Fabric Focus: Cotton Poplin

Learn all you need to know about Cotton Poplin

Fabric Focus – Cotton Poplin

To try and demystify fabric names and help you decide what fabrics will work best with whatever projects you’re working on we will be featuring a different fabric each month and giving you the lowdown on what it is and how best to use it. 

What is cotton poplin? 

You have probably worn cotton poplin or a cotton/poly mix without even being aware of it. It is such a popular fabric in modern clothing for its weight and texture. Traditionally it was always found in more everyday clothing but has found its way into high end fashion due to its drape, strength and lustrous surface. It is a really solid all round fabric that is perfect for lots of different types of garments. 

What is it made from? 

Poplin is characterised by its tight close weave and distinctive ribbed texture. Traditionally poplin was made from a fine silk warp yarn filled in with a thicker wool yarn which is how the ribbed effect is achieved. 

Today poplin is mainly made from cotton which keeps it lightweight but strong and hard wearing. But it can also be woven in different combinations of wool, silk, rayon or a poly blended yarn. However, the basic concept of a finer warp yarn and thicker weft yarn remains the same and it is what makes the fabric a poplin. It is a wonderfully versatile fabric that is cool and lightweight  with a beautiful drape, but is also sturdy and hard wearing at the same time. 

What can you use poplin for?  

Poplin has been a staple fabric for a whole range of different uses and due to its durability and elegance it was a popular choice for women’s dresses. However, in World War II, both the British and US military used it as the main material for their uniforms. It kept soldiers cool when necessary but it was strong enough to endure the rigors of war. 

The unique properties of poplin have helped to make it a comfortable but stylish fabric for all types of clothing, from shirts and skirts to trousers and jackets. It’s so incredibly versatile.  Also the subtle sheen to the surface adds a touch of luxury, allowing you to wear it in both casual and formal situations.  Today it is most commonly used in shirts or lightweight dresses as it can be woven in different widths of stripes and will take a print very well too. 

What’s the difference between Poplin and other cotton fabrics?

Poplin is often confused with twill or broadcloth, two other similar fabrics.  Both are closely woven fabrics, but while twill has a similar ridged effect to the surface texture and broadcloth is also a plain weave they are very different. 

Twill fabric has a different weave to give the fabric the diagonal lines across the surface that can appear slightly raised. It is also much stiffer than poplin and lacks the softness and drape of poplin. 

Broadcloth is woven in the same way as poplin but with thicker yarns in both the warp and weft creating a much heavier and more sturdy fabric. It is the fact that poplin has much finer warp yarns that gives it the drape and softness. 

What is Poplin like to work with? 

Poplin is incredibly easy to work with. Although it can be a fine fabric, it has a smooth face and holds its shape well when being pinned into place. 

Surface decoration works well on Poplin as the close weave makes it a forgiving fabric for multiple stitches. Both hand and machine embroidery are an effective way to enhance the style of any garments made in this fabric. 

Advantages 

  • Durable and strong 
  • Cool, lightweight 
  • Versatile 
  • Soft to touch 
  • Subtle sheen 
  • Comfortable 
  • Takes print brilliantly 
  • Easy care
  • Doesn’t wrinkle easy 
  • Doesn’t stain easy 
  • Water resistant 

Disadvantages 

  • Doesn’t lock in heat 
  • Too lightweight for winter 

Overall poplin is a great fabric to work with and it will make up beautifully into a whole range of garments. It’s easy to work with and easy to wear. Why not have a look for  some next time you’re fabric shopping.