Fabric Glossary


Taffeta Fabric:

A woven fabric made of silk, polyester, or rayon; it is known for its crisp hand. Taffeta fabric is a favorite for evening and bridal wear, as well as for little girl's party dresses.  The yarn-dyed version of this fabric is crisp and suitable for A-line dresses and flaring skirts.  Piece-dyed taffeta fabric is softer and is used for undergarments and linings.  Many variations of taffeta are available, including 118" wide pintuck taffeta which is suitable for draperies and upholstery.  Other heavy varieties of taffeta are also suited for upholstery and draperies.


Heavy weight fabric woven fabric, with an elaborate pattern, often a scene from history or contemporary events.  A special weaving technique is used to create the design.  Tapestry is a centuries old art.  It is used for upholstery and wall hangings.


Waterproof, heavy canvas-like fabric or the covers made from such fabric. Tarpaulin is often made of nylon or other synthetic fiber.


A fabric made from wood pulp.  It drapes beautifully and is very soft. Tencel is generally a medium weight.  It is suitable for jackets, skirts, and pants.

The Robert Allen Group:

A leading manufacturer of fabrics aimed at the interior design market. The Robert Allen Group manufactures drapery and upholstery fabrics, designer trims, and a line of furniture.  Their collections include affordable everyday drapery and upholstery fabrics, the Robert Allen Home line, and the Robert Allen Contract line.  Their exclusive Beacon Hill collection offers hand embroidered silk, velvet, chenille, suede, and leather upholstery and window treatment fabrics.  More affordable for the average do-it-yourselfer are the Robert Allen Home collection fabrics.  The Robert Allen Contract line serves the hospitality industry and offers durable, easy to clean fabrics; these fabrics can be ideal for the home in areas of high use.

Theatrical Gauze:

Lightweight, woven cotton material which is also called “cotton scrim.”  Theatrical gauze is used for stage “windows” and backdrops because of its unusual properties under different lighting conditions.  When lit from the front it is opaque and allows an actor to stand behind it without being seen, but when lit from the back, it is sheer.  Because of these properties it is also used by photographers in photo shoots. In addition to these uses, it is used as painted stage backdrops, and for stage costumes because it is cool and comfortable under the lights.

Theatrical Scrim Material:

A gauze material made of cotton which is used on stage to control light and shadow; when lit from the front, scrim is opaque, but it is translucent when lit from the back.  This property of theatrical scrim material is utilized by directors to hid actors using lighting. Scrim is also used by photographers for photo shoots and it makes excellent painted stage backdrops.  It is comfortable for stage costumes because it allows good air circulation.

Throw Pillows Inserts:

Foam or cloth covered stuffed forms for insertion into decorative pillow covers. Both types of throw pillows inserts are available in several sizes and shapes: round, square, rectangle, and bolster.   The foam inserts are firmer than the cloth covered types.  The cloth covered inserts are available with polyester fiberfill or a combination of down and feathers.  If the pillow will be used for resting the head, as well as for decorative use, a down pillow insert will conform to the shape the head and neck, providing great comfort.  

Ticking Fabric:

 Tightly woven durable cotton material with a stripe pattern.  Ticking fabric was initially designed as a tightly woven mattress covering that would not allow the down or straw stuffing to come through.  Blue stripes on white are the classic ticking pattern; this pattern is popular for laundry bags and pillow covers, as well as home décor items.  Ticking is now available in host of other stripe colors and patterns; many patterns feature three or four colors rather than the traditional two.  It makes stylish upholstery.

Tissue Lamé:

A shiny fabric woven or knit with thin metallic threads and nylon.  All fabrics made in this way are called lamé and many lamés are very stiff.  Tissue lamé is one of the lightest weight lamés and so it drapes well.  It comes in numerous colors and is suitable for evening wear, dance costumes, and theatrical costumes. This novelty fabric is so thin that it tends to jam in the sewing machine feed dogs.  Using a straight stitch plate will help prevent this problem.

Tobacco Netting:

Another name for cheesecloth, a loosely woven, very porous cotton material used for a variety of purposes, including covering plants such as tobacco plants.  Tobacco netting is available in three grades: 10, 50, and 90.  Grade 10 is most porous and will allow adequate water to plants.  Grade 90 is the most durable and thickest of this type of cloth; it is often used for crafts such as paper mâché. This versatile netting is widely used for cooking purposes; it is used to drain soups, sauces, and gravies and to wrap fruit cakes and other items. 


A decorative pattern which consists of a repeated scene placed evenly on an off-white or white background.  The scenes are one color and generally feature romantic themes, such as a young man serenading his lady with music or having a picnic for two in a beautiful setting.  Blue, red, and black are classic toile colors and magenta and green hues are also popular.   Toile Fabrics are used for wall coverings, draperies, and upholstery.

Toss Pillow Inserts:

Cloth-covered stuffed forms or foam forms for insertion into decorative pillow covers.  Toss pillow inserts are available in round, square, rectangle and bolster shapes and come in different sizes.  The covered forms are available with polyester or down/feather filling.  The foam inserts are firmer than the feather or polyester filled forms, while the down inserts will conform to the head and neck for comfort. It is easy to make attractive toss pillows using ready-made foam or stuffed pillow inserts.


Any absorbent fabric used for towels.  Terrycloth is the most popular material for toweling and is the main fabric used for bath towels; it is available in an array of colors and is easy to make into the size towel desired.   Huck toweling, microfiber fabric, waffle fabric, and birdseye fabric  used for kitchen and utility towels and simply need to be hemmed before use.   Linen is used for fine hand towels and guest towels; linen towels are often embroidered, in addition to being hemmed.

Translucent Fabric:

Any see-through material, but especially clear vinyl.  Voiles, chiffons, georgettes, nettings, and tulle are also translucent fabrics.  See-through fabrics have various uses.  Voiles and chiffons are great for curtains and are also used for garment inserts, yokes, and sleeves.  Georgettes are popular for lined blouses.  Tulle and netting are excellent for evening gown and bridal gown overskirts; they also are used for layered petticoats to make full skirts stand out. In addition, netting and tulle are used for special occasion decorations. Clear vinyl is a translucent fabric used extensively in auto and marine windows as well as tents and various kinds of enclosures.

Trigger Fabric:

A durable, woven polyester cotton blend fabric similar in weight to denim or duck.  It is frequently called poplin. Trigger fabric is available in numerous solid colors.  It is used for trousers, shorts, jackets, and uniforms.  It is also used for the seats of director's chairs, for outdoor table cloths and for banners.  This economical fabric makes great tote bags, re-useable grocery bags, and aprons. Some forms of trigger are weather and fade resistant, making them great for flags and outdoor banners.

Trunk Felt:

Special felt fabric used to line the trunks of vehicles.  Also called automotive trunk lining, trunk felt provides protection for items placed in the trunk, as well as a sound buffer against the noise of objects shifting during transport.   This fabric is available in several neutral shades.  It can also be used for other applications, such a the lining of large tool boxes or chests.   


A fine nylon netting. Tulle is very versatile and is available in a range of colors and in a glitter version. This airy fabric is the traditional material for ballet tutus and is popular for bridal and evening wear.  It is used for petticoats layered to make full skirts stand out and for overskirts to give a garment a special flair.  This fine netting also makes flowing veils.  It is available by the bolt for special occasion decorating and full skirts and tutus, and by the yard when a small amount of yardage is needed. 


A twill weave wool fabric with colored slubbed yarns; it is medium to heavy.  Tweed is used for suits and coats.


Woven fabric with a clear diagonal wale on the surface.  Gabardine, triotine, and denim are twill fabrics.