Textiles Glossary – Home Decorating Fabrics from A to Z

April 24, 2013

Today the range of fabrics available on the market is huge. If you want to know the qualities of different textiles, understand what is the best use for them in interior design and learn how to care to prolong their life, then this article is for you.


Synthetic fabric obtained from natural fibers as the result of special treatment. It is soft to touch and is often called “artificial silk”. Care: acetates  do not crease and can be easily washed, preferably at a temperature below 40 degrees. Use: acetates are used in home decor the same way as silks  – curtains, cushions, bedclothes.


Fabric named after technique of drawing on cotton cloth, which appeared in Indonesia and Malaysia. It consists of applying a wax layer on those areas which should not be painted. After the wax is dry, it is removed and the tissue obtains the distinctive “cracked” effect. Care: at the time of purchase, consult your dealer if you can wash the material in the washing machine. Use: batik is good for making blankets and quilts in ethnic style.

Indonesian batik, image source

Indonesian batik, image source


Fabric embroidered with metal threads in the form of flowers and arabesques, creating a luxurious embossing on the surface. Currently brocades can be made on the basis of linen, cotton and silk, embroidered with threads of different colors. Care: brocade is an expensive and delicate fabric which is recommended to dry clean to preserve the colours and texture. Use: it is a very durable fabric, suitable for upholstery and curtains in classic style.

Calico – see Muslin


This fabric is made of yarn obtained from the undercoat of goats living in Kashmir – India region on the border with Pakistan. The diameter of the cashmere yarn is much thinner than other types of wool, which makes it much more pleasant and soft. Its natural color is gray or brown, but can also be white and black. Care: Like any other wool, cashmere doesn’t like water, so it is not recommended to wash it using the washing machine and tumble dryer – instead use dry cleaning. Use: in home decor cashmere is usually used for making throws and plaids, which create a warm and luxurious feel.

Cashmere plaids from Agnona

Cashmere plaids from Agnona


Fabric made from the special yarn with velvety surface and short thick pile. It is usually produced from silk in a combination with wool or cotton, using special technology which results in amazing softness and unique light reflecting qualities. Use: chenille is perfect if you want to create a vintage ambiance in your house – use it for cushions, bedspreads, throws, upholstery and even rugs. Care: most of chenille fabrics should be dry cleaned, if washed in the machine they shouldn’t be dried on high heat, never hang them as they will be strained.

chenille plush lavender RA


Very lightweight fabric used for making curtains, blinds and canopies. Thanks to the transparency and vaporous texture chiffon is ideal for draperies. Care: Despite its delicate appearance, chiffon is possible to clean in the washing machine. Properties: Although originally chiffon was made ​​from silk fibers, today you can find alternatives made from cotton, linen and nylon, which are more durable.


Chintz is a glazed calico textile with designs usually featuring colourful flowers or oriental arabesques. Use: for creating informal, fresh and feminine look chintz is a perfect choice. Use it for draperies – curtains, canopy beds and upholstery – headboards, chairs, cushions. Care: refer to the fabrics label for care instructions. Dry cleaning is usually recommended to keep the glazed surface.

image source

Image source


Natural fabric produced from cotton-plants. Cotton is very durable and strong, it is often added to other tissues – natural and artificial. Usually it is very soft. Care: it has the quality to shrink after the first wash. Can be washed in the washing machine and then tumble dried.  Use: it is one of the most commonly used materials for upholstery and curtains


The fabric made of silk, cotton or linen, which got its name from the capital city of Syria. The fabric has an opaque background with weaved shiny patterns usually featuring flowers or arabesques. Care: dry cleaning. Use: damask works well in interiors done in classic style, use it for upholstery and curtains.

Lucido damasks collection from Harlequin

Lucido damasks collection from Harlequin


Fabric got its name from the French industrialist, who invented the machine for its production. It simplifies the manufacturing process of complex textiles, such as Damask and brocade. Care: Jacquard is very durable and wear-resistant. However, to keep it in top condition dry cleaning is preferable. Although there are Jacquards made of wool or viscose, the most common are produced from cotton. Use – this fabric is very popular for upholstery in classic style.


Jute is extremely strong natural fabric produced from vegetable fibers. Care: dry cleaning is preferable so the fabric does not lose its original colour. Use: jute can be made in different colors and is widely used in the interiors decorated in a rustic style.


Openwork fabric produced from cotton, silk or synthetic yarn. It has complex ornament which has open holes done by humans or machines. Care: hand wash it in cold water with mild detergent. Never use dryer – all lace should be air-dried. Use: in home decor lace is usually used for curtains, drapery and decorative cushions.

Lace Fabrics from Ralph Lauren

Lace Fabrics from Ralph Lauren Home


The natural fabric produced from flax fibers with beautiful rich texture. Care: the main disadvantage of linen is that it is easily wrinkled. To decrease it, synthetic fibers are often added to linen, which also helps to avoid the reducing of fabric after washing. Use: the strength and durability of linen make it ideal for sewing curtains and upholstery. Also it is often used for tablecloths and bedding.

Linen fabrics can be not only neutral and beige. Striking patterns from Bennison fabrics.

Linen fabrics are not only neutral and beige. Striking patterns from Bennison Fabrics.

Linen Union

Cotton-linen blend. It is very durable and strong, used for upholstery, cushions, tablecloths, curtains. Care: can be washed in the washing machine with spin, no wring, with maximum temperature 40%. Linen union is very universal fabric, it can be used for different interior styles, but especially it suits traditional and country interiors.

Country collection from Sanderson

Country collection of linen unions from Sanderson


Cotton or silk fabric with rippled surface, solar rays reflected from it at different angles create an interesting effect resembling sea waves. Care: Depending on the composition it can be washed or dry-cleaned. Use: this fabric is often used to make curtains, decorative cushions, but it is not recommended for upholstery because after frequent touches it loses its luster.

Moire fabric from Marvic Textiles

Moire fabric from Marvic Textiles


A kind of finely woven cotton fabric, introduced to Europe from the Middle East in the XVII century. The name of the fabric comes from Mosul – a town in northern Iraq where this fabric was initially made. In England this textile is also sometimes called Calico. Most of Muslins are made from 100% cotton, but there are some blends with synthetic fibers as well. Care – it can be washed in washing machine and tumble dried. It is better to iron it when it is still damp. Use – muslin is one of the most frequently used fabrics in interior design, mostly for bed linens, slip covers, sheets, shades and curtains.

simple calico fabric from Designer's Guild

simple calico fabric from Designers Guild


Organza is a very thin and sheer fabric produced from silk or synthetic yarn.  Care: organza is easy to wash and dry, although it is better not to do it very frequently. Use: the ability to pass the sunlight makes it ideal for manufacturing curtains and blinds.


Rayon is often considered as artificial fabric which is a mistake. In fact it is made from cellulose waste products. Care: the main enemy of this light and breathable material is water, so rayon should be dry cleaned only. Use: Rayon is used as artificial silk, although it can also imitate wool and cotton.


Derived from silk, satin has distinctive shine and smooth texture. Use: satin is very fragile, that’s why  it is used mainly for decorative cushions and never for upholstery or window treatments.


The fabric is obtained from the cocoons of silkworms. Silk yarn is very strong and durable, and, as a result smooth, soft and shining fabric is produced.  Care: the disadvantage of silk is that it fades in the sun and should be dry cleaned only, so it is often replaced by a more practical synthetic fabrics. Use: the silk is used to make elegant flowing curtains and less often for furniture upholstery.

Aura collection of silks from Jim Thomson

Aura collection of silks from Jim Thomson


Ticking is usually linen or cotton textiles with typical stripes pattern. Use: perfect for marine of nautical style interiors, it can be used for upholstery, curtains and cushion covers.

Ticking Library collection from Ralph Lauren Home

Ticking Library collection from Ralph Lauren Home

Toile de Jouy

Toile de Jouy or simply Toile is a type of pattern with a plain background, usually white or cream, and repeated patterns of very complex scenes – pastoral plots or flower compositions. Use: toiles work great for upholstery, cushion covers, bed linen and tablecloths. They look good in traditional, country style houses or contemporary interiors with vintage twist. Care: dry cleaning only.



Woolen fabric, originally made with addition of silk or viscose, and now other synthetic fibers that make it more practical. Care: the main drawback of velvet is that it tends to trample when used, and the fact that it can not be washed, only dry cleaned. Use: velvet looks nice as curtains or cushions in combination with antique furniture.

velvet collage

Lucido velvets collection from Harlequin


Dense fabric made of cotton or synthetic yarn, it resembles velvet, but has a shorter pile. Produced in a large range of colors and densities. Care: velveteen should be dry cleaned. Use: it is used for furniture upholstery to create an informal or rustic style. Can be smooth or ribbed.


A light, sheer, plain-weave fabric usually made from pure cotton or cotton blends with polyester and viscose. Use: mainly for soft furnishings – curtains and canopies. Care: it is easy to clean: it can be washed in a washing machine in cold water and on delicate regime. It can be hung to dry and later ironed with warm iron.


One of the most commonly used fabrics in home decoration produced from sheep’s wool. Care: the perfect care for wool is dry cleaning. Use: woolen cushions and throws will bring warmth to any corner of the house.

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April 24, 2013 at 10:08 am

It’s very difficult to sum up soo much information in one post–your writing skills are very inspiring! Again, thank you for sharing this informative post!

April 24, 2013 at 11:31 am

Oh, thank you very much for such a lovely compliment! 🙂 Indeed, this post resulted to be massive, but I just hope it will be useful for interior designers or anybody who likes home decor or redecorating their house.

April 24, 2013 at 12:10 pm

You’ve created a great reference here Anna. Thanks!!

April 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Thank you, Taryn! 🙂 Have put lots of effort and time in it )))

April 24, 2013 at 3:54 pm

JC Redesigns says what a wonderful source blog. So much info packed in….Definitely a keeper for reference.

April 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Wow. What a comprehensive guide to textiles. Thanks for sharing. You summed up everything so perfectly. I love the photos you used as well. Great post.

April 29, 2013 at 8:32 am

Thanks for liking my post! It’s nice to find people with the same passion for interior design! I just read a couple of your posts you have so much information I love it! What are some of the top sites you like? I’m an interior design student so I love learning and keeping up with everything in the design field!

Thanks Steph 🙂

April 29, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Hi, Steph!

Thank you so much for stopping by and your lovely compliment! 🙂 This is the list of websites I regularly read to find ideas, news and inspirations: – celebrity interiors, trends – bohemian style, if you like it
– – blog, tips, DIY – one of the biggest ID blogs – online portfolio for interior designers, useful tips – directory of many interior design companies, blogs, exhibitions – news & trends – some of the coolest design finds

Jeanine from wonderful blog Containedideas has recommended me several more wonderful resources recently : – showcase and discover creative work

Hope you will find these links useful!


April 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Hi Anna,

Thankyou so much I will definitely check them all out! I love houzz I’m always on their app and design sponge is so good too it was one of the first design books I ever brought.
Thanks again!


April 29, 2013 at 11:59 am

This is very helpful. Thanks!

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November 3, 2013 at 3:18 am

Reblogged this on mehah and commented:
Great starting point. Thanks

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