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S

sacking
Generally applied to a variety of coarse fabrics chiefly used for making bags and sacks.  Often made from jute, hemp, flax or man-made fibres such as polyolefin.  See gunny and osnaburg.

sack cloth
A very coarse, rough cloth said to have be woven from goats' or camels' hair and worn in mourning or as penitence.  The term has also been used to describe a solid colour flannel. See burlap.

sailcloth
A tightly woven heavy canvas traditionally made of cotton or linen and used in the manufacture of ship and yacht sails.  Now often made of nylon (polyamide) or polyester for lightness, durability and strength. Cotton sailcloth is often used for sports shoes and upholstery.

sateen
A weft face weave which is normally associated with cotton cloths, although man-made fibres are sometimes used either by themselves or blended with cotton.  A smooth fabric, free of any twill direction, where the the weft thread is usually coarser than the warp.  A fabric made with this weave is often referred to as a sateen fabric.  See weaves. 

satin
A warp face weave which is often associated with silk and artificial fabrics.  Traditionally made of silk, satin has a smooth, lustrous, unbroken surface texture.  There are many types of satin fabrics which include:  ciré satin, panne satin, duchesse satin, charmeurse, antique satin, crêpe back satin, skinner's satin and a very thin satin called satinette. Satin is used extensively in the manufacture of clothing and also used in furnishings.  It is highly probable that the word satin derives from Zaitun or Zayton, the name by the Chinese medieval port of Chinchew was known by traders who exported all types of silk, particularly satin, in the 13th and 14th centuries. See weaves.

saxony
A soft hard wearing woollen cloth woven from 60s, or finer, woollen spun yarn. Also sometimes woven from soft worsted yarns.  A lightweight tweed suitable for clothing.  The name comes from the Saxony area of northern Germany, where this type of cloth was first woven.

schappe silk 
Spun silk woven fabric which has been de-gummed by fermentation.

scour
The process of scouring. Washing all types of textile fibres, yarn or cloth to remove dirt, natural fats, waxes, proteins, oil or other impurities.

scrim
An open-mesh, plain weave coarse cloth made either from jute, hemp, cotton or flax.  Used in embroidery, for gluing to the inside of wooden panelling to prevent shrinkage, to reinforce plaster when casting models, for curtaining and in theatrical scenery where a transparent area is required.

scroop
Used to describe the rustling sound produced when silk yarn or cloth is handled. Sometimes the same sound comes from certain cellulosic fibres, yarns or fabrics which have had specialized finishing.

scutch
The process of scutching has various definitions:

  1. The process of opening cotton mechanically and cleaned, then formed into a continuous lap.
  2. The operation of separating the woody part of retted flax from the flax fibre.
  3. The process carried out on a scutcher, in the finishing process, for opening a rope of fabric.

seersucker
The old Persian phrase for milk and sugar, shír o shakkar, aptly describes the character of this fabric. Usually a warp striped plain weave cotton fabric, its design is of smooth stripes contrasting with puckered or crinkled stripes.  Sometimes the stripes are dyed in contrasting colours. The fabric can be produced in three different ways: by each stripe in the warp being woven under different tension, by using two yarns in the warp of varying twist or by printing a resist on a cotton cloth which is then treated with caustic soda which then crinkles the resist free areas of the cloth.  Requires little or no ironing. 

selvedge
The two longitudinal edges of a woven fabric. The selvedge is made when the weft turns round each of the extreme warp ends when the weft passes through the warp.

shepherd's check
A check effect, normally using in black and white yarns. The yarns are usually arranged in groups of either 4 white and 4 black, 6 white and 6 black or 8 white and 8 black. Woven in a 2 and 2 twill weave. Similar checks are called dog's tooth or hound's tooth checks. See glen checks.

sericulture
The cultivation of silkworms, or lepidoptera larvae, for the production of cocoons from which silk is unwound to produce a textile thread.

sericin  
The protein liquid, known also as gum, which coats the silk as it is exuded by the silkworm.

sett
Alternative spelling: set. This term is used to indicate the density of the ends and picks in a woven fabric.  Usually expressed by the number of ends per inch or centimetre and the number of picks per inch or centimetre.  For example a square sett cloth would have the same number of ends and picks in a square inch or centimetre.  The state of the fabric should be described at the same time, for example: loomstate sett or finished sett. Sometimes the term pitch is used to mean the same. See tartan.

shawl
From the Persian word säl. An oblong or square piece of any textile, either wool, cotton, silk or other fibre worn chiefly by women as a covering for the shoulders or head. 

shahtoosh
A shawl or light blanket woven from the underwool from the Tibetan antelope or Chiru, a rare and now endangered animal found in the remote high mountain regions of Kashmir, northern India.  Shahtoosh is literally a very soft wool (toosh) fit for a king (shah) which has been handspun.  It became illegal to trade in this rare wool in 1976.  See pashmina.

shed
The opening for the weft to pass through selected lifted warp ends leaving the remainder lowered. For instance when weaving a plain weave fabric, the warp ends are lifted and lowered alternately. 

sheep
Any animal of the ruminant genus ovis. Sometimes horned, especially the widely domesticated species ovis aries, which is reared not only for meat and skin but the wool from which many different types of textiles are made.  There are over 50 pure, half and rare breeds of sheep in the United Kingdom.  Three main breeds of sheep in the southern hemisphere are reared in large numbers for their wool: merino, polwarth and corriedale.  See wool.

shibori
Japanese tie-dye or stitch-resist technique. Usually on silk or cotton fabric using indigo dye. See bandhini, plangi, tie-dye.

shoddy
A woollen cloth made from reprocessed or regenerated wool fibre often obtained from old woollen rags.  The process of was developed in Britain in 1806 by two Yorkshiremen, Messrs Law and Parr.  By 1832 the term shoddy to mean woollen cloth made from recycled, shredded woollen rags and became the mainstay of the West Yorkshire woollen trade providing warm clothing for the mass market.  The shoddy industry has now moved to Italy and northern India. See mungo.

shoddy shaker
A machine used to shaking dirt from the waste short staple wool or shoddy, after carding.  Also known as Issit's shaker.

shot silk 
An iridescent effect in a silk cloth, like taffeta, woven with one colour in the warp and contrasting colour in the weft.

shuttle
The yarn-package (such as a pirn) carrier that passes through the shed (of the warp) to insert the weft during weaving.  There are many types of shuttle.

silk
The protein filament formed into a cocoon by the larva of the silk moth during the process of sericulture.  see  Chinese

  • silk  - English
  • soie  - French
  • scide  - German
  • serikon  - Greek
  • seta  - Italian
  • sir  - Korean
  • sericum  - Latin
  • sutera   - Malay
  • seda  - Spanish
  • sheolk  - Russian

See also raw silk

sisal
A leaf fibre, which is over a metre in length, is extracted from Agave sisalana Perrine.  The fibre is hard, strong and pale cream in colour.  The fibres are imbedded in the soft tissue of the long, pointed leaf and can be extracted by scraping away the soft tissue.  The fibre is used in the manufacture of string, binder twine and rope which are used to make bags, brushes, floorcovering and matting.   It resembles henequen (Agave fourcroydes) which is quite often confused as sisal.  Originally grown in South America, Agave sisalana was introduced into West and East Africa in the early 1900s. Sometimes referred to as Bahama hemp.

size
There are various different sizes, which are usually glutinous in consistency: starch, animal glue size, gelatin size, rice size, linseed oil and chemical sizes such as polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and polyacrylic acid. Often size is applied to warps, and sometimes wefts, to lay the hairiness of some yarns and increase their strength. The sizing is done before weaving, and in some cases during warp preparation, to protect the yarns from abrasion on the healds and reed.

skein
A continuous length, of no set measurement, of yarn or thread coiled into collapsible coil obtained by winding a definite number of turns on a reel with a set circumference.  The circumference of the reel can measure a yard or a metre, 45 inches or 60 inches often depending on the type of textile trade.  Often referred to as a hank.

sley
The frame, which hangs in front of the shafts on the loom, supports the reed through which the warp ends are threaded in order.  The slay is pushed back and forth during he process of weaving, to press the yarn firmly into the fell of the cloth.  Sometime referred to as the beater, batten, lay, lathe, going-part or fly-beam. See batten.

sliver
A continuous untwisted rope of assembled fibre with a uniform cross-section.  A sliver is produced after fibre has been carded.  Several slivers can be processed further by putting them through a drawframe to produce a single, well blended and straightened sliver.  The sliver usually goes through further processing by drawing out into a roving.  The same term is used throughout the woollen, worsted, cotton and man-made fibre industries.

soosee
Soosie, soosey, susi or soucis. From a Hindi word given to a coloured stripe silk or silk and cotton fabric loosely handwoven in plain weave. Possibly the source of the proverb which says that a silk purse cannot be made from a sow's ear (soosee).

space-dyeing
The process of applying one or several colours on a single yarn by printing, spraying, tie-dyeing, wax resist or any other method.

spinning
The process by which a mass of staple fibres is converted into a yarn or thread to meet required specifications of thickness, evenness, twist and composition.  Spinning can be done by hand, by hand controlled machine (like a spinning wheel) or mechanically.  There are many types of spinning mechanisms all based on five different principles:

  • Fly spinning
  • Cap spinning
  • Ring spinning
  • Centrifugal or pot spinning
  • Rotor spinning

See ring spinning, rotor spinning, jenny and mule 

spun silk 
Yarn spun from waste silk which has been processed and spun like cotton.

staple
Used to describe a small mass or tuft of animal, vegetable or man-made fibre illustrates the fibre length, hence, for example, the terms 'short staple wool' or 'long staple cotton' or 'short staple polyester'.

staple fibre
Usually used to describe man-made fibres which have been cut or broken into pre-determined lengths, for example, 50mm polyester staple fibre.

staple length
The length of staple fibre compared to the length of natural fibres, for example, 'mountain wools have a staple length of 50mm'or'the staple length of Indian cotton averages 20mm'.

stenter
One of a series of finishing processes when the selvedges of an open-width textile fabric are held at a predetermined width and the tension maintained.  The attachment to the selvedges can be by needles, hooks or clips.  Traditionally done on simple frames, is now done in a stentering machine which usually contains a dryer.  The term stentering is used for passing a fabric through a stenter, or tenter. Stentering is done for a variety of reasons:

  • drying and setting fabrics
  • heat-setting of thermoplastic materials
  • dye fixing
  • controlling the width of fabrics

A flexible stick, called a stenter or tenter, is often used when weaving on a handloom to maintain a constant width of the fabric under an even tension, as it is being woven.  Hence the term 'to be under tenter hooks' means to be tense.

stockinette
A single knit fabric which derives its name from stocking stitch traditionally used in the manufacture of socks and stockings.  Stockinette is now associated with cotton cleaning cloths, although it can be used for nightwear or dresses.  Although similar in weight it is generally looser than the knitted fabric used in the manufacture of T shirts.

stone-wash
A method of vigorously washing and tumbling a fabric or garments, to create a 'peached' or suede surface and soft handle, using water, sand or pebbles.  The process is used in finishing silk and cotton fabrics and garments. 

strand
A single or multiple yarn used as a component of a rope or cable.  The term also refers to a strand of raw silk which is composed of filaments reeled from several cocoons at the same time. 

strié
A fine stripe or streaky effect, created (sometimes by accident) in the length of the fabric produced by random warp yarns having been dyed in a variety of tones of the same colour.

string
A thick, folded yarn made from jute, hemp, sisal, cotton or any strong fibre.  String yarn is coarse mercerized yarn often used in the manufacture of gloves.

stuff
Often refers to woven cloth, specifically worsted, which has not been made into a garment. The word stuff derives from a French word for cloth: étoffe.

suiting 
A broad term used for a range of wool, silk, cotton or man-made fibre fabrics that have body and can be tailored into men's and women's suits.

sungkit
Or songket in Brunei or sungket in Malay.  A highly decorative woven cloth approximately 2m by 84cm wide.  Used as a ceremonial garment and worn by men like an apron or kilt over a silk suit.  The term comes from the Malay word menyongket meaning 'to embroider with gold or silver threads'.  Sungkit is not embroidered but is a woven fabric belonging to the brocade family of fabrics.

sunn
A soft, bast fibre obtained from the stalk of the Crotalaria juncea L. plant.  It is light in colour and lustrous. Also known as sunn hemp, san hemp, sana, sewnee, itarsi, Indian hemp, Jubbulpure hemp, Madras hemp, Benaras hemp or Bengal hemp, although it is not hemp.  Used to make string and used in paper making.  Chiefly grown in India and Sri Lanka.  See hemp.

surgical cloths
See bandage and gauze.

swift  
A simple metal or wooden frame normally 36" or 1 metre in circumference and supported on a stand, rotated by hand or motor.  A simple device to support a hank of yarn from which to unwind it.

swivel weaving
A special type of loom mechanism allows for small decorative effects, such as dots, to be interwoven on the surface of a fabric while being constructed on the loom. The interweaving of the spot requires extra weft yarns which are introduced across the warp by a row of small shuttles. Each spot or figure can be of a different colour as it has its own shuttle. see lappet weaving