Two or more yarns folded together. A cable twist can be a cord or rope constructed in which each successive twist is in the opposite direction to the preceding twist.  This type of cable is defined as S-Z-S or Z-S-Z.

A single cylindrical package of yarn not supported by an internal tube or bobbin (3½in (9cm) high, 6in (15cm) external diameter, 4in (10cm) internal diameter), normally of continuous-filament yarn produced in the viscose spinning industry.

A process used to flatten cloth by passing the cloth through alternate smooth metal and softer cloth-wrapped or paper-wrapped rollers. Works very much like a domestic iron. The machine is called a calender. A friction calender is used to give a glazed (as in glazing chintz), moiré or watermarked finish to certain fabrics which have been soaked in starch, wax or resin.  Also used for coating fabrics with rubber or plastics. See ciré.

The term calico, which is still used today, was introduced into Britain in the 17th century and was used to describe a plain weave cotton cloth made from carded unbleached cotton which had retained the small dark flecks (leaves or other vegetable matter) normally taken out in further spinning processes and bleaching. The name calico was given to all types of cotton cloth coming from the small town of Kozhikode (from Kolikodu meaning Cock Fortress), known as Calicut, on the Malabar coast  of south west India.  An act was introduced in 1720 by King George to encourage the manufacture of silk and woollen fabrics in Britain, to effect the employment of poor people, by prohibiting the use and wearing of calico.

A plain weave soft cotton or linen fabric calendered to give a slight lustre on the face of the fabric.  Originally a linen fabric woven in Cambrai in northern France. Also refers to a calendered fine bleached cotton muslin. Cambric grass is another name given to the ramie plant.  See also chambray.

camel hair
A luxury textile fibre which comes from the two-hump Bactrian camel or the single-hump dromedary found in parts of Asia from Turkey to China and as far north as Siberia. The main hair is coarse and strong ranging in length from 13 to 15cm. The soft underwool, used in the production of fabrics for clothing, is between 4 to 5cm long.

Thick, soft condenser yarns, of about 1s cotton count, twisted, plaited or braided together to make a much thicker soft yarn, commonly used for wicks in candles or in oil lamps. The term is also used to describe a fabric, often used as bedspreads, where the surface of the fabric is covered with tufts of cotton yarn which have been introduced into the fabric by a needle or hand operated tool.

Sometimes known as tjanting, is the name given to the Javanese instrument used to draw a design in wax on cotton cloth to resist the dye and becomes a batik.  There are two types of canting.  The Rengrengan canting with a single spout, used for drawing the outline figure of a design, and the Isen canting with two or more spouts, used for filling in the main areas of the motif and the background to the design.  See tjanting.

Canvas has become the generic term to describe many heavy, closely-woven cotton, linen, jute or hemp cloth.  The use of man-made fibres has now superseded cotton and linen in the manufacture of sail or tent canvas. Some commonly know types of canvas include: prelate canvas, manufactured for sails which can be treated with tar, oil or varnish, artist's canvas, cotton or linen canvas stretched onto wooden frames, sometimes referred to as kit-cat canvas, and a wide range of embroidery canvases for needlework and embroidery.  Some popular embroidery canvases include:  Berlin canvas, Java canvas, bincarette or ada canvas - a basket weave cloth, hardanger, panama canvas - a hopsack or matt weave, penelope canvas - a loosely woven stiff fabric in 2-and-1 weave. The word canvas comes from the Early English word canevas which derives from the Latin for hemp: cannabis. See duck.

cap spinning
A spinning system in which the spindle supports a stationary cap the lower edge of which guides the yarn onto the revolving spinning package.  See spinning.

carbon fibre
A modified form of acrylic (polyacrylonitrile) fibre. As strong as glass fibre and five times as stiff.  Developed at Farnborough, United Kingdom, between 1936 and 1964. Each fibre is finer than a human hair often about 7 microns in diameter. Is light in weight and is ideal for use in reinforced plastics. 

A chemical process of eliminating cellulosic matter from animal fibre. Cloth is treated with either hydrochloric acid gas (dry process) or sulphuric acid solution (wet process) followed by a heating.

A process of opening, disentangling, cleaning, separating and making parallel fibres, on a machine called a card, to produce a thin web which is then condensed into a single continuous strand and in turn, after further drawing, is spun into a yarn. The fibres which produce carded yarn have not been combed. Combing is the additional process by which a superior quality smooth cotton yarn is produced. See bump yarn, combed yarn, condenser yarn, cotton carding and cotton combing.

Cards used in conjunction with a machine invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752 1834) between 1801 and 1810, for weaving, complex and elaborate patterns. A Jacquard mechanism, similar to the simpler dobby system, operated by punched holes in card. Each hole in each card allows for selection of a single warp thread. Each card represents one pick in the weft.  The most common sizes of cards have space for 200, 400 or 600 holes in each.  Further developments of the Jacquard mechanism have been made, some of which are used in knitting machines.  Modern Jacquard looms are operated electronically with computers determining the patterns. See Jacquard.

The term cards is often used when referring to hand or mechanical carding devices for pre-processing any fibrous material before spinning. See carding and spinning.

Neoglazovia variegata. Native to Brazil, yields a soft, white, flexible fibre with a tensile strength three times that of jute. It has a soft lustre and can be anything from three to seven feet in length. Used principally for cordage, rope and very coarse fabrics. Also known as caraua, caroa, carao, craua or croa.

Low to medium lustre hair from the downy undercoat of a hybrid goat; the male angora goat crossed with a feral female cashmere goat. 

The fine, soft hair, resembling wool from beneath the guard hair of the Asiatic goat (capra hircus laniger).  Similar to the pashmina (Persian for woollen) goat found in northern India (Kashmir and Himachel Pradesh), Nepal, Tibet and China. Attempts have been made to produce similar quality fibre from feral goats bred in Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. See also pashmina.

caustic soda
Sodium hydroxide. Used in many textile processes including viscose rayon production, mercerizing, boiling-out, dyeing and printing.  Causticizing is a treatment given to cellulosic fabric to improve the colour yield in printing and dyeing particularly with reactive dyes.

cellular fabric
A honeycomb, leno or mock-leno loosely woven cloth with an open-weave construction.  Aertex is probably the most famous cotton cellular fabric ever produced.

A carbohydrate polymer found in organic woody substances of most vegetation. The basic raw material in the production of rayon and acetate fibres. Cotton is 96% cellulose.

cellulose acetate
Filaments spun from a solidified acetic acid ester of cellulose.

The same as hopsack weave. See hopsack and Appendix weaves.

A woollen blanket or large shawl woven in India.  Also called chadur, chadder, chadar, chaddah or chudder.

A white fabric handwoven from handspun local cotton in Ethiopia. 

The chambon croissure (French) is composed of two groups of silk filaments which cross between the cocoon and the distributor on a silk reeling machine.  The reason for doing this is to allow agglutination of the silk filaments of several cocoons to form a compact yarn.  The cross also squeezes out water from the yarn as it is being reeled.  This process also acts as a form of quality control as the weak filaments break under its tension.  An alternative Italian device is called a tavelette.

Newly hatched silkworm.

A lightweight cotton cloth, usually woven in checks or stripes and used in the manufacture of dresses and shirts.  The word comes from Cambrai, a town in the northern part of France near the Belgian border where the fabric originated.

An Indian spinning wheel. Also hand or foot operated spinning machine. All hand and foot operated spinning machines in India are used to spin cotton, wool or silk yarns for khadi (hand-spun,hand-woven) cloths. Also spelt charaka. See khadi.

A cylindrical package of yarn, cross-wound on a parallel sided central core made of either paper, plastic or wood.

cheese cloth
An inexpensive, lightweight, open cloth woven with carded cotton yarn, made originally for the sole purpose of covering cheese during its manufacture.  Was also used for covering bacon and packing tobacco.  Sometimes referred to as gauze, flag bunting or scrim.

chemical dyes
More often referred to as synthetic dyes. First manufactured synthetic dyestuffs were derived from coal tar in 1856. Synthetic dyes may be categorized into the following dye groups:

FIBRE                                                MAIN DYE GROUPS
Wool and hair fibres                              Acid
Silk                                                     Acid, Direct, Reactive
Cotton Flax, Jute, Viscose rayon           Direct, Vat, Azoic, Sulphur,  Reactive
Acetate Rayon                                      Disperse
Nylon                                                   Acid, Disperse
Acrylics                                               Basic, Disperse
Polyesters                                           Disperse
See pigment and dyeing

Bleaching non-protein fibre with dilute hypochlorite solution.

A Scottish mountain sheep which produces both coarse and fine qualities of wool with an average staple length of 10 cm used in the manufacture of tweed and blankets. Used in the production of high quality tweed such as bannockburn tweed.
See Appendix: British breeds of sheep.

A type of embroidery found in north east India, in and around Lucknow.  Traditionally the embroidery was done with silk thread on muslin, is now done with cotton thread on slightly coarser cotton cloth. 

A very light, diaphanous fabric.  Both warp and weft yarns used are highly twisted crêpe. Unlike in crêpe de Chine, the weft yarn is either S or Z twist. The characteristic wrinkles in the finished fabric are created by the weft yarns being pulled in one direction. From the French word literally meaning a rag.

A cotton twill dyed khaki.  Woven from 2-ply combed cotton, the fabric is then mercerized giving it the characteristic shine.  Originally manufactured in Manchester and exported to India, then re-exported to China where it was used to make uniforms for the United States army stationed in the Philippines before World War One until 1925.  The term chino derives from the fact that the fabric was purchased in China although the British army had, for many years, used this hard wearing fabric for uniforms.

Chintes is the plural of the hindi word chit, meaning spotted or variegated. Chintes or chintz is a plain woven cotton fabric decorated with birds plants and flowers, originally painted by hand in India. Also a printed cotton cloth glazed with wax or resin. The term fully-glazed chintz is used if the cloth has been stiffened with starch or other substance and friction-calendered.  Semi-glazed or half-glazed means chintz which has been friction-calendered only.

Used as a mordant in dyeing cotton.  Use is now limited because it may, if used to dye fabric for clothing, cause skin allergies.  These adverse effects are eliminated when chrome is used in association with formic acid while enhancing its fastness properties.  The most common chrome mordants are bichromate of potash, potassium dichromate or sodium dichromate.  These mordants are light sensitive and must be kept in dark containers.  See chrome dye.

chrome dye
Chrome dyes are related to acid dyes but require the addition of bichromate of potash, potassium dichromate or sodium dichromate.  They are the fastest dyes to wet processing and are used principally for dyeing wool to achieve maximum fastness.  A wide range of colours but are duller than acid dyes.  See chrome.

A cloth finishing process which produces a high polish to the surface of the fabric with the use of wax or other compounds and then hot calendering. Can also be a finished obtained by applying heat to fabrics made with thermoplastic yarns. Derived from the French word ciré meaning wax.

One season's yield of sheep's wool. See fleece.

A generic term given to all textile fabrics, usually to describe any woven fabric. A medieval English worsted fabric measuring 6 yards by 2 yards wide. The word material, although not technically true, is often used to describe any fabric or cloth.

A term used for re-dyeing woollen fabric which is off-shade or uneven in colour.

A dye prepared from the ground dried bodies of the coccus cacti insect which live on the prickly pear cactus found in Mexico, Peru and the Canary Islands. Gives a magenta colour when alum is used as the mordant, crimson when a mixture of alum and cream of tartar is used, chrome alum producing a deep purple, oxalic acid and cream of tartar a deep geranium red, tin crystals with cream of tartar a bright scarlet and with iron as the mordant a deep purple-grey.  Traditionally used also as a food colouring but now restricted by food and hygiene laws. Similar to lac found in India.

cockspur willey
Also known as tenterhook willow, fearnaught, teazer, battering willey, single or double cylinder willey, dust and wool willey.  A variety of machines consisting of bladed or pinned rollers for opening, cleaning and mixing staple fibres before scouring or carding wool.

The oval casing of filament silk, or brin, spun by the silkmoth larvae or caterpillar, the silkworm, to protect itself when it changes into a chrysalis. The silkworm extrudes through the silk glands in its head a viscose fluid building up round itself layer upon layer crossing the filaments in a figure of eight. Colour of cocoons, which is contained in the sericin is removed in the degumming, range from white to yellow, golden yellow and brown.  The cocoon grading system in France has become the standard for Europe and India.  They are sorted into nine different grades:

  1. Good cocoons, Perfect for mechanical reeling
  2. Pointed cocoons, No good for mechanical reeling
  3. Cocalons, Larger than normal
  4. Duppions, Double cocoons
  5. Soufflon, Loose or transparent
  6. Perforated, Pierced or broken
  7. Good choquettes, Containing dead chrysalis
  8. Bad choquettes, Rotten cocoons
  9. Calcinated, Containing petrified chrysalis​

Coconut fibre.  A reddish-brown coarse hydrophobic seed fibre obtained from the fruit of the coconut palm, cocus nucifera. The longest and finest fibre is obtained from the unripe fruit and used for spinning into yarn to make mats and ropes obtained usually from India.  Coarser fibre or bristle fibre and short fibre used for filling mattresses and for upholstery are mainly from Sri Lanka.  The waste fibre can be used for composting and mulching in the garden. See seed fibre and fruit fibre.

Any colouring matter, eg. dye or pigment.

A sensation of light in the eyes induced by certain frequencies, each colour of the rainbow as we know it, having a different frequency.  Colour is applied to textiles by dyeing and printing.  The basic, so called primary colours, are red, blue and yellow.  Secondary colours are made up of a mixture of two of each of the primary colours: red + blue = purple; blue + yellow = green; yellow and red = orange. The word hue normally means red colour, blue colour and yellow colour. The word shade is a colour which has been made darker with black. A tint is a colour which has been lightened with white. The word tone, often mis-used, means lightness, darkness or brilliance of colour.

colour abrasion
Sometimes called frosting. Colour change in localized areas of a fabric where differential wear has taken place.

colour fastness
All textile dyes are rated according to their performance. The term colourfast describes a fabric which has retained sufficient colour after dyeing so that no noticeable change in shade has taken place. See Appendix: fastness, wet-fast, light-fast.

colour index
The Colour Index categorizes dyes by their trade names and colour.  The first edition of the Colour Index was published in 1928.  Since then it has been updated and consists of nine volumes.  The Colour Index is now available on CD-ROM.

colour and weave effect
The visual effect created in a fabric, using a particular weave and by grouping coloured warp threads and crossing them with groups of coloured weft threads.

A strong fine bast fibre from urena lobata. Originated in China and now found throughout the western hemisphere. Also known as cadillo, patta appell, akeiri, guaxima, uaixyma and bun ochra.  Used for string and ropes.

A reed with one baulk used to keep the warp ends parallel during warp preparation.

combed yarn
During the series of pre-spinning processes fibre is always carded to remove most of the impurities and straighten the fibres.  A further process of combing, with combs and brushes, is used to straight the fibres, to make them parallel, remove the short fibres and any remaining impurities.  Traditionally used in pre-spinning cotton processing.

A fabric made with two types of silk yarn of which one is single twisted and the other is untwisted.  When twisted together, the resultant yarn crinkles up along its length giving a knobbly appearance.

condenser yarn
Usually a thick woollen yarn usually spun directly, with the minimum amount of twist, from the sliver. Occasionally cotton yarns are made by this method. see bump yarn.

A yarn package spun on a mule or ring spindle. A paper, cardboard, wooden, plastic or metal tube is used as the core of the package.

From the French expression cord du roi. A hard wearing fabric woven in a special weave on a fine cotton warp. The weft floats of soft cotton yarn are then cut to produce wales, ribs or cords running the length of the fabric. There are a variety of different types of corduroy: needlecord 16 to 21 cords per inch, partridge cord or thickset cord 8 to 11 cords per inch, constitution cord 5 to 7 wales per inch and elephant cord, with very wide wales of only 3 to 4 wales per inch, algoa cord, which is a fancy cord, and knitted corduroys. Originally developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in France where it was used extensively for servants' clothes in the royal households hence it became known as cord du roi. Known today in France as velours cotele, in Spain as pana.

core yarn
A yarn produced by a spinning process which puts a continuous filament or core yarn, such as an rubber elastic, elastomeric filament  (for elasticity) or polyester filament (for strength), under tension and covers it with a sheath of other types of staple fibres such as cotton or wool.

cottage basin
A type of hand or power operated silk reeling machine commonly used in villages. A simplified version of a multi-end reeling machine. Requires seperate cocoon cooking system and re-reeling is necessary.

The word comes from the Arabic word qutn or qutun meaning cotton.  A long unicellular seed fibre grown on the outer skin of the cotton seed. Belongs to the mallow family as do hibiscus and okra. Vary from 10mm to 55mm in length, wild varieties, gossypium thurberi, are brown in colour and cultivated hybrid types, from which they derive, are white.

coton                   France
cotone                  Italy
algodón                Spain
algodáo                Portugal
baumwolle            Germany
vamvax                Greece
quoton or goton     Egypt
puca or katan        India
hoa mein              China
momen                 Japan
poombeth              Persia
tonfaa                   Thailand
kohung                  Mongolia
kapaski                 Sanskrit

The length of cotton fibre, known as staple length, is classified in three main groups:

  • Fine, over 30mm long staple, high lustre fibre

Best quality cotton: Sea Island (39mm and over in staple length, grown in the West Indies, Central America and Mexico), Egyptian, Sudanese, Peruvian, American Pima and East African (between 30mm to 38mm)

  • Medium, between 26mm to 29mm long staple American Upland (the bulk of production in the United States of America)
  • Short, below 26mm long staple, coarse fibre India and China

Before cotton is spun into yarn the fibre is put through a series of pre-spinning processes:

Bales of cotton are sent from the ginnery (the gin) and arrive at the spinning mill and are first put through the bale-breaker and then onto the opener. The opener literally opens the compressed cotton fibre ready for the following rigorous processes. The cotton, having then been cleaned in the picker (or scutcher) and all the seeds and heavy impurities are extracted, enters the lap former which produces a continuous roll, 50mm thick x 1000mm wide, of semi-cleaned cotton fibre, called a lap. 

The lap is passed through a set of revolving cards which disentangles and begins to align the fibres. As the carded cotton comes off the card (carding machine) a thin web, about 10mm thick, is produced and is rolled into loose rope of fibre called a sliver.

The finest quality cotton yarns are spun with combed cotton, therefore the importance of this process is to eliminate all short fibres and parallel all the remaining long fibres. The short fibres, called noils, are usually blended with shorter cottons and spun into cheaper, carded yarns. The combing process produces a continuous rope (20mm diameter) of clean straight cotton fibre called a sliver.

Several slivers are combined and blended through the draw frame, eliminating any further irregularities, to form a single sliver.  By combining the slivers to make one sliver, in this process, it ensures that any variations in the ultimate yarn are eliminated.

The sliver is drawn out still further into a finer strand about the 8mm thick and a slight twist put into it to form the roving.

The roving is now drawn out still further and twisted to produce a single yarn.  It is at this stage that the speed of the roving entering the rollers of the spinning machine is strictly controlled to produce a specific size (count) of yarn.  The singles yarn can then be doubled on a doubler to produce a two-fold yarn.​

cotton boll
The seed pod containing the cotton seeds and cotton fibres. As the pressure in side the pod increases during the growing period, the expanding cotton seed hairs build up. The pod bursts open revealing a fluffy ball of cotton known as the boll.

cotton gin
A machine invented by Eli Whitney 1794 to mechanically strip and separate the cotton fibre from the seed.  Ginning is normally done in or near the field where the cotton is grown and before it is transported in bales to the mill.

cotton waste
Hard cotton waste comes from spinning, reeling, winding machines and looms. Soft cotton waste comes from the earlier processes where the fibres are looser with no twist and not compacted. Hard cotton waste can be used for cleaning down machinery. Soft cotton waste is often reprocessed to produce a batt or web of cotton wool for medical or cosmetic purposes.

A system for measuring the fineness or thickness of yarn by spinners, weavers and knitters. In Scotland the term is known as grist. In all other English speaking countries the term count is used.

nummer                          Germany
numéro or titre                 France
numero or titolo                Italy
número or título                Spain
número or título                Portugal

A number is used to indicate the size of the yarn and is calculated from one of the following indirect or direct systems:

Indirect fixed weight system
The number of length units per weight unit

English cotton                    number of 840yd hanks per lb (pound)
Worsted                             number of 560yd hanks per lb (pound)
Galashiels woollen              number of 300yd hanks or cuts per 24oz
Yorkshire skeins woollen     number of 256yd hanks per lb (pound)
West of England                 number of 320yd snaps per lb (pound)
Linen (wet spun)                 number of 300 leas per pound
Metric                                number of kilometres per kg

Direct fixed length system
The number of weight units per length unit

Tex                                    number of grams per kilometre
Decitex                              number of grams per 10,000m
Denier                                number of grams per 9000m
Jute, Linen (dry spun),
Aberdeen woollen               number of pounds per 14,400yd

counting glass
A small magnifying glass mounted in a small hinged metal frame with a fixed focus the base having an aperture measuring either one square inch or one square centimetre. Used for counting the ends and picks, courses and wales in a fabric. Also known as a linen prover or pick glass.

A coarse, rough linen or cotton/linen twill or granite weave fabric possibly originating from Russia where it was woven from unbleached linen.

cream of tartar
A white crystalline compound made by purifying argol, potassium hydrogen tartrate. Used often in combination with alum as a mordant in vegetable dyeing.

A frame to hold spools, cheeses, cones or any package from which yarn is taken to produce a warp.  Creels can be horizontal or upright depending on the type of package used. 

A general classification of fabrics made of silk, cotton, wool or man-made fibres or combination of fibres to produce a range of crinkled, grained or textured surface effects. Can be made by using hard twist yarns, chemical treatments, weave constructions or embossing.

crêpe de chine 
A soft, thin, opaque and lightweight fabric with a crinkled effect.  Woven with alternate S and Z highly twisted weft threads and untwisted warp threads. Alternate picks are of opposite twists resulting in a crimpy appearance on the fabric.

crêpe de laine
Sheer lightweight fabric woven with a crêpe weave, originally made of wool.

crêpe suzette
Synonym for crepon geogette in which the weft yarn has the same direction of twist.

A printed fabric heavier than chinz.  Often used for curtains or loose covers.

The waviness in a fibre or in a yarn.  Produced naturally as in sheeps wool or mechanically introduced.

Synonym for rubbing when referring to fastness by rubbing of dyed or printed fabric.  The use of a crockmeter determines the fastness to rubbing of dyed or printed fabrics.

The term given to wools, tops, yarns and fabrics produced from medium quality  wools from sheep of mixed breed.

When two or more different fibres are either spun together in the same yarn or woven or knitted in the same fabric, each being dyed with its appropriate dye in the same dyebath or in seperate dyebaths. See chemical dyes.

A 3 and 1  twill, also known as crow weave, crow twill or broken crow, used in wool and worsted fabrics.  See Appendix: weaves.

crystal gum
Often known as Nafka crystal gum and is produced from vegetable gums such as gum karaya. Used as a printing dye thickener mainly for acid and discharge printing.

A length of fabric in loom or grey state, or a length of warp to produce it, usually 45m to 90m (50yd to 100yd).

Used in the indirect fixed weight count system for woollen yarn in Galashiels when 300yd of yarn weighing 24oz make 1 cut and in Hawick, also in Scotland, when 300 yards of yarn weighing 26oz make 1 cut.  See also count.

To fold a finished fabric down the centre, known in the woollen industry as rigging, and placed in transverse folds.  Sometimes fabric is not folded and usually placed in folds in open width.