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The Fashion Designer’s Dictionary – Fabric & Textiles Terminology You Need to Know

In the fashion industry, if you’re gonna walk the walk, you gotta talk the talk… and you don’t want to have to reach for your phone or your dictionary every time you want to communicate! If you’re serious about making it in the fashion biz, you’ll need more than just design skills, and a strong fashion sense – you need to be able to speak confidently and professionally about your the technical details of your fabric. Here are some words you need to know to convey the technical info about your fabrics. if you want to be taken seriously as a designer-entrepreneur and make it big in the world of fashion!

Greige goods: Undyed yarns woven/knit into a fabric that may be dyed later. They are often more cost efficient especially when trying to reach higher minimums without breaking the bank (however, they are not intended for use to make smaller cuts). Greige goods may be classified as PFD (prepared for dyeing) or PFP (prepared for printing).

Grain: The direction in which the yarns, or threads, are woven in a fabric. The grain runs lengthwise (parallel, called the warp yarn) as well as widthwise (perpendicular, called the weft yarn) to the selvedges. The warp yarn is called the straight grain, and the weft yarn is called the cross grain.

Warp: The foundation yarns of the fabric, wound directly onto the loom prior to weaving and run parallel to the selvedge. Since warps yarns are generally stronger than weft yarns, you should cut and sew with the warp hanging perpendicular to the floor to establish a nice drape for your garment.

Weft: The yarns that run from selvedge to selvedge, width-wise. These are fill yarns, and are not as strong as warp yarns, nor do they provide as much stretch or give.

GSM: Weight is an important component when it comes to choosing the right fabric for your project. There are two systems of fabric weight categorization, imperial and metric. GSM is a metric measurement meaning grams per square meter – it is how much 1 square meter of fabric weighs. GSM is the most common method used in the industry. Check out our fabric classification blog for more on this!

Knit/woven or nonwoven: Weaving and knitting are the most common fabric construction methods. Knit fabrics are made by inter-looping yarns and stretch in both directions. Woven fabrics are made by interlacing two sets of yarns and have a checkered pattern when looked at closely. Knowing which you’re working with is critical to your production process, so brush up on your fabric knowledge with our awesome blog post that explains the differences in detail!

Selvedge: The edges of a woven fabric, usually ¼” to ½” wide, which are woven extra tight to prevent ripping or fraying when being finished at the mill. Selvedges have a tendency to shrink at faster rates than the rest of the fabric due to its difference in construction, so keep this in mind when working with it (in fact, removing it altogether prior to sewing with it is likely your best bet).

Bias: aka off grain, bias is any diagonal line in the fabric that runs any other direction other than on the grain. Fabric cut on bias has more stretch and drape than fabric cut on the straight or cross grain, which is attractive to many designers, but beware – if you don’t cut on “true bias” (an exact 45 degrees angle to the warp and weft threads), the fabric can end up being twisted and distorted!

Fabric hand: How the fabric feels on your skin. Cool, slick, smooth, loose, stiff, heavy and stretchy are all terms used to describe the fabric hand. This is an important feature to your fabric, as it relates to the physical, psychological, and physiological features of the fabric, which can determine whether a customer will purchase your garment or not. It may also implicate the ideal use for the fabric.

Drape: The fabric ability and likelihood to fall under its own weight into wavy folds of different nature. Drapability is tough to determine because it is a subjective feature, reliant on one’s experience and both professional and personal opinion and bias. The drape may also be affected by the fiber content of the fabric, as well as the fabric’s different structural or mechanical attributes.

Textile Dictionary: For an extensive and thorough list, visit

Knowing the correct terminology is not only the best way to be taken seriously as a professional in the industry, but will also save you a lot of hassle in avoiding simple errors that may require extensive repair in the long run!

Did we miss any apparel industry lingo you use when sourcing fabric?

P.S. Looking for affordable fabrics and care to help the planet? We are launching a marketplace that connects designers with garment factories that have excess fabric. Purchasing these fabrics will prevent them from going to landfill. Want to learn more? Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to get your hands on these fabrics. Sign Up Here.

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