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Textile Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Alpaca

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.

Angora

The hair of the angora rabbit. Angora yarn is extremely soft and in most cases contains a proportion of other fibre to facilitate easier spinning. The soft lustrous hair from the angora goat is referred to as mohair. See mohair.

Armholes

The shape and size of the armholes can have a significant effect of the fit and appearance of a tailored garment. A small, high armhole will allow the wearer more movement. A looser, armhole may be more comfortable to wear, but the jacket may rise up on the shoulders when the wearer is seated, or moving.

Baste

A garment roughly assembled for first fitting.

Basting

Tacking with long stitches to hold garment parts together.

Bespoke

In tailoring, a suit made entirely to the customer's specifications. A bespoke suit is cut by an individual and made by highly skilled craftsmen. The pattern is made specifically for the customer. The finished suit will often take 50 hours or more of hand work and require a series of fittings.

Bast Fibres

Fibres obtained from the stems or stalks of plants such as flax, hemp, or jute. Linen is a Bast Fibre.

Barathea

Fabric made with a hopsack twill weave with a pebble like texture. Traditionally used for formalwear, Dinner Jackets and Blazers.

Bedford Cord

Fabric with a distinct vertical rib, similar to Corduroy. Named after the Duke of Bedford who chose it for his troops uniforms in the 15th Century. Known in France as Côte de cheval and in South America, Diable fuerte.

Blending

A process of combining two or more types of fibre in one yarn to achieve a blend or mixture.

Bobbin

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.

Bolt

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

Bundle 

Fabric components for a jacket or trousers, bundled together for making-up. Usually tied with the selvedge of the cloth and labelled with the clients name.

Buttonhole

Traditionally, men's clothing buttonholes are on the left side, and women's are on the right. In bespoke tailoring, stitching buttonholes is a specialist job, usually completed by a female seamstress.

Burling

A burl is a small knot or lump in a thread or fabric. Burling is the removal of loose threads, knots & burls from fabrics, before finishing without damaging them, by means of a burling iron or tweezers.

Canvas

In tailoring the canvas is a stiff, strong woven fabric traditionally made from horsehair. It sits between the lining and the cloth and provides shape and strength in a jacket or coat.

Full-canvas

Describes a coat or jacket where the canvas is stitched inside the entire front of the jacket from the shoulders to the bottom hem.  Giving the garment its shape and strength.

Half-Canvassed

Describes a garment that has a fused interlining in the body of the coat, rather than a stitched canvas. In this case the lapels are still canvas stitched to give shape and strength. Garments which have no stitched canvas are called ‘fused’. Their strength and structure comes from a fused synthetic interlining.

Camel Hair

A luxury textile fibre which comes from the two-hump Bactrian camel. The main hair is coarse and strong but the under wool, is soft and luxurious. Camel Hair fabric is often used to make Coats.

Carding

A process of opening, disentangling, cleaning, separating and making parallel fibres, on a machine called a card, to produce a thin web of fibres which are spun into yarn. Fibres which produce carded yarn have not been combed. Combing is the additional process by which a superior quality smooth Worsted yarn is produced.

Cashmere

The fine, soft hair, which is combed from the underbelly Asiatic or Kashmir goat.

Cavalry Twill

A firm, compact warp faced fabric with a steep double twill pattern.

Cheviot

A Scottish mountain sheep which produces both coarse and fine qualities of wool, used in the manufacture of tweed and blankets. 

Coat

In Traditional Bespoke Tailoring, any structured suit jacket or overcoat will be referred to as a coat, and made by a Coat Maker. An old tailors phrase is ‘only potatoes have jackets’.

Corduroy

Hard wearing cotton with a distinctive velvet-like wales, ribs or cords running the length of the fabric. Originally developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in France where it was used extensively for servants' clothes in the royal households, it became known as Cord du Roi.

Cotton

A soft, cool vegetable fibre which grows around the seed head of the Cotton Plant, part of the mallow family as are hibiscus and okra. The English word comes from the Arabic ‘qutn’ or ‘qutun’.

Count

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. 

Cutter 

Contrary to the sound of it, in tailoring, a cutter is the person who measures and fits the customer. From there, he or she makes a pattern from the measurements and observations of the customer's figure and posture.

Crêpe

A general classification for fabrics with a crinkled, grained or textured surface. The effects can be achieved,with weave constructions, embossing or chemical treatments.

Dogtooth

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. Also known as Houndstooth or Puppytooth or, in French ‘pied de coq’ Roosters Foot!

Dolly

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

Drape

The way a fabric hangs in soft, gentle folds. i.e. ‘ It has good drape’ or ‘it drapes well’.

Fancy

In Textiles, a term for a particularly decorative yarn or design. In most HFW collections we will have a selection of ‘classic designs’ and also some ‘fancies’.

Flannel

A woollen or Worsted fabric which is brushed to give a soft almost felted look.

Fleece

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.

Gabardine

A tightly woven warp faced cloth with fine steep twill visible on the face and smooth back, created by having a greater number of threads in the warp, than in the weft. Hardwearing and often water repellent, the fabric was made famous by Burberry who made a rubberised version for the Polar Explorers of the early 1900’s.

Glen checks

Sometimes referred to as Scottish Estate Tweeds or District Checks. These are distinctive woollen tweeds, with bold, sometimes colourful, check designs. Originally designed as the livery for Scottish landowners they were used to identify the people who lived and worked on their estates. Modified versions of glen checks were adopted by some individual regiments in the British army, such as that adopted by the Prince of Wales and still known by his name today.

Greasy Wool

Unprocessed sheep's wool that contains natural grease and lanoline. The wool is usually scoured to remove the grease before being prepared for dyeing or spinning.

Greige

Un-dyed, unprinted, unbleached and unfinished 'grey' cloth, straight from the loom.

Grosgrain

A silk fabric with pronounced ribs across a heavy cloth.  From the French ‘gros’ meaning large and ‘grain’ meaning cord. Silk Grosgrain is traditionally used for the collar of a Dinner Jacket.

Harris Tweed

Heavy Tweed fabric woven in the Outer Hebrides islands of Lewis and Harris, off the western coast of Scotland. The cloth must conform to rigid requirements in order to pass the inspection of the Harris Tweed Authority which authenticates each piece with the woven Orb labels that accompany each cut length.

  • It must be made from Pure New Virgin Wool.
  • It must be hand woven in the weaver’s home.
  • It must be finished in theOuter Hebrides. 

Handle

The term used to describe the feel of a fabric e.g.  ‘a soft, warm handle’ or ‘a cool, crisp handle’.

Herringbone

A common V-shaped twill weave design.

Houndstooth

See Dogtooth.

Interlining

Material positioned between lining and outer fabric to provide bulk or warmth.

Jacquard

A device for weaving elaborate designs, invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the early 1800’s. The term Jacquard is often used to describe a woven fabric with a particularly detailed decorative design.

Jenny

The Spinning Jenny was the first mechanised spinning process, developed by James Hargreaves in 1764. A single Jenny imitated the actions of about ten spinners each using a single spinning wheel.

Lapel

Peak, Notch, Shawl, Horseshoe and Storm Collar – The various styles of Lapel or Collar offered in traditional Bespoke Tailoring.

Linen

Maybe the oldest known yarn, made from the cool, lustrous fibres of the Flax plant.

Lining

An inner layer of fabric, fur, or other material that provides a neat finish; conceals seam allowances, interfacing, and construction details; and allows a garment to slip on and off easily. H&W Linings also add a ‘splash’ of colour to the inside of a garment.

Loom

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. The first mechanised Power Loom was invented by Edmund Cartwright in 1790.

Made-to-measure

A garment made to a customer's individual requirements to some extent, but not necessarily by hand.

Merino

Originating in Spain over 2000 years ago the Merino Sheep is widely bread across the world for its fine, soft, luxurious fleece. Most of the world’s Merino sheep are now bread in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Mohair

Long, white, lustrous hair from the Angora goat. A native of Asia Minor the name comes from the province of Angora in Turkey.

Moleskin

As the name suggests, a fabric woven and finished to simulate the short, soft, fine fur of the small tunnelling rodent.  It is a cotton fabric woven with a satin weave construction with closely woven floats on the face of the fabric.  The floats are cut and the fabric is steamed, to open the fibres; producing a dense nap with the look of heavy suede.  Moleskin is a hard wearing fabric particularly popular for trousers and working cloths.

Mungo

Cloth made from regenerated wool fibre...recycled wool.

Nap

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, cut to a uniform length and then brushed with wires or teasel burrs.  Not to be confused with pile.  See pile.

Nylon

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

Padding

Tailoring term referring to stitches which give a fixed shape to the garment. Often seen on the chest pieces or collars.

Pattern 

A paper template used for cutting garments. In bespoke tailoring each customer will have their own Pattern made to their exact measurements and specifications.

Perch

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

Pick

A weft thread in a fabric. Sometimes referred to as a shot.

Piece

In weaving a Piece is a standard length of cloth produced on a loom. HFW’s standard pieces are 60-70m long. When each Piece comes into the warehouse it is given a ‘piece number’ which refers to a particular batch.

Piece Pattern

A small swatch of fabric from a specific Piece. If a customer wants a matching waistcoat the tailor will ask to see a ‘piece pattern’ of the current stock, to make sure the new stock matches the old garment.

Piece-dyeing

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

Pig

An old tailors term for an unclaimed garment.

Pile

The extra yarn or fibre which projects from the main structure and surface of the fabric. Pile can be cut, as in velvet, or uncut like terry towelling. The word is derived from the latin Pilus meaning hair.

Plaid

American term for a woven check design. Originally, the name of the long rectangular piece of cloth which formed the main clothing of ancient Scottish highlanders.

Pleats

Trousers may have one, two, three, or no pleats, at the front, just below the waistband. Pleats which open towards the hips are called reverse pleats. Those which open towards the fly known as forward pleats.

Ply

When two or more threads or yarns are plied or twisted together. i.e Hardy Minnis Fresco comes in a 3ply quality.

Polyester

A strong, thermoplastic, man-made fibre produced from petrochemicals. Used in filament form, by itself or blended in staple form with other fibres such as wool.

Sateen

A Weft faced weave i.e. the horizontal ‘weft’ yarns are prominent on the face of the cloth, giving a smooth appearance without any obvious twill pattern.

Satin 

A warp faced weave which is often associated with silk. The vertical, ‘warp’ yarns are prominent on the face of the cloth giving a smooth, lustrous, unbroken surface texture. 

Selvedge

The term for the self-finished edges of fabric. Often the name of the brand or the type of cloth will be woven into the selvedge as a sign of authenticity. In tailoring the Selvedge is usually removed from the fabric when the pattern is cut, and if often used to tie up the ‘bundle’. See Bundle.

Sharkskin

Also known as Pick & Pick, a 2x2 twill created using alternate dark and light yarns in the weft. The design gives a subtle textured appearance, likened to the skin of a shark.

Sheep 

Any animal of the family Genus Ovis. Reared for hundreds of thousands of years for meat and skin and wool. 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

Tailor

tailor is a person who makes, repairs, or alters clothing professionally, especially suits and men's clothing. A Master Tailor is a tailor who has completed an apprenticeship and runs his own workroom.

Tartan 

A pattern consisting of horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Traditionally worn in the form of a Kilt, by the people of Scotland, Clan Tartans are now accredited by The Scottish Tartan Society and recorded in the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans. The Dress Act of 1746 attempted to bring the warrior clans under government control by banning the tartan and other aspects of Gaelic culture. When the law was repealed in 1782, it was no longer ordinary Highland dress, but was adopted instead as the symbolic national dress of Scotland.

Teasel

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

Tenter

Also known as a Stenter, one of a series of finishing processes where the fabric is pulled to a set width and dried, under tension to prevent shrinkage. The selvedges are attached to the Tenter by needles, hooks or clips.  The phrase "on tenterhooks" came to mean being in a state of tension, uneasiness, anxiety, or suspense.

Toile

Toile is the British term for a test garment, usually for womenswear, made from a cheap, coarse, white cloth such as cotton or linen. In French the word refers to the fabric itself, and often to the Toile de Jouy style of conversational print, traditionally blue, on a white ground.

Trimmings

The accessories, other than cloth, required to make a garment. For tailors these will include canvas, lining & buttons.

Twill

The most common type of basic weave construction used in Worsted Suiting cloths, characterised by a diagonal weave pattern.

Tweed

A term given to a long list of medium or heavy weight, rough woollen fabrics, synonymous with outdoor and country wear. The origin of the word tweed is debatable; legend has it that the word came about by the slip of a London cloth merchant's pen in about 1840, when referring to a 'tweel cloth' from the Borders of Scotland. However, much of the industry developed and remained for many years along the banks of the River Tweed, in the Scotland.

Twist

The amount of twist in a yarn plays an important part in determining its character, in particular its hardness or softness, strength and crease resistance. Hardy Minnis’ Fresco is made with a very ‘high twist;’ yarn, giving the cloth has a crisp handle, and great crease resistance.

Velvet

A soft lustrous pile fabric often made from silk. Woven with an extra yarn or fibre which projects from the main structure and surface of the fabric. In traditional tailoring velvet might be used for a decorative collar on a dinner jacket or top coat.

Venetian

A warp faced weave with a very fine steep 5x1 twill with a smooth, slightly lustrous appearance.

Vent 

The vent refers to the slit at the rear of a jacket. Originally created to wear when horse riding, it's become a mainstay in modern tailoring with options for a single or double vent. The single vent is often considered to be in keeping with an Italian tailoring style, while the double is a traditional British look.

Warp

The yarns which run the length of the fabric on the loom and are interlaced with weft yarns to form the fabric.

Weave

The term weave is normally used to describe the structure of a woven fabric or the process of weaving. Woven fabrics are constructed with two sets of interlacing warp and weft yarns.

Weft

The threads which are passed horizontally across and through the warp by to form a woven fabric.

Whipcord

A prominent twill weave where the warp yarns form a ridge and the weft yarns form a furrow.

Wool

Wool is a broad term for a yarn or fabric which is made from the fleece of an animal, usually a sheep. The majority of our wool comes from the Merino sheep, originally from Spain, but now widely bread across the world and revered for its fine, soft, luxurious fleece.

Worsted 

A cloth woven from fine yarn which has been spun from combed wool, removing the short fibres and producing a smooth, lightweight and often lustrous fabric.

Yarn

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.

References

The Modern Outfitter, Tailor & Clothier, A glossary of Technical & Trade Terms, complied by Arnold Hard. 1949.

The Savile Row Bespoke Association. 

And with Special Thanks to Mr Martin Hardingham of the Worshipful Company of Weavers, who’s full Textile Glossary can be seen at http://www.weavers.org.uk/glossary

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