[Namron] Handout for Fabric Sources Class

SBarrett barrett1 at cox.net
Fri Jan 13 15:47:16 PST 2012

Last night at Camp DaKaNi,

 I held a class on Period Fabrics, which covered the basics of period fabrics as well as sources where they could be purchased. 

Here is the handout. It doesn't cover everything we discussed and is very basic, but it should provide plenty of helpful info.

NOTE: The link to burnley and trowbridge was mispelled on the original handout. I have corrected it here. My thanks to Vallie for pointing that out.

Some of the things that were mentioned at class-

Gabardine is a modern weave, but it approximates lightweight period weaves so well that many reenactors consider it a viable wool fabric for costuming, especially since it comes in more colors than many suit weight wools.

Raw Silk, or Silk Noil, was generally not used for garments. It did have a small market in Italy, but wasn't generally considered a quality silk for tailoring.

Wool was the predominant fabric, even in warmer climes, because it acts as a thermal insulator, keeping you warm in the cold and cooler in the heat. Linen absorbs sweat and doesn't stick to the skin, so it acts as an air conditioner but can dehydrate the wearer if wool is not worn on the outside to control evaporation. Lightweight wools and slashed wool flannel in Ansteorran summers will help keep you more comfortable. Those of you who may have watched "Colonial House" will recall the young man chopping wood in wool flannel on a hot day, and how surprised he was when he discovered he wasn't dying from the heat.

So for most periods, use lightweight wools.

For later periods needing slashing, use wool flannel.

All periods use wool flannel in the colder months, and sometimes in the warmer months, especially for hosen.

Be careful with silk garments - silk is an effective heat trap and can be extremely uncomfortable in the summer.

If you wear all linen, stay thoroughly hydrated and be prepared to put wool on later in the day to preserve moisture.

Those who have wool allergies may want to get tested for their specific allergens, as many tropical weight wools do not have the same chemical treatements. Many who report wool allergies have no problems wearing modern business suits and dresses, which are usually made of suit weight or tropical weight wool. Quality wool flannels feel like cotton flannels and not the scratchy army blankets we tend to think of.



Woolens - made with shorter fibers, tends to have a nap or a fuzzier surface, best for late-period slashing, good for outerwear, cloaks, dresses, tunics. Look for wool flannel.

Worsteds - a more finished wool made with longer fibers. Do not slash, tends to fray. Good for summer weight garments. Tropical weight and gabardine are good options.


Buy by the ounce of the fabric if possible.

3oz = shirts and chemises / 5oz = lining, lightweight garments / 7oz and up(canvas) = outerwear, fighting garb, banners and flags.


Stick with twill satins, habotai and charmeuse for most periods, taffeta becomes an option in the 14th century. Can be slashed on the bias, better for pinking (small slashes and holes). Generally used for trim. Can be warm as a garment. Cotton velveteen is the best substitute for medieval silk velvet.


Fustian - a linen-cotton blend used in the 15th century on.

Linsey-woolsey - a linen-wool blend that appears every now and then after the 13th century.


Wash 'against the skin' linens on cold and hang dry. Most wools will not need washing, but wash on cold with baby shampoo. Many stains can be brushed off when dry. Allow outer garments to air out. Hand wash silks in tepid water and soft soaps, rinse thoroughly, air dry.


Try to match thread material to garment, i.e., linen thread for linen, wool thread for wool, silk for silk, etc. Some wool/silk threads are available, as are wool tapestry threads and wool embroidery threads called crewel. Waxing threads is a vital step to handsewing with linen, and can help with the others as well.


www.bblackandsons.com (wool flannel, gabardine, tropical weight wool, worsted flannel)

www.fabric-store.com (linens of all weights at the best prices ( also linen-cotton blends, not true fustian, but a decent liner))

www.goldensilks.net (good silk selection at reasonable prices)

www.periodfabric.com (wool, linen, fustians)

www.carolinacalicoes.com (fustians and linsey-woolsey)

www.burnleyandtrowbridge.com (wools, linens, silks)

www.renaissancefabrics.net (wools, linens, silks (especially taffeta))

www.woodedhamlet.com (tapes, braids, cords and ribbon in linen, wool and silk)

www.threadneedlestreet.com (threads of sorts, including linen, wool, silk/wool and silk)



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