My local fabric store sometimes feels like my home away from home. I love spending hours there browsing through the different fabrics and seeing what new options they have gotten this week. Recently, I’ve been drawn more and more to the many types of textured fabric I’ve come across.
There are dozens of different textured fabrics on the market, each of which has its own unique style and flair. What makes these fabrics textured is that they have an irregular surface that isn’t uniform and smooth to the touch.
In this article, you will learn about twenty of the most common textured fabrics you’ll encounter daily. I’ll also give you some helpful tips to identify and describe all fabrics you love to sew with.
- What Does Textured Fabric Mean?
- How Many Different Textures of Fabric Are There?
- The Top 20 Types of Textured Fabric
- How to Describe Fabric Texture
What Does Textured Fabric Mean?
Textured fabrics are any fabrics with a surface that is irregular or not completely smooth to the touch. These fabrics may be rough, coarse, clingy, fluffy, bulky, or many other textures that give them their unique appearance and feel. Which texture a fabric has will depend entirely on the fibers it is made of and how it is constructed.
It may be easier to understand textured fabrics by comparing them to untextured ones. A good example of an untextured fabric is plain woven cotton – like the sheets you may have on your bed. All of the fibers in woven cotton are consistent and even in their spacing, and if you run your hand across the surface, it will feel smooth.
In other words, textured fabrics are not smooth because their fibers are often irregular and inconsistent. This makes them feel different to the touch than the uniform feeling untextured fabrics will have.
How Many Different Textures of Fabric Are There?
There are dozens of different textured fabrics available on the market today. Within each of these different types, there are often many styles and variations. It may be impossible to ever get a full list of all the options created.
However, most fabric stores commonly carry around twenty or so varieties of textured fabric for you to sew. We’ve chosen to focus this article on these common fabrics since they are the ones you’re likely to encounter daily.
The Top 20 Types of Textured Fabric
1. BurlapBurlap is a coarse and very rough-textured fabric. It is usually woven from the skin of the jute plant or other vegetable fibers and is typically left undyed, giving it a natural brown color. These same materials are often used to make ropes and nets – which may help explain the coarse texture of this fabric.
Burlap was originally used for everything from storage bags for produce to inexpensive clothing for laborers who didn’t have access to softer cloth. Today, burlap is used to make eco-friendly sacks for products like coffee or tea. It is also increasingly popular to use burlap in home decor or wedding decorations for couples wanting a rustic feel.
2. ChenilleChenille is a textured fabric used to make sweaters, bedding, and even upholstery for furniture in your home. This is because it is soft and somewhat bulky due to the unique way that the fibers of the fabric are twisted together in a spiral around a central piece of yarn. These thicker yarn twists are then woven together to create a cozy and comfy fabric.
The name “chenille” comes from the French word for caterpillar and is named so because of the fabric’s appearance. If you look at the fabric from one angle, it almost seems to have raised vertical lines across its surface, much like the caterpillar it gets its name from.
If you change your position and look at the fabric from the opposite side, it will look smooth and won’t have distinct lines. This fabric is a popular choice because it gives the fabric multiple appearances based on how it is positioned.
3. Costume FabricsThe category of “costume fabrics” is very broad. Most fabric stores will carry a selection of these products geared toward sewers who want to make their own costumes or cosplay outfits. These fabrics can have anything from sequins to chains, fish scales, tinsel, or feathers, giving them unique textures designed to replicate the appearance of many common costume ideas.
These fabrics may not be available all year long, however. You’re almost certain to find them in the months leading up to Halloween since that is when most customers will be purchasing these unique textured pieces to complete their costumes for the year.
4. CrepeCrepe fabric is a very thin material that is designed to look crisp and crinkled in appearance. In other words, it is deliberately wrinkled to give it added texture. You’ll probably see this fabric sold in synthetic options, though sometimes silk or wool alternatives are available.
Crepe is usually very thin and lightweight and may be a bit see-through. The fabric is a very popular choice for clothing, especially evening gowns and more elegant pieces, since it has excellent drape and a flowy appearance. You can also find crepe being used for home decor, especially curtains.
5. Embroidered FabricsEmbroidered fabrics are another broad category and can be made of virtually any fiber. What groups them together is that they have been decorated with elaborate stitching all across their surface. Because it is on the surface, the stitching is raised and gives the fabric a bit of texture.
Embroidered fabrics are commonly used in both clothing and home decor. They tend to be on the heavyweight side due to the added thread and even the occasional beading stitched to their surface. The design may only be fully visible on the outer face of the fabric, with the underside showing where the threads have been secured after being stitched.
6. Faux Fur and LeatherFaux fur and leather are often synthetic fibers designed to mimic natural furs and leather from animal products. Faux fur is generally very fluffy in feel, while faux leather may be a bit smoother and have more of a polished look.
Both faux fur and faux leather come in natural patterns to mimic real-world animals and in elaborate colors. The fur or leather surface is usually only visible on one side of the fabric, while the back will be smooth to the touch.
Both fabrics are popular because they are sustainable and eco-friendly. Real fur and leather require animal skins, whereas the faux options use synthetics. They’re easier to produce and are the more humane option.
7. FeltFelt is a unique material created by pressing and matting together fibers to form a fabric sheet. It can be made from various fibers, including natural choices like wool or other animal furs. It is also available in synthetic options like acrylic or rayon.
The surface of the felt fabric is a bit rough to the touch. The fibers won’t be evenly spaced since they aren’t woven together. They’ll look random and crisscross in many different ways based on how they were positioned before being matted together.
Felt is one of the oldest known textiles in the world and has remained a popular choice because it is soft and warm. It is also a popular craft supply for children’s art projects and can be commonly found in small, brightly colored sheets that can be cut and shaped however you want.
8. JacquardJacquard fabric is unique because its patterns are created by weaving together threads of different colors and textures while producing the fabric itself. The design is, therefore, visible on both sides of the fabric, rather than being printed or attached just to the outside surface. Jacquard can be made from any fiber, ranging from cotton to silk, polyester, or acrylic.
As different threads are woven together, the fabric’s surface can take on a raised texture. The texture of jacquard will vary from piece to piece based on the type of design woven into the fabric and how elaborate it is.
9. LaceLace is a classic, delicate fabric made from threads that are woven into elaborate designs. The fabric deliberately includes open spaces that give it a web-like appearance, making it intentionally see-through. Some types of lace are hand-crocheted into intricate patterns, though many modern machine-made options are now available.
Lace was originally produced with linen or silk threads, though cotton is now a preferred option. You can find lace in everything from home decorations to clothing – especially formalwear like wedding dresses. It is also a common fabric used to make undergarments.
10. Pre-Pleated Fabrics
Pre-pleated fabrics are any materials that have been shaped to have even folded across their surface, giving the fabric an almost accordion or fan-like appearance. The folds give the fabric added body and permanently prevent it from laying completely flat.
Many sewers like pre-pleated fabrics for making skirts and dresses. It is possible to make pleats hand using your home iron, but getting them as even and neat-looking as the pre-pleated fabrics on the market can be very tedious and difficult.
11. Pre-Quilted Fabrics
Pre-quilted fabrics are made by layering woven fabrics with padding in the center. The three layers are then quilted together with delicate stitching across their surface. This stitching gives the fabric texture while also giving it a unique design.
Many pre-quilted fabrics have a basic checkered texture across their surface. However, you can sometimes find elaborate options like paisleys, floral images, or herringbone patterns. They’ll often come in solid colors or designs geared towards children.
Pre-quilted fabrics are perfect for sewers who don’t want to spend much time quilting the fabric together. It’s a great option for making a quick blanket, purse or bag, or even clothing like vests or lightweight jackets.
There are many different types of fabrics that fall into the netting category. All of them are woven so that holes are deliberately left in the fabric to make it see-through and breathable. These holes are what make the fabric textured.
The holes in netting can vary widely. Some options have quite large gaps in the fabric. These are often used to make simple bags or clothing where you want your skin to be visible through the fabric.
Other types of netting will have very small holes. These options are mesh-like and are often used for the underlayer of dresses and other similar clothing pieces. Netting fabrics come in virtually any color and can be made from almost any type of fiber.
13. Ribbed Knits
Ribbed knits are fabrics knitted together to have vertical rows of stitches raised on the surface of the fabric. The ridges are visible on both sides, and this unique design often gives the fabric a large amount of stretch. They’re typically made from cotton but can also be blended with fibers like spandex.
Because they are so stretchy, ribbed knits are popular for making cuffs, hems, and neckbands on clothing. The fabric is also used to make clothing that clings tightly to your body, like turtlenecks, t-shirts, or even socks.
Seersucker is a type of fabric with a distinct puckered surface. The puckers come from how the fabric is woven to make certain threads bunch together. These bunches give the fabric a slightly wrinkled appearance across its surface.
The puckered surface of seersucker is useful because it helps raise the fabric off your skin. This makes it lightweight and helps seersucker to be a popular option for warm-weather clothing, especially for men’s shorts and suits. It typically has a pinstripe appearance with alternating white and pastel stripes.
15. Shirred or Smocked Fabrics
Both shirred and smocked fabrics get their texture because their surface has been deliberately gathered together to give a crinkled look. Shirred fabric is gathered into rows using elastic thread sewn on the back of the fabric, which pulls the fabric together. The shirred pieces are then used to decorate the tops and sleeves of clothing to give them added dimension.
Smocked fabrics are gathered into decorative crinkles and are then secured with stitches. They do not use rows of elastic thread to gather the fabric. You’ll also typically find smocked fabric on cuffs, necklines, and the tops of shirts where buttons cannot be added.
Tweed is a type of fabric that has a bit of a rough texture. This texture comes from the herringbone pattern that the fabric is woven into and comes from the wool fibers used to make the fabric.
Tweed’s rough woven surface helps make it moisture-resistant and good for wearing in cold weather. It is a very durable fabric, which is why it is commonly worn for outdoor activities in much of Europe. You’ll also find tweed being used to make men’s blazers, hats, and some women’s coats.
Terrycloth has a fairly rough texture that comes from loops of thread densely packed across both sides of the fabric. This makes the terrycloth plush and a bit thick. Most terrycloth is made from cotton fibers, though they can be made from other materials like silk, linen, or polyester.
You probably use terrycloth regularly in your day-to-day life. Terrycloth is typically used to make towels, washcloths, and even bathroom rugs. This is because it is a very absorbent fabric that is comfortable enough to use on your entire body.
Velvet is a type of woven fabric that gets its texture from the cut threads that stand up on its surface. The threads are very tightly packed and short, which gives the illusion that the fabric is smooth. Velvet is typically made from synthetic fibers, though you can also find it in cotton, linen, or wool options.
Velvet is often seen as a luxurious fabric used to make elaborate dresses and formalwear. Velvet shoes and bags are also popular additions to many women’s wardrobes. This fabric is sometimes used in home decor, especially furniture or bedding.
19. Waffle Knit
Waffle knit is a unique type of fabric that has a surface that resembles the common breakfast food it gets its name from. Picture the surface of a waffle shrunk down into a very small pattern and you can probably see what the surface of the waffle knit looks like.
How this material is knit makes it comfortable and soft to wear, which has helped to increase the popularity of this unusual fabric. Waffle knit is commonly used in clothing, especially thermal underwear and other tight-fitting clothes. You’ll find waffle knit for infant swaddles and even for some towels and dishcloths.
Wool is a coarse hair-like fiber that comes from species of animals like sheep, goats, rabbits, llamas, or alpacas. These fibers are spun together into yarn, then woven to create a slightly rough fabric. The somewhat coarse texture is worth it, given that wool is one of the warmest fabrics on the market.
Wool is used widely in all sorts of clothing, blankets, diapers, and other everyday materials. It is also used for rugs, upholstery, and even insulation. However, washing wool requires special care, so be sure to pay attention to any wash instructions on the tags of any wool products you buy.
How to Describe Fabric Texture
It’s become clear with the twenty fabrics we’ve discussed that fabric can have many different texture types. If you’re struggling to describe the fabric that you want, try using some of the following as inspiration.
Describe the Pile or Nap
Pile or nap refers to how high the fabric’s surface is raised. Is the fabric completely flat? Or is it thicker and plusher? These are all good things to think about when trying to describe the texture of a fabric.
The pile or nap of a fabric can vary in not just height but also density. Some raised fibers are very dense and hard to separate from one another, like velvet. Others are loose and can be seen individually, like in faux fur. Consider describing the density of the pile or nap of your fabric.
Talk About the Softness
Softness can be a bit difficult to define since most fabrics aren’t what we would consider “hard.” Rather, softness in the fabric is generally used to refer to fibers that are smooth, fluffy, fuzzy, or have some other kind of gentle feel to them.
A good example of a fabric that is not soft would be burlap. Burlap is coarse, rough, and even scratchy at times. You wouldn’t want to wear burlap against delicate skin.
Discuss the Cling or Friction
Cling or friction are ways of describing how a fabric feels when you run your hand across it. Does it feel like the fabric is trying to hold on to your fingers as you brush it across? This means that the fabric has a lot of cling or friction.
You may see cling or friction being described in simpler terms like “smooth” or “rough,” indicating how easy it is to slide your hand across the fabric. If your hand glides easily without the fabric clinging, it is smooth. If it seems like the fabric tries to move with your hand and holds on a bit, it is probably rough.
Other Common Descriptions
The descriptors above aren’t the only things you can use to describe a fabric’s texture. Consider other elements like the size of the fibers, how evenly they are spaced from one another, and whether or not they are twisted. These can all help to differentiate one fabric from another.
There are many different textures of fabric available on the market, and after reading this article, you should be able to describe many of the most common types you’ll encounter. Don’t forget to keep this guide handy should you need to look back at all of the fabrics on our list.