Fabric Glossary



A cotton, tightly woven all-over print fabric.  The print is generally a small floral on a contrasting background.  Sometimes the term calico is used to refer to any cotton fabric.  Calico is great for quilts, dresses especially children’s dresses, aprons, and household accessories such as appliance covers.


Can refer to one of two different fabrics.  One is a fine white linen.  The other type of cambric is a durable black nylon fabric which is used as a dust cover on the bottom of upholstered furniture.

Camel's Hair:

The under-hair of the camel used to weave a fabric which is similar to cashmere.  Camel’s hair fabric has a soft hand and is suitable for jackets and coats.


A durable, tightly woven cotton material known for its strength.  Canvas has been used for centuries for sails and tents.  Originally it was woven of hemp and the name canvas derives from cannabis which is Latin for hemp.  A very tightly woven form of canvas is called duck.  This fabric is used for upholstery, drapery, sails, tents, and furniture slipcovers.  When waterproofed it is excellent for outdoor furniture.   Canvas is classified both by weight per yard and by a ten digit range number system.  Smaller numbers indicate heavier material.  For example, a 7 weight fabric is heavier than a 10.

Canvas Muslin:

Sturdy woven cotton available in natural and bleached varieties.  Heavier muslin is sometimes known as canvas muslin.  True canvas is also sometimes called by this term.  Both types of this fabric are very durable and are used for theater curtains and backdrops.  Canvas muslin backdrops are easy to paint and inexpensive so that a community theater can afford several.  This fabric can also be used for other applications such as laundry bags and mail bags.

Car Headliner Material:

Foam-backed fabric especially designed for headlining a vehicle. Car headliner material comes in numerous colors, ranging from black to several shades of neutral grey and tan.  The foam backing provides a bit of soundproofing, yet it is thin and lightweight, averaging around ⅛" thick.   This fabric can be smoothly stretched on a car's ceiling and it is light enough to easily stay in place when properly installed. Do-it-yourselfers can learn the technique to successfully install headliner fabric.


Fiber from the fleecy undercoat of the Kashmir goat. It is  used to produce both knitted and woven fabrics.  Cashmere is a soft, luxurious fabric which is used for shawls, sweaters, coats, dresses and suits.

Chalkboard Cloth:

Black PVC vinyl which can be written on like a regular chalkboard and erased with a dry eraser or damp cloth.  Chalkboard cloth is fun for children and can be used at school and at home.  This unique fabric can be made into tablecloths or placemats that can be drawn on.  It makes cool tote bags which can be written on. Use it for gift wrap and craft projects.  Before use, this product should be cured.  Rub the side of a piece of chalk over the entire surface. Repeat. Wipe off the chalk and the fabric is ready for use.


Woven fabric of rayon, cotton, or wool, with a somewhat brushed surface.  Challis is suitable for dresses and blouses and is available in prints and solids.


Woven fabric generally composed of cotton, but it can be made of silk or other materials.  A colored warp and white filling yarns give the fabric its unique look.   It comes in different colors, but is traditionally blue.   Chambray is used for casual clothes—shirts, skirts, pants, and blouses.

Chantilly Lace:

A floral or scroll bobbin lace based on a six-sided mesh. The design is embroidered on the background using thread and ribbon. It features areas which are heavily covered and others which are open and airy. The design may be outlined with thicker threads. Chantilly lace is available in linen, silk, or synthetic fiber versions. It is popular for evening wear and bridal gowns.

Charmeuse Fabric:

A rich soft fabric which drapes beautifully, charmeuse has the sheen of satin on the right side and a matte finish on the wrong side.  Originally made exclusively of silk, charmeuse fabric is now available in rayon and polyester versions. It comes in a wide range of colors ranging from pastels to deep dark shades.  It is used for contemporary style evening gowns, lingerie, and blouses.

Cheesecloth Fabric:

A very porous, loosely woven cotton material.  Cheesecloth derives its name from its original purpose. This versatile cloth was originally used to strain the whey from cream during the making of cheese. Today cheesecloth fabric is still used for culinary purposes, such as straining gravies and sauces.  It is also used for crafting, especially in paper mâché and can be used as a presscloth. The fabric is available in narrow widths in several grades. The higher numbers indicate a more tightly woven cloth.

Cheesecloths (Also See Cheesecloth Fabric):

A woven, porous cotton fabric, this material serves many purposes. Cheesecloths are available in several different grades.  Grade 10  ( 20 x 12 threads to the square inch) is the most porous. It is used to strain sauces and gravies and to make various crafts.  Grade 50 (28 x 24 threads per square inch) is more durable and can be used for the same types of projects as grade 10.   Grade 90 (44 x 36 threads per inch) is the thickest and most durable cheesecloth available.  It can be used for numerous craft and culinary purposes.


A yarn with visible pile giving a plush or fuzzy effect; the fabric made with this yarn.   Various fibers are used to make this yarn: cotton, silk, wool, or rayon.  Chenille fabric may have a simple pattern such as rows of yarn or the yarn can be used in floral or geometric designs.  Chenille is used for robes and bedspreads, but it is also sometimes used in quilts and other projects.

Chiffon Fabric:

A sheer or semi-sheer material suitable for airy delicate garments or garment inserts.  Originally made from silk, today chiffon fabric is available in polyester.  Chiffon drapes with ease.  This comfortable, elegant fabric is widely used for wedding garments, blouses, and dresses.  The polyester version is easy to care for and relatively easy to sew.  Like all delicate fabrics, care should be taken that it does not jam in the sewing machine's feed dogs.

China Silk:

A thin, delicate silk, or polyester known for its breathability; it allows air to circulate through the fabric.  This property makes it ideal for linings.  Polyester Habutae is also known as China Silk; it is affordable, practical, and perfect for linings.   Habutae is available a wide range of colors.  In addition to linings, China Silk or Habutae are suitable for luxurious lingerie and thin blouses.  Both the silk version and the polyester version can be sewn in the same way.


A cotton, woven fabric with a smooth surface, Chintz is finished with a glaze which gives it a distinct look.  This fabric is generally made in large floral prints.  It is suitable for draperies, curtains, and some upholstery projects.   It is a dry-clean only material because washing would destroy its unique glaze.


Rare painted linens done in a style which came from Chitta, India in the seventeenth century.  Chite fabric is luxurious and unique.

Clear Vinyl Fabric:

Vinyl material which is translucent. It is available in various weights, ranging from 6 gauge to 60 gauge.  It is durable and versatile. Clear vinyl fabric can be used to cover cloth tablecloths, protecting them from spills and allowing their beauty to show through.  It is also used to cover furniture and books.  This clear material can be used in various crafts; for example, it can be used to make pockets on a hanging jewelry or sewing caddy allowing the items inside to be seen.  Heavier translucent vinyl can be used to make shoe caddies.  

Coffee Sacks:

Cloth sacks used to ship coffee beans from the plantation. Coffee sacks are made of burlap or sisal and stamped with brand logos.  Used sacks are very cool for craft items.  They can be hung on the wall for a rural nostalgic look  and used to line baskets and other items.  When purchasing used bags, remember that they will have a strong, coffee bean aroma, along with the scent of jute (burlap) or sisal.  Some people consider this part of their charm, while others would prefer a craft fabric without any scent.  The scent may be washed out.

Colored Burlap:

A less coarse version of traditional natural burlap, this material is a  woven jute fabric.  It has been treated to remove the jute smell and then dyed one of various colors.  A wide range of colors is available, ranging from black to brilliant reds and pinks.  Colored burlap is perfect for country crafts.  It can be used for wall hangings, basket linings, and other projects.  It is also great for some stage costumes.

Cordura Fabric:

A very heavyweight nylon fabric coated with urethane.  Cordura fabric is abrasion resistant and waterproof.  It resists tears and stains.  This extremely durable fabric is ideal for outdoor gear such as raincoats and backpacks.  The weight of this fabric is measured in deniers.  The higher the denier count, the stronger the fabric.  A denier count of 1000 is suitable for garments and projects that will be subject to hard use such as tents.  Cordura of this weight is available in a variety of colors and in camouflage.

Corduroy Fabric:

Cotton or cotton/blend fabric that has a distinct texture which comes from a cut-pile weave.  It features cords known as “wales” which give it a distinctive look and feel.  The number of wales indicates the softness of the fabric.  The greater number of wales the finer and softer the corduroy.  Corduroy fabric is traditionally used for jumpers, pants, skirts, and shorts.  It is great for jackets and lightweight coats.

Cornice Padding:

Thin upholstery foam which is sold by the sheet and is very flexible. A cornice is a decorative cover for curtain and drapery rods and the top of window blinds. It can add drama and a finishing touch to window treatments.  Cornices may be painted or they may be covered with fabric.  Cornice padding is placed underneath the fabric for a smooth, finished look.  It is affordable and easy to use. 


A product of the cotton plant. The most widely used natural fiber in textile manufacturing, cotton has been used for centuries to produce lightweight, comfortable fabric.  Cotton allows the skin to breath.  The fiber can be used by itself or blended with other fibers to make soft, durable cloth.  Examples of fabrics which are cotton or cotton blends include: batiste, birdseye, broadcloth, calico, lawn, seersucker, terrycloth, and ticking.

Cotton Lawn:

Fine, semi-sheer fabric generally made of combed or carded cotton or linen.  It is crease-resistant with a crisp finish. Lawn is cool and comfortable.  It is suitable for summer skirts, tops, dresses, and blouses, and it makes excellent children's clothes. Linen lawn is another name for handkerchief linen. Cotton lawn is a versatile lighter weight version

Cotton Strapping:

A strong, woven cotton material designed to be used for belts, handles, seating, and other items.  Also called cotton belting or cotton webbing, cotton strapping is sold by the yard and is available in various widths and colors.   When used for belts, it is cut to the proper length and a buckle is added.  Strapping is used for woven seating; strips of the product are woven across the seat frame.  This technique can also be used to provide support under a chair or sofa cushion.

Cotton Webbing:

A durable, sturdy woven material made to used for seating, handles, belts, and other projects.  It is available by the yard and comes in various colors and widths.  Also called cotton strapping or cotton belting, cotton webbing is easy to use to make belts; cut it to the appropriate length and add a purchase buckle.  Webbing is very popular for use in outdoor furniture.  It is used to make woven seats and backs for both outdoor and indoor furniture.  It can also be used to provide support under a couch or arm chair cushion.

Covington Fabric:

One of the world's leading manufacturers of décor fabrics.  Covington Fabrics was begun in the 1940s.  Today, it provides the finest quality upholstery fabric, drapery fabric and more.  This manufacturer offers every type of material imaginable to decorate the home and a range of styles that is innovative and breathtaking. Choose classic damasks or chenilles, cottons, knits, silk dupioni and rayons.  From classic, delightful prints for children's rooms to toile prints for formal traditional style rooms, Covington fabric offers something for every taste.

Craft Felt:

A versatile, non-woven fabric, felt is made by a process which compresses the fibers together.  It can be made of wool, polyester, or recycled materials.  Craft felt is available in various colors by the yard and in rectangle sheets.  Adhesive backed sheets are also available.  This fabric does not ravel and is easy to cut.  It is widely used for no-sew crafts, which require only cutting and gluing.  It is a favorite for children's craft projects because it is soft, non-toxic and easy to use.


A term used to describe fabric with grained, crinkled, or crimped texture.  Polyester crepe is most common and is a medium weight fabric suitable for dresses.  Wool, cotton, silk, and rayon crepe are also available.

Crepe Charmeuse:

A silk or satin fabric with a crepe finish.   Standard charmeuse features a lustrous finish.  Crepe Charmeuse has a softer sheen than standard charmeuse. It is made of either grenadine silk or polyester and woven with a crepe texture.   This a luxurious fabric which drapes and handles like satin.  It is suitable for evening wear, bridal wear and day dresses.

Crepe De Chine:

A crepe-textured fabric suitable for garments. Crepe de Chine is available in either silk or polyester.  It has a crepe (lightly crinkled) surface made with twisted fiber.   This luxurious fabric is available in three weights.  The heaviest, four-ply is suitable for jackets and pants.  Three-ply is suitable for dresses and fuller, dressy slacks or pants.  Two-ply is suitable for lingerie and blouses.

Crepe-Back Satin:

Silk or polyester fabric with a satin sheen on the front and a crepe textured back.  Crepe-back satin is a medium weight fabric which is suitable when a satin with more body is needed.  It is excellent for bridal garments and is available in range of colors. 


The art of embroidery with yarn.  Crewel fabrics are a luxurious touch for draperies and upholsteries.  The embroidered motifs are generally flowers and foliage.  These fabrics have traditionally been handmade in India.  Modern textile weaving techniques have produced “crewel” looking designs without the use of embroidery.  

Crinkle Taffeta:

 A polyester, silk, or nylon fabric with a distinct crinkled texture.  Taffeta is a classic fabric known for its crispness and subtle sheen.  Crinkle taffeta is a form of the material with a unique texture, rather than the smooth surface of the traditional fabric.   It is suitable for bridal wear and evening wear and is available in variety of colors.  This fabric  should be sewn and cared for in the same way as standard taffeta.

Crocheted Fabric:

Fabric made by hand using a hook.  It comes in innumerable designs.  The look of crocheted fabric is sometimes produced by a machine technique, but anyone familiar with hand crotchet can detect the difference between the two.  Crocheted fabric is used for yokes, collars, and inserts, as well as sweaters and other garments.  

Curtain Fabric:

Material especially designed for curtains or any other type of material which is suitable for curtains.  Curtain fabric is lighter weight than drapery fabric.  Many types of material are suitable for curtains: cotton prints, broadcloth, polyester, lace, chiffon, muslin, linen.  Materials, such as Amy Butler prints, which are not specifically designated as curtain material can make attractive curtains.   Tulle, chiffon, and other sheer and semi-sheer fabrics are used as window treatments either alone or in combination with heavier curtain or drapery fabric.

Curtain Lining:

Material used to provide more coverage and/or body to curtains and drapes. Several types of curtain lining are available.   Thermafoam lining by Hanes provides insulation against the weather.  Lining your curtains or drapes with an insulating material is a way to saving on utility bills and to make your home more comfortable.  Other types of lining include stain-resistant lining.  

Cushion Foam:

A synthetic foam which is designed for seating.  It is also known as upholstery foam and upholsterer's foam.  It is available in several thicknesses, and firmnesses.  High density foam provides greater support than low-density foam. Support refers to ability of the product to support weight without sagging and to bounce back after use.  Firmness and support do not mean the same thing.  A low-density cushion can be as firm to the touch as a high density cushion and yet not offer as much support.  A high density cushion can be soft and comfortable, while offering a high degree of support. Cushion foam can be purchased in economical sheets and is suitable for replacing arm chair and sofa cushions. 

Cushion Forms:

Synthetic foam which comes in appropriate sizes for cushions.  Cushion forms come in several different thicknesses and density.  A high density cushion will provide excellent support; it will not sag excessively when sat upon and will quickly return to its original height when the weight is removed.  Quality high density cushions can be soft, while offering great support.  Low density cushions do not offer the support that high density ones do and some are not very soft; they are suitable for furniture or other applications such as window seats that will not receive much use.