Astrakhan fabric is made to look like karakul (astrakhan, Persian) lamb fleece—with heavy, curly pile. The pile may be looped or cut. Any fiber may be used; lustrous wool is common.
Uses: Coats, hats
See also: Lamb-Sheep in the VFG Fur Resource
Characterized by loops on one or both sides, bouclé comes from the French word for “buckled,” “ringed” or “curled.” Some versions of the fabric combine looped sections with plain; others are looped all over. Most commonly wool—with mohair a fine choice for this treatment—bouclé may also be acrylic or other fibers. It may be woven or knitted.
Uses: Coats, suits, sweaters
Bouclette is the diminutive of bouclé (French for “buckled,” “ringed,” or “curled”) and features very small loops over the surface of the fabric. As with bouclé, it is usually made of wool, and its uses are similar.
A jacquard weave fabric related to brocade, brocatelle is thicker and heavier—with its figures in higher relief. Originally made of silk, the fabric may now be made of wool, cotton, silk, manufactured fibers, and combinations. As with brocade, it is not considered reversible.
Uses: Interior decorating, lighter versions occasionally for clothing
Doeskin is a medium-weight wool fabric with a short, soft nap and a tightly woven structure. It is similar to duvetyn, but lighter; usually softer and less densely napped than melton; softer and with a shorter nap than fleece. Despite doeskin’s softness it is hardwearing due to its compact weave.
Rayon doeskin is a twilled fabric with one side napped, and there is also a heavy twilled cotton doeskin with one napped side. All three of these fabrics have in common their soft hand, reminiscent of deer skin.
Uses: Coats, riding habits and trousers for the wool; sportswear and suits for the rayon; sport coats and backing on faux leather fabrics for the cotton
The name duvetyn comes from the French word duvet, meaning down. Wool or wool-blend commonly, the finish is napped, sheared and fulled. This creates a downy nap which covers its weave which is usually right-hand twill. It is softer and more lustrous, though its nap isn’t quite as long as that of fleece.
Cotton duvetyn is usually called suede cloth.
Uses: Coats, uniforms, suits; the heavier blanket cloth for blankets and Hudson’s Bay “point” blanket coats
Fleece is made of wool, mohair (as well as other specialty hairs) and blends. The nap covers the fabric’s construction which is usually right-hand twill or satin weave. With its soft nap all brushed in one direction, woven fleece has a longer, hairier nap than duvetyn.
Uses: Coats, hats
Fur-like fabric is of relatively recent origin—in 1929 using alpaca hair—but fake fur as we know it developed even more recently, in the mid 1950s. It is made in a range of styles to imitate various genuine furs. The pile, or “fur” is usually an acrylic blend, sometimes with genuine fur’s characteristic guardhairs and underhairs achieved by using coarser and finer fibers, the finer of which are shrunk in the finishing process. The backing is often cotton.
Shearling-like and Mongolian lamb-like fabrics can be achieved by heat tumble drying long pile fabrics, causing the fibers to tangle.
Uses: Coats, trims, toys, household rugs and mats
All tweed labeled Harris must have the official orb and cross certification mark, and it can not have that mark unless it is “cloth that has been handwoven by the islanders of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra in their homes, using pure virgin wool that has been dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides” (from the Harris Tweed Authority website).
For centuries the Scottish islanders produced tweeds, but the Harris Tweed certification mark was first stamped on fabric in 1911. Besides finding the Harris tweed mark on the fabric, it can be found on clothing labels, along with a number associated with the fabric’s weaver.
Harris tweed is seen in an earthy range of colors because the home weavers (crofters) produce dyes from natural plant sources. The fabric is always twill weave, usually right-hand twill and sometimes herringbone.
Uses: Suits, coats, slacks, skirts with relatively new lighter weights used for dresses
Made for a millenium, loden was first (and still) made in the Tyrol mountains of Austria. It is a sturdy woven wool fabric that is heavily fulled for weather resistance. First made of coarse wool from mountain sheep, the name is derived from Old High German loda, hair cloth. Traditionally black, red or white, a deep olive green color more recently popular became known as loden green.
The classic lumberman’s jacket fabric, mackinaw gets its name from Fort Mackinac (the pronunciation is mackinaw), where heavy wool blankets were traded by Europeans with Native Americans. Mackinaw is thick, napped, often twilled fabric, and can be single or double cloth. It is usually wool and reclaimed wool, sometimes with cotton. Quite often mackinaw is in an outsize check or plaid. Buffalo check is a term now used to describe such a big-checked pattern on any fabric.
Uses: Blankets, winter-weight jackets and coats
Melton looks much like thick felt with its twill weave or plain weave obscured by fulling and shearing of its nap (although the back of the fabric may show its weave). The dense, thick construction makes it wind and rain resistant and extremely warm. It is almost always dyed a solid color.
The best melton is all wool and almost velvety. Less costly variations can have a cotton warp and woolen weft, and sometimes manufactured fibers are also used. Melton takes its name from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, UK, where it was first woven and used to make jackets for fox hunting.
Uses: Winter coats, uniforms, riding habits
In the family of silky-faced, horizontally ribbed fabrics, ottoman has the largest ribs, larger and rounder than those of faille and bengaline. The plain weave fabric involves thicker and/or grouped weft yarns with more numerous and finer warp yarns that totally cover the weft. Ottoman can be made of silk, wool or manufactured fibers, with the filling (weft) often of cotton.
The name comes from a luxurious silk fabric woven in Turkey beginning during the Ottoman Empire.
Uses: Coats, dresses, suits, upholstery
A woven fabric constructed like velvet but with a longer pile than velvet, plush is made with its pile from wool, mohair, cotton or manufactured fibers, usually on a cotton ground. Its erect pile is also longer (usually at least 1/8”) than velvet.
Uses: The original teddy bear fabric, and still used for toys and upholstery
Hand-woven tapestry is made by running a bobbin back and forth in the area needed to create a design, not across the entire width of the fabric. Machine-made tapestry is jacquard woven to resemble handwoven tapestry. Heavier weft yarns are used creating a horizontal rib. Machine-made tapestry is not considered reversible.
Uses: Wall hangings, curtains, luggage, coats
With origins along the Tweed River bordering England and Scotland, the name tweed now is associated with a long list of fabrics, characteristically woolens, but also wool/manufactured fiber blends. The original tweeds were hairy and rough, now they are usually shaved, flattened and fulled in the finishing process. Still characteristic is the fairly coarse wool from which it is made.
The name tweed is said to have originated in about 1840, when a London cloth merchant erroneously noted a consignment of “tweel” (Scottish name for twill) as tweed. Since the fabric was (and still is) made along the River Tweed, the name fits well.
Uses: Coats, slacks, skirts, suits
Recognizable by its steep (63º) and clear right-hand twill line, whipcord is like a heavier version of gabardine. Originally wool or worsted, it can be made of cotton, manufactured fibers or blends. The back is sometimes slightly napped if wool. It is a sturdy (particularly if wool) medium to heavy weight fabric.
Uses: Coats, suits, riding habits, uniforms, sportswear