Bay. (When referring to plural of full pieces also Bayes, Baize etc) A cheap, plain weave fabric of worsted warp and woollen weft used for inexpensive applications such as lining British soldiers’ coats (until 1792), lining fitted cases for pistols, silver etc, and bases of boxes etc intended to sit on other furniture. Not to be confused with the later 19th C usage of ‘Baize’ which is a much finer woollen more akin to Billiard Cloth.
Blind Finish / Face. One where the individual warp and weft yarns are indistinguishable due to the surface fibre coverage on the surface of the cloth. Usually applicable to woollen fabrics.
Broadcloth. Woollen plain weave fabric, heavily milled to develop a solid texture and fibrous surface coverage in order to be weatherproof. In order to allow for the degree of shrinkage required to achieve these characteristics whilst remaining a usable width, it was woven up to 40% wider than its finished width. Hence the name comes from its loom width not its finished width. Capable of taking a cut edge without the need for hemming. Produced in various qualities from Superfine to Common.
Callimancoe. Medium weight worsted sateen usually with a highly glazed finish, used for linings, ladies gowns, curtains etc. Produced in solid colours, stripes and with fancy floral woven patterns.
Camblet. Stout weft rib fabric commonly made from worsted (though finer varieties included silk and cashmere blends). Used for curtains, cloaks, riding habits and ladies gowns for the middling and lower orders in the 18th C in particular. Produced in solid colours, contrast warp and weft, bold stripes and woven floral patterns (See Morreen)
Cassimere. Lightweight twill woollen fabric invented by Thomas Yerbury in 1764, intended as a lightweight alternative to Broadcloth, but mostly used for small clothes in the latter part of the 18th & early 19th C. It came in single (meaning single milled) and double (meaning double milled, to make it stouter) varieties, and also sometimes printed or ‘fancy’ with woven stripes and patterns.
Clear finish or face. One where the warp and weft yarns are still clearly visible. Apart from woollens with a blind face, virtually all other fabrics have a clear face.
Denim. A fine, stout, worsted twill, similar in appearance to modern cotton drill, a contraction of Serge de Nimes. Originally it was a worsted but by the end of the 18th C it was also being made in cotton.
Doeskin. A fine woollen fabric not recorded before 1830, woven as a sateen weave in order to develop a fine dress finish whilst maintaining a soft handle. Not suitable for Gentlemen’s tailoring.
Drap. French synonym for Broadcloth.
Drugget. A plain weave fabric of worsted warp and thick woollen weft, heavier and closer sett than Bay, and heavily milled to give a blind finish in imitation of Broadcloth.
Duffel. A coarse type of Broadcloth produced originally in Duffel in Flanders. By the 20th C it was applied to coarse twill woollens used for Naval watch coats.
Durrant. A medium weight plain weave worsted used for linings.
Fustian. A group of fabrics originally with a linen warp and cotton weft, but by the mid-late 18th C improvements in cotton spinning technology had led to the use of cotton for warp too. Characterised by hard spun warp and either a thicker, softer weft to provide fibrous cover, or in more complex ones with an additional weft thread looped up to provide a pile, either cut or uncut. The former class includes Jean, Jeanette, Canton, Denim (single, double, Prussian and striped varieties), Paoli, Stockinette (a woven fabric in this case) and dimity (including striped, figured and plain varieties), the latter category including Moleskin, Corduroy (including broad and narrow cord, thicksett, honeycomb, wild worm, velvet, plain back and kersey backed varieties). They were popular for summer wear and working men’s small clothes as the ability to wash them easily made them a practical alternative to woollens.
Holland. Plain weave linen with a heavily glazed finish, used for pocketing, linings, interlinings, hat linings etc.
Kersey. Twill woven woollen, fairly heavily milled, cheaper and less stout than broadcloth and used for cheaper cloaks, greatcoats and working clothes. Being woven as a twill meant that there was less friction between the warp yarns in the loom, allowing it to be woven closer sett and therefore requiring less milling to obtain a reasonably stout finish.
Kerseymere. See Cassimere.
Long Ells. Close sett twill fabric of well spun worsted warp and long staple woollen weft, fairly stout but with a clear surface.
Mankey. Contraction of Callimancoe.
Medley. A woollen fabric composed of fibres dyed different colours then mixed together before spinning to give a mixed effect. Much used for Breeches and Pantaloons both for Military and Civilians from the 17th C until well into the 19th C.
Melton. A term emerging in the mid 19th C indicating a form of finishing of woollen cloths where the surface fibre is not laid in any particular direction, but allowed to remain as a random mass of fibres with no particular direction. Not a particular type of cloth, but usually applied to twill fabrics today, so not a Broadcloth. Probably a corruption of the French Molleton, it has no connection with Melton Mowbray which is a rural district of Leicestershire with no recent history of textile production. This term is often, but incorrectly, used by modern authors to describe Broadcloths in historic garments.
Milling (Fulling). Process of agitating a woollen fabric in hot soapy water in order to promote shrinking. The heat and soap has the effect of opening the scales on the woollen fibres, and the agitation cases them to act against each other in the manner of a ratchet, pulling them together and not allowing them to return. The effect is a cloth much denser than can be achieved on the loom, with the surface fibres matted together to give a more homogenous surface which resists wind and rain.
Morreen. Technically a type of Camblet but specifically applied to ones with a woven pattern, typically floral.
Serge. Generic term for twill woven fabrics wholly or partly constructed from worsted. Without further amplification it refers to a fairly coarse worsted warp, woollen weft fabric largely used for linings, especially in soldiers’ coats. It was also produced in a ‘milled’ variety, which increased its density and made it appear more substantial. In this state it was used for the sleeves to soldiers’ working waistcoats, allowing more flexibility, among other uses.
Serge, Khaki. Worsted warp, woollen weft twill fabric composed of mixed drab colours for British Army uniforms for home service from 1912.
Serge, Silk. A fine, close set, complex twill silk used for linings in high class Gentlemen’s clothes from the 18th C right up until the early 20th C. It was used for lining Senior Royal Naval Officers’ Uniforms in the late 18th to early 19th C, and though rarely used for Army Officers’ uniform linings before 1815 became increasingly common from then until the 20th C. Also used to line Court and Diplomatic uniforms.
Shalloon. Fine worsted twill fabric, loosely sett, heavily glazed and used primarily for linings. Technically a type of Serge. It came in a range of grades, from Coarse to Superfine.
Superfine. Simply an indication of grade, not of a particular type of fabric. Where it appears without additional specification in 18th and 19th C tailor’s notes it usually refers to Superfine Broadcloth, as this was known to be the most suitable fabric for making Gentlemen’s coats.
Wadmal. (From the Norse Vadmal) A very coarse plain weave woollen cloth which was not scoured or dyed, the retained lanolin in the wool increasing its water resistance. Woven until the 18th C at least in Oxfordshire, it was used for waggon tilts and similar applications.
Warp. The yarns arranged on the loom running along the length of the fabric. The action of raising and depressing them in order allows the insertion of the weft between them which is the process of weaving. Known as ‘ends’ when discussing density of fabric.
Weft. (also ‘Woof’, ‘Abb’ or ‘Filling’) The Yarns inserted between the raised and depressed Warps across the fabric in order to form the woven cloth. Usually slightly thicker in the case of woollens, these play more of a part in rendering the cloth solid during milling. Known as ‘picks’ or ‘threads’ when discussing the density of the fabric.
Woollen. Yarn, or fabric composed of such yarn spun from carded wool fibre. The carding process combines the wool in a more random manner so that there is a much higher degree of extraneous fibre projecting form the yarn. These provide surface fibre in the woven fabric which tends to felt, promoting the shrinkage of the yarns in the milling process leading to a stouter fabric with a high degree of surface fibre which can be raised, cropped and pressed to give a dress finish.
Worsted. Yarn, or fabric composed of such yarn, spun from combed wool fibre. The combing process aligns the fibres resulting in a smooth, lustrous yarn. Fabrics woven from worsted tend to be smooth and with a clear finish, that is with the weave clearly visible. Worsted fabrics are not suitable for milling.