warp yarn of one fibre differing from the weft yarn of another fibre. For example it is common to find tea towels made with linen warps and cotton wefts.
  3. A fabric woven from yarns made by twisting together single yarns of differing fibres, such as linen and cotton.
unit weaves

pattern weave structures in which a specific number of warp ends and weft picks interlace in a specific way to produce either pattern or background independently of but identically to other groups. A specific threading formula—the threading unit—is substituted for one filled square of a profile threading draft. Pattern or background is woven in each unit by substituting a specific lifting order for filled (pattern) or empty (background) squares on a profile treadling draft. 'Unit' is a structural term; 'block' refers to design. In summer and winter, the threading formula for one unit of block A is 1-3-2-3.


Silkmoth variety, native only to temperate regions, and which produces one generation of only dormant eggs per year.


Any fabric used to cover furniture. Can be manufactured from any fibre or combination of fibres.


Twisting one or more yarns by withdrawing them over-end from a rotating package.


Urena lobata L. A bast fibre similar to jute. Grown in West Africa, South East Asia, South America and Caribbean. Processed in the same way as jute.


v-bed knitting

A type of rib knitting machine with two needle beds with the hooks from each bed facing each other, both beds forming an inverted V.

vat dyeing

Mainly used to colour cellulose, such as cotton, yarns or cloths made from cellulose yarns. Vat dyes are insoluble in water so they require to be made soluble before dyeing the fibre. Using an alkaline solution of caustic soda and sodium hydrosulphite the dye is converted, by chemical reduction, to a leuco alkali-soluble. At this point the colour will differ from the final dyed colour. The dye, having entered the fibre, is exposed to air which oxidizes the dye in the fibre back to its insoluble state. This is a dyeing process when the dye is accepted into the fibre in a reduced or vatted form, when oxidized the colour is fixed firmly to the fibre. The basic principles of vat-dyeing are:

  • The conversion of the insoluble vat dye into the soluble sodium-leuco form by reduction or vatting.
  • The conversion of the absorbed dye, in the cloth or yarn, back to the insoluble state by oxidation.
  • Dyed or printed yarn or cloth treated in a hot detergent bath to produce a stable shade with maximum fastness.

Indigo is a natural vat dye and has been used extensively in India and west Africa for many centuries.


p>warp pile. A supplementary warp forms pile loops on a plain weave ground cloth. To form the pile loops, the pile warp and the ground warp warp must be differently tensioned. Pile length is determined by inserting rods in the loops. The loops can be cut to make cut velvet.

The distinguishing feature of velvet is a succession of rows of short, close together, tufts creating a uniform surface which is lustrous in appearance and soft to the touch. The quality of velvet is determined by the closeness of the tufts and the density of the backing. Traditionally woven with silk pile and cotton back as a single fabric. Can be mechanically woven as a double, face to face, cloth and cut down the centre in the same way as Wilton carpet. There are many types of velvet with names like: chiffon velvet, Lyon velvet, façonne velvet, panne velvet and brocade velvet. A wide range of uses include: dresses, jackets, shoes, hats, upholstery, curtains and in industry.


A 100% cotton velvet made in Manchester, England in the early eighteenth century. Constructed with a weft float, which is then cut to form the pile, from mercerized cotton yarns, although rayon was also used. The pile slopes slightly to emphasise the sheen of the yarn and create a lustrous surface to the cloth. Used for clothing and as a furnishing.

viscose rayon

See rayon.



The threads(ends) which run the length (of the fabric) on the loom and interlaced with weft (picks) to form the fabric. See end.

warp float

warp thread that misses one or more wefts and floats on the surface.


warp ends hide the weft completely on the surface of the cloth. Warp-faced has also sometimes been used as a synonym for warp-dominant.

warp-faced compound tabby

a warp-faced pattern weave with two or more complementary sets of warp, one of which appears on the face while the other(s) are on the back. Even picks separate the sets of warps to determine the set (color) on the face. Odd picks bind the warp sets in alternate ('tabby') order, thus the name warp-faced compound tabby. Warp sets bound in twill order are called warp-faced compound twill.


The preparation of a number of threads (ends) which are arranged in order, number and width, parallel to each other and wound on the back beam on the loom. There are several methods of warping by hand: frame warping, stick warping using a hand-held creel, horizontal warping, sectional warping and warping on an upright warping mill. Commercial warping is always done on a horizontal warping mill.

water frame

At the time when spinning cotton was going through a period of rapid development with the invention of the jenny by James Hargreaves, Richard Arkwright invented the water frame. In his search for a constant, reliable source of power Richard Arkwright developed the jenny and set up his first water-powered mill in Cromford, Derbyshire, England, in 1771. The water-frame inaugurated the factory system and was able to produce a consistently even yarn which was more suitable for the expanding Nottingham knitting industry. See jenny.


The term weave is used normally to describe the structure of a woven fabric or the process of weaving which is usually carried out on a loom. Woven fabrics are constructed with two sets of interlacing warp and weft yarns. The warp yarns, or ends, are usually wound lengthwise on the loom, while the weft yarns, or picks, interlace the warp at right angles to produce the fabric.

There is a wide variety of weave constructions of which tabby is the most common. The main reason for changing the structure of a cloth, by the use of a particular weave, is to achieve the best combination of weight and cover for the eventual weight of the fabric.

The following weaves are the most widely used:

  • brighton - honeycomb structure
  • crow - one and three twill
  • double plain -  two interchanging plain cloths making a single cloth
  • herringbone - chevron or zig-zag pattern
  • honeycomb - three-dimensional cellular structure sometimes known as waffle weave
  • hopsack - 2 up and 2 down or 3 up and 3 down structure also known as matt or basket weave
  • leno - open, stable structure often used for cellular fabrics
  • satin - warp faced structure often with warp yarn thinner than the weft mock-leno like leno but simpler and less stable
  • plain or tabby - the simplest weave structure sateen weft faced structure often with weft yarn thicker than the warp
  • twill - 2 up and 2 down diagonal weft and warp floats sometimes known as common twill
weaver's knot

The smallest knot allowing a weaver to repair a broken warp end or two pieces of weft thread. This type of knot lies flat on of the surface of the finished cloth and requires minimal attention from the mender.


A narrow fabric usually using two ply yarns. Typically used for upholstery, luggage, conveyor belts and seat belts. See narrow fabrics.


The threads which are passed across and through the warp by a shuttle, air jet, rapier or water jet to form a woven fabric.

weft float

weftthread that misses one or more warps and floats on the surface.


wefts completely hide the warp. Some sources use 'weft-faced' to describe a weft-dominant surface.

weft-faced compound tabby

a weft-faced pattern weave with two or more sets of complementary wefts. Even warp ends separate the weft sets so that one set (color) is on the surface of the cloth and the other(s) on the back. Odd warp ends bind the complementary wefts in alternate (tabby) order, thus the name weft-faced compound tabby, also called taquete and summer and winter polychrome. Complementary weft sets bound in twill order are weft-faced compound twill, also called samitum.


The quality of dyed and printed fabrics is usually indicated by the fastness of the fabric. In the case of a fabric being wet-fast, it means that there must be a resistance to the disappearance, no matter how small, of the dye or print during washing and afterwards, when wet.


A corded fabric of the same family as cavalry twill, elastique, tricotine or gabardine. The twill is slightly steeper that cavalry twill and the yarn is usually bulkier that in the other cords. A rugged, hard wearing fabric usually made of 100% wool. (illustration whipcord and cavalry twill weaves)

wild silk

Sometime confused with, although the same as tussah silk.


Also known as wincey, made with cotton or linen warp and wool weft in a plain weave. Often made with 100% cotton yarns, the fabric is raised or brushed to create a soft handle. The word winceyette is a play on words which comes from another cloth called linsey-woolsey.


The name given to a woven blanket made from fine quality wool and heavily raised to give a thickness to the fabric and improve its insulation quality. Traditionally made in the town of Witney, Oxfordshire, England.


The word wool comes from the old English word wull. The Latin word for wool was lana which is also the origin of the word for wool in several other European languages. Wool is the hair of the sheep.

  • wool - English
  • laine - French
  • wolle - German
  • lenos - Greek
  • lana - Italian
  • lá - Portugese
  • lînã - Romanian
  • lana - Spanish

Of the many breeds of sheep throughout the world, a different type of wool is produced by each. There are five main types:

  1. Coarse long and medium wool from hill or mountain sheep.
  2. Lustrous and semi-lustrous long wool from pure-bred sheep.
  3. Short and medium Down wools from pure-bred sheep.
  4. Fine soft wool from pure-bred sheep.
  5. Crossbred wools from crossbred or halfbred sheep.

Tropical and desert sheep produce short coarse wools.

Other animals grow wool and hair which is collectively referred to as wool which are also widely used in the manufacture of textiles. These are sometimes called luxury fibres as they are usually more expensive to grow and process than sheep's wool: angora goat (mohair), angora rabbit, llama, alpaca, pashmina or cashmere goat and vicuna. The hair from these animals is generally much softer than sheeps wool and much warmer to wear.


The Woolmark symbol signifies that a cloth or garment is made only of pure new, sheep's wool.


A cloth woven from fine yarn which has been spun from combed wool, to remove the short fibres producing a smooth, lightweight and often lustrous fabric. Requires highly specialized finishing to create the soft, crease resistant handle which identifies a superior quality worsted suiting. Often man-made fibres are blended with wool to make lighter, less-expensive worsted cloths.


Weaving Information File

file format for profile drafts developed in 1996


see Weaving Information File



Found in Mongolia. The yak grows coarse outer hair, sometimes spun into a coarse yarn which is woven and used in making local tents. The fine under hair of the yak is used weaving thinner cloth for warm clothing.


The basic component of most, particularly woven or knitted, fabric. Yarn, sometimes referred to as thread, is either a collection of small lengths of natural or man-made fibre which are spun and twisted together or endless extruded natural or man-made filament.

Spun yarn can be a blend of two or more fibres. Any yarn can be made thicker or stronger by plying, doubling, twisting or folding two or more single yarns together. The term ply is often used to describe the thickness or size of hand knitting or hand embroidery yarns.

There are thousands of different yarns made in a variety of different ways for an infinite number of different fabrics. Fancy yarns are made by combining two or more similar or different yarns or by introducing contrasting materials into the yarn.

The following terms are used to describe certain types of fancy yarn ( See fancy yarn and spinning):

  • bouclé
  • brushed
  • chenille
  • corkscrew
  • gimp
  • knop
  • loop
  • marl
  • slub
  • snarl
yarn count

See count.



A cloth made from lustrous, crossbred worsted yarns, woven with a satin weave, raised with a fine nap on one side, cropped and then finally steamed to develop a an even velvety appearance. Usually dyed black. The word comes from the pelt, or zibaline, the soft silky fur of the Siberian sable.