The practice of brushing cloth originates in 16th century Wales. A fine metal brush was used to raise a nap on fine, short staple loosely woven wool fabric. The product was known as flannel.
By the 20th century this mechanical brushing process was done largely on mixed fibres and on cotton fabric.
Brushed cotton is soft to the touch. The soft pile retains warmth when worn so it is commonly used to create sleepwear, blankets and bed sheets.
We use brushed cotton in our red check ladies’ nightshirt, the cloth is produced in the UK.
Cotton Batiste is a plain woven, fine and dense cloth with a soft handle. It was historically used for good quality lingerie, christening gowns, as an under-lining for wedding gowns and for handkerchiefs. Cotton batiste is best described as very thin and light, fine and soft, and is supremely comfortable to wear.
We use cotton batiste in our Ladies white chemise in 18th century style, the cloth comes from Germany and is a fine, good quality cloth that is almost opaque and washes well.
Calico is a plain woven, mid-weight un-dyed, untreated cotton. It was used for undergarments by working people in the 18th and 19th century as a cheaper alternative to linen and better quality cotton fabrics. Calico is inexpensive owing to its unfinished and natural appearance and it is opaque.
We use a lightweight calico in our Ladies Chemise in fine calico
The name Chambray is derived from a commune in the Eure department of northern France, where this cloth weave originated. Chambray or chambrai first appears in North American English in the early 19th century.
Cotton chambray is a plain weave fabric woven with a coloured yarn in the warp and a white yarn in the weft. Although chambray has the appearance of denim, denim is woven with a twist (a twill construction that provides greater strength). Chambray is a softer and more flexible than denim.
We pre-wash our cotton chambray before we make it up in our Chambray shirt
Damask is a reversible figured fabric where a pattern, such as flowers, fruit or leaves, is woven into the cloth itself. The long floats of satin-woven warp and weft threads cause soft highlights on the fabric which reflect light differently according to the position of the observer.
This ancient jacquard weaving technique originates in Damascus, on the ancient Silk Road. Damask has been used for high-end fashion in Europe since medieval times, although we most commonly see it in table linens and furnishing fabrics.
We use a beautiful cotton damask for our 18th century style shirt in white.
Cotton muslin is a simple plain-weave fabric. It was imported into Europe from the Indian sub-continent from the 17th century onwards. It was used (layered) for fashionable clothing in Regency times. It comes in various weight and qualities. It has many uses other than clothing: household, culinary and industrial. It holds dye well. It is often used as an inexpensive fabric to test a new style of garment.
We use a fine cotton muslin for our Ladies white muslin chemise.
Poplin takes its name (popelino) from the papal city of Avignon in the 1700s. Poplin is a plain under/over weave, so the effect is a plain woven surface with no ribbing. Cotton poplin is a slightly heavier weight than cotton lawn, with fine ribbing giving it more crispness.
We use a cotton poplin for our Long robe in paisley cotton poplin
Cotton – two fold cotton
Only the finest cotton staples are selected for the yarn used to make two-fold cotton. These thin, elastic yarns are then spun together again (hence the term 2 fold) before being woven into the cloth.
The combination of long cotton staples and thin yarns makes for a smoother fabric with a silkier handle than a singles fabric. It is also stronger, more durable and does not fray easily. It is a top quality fabric used by high-end shirt makers.
We use two fold cotton shirting for most of our nightshirts, and for our 20th century cotton stripe grandad shirt
Cotton – two-fold cotton woven from compact yarn
Fine 70 ply, known as “compact yarn” in a 2 fold cotton produces a fabric with the smoothest, silkiest handle, while maintaining its strength and longevity. The spun yarn is dyed to shade then woven into a fine twill cloth – the twist in the weave provides additional strength to this fine cloth.
We use this cloth for our Ladies fine cotton striped nightshirt
We can make this super smooth cotton up for men’s shirts or nightshirts on request
The Jacquard loom was invented in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard to automate the weaving of patterns within woven fabric via mechanisms similar to punch cards. Jacquard is an intricate woven pattern that is both strong, stretchy and double sided. It was historically a highly specialised weaving process – jacquard looms were costly and the weaver required a greater skill to run them.
Modern electronic looms have made production easier, but even today Jacquard weaving remains a specialised process, reserved for high-quality fabrics such as Damask and Brocade.
Engineer Charles Babbage adopted jacquard weaving techniques to form the basis of early computer systems so the jacquard weave of your Elgar robe represents an important link in the development of the modern computer.
We use a jacquard weave for our Long robe in Jacquard weave cotton
Liberty Tana Lawn
Liberty Tana Lawn is named after Lake Tana in East Africa where the original cotton grew nearly a century ago. Tana lawn is made from ultra-fine, long staple cotton. No crease-resisting chemicals or irritating allergens used in its production process. It is a fine, smooth, comfortable and durable fabric, and its superb quality makes it a luxury product and a perfectly smooth base for Liberty prints.
Our Liberty print robe is in Tana lawn
Liberty of London
It was 1875 when Arthur Lasenby Liberty opened Liberty’s of London, selling fabric and objets d’art from the East. It became hugely fashionable.
Liberty fabrics have remained popular right through the 20th century, with a reputation for extravagant and eclectic designs, both traditional and wildly contemporary. In the 21st century Liberty prints continue as a byword for beautiful fabrics and for imaginative and handcrafted work.
We use a Liberty print to line our moleskin and corduory waistcoats
Lawn is a plain weave of fine threads, very smooth to wear. It takes its name from Laon in France, which was originally famous for its production of linen lawn.
Today’s lawn is made of cotton and is a fine, smooth cloth.
We use Liberty Tana lawn for our Long robe in Art Nouveau style Liberty print
Linen is the oldest known natural fabric. The flax (linseed) plant has been used to make linen since ancient times. It is the origin of the lin in many English words such as lingerie, line, linoleum, and lining.
Linen has a reputation for its coolness and freshness in hot and humid conditions, as its structure allows more air-flow and water evaporates quickly from it.
Linen is almost lint free, non-allergenic, non-static, naturally insect-repellent and provides UV protection. It also has natural antibacterial properties and resistance to fungus and bacteria.
Although strong, the more linen is washed the softer and smoother it become and will achieve optimum softness after only a few washes. It will also shrink slightly in length during the first wash.
We use a striped shirting linen for our Ladies blue striped linen nightshirt
We use a white Irish linen for our Ladies pie-frill chemise in white Irish linen. This same linen is purchased regularly by Carmelite nuns to make their underwear and altar cloths – they appreciate the fine quality of this linen.
Raw silk, known as “noil”, is made up of short fibres, not the long fibres used in the making of smooth silks. Silk Noil is the natural colour of the silk. It is incredibly soft, off-white in colour with a nubby texture and random tan flecks throughout the weave.
The textured feel is combined with a soft drape, the overall plain appearance of makes it resemble linen and makes it suitable for re-enactment.
We use this cloth for our Cream shirt in natural raw silk
Moleskin & Corduroy – known as Fustian
Fustian was a stout cloth made originally from wool and linen. It was worn by workers during the 19th century and became a political symbol of the British working class.
By the early 20th century, fustian was made in cotton and dyed in the trademark colours of soft browns, drabs, olive and lovat green.
The manufacture of Fustian remained common in places like Hebden Bridge and other towns on the fringe of the Lancashire cotton region.
To create moleskin the fustian base is repeatedly teased, brushed and rolled to bring up a nap from the weft. The process to make corduroy is more laborious. In the 1860s the base cloth was cut using a 50cm long fustian cutting knife, like a long spike. This was inserted along the fabric under the weft and between two warp threads. As it was guided forward the blade severed the weft to create the tufted ribs. This production process is now highly mechanised but it remains a specialised task to create corduroy.
We use moleskin and corduroy for our Waistcoats, and a fine corduroy in our Fine corduroy shirt
Care of fustian cloth
Moleskin and corduroy can be gently washed in a wool cycle of your washing machine. However the 19th century approach holds good – brush the pile and gently sponge to remove any debris.