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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Renaissance Fabric Glossary

The Renaissance was an age of splendour and squalour but those fabrics! Irresistible.

Renaissance fabrics; a brief glossary
References:       Frick, Dressing Renaissance Florence
                        Tortora and Merkel, Fairchild’s Dictionary of Textiles
                        Munro IN Cambridge History of Western Textiles        

Altobasso velvet aka figured velvet
A velvet woven with the pile more than one length to make a pattern.  The pile might or might not be cut, some might be cut some not and the satin ground might show through to form some of the pattern
Broadcloth
Top quality woollen  or worsted woven by two men on a wide loom. See also woollen.
Brocade
A  heavy silk fabric often heavily patterned in two or more colours.  Brocade differs from Damask in that it is a strictly one sided fabric with the floats on the back
Brocatel
A cheaper brocade-like fabric being woven on a warp of linen.
Cambric
Linen of a finer quality than Holland but not as fine as lawn
Camel, aka Cam[b]let aka Camelot
A soft expensive cloth woven with camel hair or [later] with best cashmere goat hair, often woven with silk
Cloth of gold [or silver]
A metal thread fill on a woollen warp, typically coloured and shimmering in a metallic way with that colour such that one might speak of a crimson cloth of gold.
Cloth of tissue
A velvet, often altobasso or brocaded, in which gold threads are to be found in the pile.  Strictly it is only cloth of tissue if there is 4oz [113.4g] or more of gold per yard.
Cordovan
Fine Spanish leather.
Damask
Generally silk or including silk, a weave in which the pattern in one or more colours shows in relief on one side and reversed in satin weave on the other side. Reversible. In two colour damask the colours reverse.
Dickedinnen
Worsted  with thick and thin threads to create an interesting surface; broadcloth. Speciality of Ghent.
Figured velvet
Either a brocaded velvet with different colours woven in or Altobasso qv.
Frieze aka friezecloth
A rough very heavy wool cloth very hard wearing.
Holland
The coarsest grade of linen cloth.
Kersey
A coarse woollen cloth costing only 70% of a standard broadcloth
Kerseymere
Fine wool with twisted twill weave [Cashmere]
Lawn
The finest and sheer grade of linen.
Linen
Fibre obtained from the flax plant.
Linsey
Cloth made of a wool/linen mix
Linsey-woolsey
A thin, coarse fabric of wool/linen mix; in later centuries to refer to a fine light cloth.
Medley cloth
Cloth woven from a wool spun from several colours ‘dyed in the wool’ and generally with a tendency towards groups of one colour eg blue medley cloth.  This would not preclude flecks of colour outside that range.
Merino
Just a note; the merino wool of the time was not as fine as it became in later periods; it was just starting the breeding process that would one day make it a byword for softness.
Mockado
An imitation velvet, or piled fabric made commonly of wool possibly with  silk fibres on a wool ground
Nettlecloth
Cloth woven from the fibres of the nettle.  This may be fine and lustrous but commonly this term referred to the rough homespuns of this surrogate linen in this period. 
RayƩ
Striped woollen
Satin
A shiny closely woven silk with lustrous unbroken surface showing much of the warp thread.
Scarlet
The most expensive red colouring was made from the crushed kermes beetle, the second most from the larva of another insect called grain or grana.  Scarlet was however a term used for any of the rich dark fabrics that employed these in the dyeing process, including the most expensive black.  Medieval use of the word also extends to the cloth that was of sufficiently high quality to be given an expensive dye job so rather an ambiguous word and the name for the cloth may indeed have a different etymological root entirely referring to it being much fulled and sheared.
Serge
A mix of woollen and worsted, requires some fulling and shearing. 
Silk
The fibre obtained from the cocoon of the silk moth. The best quality comes from the unbroken filaments from the cocoon but spun silk is made by spinning the shorter lengths for a less strong fibre which was used in the weft [and by the laws of Silk Guilds could not be used in the warp]. At this period there was no real  western sericulture.
Strijptelaken
Striped wool, Flemish, speciality of Ghent
Tabby
A coarse-waved or watered silk
Taffeta
In this period a thin and glossy silk, often ‘shot’ or having a different colour warp to weft
Velvet
A silk fabric woven with a pile and may be brocaded with more than one colour, or figured with more than one length of pile.
Wool
The hair of the sheep; comes in a variety of lengths called staples according to the species.
Woollen
Fine, short staple fabric, requires fulling and shearing; expensive to produce. A woollen broadcloth cost 7 to 8 times as much as a worsted.
Worsted
Longer, stronger staple than a woollen, a light coarser material.  Stronger than a woollen and requires no finishing so cheaper to produce.

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