Your Guide to Buying Cotton Fabric

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Your Guide to Buying Cotton Fabric

Buying cotton fabric may seem simple at first, but it can be, in fact, very difficult to sort out. When it starts out, cotton is a fluffy white flower from a ground growing plant. The cotton plant ordinarily grows in warm climates. Many products are made from the deseeded cotton flower, or in blends with other plants or synthetics. As a natural fabric, it is used frequently to make clothing, bedding, curtains, and many other things, including carpet. Most often, it is blended with a synthetic fabric to make it less prone to the faults of cotton. The major fault of an all-cotton fabric is that it shrinks when heated or washed. Pure cotton that is dyed also tends to bleed when it is first washed. For these reasons, different types of cotton were developed in order to compensate and make them a bit more user-friendly.

Cotton fabric can be purchased at fabric shops and on the online auction site, eBay. Although cotton can be found in many different products, it is usually found in three basic weaves. These weaves are found in a large amount of different fabrics, each with its own optimum use. The different types can be made less confusing by knowing the weaves and knowing which type of fabric is made from each weave.

Weaves of Cotton and Their Fabrics

The three different weaves of cotton are: plain, twill, and satin. Each of these weaves can be made into several different types of fabric. Many of these fabrics have other plants, such as hemp, or a synthetic fibre blended into them to increase strength, wear, or to decrease shrinking.

Plain Cotton

Plain cotton is exactly what it states: it is cotton woven in its truest form. It is simply one strand woven over and under. The weft strand is woven over and under the warp strand, creating a simple pattern. This can be a loose or tight weave, depending on the fabric into which it is being made.

Twill Cotton

Twill cotton is made by weaving strands of cotton yarn to make a raised, more diagonal pattern. This is a thicker form of cotton fabric. As with all weaves, it can be made from either tight or loose patterns. Twill is a very strong and sturdy form of cotton.


A satin weave is a smooth, tight weave. It is usually a very tight weave where the weft and warp are woven bearing the same sides. This gives one side a shiny surface and the other a smooth, flat, matte surface. Although satin can be woven into a loose weave, it is rarely seen this way.




Nappy cloth



Tight weave





Tight weave


White or printed

Lengthwise cords



Heavier weave


Used in trousers and shorts



Form of drill fabric

Very heavy

Used in canvas and awnings

Light versions used in warm weather clothing


Plain or twill


Warm, heavy weave

Nap on one or both sides


Plain or twill



Nap only on one side


Plain or satin

Loose weave


Often very thin

Used in clothing and for medical bandages




Woven in many different styles

Used in dishcloths

Can be used for clothing






Used for some bedding



Rough weave


Used in packaging and clothing

May be dyed or plain



Light weave



Crisp fabric

Used in bedding or clothing

Outing flannel

Plain or twill

Napped on both sides

Used in warm baby clothing, nappies, or pyjamas


Plain or basketweave

Narrow stripes

Often thin black and white stripes

May be any colour

Used for clothing


Plain or satin

Tight weave


Often dyed various colours

Prima or Egyptian cotton


Extremely tight weave

High thread count

Not from Egypt

High thread per centimetre count

Polished cotton

Satin or rarely plain



Chemically treated for shine

Shine on one side

Has many uses



Crosswise weave


Can be used for cloth, such as corduroy



Tightly woven


Often used for canvas

Also considered to be duck fabric




Satin shine on one side

Tight weave




Striped lengthwise

Can be used for business suits and other formal clothing





Often decorated with designs or geometric shapes

Terry cloth

Plain or twill

Looped on both sides



Often used for towels


Plain, satin, or twill

Cotton made to resemble true velvet

Used for children's cloth toys

Fabric pile only on one side


Plain, twill, or yarn

Used in cords


Thick and stout without being rough

These are not all of the different types of cotton fabrics available. They are a cross-section of the different weaves and uses for pure cotton. The fabrics are not blended with anything, although they can be. Many people use the basic fabrics to make clothing and other practical items. It is not unusual for cotton fabrics to be rough or smooth, depending on the tightness of the weave. Each weave can be made in tight or loose designs, but the fabrics are often only made from one or two different weaves.

The only exception to these weaves is the whipcord, which is used to make yarn for knitting, weaving, and crocheting. It is normally rough in texture, and the cotton is woven in strands not to form cloth, but to form a long cord. It is not unusual for this to be a coarse form of cotton or a cotton synthetic blend.

Identifying Cotton

One of the most common tests to identify cotton is known as the burn test. As its name implies, it involves burning cotton to see if it holds the properties of this plant-based fibre. This test is to be done very carefully with a small swatch of fabric. It is not recommended for trying to identify clothing, just the different fabrics.

When burned, cotton produces a clean flame. The flame is steady, and is often said to smell of burning leaves. It leaves a soft cinder or brushable ash behind. Depending on the type of cotton, it can burn slowly or quickly, but by no means does it appear melted. It burns to ash, so once the swatch is burned, there is nothing of its original colour or texture. The flame should be easily extinguished or blown out.

Other Types of Cotton Produced

There are two other types of cotton that are produced, which are common, but not considered fabric. The first type of cotton is knitted cotton. Although it technically looks like a fabric, it is considered knitted cotton. It is cotton woven into strands, and then woven into either a tight or loose pattern, and it is from what many blends are made. The cotton and the blend are interwoven. Many times, this is machine-made cotton, and it is used to make T-shirts and other common garments.

The other type of cotton is non-woven cotton, which is more common with synthetic blends and a chemical or heat process is used to bind the strands of cotton together. This produces a much tougher, less stretchable type of cotton. Many times, this method is used to create things, such as heavy duty gauze and nappies. It is extremely absorbent and is often created to absorb things, such as urine, blood, and other liquids that may be produced or spilled. Many cotton blended bandages, nappies, and pads are made through this method of producing a cotton material. Technically, this material is not considered fabric because it is chemically or heat bonded and not threaded or woven.

Buying Cotton Fabric on eBay

Once you have selected the type of cotton fabric that you need or want, simply type the name of the fabric into the search bar on any eBay page. Then, simply hit enter and a list is populated that contains all of the items matching your search terms, in this case, the cotton fabric. Browse through the list carefully, and once you have found a listing for cotton fabric in which you are interested, simply click on the listing and it provides you with a more detailed description of the item.

After reading the description, if you have questions, use the "ask the seller a question" feature. Most sellers are knowledgeable about their products, and are happy to answer any questions that you may have. Then, look at the seller's shipping, payment, and return policies, which provides you with information about what to expect from shipping and how to return the product if needed. Take a look at the seller's feedback as well. A seller's feedback can clue you into any problems that other buyers may have experienced with a particular seller. All of this information helps you to make an informed decision about conducting business with a seller. If the terms are not agreeable, then search for the product from a different seller.


There are three main weaves of cotton fabric and two non-standard practices of weaving it. Each of these weaving types produces a different type of fabric with different properties. It is important to know what these differences are, so that an informed decision can be made about the fabric for which you are searching. Cotton is a very sought after natural fibre that can be found almost everywhere. Fabric spools or specific lengths can be found in craft shops, sewing shops, and on the popular auction site, eBay.

Most of the time, the fabric is tagged with its type, but if it is not, most of the different types of fabrics are easy to identify. They can be identified by their weave type, and also by the method in which they are woven. Since cotton is extremely popular for making lightweight clothing, is not difficult to find. It is also easy to test for true cotton, even if it is not labelled. If purchasing cotton, one can make sure it is true cotton by performing a fabric test.

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