Fabric Care Dictionary

Fabric Care Dictionary

Hallak’s fabric care dictionary is your quick, basic textile resource.  Before caring for your wardrobe or home furnishings, it is helpful to understand a fabric and its properties.  However, we do not expect you to be a care expert. After all, this is why we are here.

When you have questions, stop in and speak with one of Hallak customer service experts.  If it is easier, call (212) 832-0750.  For dry cleaning and wash-and-fold, schedule your pick-up. However, home furnishing care are offered both on-site and off-site (including home disinfecting).


Acetate is one of the first manufactured fibers.  With a crisp feel and lustrous appearance of silk, this provides an excellent appearance when draped. However, it is not a strong fiber.  Its resistance to abrasion is poor.  Also, it resists shrinkage, moths and mildew.  Acetate also does not absorb moisture readily. The  yarns are pliable and supple; they always spring back to their original shape. Equally important, this fabric dries fast.  When heated, the fiber becomes more pliable.  Acetone and alcohol dissolves the fibers. If interested in dying, special dyes are required.


Acrylic is a generic name for synthetic fibers derived from 85% polyacrylonitrile. Often, this is used for base layers or insulating fabrics. Properties include a soft, wooly hand, wash-and-wear performance, colorfastness, and wrinkle resistance. You will often find acrylic in socks and also in blends with cotton (e.g. fleece apparel).


True alpaca is hair from the Alpaca animal – a member of the llama family of the South American Andes Mountains.  Alpaca hair is known to be silk-like, durable, lightweight and warm; it has considerable lust and resembles mohair.  If guard hairs are used, it is inclined to be stiff.  An alpaca’s hair can be white, black, fawn or gray. Although less coarse than a llama’s hair, the hair is higher in tensile strength.  You can find alpaca commonly in men’s and women’s suits, coats, sportswear, linings and sweaters.

Angora Goat

The clipped fiber of the living animal is called mohair. It has various weaves and knits. Scoured mohair appears smooth and white, which varies in fineness. Highly resilient, very strong and has high luster.  Value is determined by luster and not softness. Often, you can find this ‘fabric’ in carpet, upholstery, curtains and automobile cloth.

Angora Rabbit

The hair from the angora rabbit has various weaves and knits.  It is known for being lightweight, extremely warm and fluffy.  Angora has a tendency to shed and/or mat with time. In addition, the hair is often blended with wool. You can often find this type of hair in knitwear such as gloves, scarves and sweaters.



Related to the Scottish Argyle clan, this bias plaid is comprised of a diamond-shaped knit design. Typically, it is made of three colors, but you can also find in two-color versions.  Originally, argyle was hand-knitted.  Now, it is machine-made throughout the world using a method called intarsia.  Like in the past, argyle patterned tartan socks are work with kilts.

Ballistics Cloth

You may have already heard the term ‘ballistics’ before.  Typically, we hear about this fabric for its use in bulletproof vests, etc.  Ballistics cloth is a thick, nylon weave fabric.  You can find it being used as reinforcement in clothing, bags and luggage.


Originating in Java, this often colorful fabric is often found in dresses and household décor. To create these beautiful patterns, wax is decoratively applied to a fabric. Then, the fabric is submerged in dye.  Once dried, the wax is removed. Depending on the design, this process is then repeated various times with new was applications.


Although typically wool, you can also find boucle in rayon, silk, linen or blends. Most commonly, the fabric is seen as looped yarn; this produces a woven or knotted fabric with a rough looking appearance.  You can find boucle in a variety of weights. Please keep in mind that it often ravels easily. You will find boucle in coats, suits, dresses and sportswear.


Found as Silk, rayon, cotton, and all others. The weave is jacquard and dobby. It creates a rich, heavy, elaborate design effect. Sometimes with colored or metallic threads making the design usually against a satin weave background. This makes the figures stand out. the figures in brocade are rather loose, while in damask the figure threads are actually bound into the material. The pattern may be satin on a twill ground or twill on a satin ground. Often reversible. The motifs may be of flowers, foliage, scrollwork, pastoral scenes, or other designs. The price range is wide. Generally reputed to have been developed from the Latin name “brocade” which means to figure. It is used in all types of evening wear, church vestments, interior furnishings, and state robes.


You may also heard this be called ‘jute’.  It is a hearty textile used in interior textiles.  Natural burlap has a yellow, brown or gray color with a silky luster.  Consisting of fiber bundles, jute can be difficult to completely bleach.  Often, the reaction to chemicals is similar to cotton and flax. With a good resistance to microorganisms and insects, dry burlap can last a very long time.  Bags and totes rely on burlap because of its sturdy nature.  And most commonly, you may find this as a backing of carpets and linoleum.

Camel Hair

As you may have guessed, this is a camel’s hair.  Sometimes, it is blended with wool or an imitation.  Weaves are normally plain or twill.  The hair is light weight, lustrous and soft. Ranging from light tan to a brownish-black color, this ‘fabric’ is typically left in its natural state.  With quite a long nap, camel hair is quite warm.  The better the grade, the more expensive.  When blended with wool, camel hair is less expensive and increases its lifetime.   Best usages are in coats, women’s suiting, sport coats, sweaters, blankets and luxurious area rugs.  Additionally, you may camel hair in fine overcoating, top coating, hosiery and transmission belts.


A plain weave made from linen or cotton.  This textile is mostly a rugged, heavy material.  While you may often find canvas manufactured in its gray hue, it can be dyed for various uses.  Certain types are used in tents, sails, mail bags, sacks, covers, etc. Finer canvas is used for embroidery and paintings.


From the Kashmir goat, this hair fiber comes from Kashmir India, Tibet, Iran, Iraq, China, Persia, Turkestan and Outer Mongolia. When mixed with wool or synthetics, this lowers the price and extends its lifetime.  You can find it as different weaves. However, it is most commonly found as a twill or knot.  Similar to wool, cashmere has a very soft, silky finish. Due to its soft and downy finish, cashmere requires delicate care.  In its natural state, you may find this fabric in white, black, brown or gray.  However, you have probably seen it died in just about every shade.  Additionally, it is also available in different weights.  Best usage in sweaters, dresses and tops.


This French lightweight silk is recognized by its supreme luster and drapability.  Today, you may find it made from rayon, cotton and other manufactured fibers.  With a sheen on one side, the back is dull. Best usage is pajamas, dresses and draped gowns.  Available in solids and prints.

Chenille Fabric

Made from cotton and any of the main textile fibers. “Chenille” is French for caterpillar. When you look at this textile, you can understand why because of  its hair appearance.  Best usage are (warm and cozy) sweaters and blankets.


Silk, rayon, cotton or synthetics with a plain weave. A light sheer or transparent fabric made with very fine, tightly twisted fibers.  Despite looking flimsy, this textile is very strong.  When sewing, chiffon can be difficult to handle.  Best suited for shirring, draping, gathering and tucking.

China Silk

Originally hand woven in China from the Bonabyx mori. Extremely lightweight, very soft and strong.  Irregularities are caused by the extreme lightness and softness characteristics. Best usage would be linings and blouses.

Chinchilla Cloth

Originated in Chinchilla, Spain, and made from cotton, wool and synthetics.  You can find it with a sateen or twill eave. Chinchilla cloth is NOT chinchilla fur.  The “chinchilla” machine rubs the fabric causing surface nubs and balls.  Often, cotton warp is used because only one side will be affected.  You can find this cozy, warm cloth in both medium and heavy weights.  Typically, used in baby blankets and bunting bags.


Originated from China and made from cotton with a twill weave. (Think ‘Dockers’.)  Fabric is combined of two-ply warp that has a sheen.  Due to its minimal care, armies adopted chino fabric. Often, you can find it in army uniforms, summer suits, dresses and sportswear.


Made from cotton, rayon, and other textile fibers.  In addition, this fabric has an extra filling yarn; it is in the velvet family.  You can find corduroy with narrow, medium and wide Wales.  Typically, it is washable and wears well.  With a  very soft luster, it is popular in children’s clothing, dresses, pants, jackets, skirts, bedspreads, upholstery and more.


Where do we begin? Cotton is a natural, vegetable fiber that is of great economic importance.  Cotton is a strong and absorbent fabric that takes well to laundering. For many reasons, it has a widespread appeal. Cotton is strong, absorbent and washes well.  It can also be dyed, which further enhances its popularity.

As you may have guessed, cotton is one of the world’s most popular textile fibers.  In nature, an immature flower bud blooms and develops into an oval fruit. Once matured, it splits open and reveals a mass of long, white hairs.  Fun fact:  This is called lint!  There are four main different kinds: American Upland, Egyptian, Sea Island and Asiatic.  Each different type varies in color and texture. Therefore, the cotton fabric possesses those varying characteristics.


Made from silk, manmade synthetics, woolen and worsted cotton.  Often gauze-like, crepe is a fine with a crinkled, puckered  surface or soft mossy finish.  You may find it in different weights and sheerness.  When fine, it drapes well and provides a slimming effect.  Depending on the weight, crepe can be found in dresses, suiting and coats.


Originally made from horsehair, it is now made of cotton or synthetic fibers.  Woven fiber provides high rigidity.  It is smooth, stiff and very strong.  Today, crinoline can be found in almost every color imaginable.  Best usage would be dress lining or hat interlining.


Typically, it is made from linen, silk, rayon, cotton, wool and synthetics.  For the pattern, a Jacquard loom is used.  At times, patterns can be extremely ornate.  If you have ever felt damask, you would agree that this textile can be stiff, durable and reversible.  The firmer the texture, the better quality.  Damask launders well and  retains its high luster. When it comes to cost, this fabric can range quite a bit.


Everyone is familiar with this denim! This cotton with a twill weave originally came in dark blue (indigo) , brown or dark gray.  In the beginning of its usage, it was used mostly in work clothes. Today, you can find denim in any color, weight or style.  Where you do find denim? In everything! Casual clothing, couture, slipcovers, uniforms, upholstery and more.


Down comes from a goose or duck’s soft under-feathers. When dry, they are naturally warm, soft and lightweight.  If wet, the feathers are almost considered ‘useless’.  Typically, down is used as the insulation of sleeping bags.  In addition to be consider the best in insulator’s weight, it is also the most compressible.


Found in school projects, crafts and home décor.  You may already be familiar with felt. It is made from (reprocessed, reused) wool, scrap fiber and possibly other fibers (i.e. cotton, rayon).  This is a very compact fabric varying in weight.  In addition, felt does not require any hemming or finishing.  With that said, you can guess that it is ideal for industrial uses such as piano hammers,  pennants and the printing industry.


Made of wool, specialty hair fibers or cotton. The weave can be plain, twill, pile or knitted.  It has a deep, soft nap or pile; this is obtained by heavy napping with wire brushes or pile weave.  This provides air space providing good insulation properties – minus the heaviness.  Over time, the nap can wear down. Higher-quality fabric wears well. Due to the material being bulky, it may be difficult to manipulate.  Mostly, you can find it in coats and other types of outerwear.


Worsted cotton, rayon, or blends with a steep twill. Certain types (e.g. worsted, spun rayon or cotton) are smooth and durable.  Gabardine has a clear, tightly woven finish that is rather lustrous. However, it can be given a dull finish.  You can find this fabric in varying weights.  Typically, gabardine’s pressing is left to the professionals. Find it in suiting, coats, raincoats, uniforms and button-downs.


In a plain weave, gingham is made from cotton and synthetics.  The cloth can be dyed or printed.   Unless pre-shrunk, inexpensive versions may shrink considerably in the wash.  Typically, gingham launders well though.  It has a soft, dull luster that wrinkles. (There are some wrinkle-resistant options popping up.)   Best usage is in dresses. Blouses, trimmings, children’s clothing, aprons, beach wear, curtains, pajamas and bedspreads.


Today, hemp has become more and more popular. For many vegans, hemp is not a ‘new’ concept.  In fact, it has been used in garments (and other products) for a long time.  The fibers are strong, pliable and moth-resistant.  From clothing to interior décor, you can find hemp.


Using a jacquard head (on a jacquard loom), it is a woven design.  They can be simple to multi-colored elaborate.. The loom operates a bit like the roller on a player piano. Instead of notes, it provides instructions to the machine on how to create the design.


Made from wool, worsted, silk, cotton, rayon or synthetics.  While there are several ways to knit, all jersey is known for is elastic and excellent draping qualities.  Plain, fancy designs or tweed, jersey can take on the look of a woven fabric.  It both wears and washes well. Best usage is dress-making, sportswear, suiting, coats, gloves, sweaters and hats.


From the Kashmir goat, a hair fiber found in Kashmir India, Tibet, Iran, Iraq, China, Persia, Turkestan, and Outer Mongolia. While mostly found in plain or twill, you can find it in all weaves -and knits.  Often, Kashmir is mixed with wool or synthetics.  This cut costs and extends its lifetime. Loved for its very soft, silky finish, it is lightweight and delicate.  The natural fiber is white, black, brown or gray but can be dyed a variety of shades. It also comes in different weights.


If you are already familiar with laminating, then you understand the laminate fabric.  It is made by binding one fabric to another by adhesive or heat.  Often, this is used to describe waterproof or breathable fabrics. Fun fact: Laminated fabrics are more durable than coated fabrics.


Real leather is from the skin of an animal that has been tanned or otherwise ‘dressed’.  Full Top Grain indicates the very best hides available.  If a hide does not require sanding or buffing, it is considered ‘full top grain’.  Whether the highest classification or not, Hallak’s leather experts provide expert care.


Cloth woven from flax.  Linen is ideal for those warm weather months.  Best usage would be suiting, tops, bottoms, dresses, drapery, pillow cushion covers and more.  Looks great both ‘natural’, dyed or printed.


Elastic, polyurethane fiber or fabric.   If you played any sports or simply love form-fitting clothing, you are very familiar with lycra.  Typically, you can find it blended with cotton and other fabrics.


A very fine nylon or polyester filaments.  If you are familiar with micro-fiber, then you know how light, soft and breathable it is. Many towels and eyeglass cloths are made from this multi-purpose fabric.

Microfleece Fabric

Microfleece is a velvety soft, loose-fitting fabric that is super comfortable.  Pairs best with a lightweight or midweight layer underneath.  Typically, microfleece is considered a base layer. 


From the angora goat, this fabric is smooth, glossy and wiry. The long, wavy hair is sometimes imitated by a wool or blend.  However, mohair is 2 ½ times as strong as wool.  At times, it can have a cotton warp or mohair filling (brillantine).  Similar to alpaca, you can find mohair in linings, pile fabrics, suiting, upholstery, dress materials, felt hats and sweaters.


Silk, rayon, or cotton with a weave that is plain or in a crosswise rib.  Typically, moire has a watermarked finish that is fairly stiff with body. By pressing the fabric between engraved cylinders, the design is imprinted; it causes the crushed and uncrushed parts to reflect light.  Unfortunately, the pattern is not permanent except on acetate rayon. Best usage would be eveningwear, coats, drapery and bedspreads.


A smooth, delicately woven cotton fabric.  Muslin is used for dresses, shirts, sheeting and curtains. If you are a fan of our wedding gown preservations, you may already be familiar with muslin.  All museum-archival preservation boxes are placed in a muslin cover to further protect the garment.


A very strong and resistant fiber.  It is elastic, easy-to-wash and quite lustrous.  From being non-absorbent, it can return to its original shape easily.  While nylon can be resistant to some dyes, it is also resistant to moths and other insects.  You can find it used in women’s hosiery, knitted or woven lingerie, socks, sweaters, rugs, carpets, tents, sleeping bags and duffles. Additionally, nylon is also found in racquet strings, fishing lines, sails, tires, cords, machine belting, filter netting, fish nets, and ropes.


Silk or rayon with a plain weave.  This thin, stiff, transparent silk or synthetic fabric is ideal for dresses.  With a very wiry feel, you will often find it is used in “After 5” dresses, trimming, neckwear, millinery and linings (for other sheer fabrics).  Organza crushes and musses fairly easily.  Fortunately, it can also be easily pressed.


Very common fabric that is extremely resilient – smooth, crisp and particularly springy. Additional qualities: shape determined by heat, insensitive to moisture, lightweight and strong.   This textile is resistant to creasing, shrinkage, stretching, mildew and abrasion.  Polyester is readily washable.


A crosswise rib in cotton, wool, and other textile fibers.  It is mercerized and has quite a high luster.  Textile may be bleached, dyed or printed. Often, heavy poplin with a water-repellent finish is ideal for outdoor use. Some are also mildew-proof and fire-retardant. Alternatively, poplin can also be given a suede finish. It is used in sportswear of all kinds: shirts, boys’ suits, uniforms, draperies, blouses, and dresses.


You can often find rayon in clothing, draperies, upholstery, carpets, tablecloths, bedspreads and more.   (In addition, rayon can also be found in automobile tires, conveyor belts and hoses.)  All of these items are made from viscose; this a cellulose fiber that is highly absorbent.  While rayon has a tendency to shrink, it does not melt in high temperatures.  Rayon is favored for its dye-ability, fairly soft and drapes well.


Sateen is commonly found in dresses, sportswear, blouses, robes, pajamas, linings, draperies, bedspreads and slipcovers.  Typically, sateen is cotton. However, some is made in rayon with a five-harness or filling-face weave.  The fabric has a glossy and lustrous surface.  Carded or combed yarns are used.  Higher quality textiles are mercerized to provide a higher sheen.  Items made in sateen can be bleached, dye or printed on.


Satin can be made of silk or various man-made fibers.  One side is glossy, the other side is a twill weave with the weft-threads almost hidden. Typically, the fabric has a lustrous surface and a dull back. The luster is produced by running the textile through hot cylinders.  You can find satin in many colors, weights, varieties, qualities and degrees of stiffness.  While we can start with satin wedding gowns, we can also include other formal dresses, capes, jackets, garment lining, millinery, drapes, covers and pillow trimmings.


Typically, this fabric is found as a striped or checked cotton.  Crinkled in its weaving, the fabric has a well-known look.  Durable and easy to service, many spring items are favored in seersucker: dresses,  childrens wear, uniforms, coats, nightwear, curtains, bedspreads and more.  Seersucker can come in cotton, rayon or synthetic with a slack tension or plain weave.  The woven crinkle is produced by alternating slack and tight yarns in the warp, which is permanent.


Soft and with a brilliant sheen, silk is one of the finest textiles.  It is often used in ties, scarves, dresses, shirts, lingerie and more.  Certain species of caterpillars’ cocoons supply this strong and absorbent textile.  Did you know silk is one of the oldest known fabrics?  According to Chinese tradition, it was used as long ago as 27th century BC.


This lightweight and flexible fabric is made of an elastomeric fiber ( a type of polyurethane).  Did you know that spandex can be stretched up to five times its original length?  Spandex resists deterioration from perspiration so you can often find it in atheleisure and sportswear.  This fabric is known for its strength and durability.


This type of leather has a nap finish. You can often find suede used in shoes, boots, shirts, handbags, home furnishings and more.  Before caring for your suede favorites, speak with a specialist – at Hallak.


Synthetics are man-made fibers or material. (Alternatively, organic material are made from plants or animals.) Many garments are made from synthetic textiles. In addition, some fabrics are blended with synthetics.


Supposedly originating in Iran (Persia), ‘taftah’ is a name of this “fine silk fabric”.  Taffeta can be made of silk, rayon or synthetics; the fabric usually has a plain, fine cross rib weave.  You can find taffeta in solid colors, fancy prints, watered designs and more.   Smooth to the touch with a surface sheen.  There are variations in the texture.  Commonly, the fabric has a crispness and stiffness. Often, it is used in formal wear, suits, coats, slips and ribbons.

Terry Cloth

Terry cloth is known for its absorbency.  In fact, the longer the loop, the greater the absorbency.  This cloth is often found as cotton and some linen with a pile weave.  There are also versions of jacquard and dobby combined with pile.  There can loops on both sides or patterned loops on both sides – formed with an extra warp yarn.  The fabric is long-wearing, easy to launder and requires no ironing!  It can be bleached, dyed or printed. You often find terry cloth in towels, beach cover-ups, bathrobes, sportswear and more.  (When the pile is only on one side, it is called “Turkish Toweling”.  For those who enjoy a warm, soft towel, you are already familiar with this version.)


3M’s 35% polyester/65% olefin insulation spun into a low-loft construction. Thinsulate is an efficient insulator in comparison to its thinness. Due to its thin nature, you can most often find in outerwear, footwear, and gloves.


This soft, fine silk net can often be found in veils and dresses.  First machine-made in 1768, the hexagonal, stiff mesh has continued to come in white and various colors.  The stately fabric is ideal for formal wear (e.g. wedding dresses) , ballet costumes and veils.  At times, it can be difficult to launder.  In our restorations, we commonly repair tulle because of its nature to pull or tear.


Tweed can be found as wool, cotton, rayon , silk, linen and synthetic.  The name comes from the Scotch word for “twill”; it originates from the Tweed River banks that separates England and Scotland.  This is the sister cloth of Cheviot and Shetland’s homespun version.  Nowadays you can find tweed in a wide-range of rough surfaced, sturdy patterned fabrics.  However, there are some closely, woven types made with a softer yarn. You find your favorite tweed in plaid, checks, stripes or other


Twill is one of the three fundamental  textile weaves; the other two would be a plain weave and satin.   Its characteristic is a parallel diagonal ribbed pattern.  Pants made in this fabric are perfect for a casual outing.


Athleisure loves velour.  Due to two different lengths of pile, velour has a ‘rough’ look.  The uneven lengths create light and shaded surface areas.  You may find cotton, wool or spun rayon versions.  “Velours” is French for ‘velvet’.


Velvet can be found in either synthetic or natural fibers.  It is a woven, tufted fabric that has a short pile.  If you are familiar with the fabric, you know that it is very soft and warm.  Fall and winter are especially idea for velvet garments.  You can find it often in formal garments, leisure wear, draperies and upholstery.  There are many types in varying weights and quality.  Higher quality velvet may be crush resistant, water resistant and drape well.


In simple terms, velveteen is imitation velvet.  While typically cotton, it can also be made of a cotton blend.  The fabric’s pile is short and closely set. Mercerized with a durable finish, velveteen is strong and durable.  (However, lesser quality versions may not be as sturdy.) Often, it is used in children’s wear, dresses, coats, draperies, lounge wear, and separates.


Viscose fabrics have a silky to matte luster – and  have an elegant flowing drape.  As they absorb perspiration quickly, they are very skin-friendly.  Cellulose, usually derived from tree trunks, is converted into a highly viscous state. Then, spun into a fiber by forcing it through spinneret holes.


This soft, sheer fabric is typically made of 100% cotton or a blend.  In French, ‘voile’ means veil.  Due to its lightweight and sheer nature, you can find it issued in window treatments and other soft home decor. 


Everyone is pretty familiar with wool.  Various animals such as sheep, llamas, camels and goats can ‘supply’ it.  The fabric is very resilient, resists wrinkling and very warm.  Wool is most often found in clothing, blankets and winter wear.



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