Glossary of terms used on this site

Worshipful Company of Weavers

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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 fabricAlum 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.