From AmtWiki

A textile is a flexible material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw wool fibres, linen, cotton, or other material on a spinning wheel to produce long strands known as yarn. Textiles are formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, or pressing fibres together (felt).

The words fabric and cloth are used in textile assembly trades (such as tailoring and dressmaking) as synonyms for textile. However, there are subtle differences in these terms. Textile refers to any material made of interlacing fibres. Fabric refers to any material made through weaving, knitting, crocheting, or bonding. Cloth refers to a finished piece of fabric that can be used for a purpose such as covering a bed.


The production of textiles is an important craft, whose speed and scale of production has been altered almost beyond recognition by industrialization and the introduction of modern manufacturing techniques. However, for the main types of textiles, plain weave, twill or satin weave, there is little difference between the ancient and modern methods.

Incans have been crafting quipus (or khipus) made of fibres either from a protein, such as spun and plied thread like wool or hair from camelids such as alpacas, llamas and camels or from a cellulose like cotton for thousands of years. Khipus are a series of knots along pieces of string. They have been believed to only have acted as a form of accounting, although new evidence conducted by Harvard professor, Gary Urton, indicates there may be more to the khipu than just numbers. Preservation of khipus found in museum and archive collections follow general textile preservation principles and practice.

Kinds of Fabric

  • aba — a fabric woven from goat and camel hair
  • Aertex — a trademark for a loosely woven cotton fabric that is used to make shirts and underwear
  • alpaca — a thin glossy fabric made of the wool of the alpaca, or a rayon or cotton imitation
  • baize — a bright green fabric napped to resemble felt; used to cover gaming tables
  • basket weave — a cloth woven of two or more threads interlaced to suggest the weave of a basket
  • batik — a dyed fabric; a removable wax is used where the dye is not wanted
  • batiste — a thin plain-weave cotton or linen fabric; used for shirts or dresses
  • boucle — a fabric of uneven yarn that has an uneven knobby effect
  • broadcloth — a closely woven silk, cotton or synthetic fabric with a narrow crosswise flat weave. Very light weight.
  • brocade — A woven, patterned fabric using multi-colored threads. A raised pattern in relief against the background. May use metallic treads as part of the pattern. Used in upholstery and clothing. Normally is a heavier fabric
  • buckram — a coarse cotton fabric stiffened with glue; used in bookbinding and to stiffen clothing
  • calico — Broadcloth with a bright print, light weight and cheap. Short self life.
  • cambric — a finely woven white linen
  • canvas— heavy closely woven cotton fabric (used for clothing or chairs or sails or tents)
  • cashmere — a soft fabric made from the wool of the Cashmere goat. Shrinks easily.
  • cerecloth — a waterproof waxed cloth once used as a shroud
  • chambray — a lightweight fabric woven with white threads across a colored warp typically light blue.
  • chenille — a heavy fabric woven with chenille cord; used in rugs and bedspreads
  • chiffon — a sheer fabric of silk or rayon
  • chino, chino cloth — a coarse twilled cotton fabric used for uniforms
  • chintz — a brightly printed and glazed cotton fabric
  • coating — a heavy fabric suitable for coats
  • corduroy — a cut pile fabric with vertical ribs; usually made of cotton
  • cotton, cotton cloth — fabric woven from cotton fibers
  • cotton flannel, Canton flannel — a stout cotton fabric with nap on only one side
  • crepe, crape, crepe satina soft thin light fabric with a crinkled surface\
  • crinoline — a stiff coarse fabric used to stiffen hats, skirts or other clothing
  • damask — a fabric of linen or cotton or silk or wool with a reversible pattern woven into it
  • denim, dungaree, jean — a coarse durable twill-weave cotton fabric
  • dimity — a strong cotton fabric with a raised pattern; used for bedcovers and curtains
  • doeskin — a fine smooth soft woolen fabric
  • drapery — cloth gracefully draped and arranged in loose folds
  • duck — a heavy cotton fabric of plain weave; used for clothing and tents
  • duffel, duffle — a coarse heavy woolen fabric
  • elastic — an elastic fabric made of yarns containing an elastic material
  • etamine, etamin — a soft cotton or worsted fabric with an open mesh; used for curtains or clothing etc.
  • faille — a ribbed woven fabric of silk or rayon or cotton
  • felt — a fabric made of compressed matted animal fibers
  • fiber, fibre, vulcanized fiber — a leatherlike material made by compressing layers of paper or cloth
  • flannel — a soft light woolen fabric; used for clothing
  • flannelette — a cotton fabric imitating flannel
  • fleece — a soft bulky fabric with deep pile; used chiefly for clothing
  • foulard — a light plain-weave or twill-weave silk or silklike fabric (usually with a printed design)
  • frieze — a heavy woolen fabric with a long nap
  • fustian — a strong cotton and linen fabric with a slight nap
  • gabardine — a firm durable fabric with a twill weave
  • georgette — a thin silk dress material
  • gingham — a clothing fabric in a plaid weave
  • grogram — a coarse fabric of silk mixed with wool or mohair and often stiffened with gum
  • grosgrain — a silk or silklike fabric with crosswise ribs
  • haircloth, hair — cloth woven from horsehair or camelhair; used for upholstery or stiffening in garments
  • herringbone — a twilled fabric with a herringbone pattern
  • homespun, homespun fabric — a rough loosely woven fabric originally made with homespun yarn
  • hopsacking, hopsack — a loosely woven coarse fabric of cotton or linen; used in clothing
  • horsehair — fabric made from horsehair fibers; used for upholstery
  • khaki — a sturdy twilled cloth of a yellowish brown color used especially for military uniforms
  • knit, knitted fabric — a fabric made by knitting
  • lace — a delicate decorative fabric woven in an open web of symmetrical patterns
  • lame — a fabric interwoven with threads of metal
  • leatherette, imitation leather — fabric made to look like leather
  • linen — a fabric woven with fibers from the flax plant
  • linsey-woolsey — a rough fabric of linen warp and wool or cotton woof
  • lint — cotton or linen fabric with the nap raised on one side; used to dress wounds
  • lisle — a fabric woven with lisle thread
  • mackinaw — a heavy woolen cloth heavily napped and felted, often with a plaid design
  • mackintosh, macintosh — a lightweight waterproof (usually rubberized) fabric
  • madras — a light patterned cotton cloth
  • marseille — strong cotton fabric with a raised pattern; used for bedspreads
  • mohair — fabric made with yarn made from the silky hair of the Angora goat
  • moire, watered-silk — silk fabric with a wavy surface pattern
  • moleskin — a durable cotton fabric with a velvety nap
  • monk's cloth — a heavy cloth in basket weave
  • moquette — a thick velvety synthetic fabric used for carpets and soft upholstery
  • moreen — a heavy fabric of wool (or wool and cotton) used especially in upholstery
  • motley — a multicolored woolen fabric woven of mixed threads in 14th to 17th century England
  • mousseline de sole — a gauze-like fabric of silk or rayon
  • muslin — plain-woven cotton fabric
  • nankeen — a durable fabric formerly loomed by hand in China from natural cotton having a yellowish color
  • net, mesh — an open fabric woven together at regular intervals
  • ninon — a fine strong sheer silky fabric made of silk or rayon or nylon
  • nylon — a synthetic fabric
  • oilcloth — cloth treated on one side with a drying oil or synthetic resin
  • olive drab — a cloth of an olive-brown color used for military uniforms
  • organza — a fabric made of silk or a silklike fabric that resembles organdy
  • paisley — a soft wool fabric with a colorful swirled pattern of curved shapes
  • panting, trousering — any fabric used to make trousers
  • pepper-and-salt — a fabric woven with flecks of light and dark
  • percale — a fine closely woven cotton fabric
  • permanent press, permanent-press fabric, durable press, durable-press fabric — a fabric that has been chemically processed to resist wrinkles and hold its shape
  • pilot cloth — a thick blue cloth used to make overcoats and coats for sailors etc
  • pique — tightly woven fabric with raised cords
  • plush — a fabric with a nap that is longer and softer than velvet
  • polyester — any of a large class of synthetic fabrics
  • pongee — a soft thin cloth woven from raw silk (or an imitation)
  • poplin — a ribbed fabric used in clothing and upholstery
  • print — a fabric with a dyed pattern pressed onto it (usually by engraved rollers)
  • quilting — a material used for making a quilt, or a quilted fabric
  • rayon — a synthetic silklike fabric
  • rep, repp — a fabric with prominent rounded crosswise ribs
  • sackcloth — a coarse cloth resembling sacking
  • sacking, bagging — coarse fabric used for bags or sacks
  • sailcloth — a strong fabric (such as cotton canvas) used for making sails and tents
  • samite — a heavy silk fabric (often woven with silver or gold threads); used to make clothing in the Middle Ages
  • sateen — a cotton fabric with a satiny finish
  • satin — a smooth fabric of silk or rayon; has a glossy face and a dull back
  • screening — fabric of metal or plastic mesh
  • scrim — a firm open-weave fabric used for a curtain in the theater
  • seersucker — a light puckered fabric (usually striped)
  • serge — a twilled woolen fabric
  • shag — a fabric with long coarse nap
  • shantung — a heavy silk fabric with a rough surface (or a cotton imitation)
  • sharkskin — a smooth crisp fabric
  • sheeting — fabric from which bed sheets are made
  • shirting — any of various fabrics used to make men's shirts
  • shirttail — fabric forming the tail of a shirt
  • silesia — a sturdy twill-weave cotton fabric; used for pockets and linings
  • silk — a fabric made from the fine threads produced by certain insect larvae
  • spandex — an elastic synthetic fabric
  • sponge cloth — any soft porous fabric (especially in a loose honeycomb weave)
  • stammel — a coarse woolen cloth formerly used for undergarments and usually dyed bright red
  • suede cloth, suede — a fabric made to resemble suede leather
  • suiting — a fabric used for suits
  • swan's down — soft woolen fabric used especially for baby clothes
  • taffeta — a crisp smooth lustrous fabric
  • tammy — plain-woven (often glazed) fabric of wool or wool and cotton used especially formerly for linings and garments and curtains
  • tapa, tappa — a paperlike cloth made in the South Pacific by pounding tapa bark
  • tapestry, tapis — a heavy textile with a woven design; used for curtains and upholstery
  • tartan, plaid — a cloth having a crisscross design
  • terry, terrycloth — a pile fabric (usually cotton) with uncut loops on both sides; used to make bath towels and bath robes
  • ticking — a strong fabric used for mattress and pillow covers
  • toweling, towelling — any of various fabrics (linen or cotton) used to make towels
  • tweed — thick woolen fabric used for clothing; originated in Scotland
  • twill — a cloth with parallel diagonal lines or ribs
  • upholstery material — the fabric used in upholstering
  • Velcro — (trademark) nylon fabric used as a fastening
  • velours, velour — heavy fabric that resembles velvet
  • velvet — a silky densely piled fabric with a plain back
  • velveteen — a usually cotton fabric with a short pile imitating velvet
  • vicuna — a soft wool fabric made from the fleece of the vicuna
  • Viyella — (trademark) a fabric made from a twilled mixture of cotton and wool
  • voile — a light semitransparent fabric
  • wash-and-wear, wash-and-wear fabric — a fabric treated to be easily washable and to require no ironing
  • waterproof — any fabric impervious to water
  • web — a fabric (especially a fabric in the process of being woven)
  • webbing — a strong fabric woven in strips
  • whipcord — a strong worsted or cotton fabric with a diagonal rib
  • wincey — (British) a plain or twilled fabric of wool and cotton used especially for warm shirts or skirts and pajamas
  • wire cloth — fabric woven of metallic wire
  • wool, woolen, woollen — a fabric made from the hair of sheep
  • worsted — a woolen fabric with a hard textured surface and no nap; woven of worsted yarns
  • pina cloth — a fine cloth made from pineapple fibers

Burn Test

You will not be able to determine which type of animal (protein) or vegetable (cellulostic) fiber you are dealing with by using a burn test. Burn testing is predominantly used to determine whether one is dealing with a synthetic substitute for animal or vegetable fiber, or a silk substitute (rayon is a vegetable fiber). Some persons have been able to detect differences through long experience (for example, telling the difference between silk and other animal fibers). Blends also will be difficult to determine, although it is possible to determine that you have a blend, and whether it is mostly synthetic or natural, by noting all the behaviours of the swatch in response to burning. Practice will increase your skill. Warp and weft fibres are tested seperately because they are often different in blended fabrics.

Prewash your fabric (at least your test swatch) before you test it. Finishes can confuse your results. Don't test while your nose is stuffed up. You won't be able to get a clear idea of fiber type.

Burn Test full article

If it doesn't catch fire at all it is probably glass, aramid or novoloid (these last two are industrial flame proof fabrics). Subtypes of fibres, synthetic or natural usually behave like the primary fiber (various types of acetates will behave like acetate, all types of rayon behave like rayon). I didn't list some types of fibre which you are unlikely to encounter in fabric, like vinyon (used for fishing nets) and saran (mostly used for industrial stuff and doll hair).


When fabric stores reach the end of bolts, they often have small cuts left. They sell these as "remnants", usually at a discount. Remnants are a good way to get small amounts of fabric for less money, though the selection is based on the usage of full fabric bolts and is therefore harder to find specific fabrics at any given time. They are usually found in a bin in the back of brick and mortar stores labeled for sale, and are often under a lard in length. Some online retailers sell remnants as well, such as House Fabric and Fabric-Store.com.


Fabric can be purchased locally at chain fabrics/crafting stores like JoAnn and Hancock, as well as independent fabric specialty shops. Additionally, there are online fabric sites that will often ship samples swatches to you for free or cheaply. Below is a non-comprehensive list of online fabric suppliers, some of which have additional brick and mortar stores.