Saturday, 21 May 2011

Cotton, linen and man-made fabrics

An important aspect when making clothes from a bygone era is the choosing the right fabric. It is perhaps not the first thing one thinks about, but how a fabric drapes plays an important part in how a garment looks. Just imagine a dress made of voile and then think of the same cut in velvet. This post is a list of fabric from the 1940’s. To not make it too long, there will be two additional posts that will cover wool and silk. I have translated this list from Swedish and though I hope not, there may be inaccuracies. If you spot one, please tell me! Some of the fabrics mentioned are stuff I have never heard of before, which makes it a bit tricky to translate. Sometimes I have felt to add to the original text; in that case I do so with bold letters.

Plain weave cotton
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Blouses and summer dresses
Notes: A patterned fabric that can be washed.
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Dresses, suits
Notes: The English quality is the best kind.
Linen viscose
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Dresses, suits
Notes: Doesn’t wrinkle
Viscose, artificial silk
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Blouses, simple dresses
Notes: Garments should be simple and with little rushing.
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Blouses, tennis clothes, accessories
Notes: The name indicates the weave, not the material.
Poplin or tabinet
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Blouses, pajamas
Tobralco cotton
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Blouses, children’s clothes
Notes: So called English cotton. Supple and lightweight.
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Underwear
Notes: Replaces old fabrics like zephyr and muslin. Rayalene is a tradename for an olefin fabric, with water-resistant properties.Zephyr cloth is a very lightweight fine-weave woollen fabric, with a waterproof quality.

Bemberg silk
Drape: Lightweight
Uses: Underwear
Notes: Easy to wash. Bemberg silk are made of cupramonium rayon, i.e. it is copper in it. It has a bit of a papery feel to it.
Outing flannel or flannelette
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Blouses, underwear and sports clothes.
Notes: Can be washed.
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Bathrobes
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Rain clothes, sports clothes
Notes: Waterproofed
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Rain clothes, suits
Notes: Can easily be waterproofed
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Housecoats
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Can be used to everything
Notes: Can be mixed with everything
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Coats, suits
Notes: Made of cotton and should be treated the same way as velvet
Drape: Heavy
Uses: Suits, sports clothes
Notes: Made of cotton and should be treated the same way as velvet
Drape: Lightweight
Uses: Elegant blouses
Notes: Easy to wash
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Blouses, collars, accessories
Notes: Wrinkles A voile-like linen fabric
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Evening gowns for summer, blouses, accessories
Notes: Wrinkles
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Evening gowns, accessories
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Evening gowns, both long and short ones.
Notes: Doesn’t wrinkle, practical
Broderie Anglaise
Drape: Crisp
Uses: Blouses, evening gowns for summer
Notes: Easy to wash and durable

I don't claim that this is a complete list of fabrics used and if something is missing, I would love to hear it.

EDIT: Thank you handbuiltwardrobe for additional information on Tobralco and Flannelette!
Thank you Molly for additional infornation on Rayaline and Zephyr!


handbuiltwardrobe said...

It seems Tobalcro was a trade name for a fabric made by the Tootals company (UK and NL). It appeared in advertisements as early as 1931, so it would have to be either 100% cotton or maybe a cotton-rayon blend.

Fun fact: for "flannel" at this time, the default was wool, not cotton as we are used to. Cotton flannels were referred to as "outing flannel" or "flanelette."

Isis said...

handbuiltwardrobe: Thank you! In this case it is especially metnioned to be cotton.

I have flannel in the upcoming post on wool too. :)In Swedish it seems to be called flannel regardless of material, but I'll change my post here accordingly. Thanks again!

Wendy said...

Wow thank you for posting this its very interesting and will definitly help when making up my next vintage pattern!

Isis said...

Wendy: I'm so glad you enjoy it! :D

Emelie said...


Great list! Is it possible for you to add the name in swedish as well?


Isis said...

Emelie: I feel it would a bit too ungainly to add that to the post, but I could mail you the Swedish names if you like.

Emelie said...

Hi again!

I would be glad if you did that. Thank you so much!

(queenvanilla at gmail dot com)

Isis said...

Emelie: I will send it to you later today, or possibly tomorrow. :)

Molly said...

Such a helpful and informative post, thank you!

I can help you out with these:

Zephyr cloth is a very lightweight fine-weave woollen fabric, with a waterproof quality. Claire Schaeffer's Sew Any Fabric book says it is a type of lightweight gingham fabric, I'm not sure why. I think it is still sold in Europe.

Rayalene is a tradename for an olefin fabric, again with water-resistant properties. Lots of fabrics seemed to be the same composition but sold under different tradenames, I find the old sewing books really useful for finding this information as well as being a good read!

Off to read the next sections of this excellent post and your blog :)

Isis said...

Molly: I'm glad you enjoyed it! And thank YOU for the additional informations, I shall edit the posts accordingly.

RaincoatGirl said...

Thanks for this informative post.Linen is not only is the apt fabric for dresses and suits but can also be a great fabric for sportswear.Linen can absorb up to 65% of its own weight and is a typical summer fabric.

Isis said...

RaincoatGirl: Glad you enjoyed it.

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