With my background in classical archaeology and art history, I have an interest in historical textiles and and sometimes wonder where unusual fabric names like shantung, brocade, and hopsack came from. So, I did a bit of research and put together a list of fabrics and textiles along with brief descriptions of each type and name origin if known. In some cases the fabric names were derived from the geographic origin and in other cases, the fiber type or weave.
Many of the fabrics listed are no longer manufactured today, most likely because weaving techniques and fiber production have evolved so much over time. Many of our fabrics today use synthetic fibers and automated weaving processes.
This list does not include every known type of fabric because the list is quite long. If you are interested in learning more about historical textiles, please read Textiles in America, 1650-1870. My list, while incomplete, is still long, so I am breaking it into separate pages to minimize scrolling issues. Simply click on the link below the table for the next segment, if available.
|Aba||Felted fabric made of camel or goat-hair. The term can also refer to a sleeveless garment worn by Bedouins.|
|Adatis||Fine muslin or cotton cloth imported from India|
|Alacha||Striped cloth woven from cotton or a mix of cotton and silk originally from East India during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Alacha is once again being hand woven in Uzbekistan as part of a cultural revival in the region.|
|Aerophane||A thin, crinkled and semi-transparent fabric, similar to modern gauze.|
|Alamode||A thin, lustrous silk fabric used for scarves and headcoverings during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.|
|Alapeen||Mixed wool and silk fabric used primarily for men's clothing in 18th century England.|
|Algerian||A wool or wool-blend fabric used for making furnishings such as curtains during the late 1800s.|
|Alpaca||Fabric woven from the fleece of alpacas. Alpacas are cousins to llamas and native to Peru. Their fleece comes in natural shades of brown, russet, white, cream and black. Produced as early 1840, alpaca is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, especially with knitters. At one time, I owned several alpacas myself and can assest to how soft and luxurious the fleece is.|
|Amens||Patterned fabric made with a double warp, originally made in Amiens, France. Used during the mid- to late 18th century.|
|American Cloth||Plain weave cotton cloth treated with linseed oil to make it waterproof and used as a furniture covering during the late 19th century.|
|Angora||Fabric made from the wool of angora goats. Also referred to as mohair. The word angora derives from Ankara, Turkey, where the angora goat originated from. Angora rabbits also yield angora wool.|
|Ardasse||A raw silk textile from Persia made into embroidery silk during the 18th century.|
|Atlas||Satin fabric manufactured from silk. Atlas is the word meaning satin in German, Dutch, Russian, Polish and Danish.|
To learn more about fabric and how to bend it to your will, take a look at these books: