Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fabric Friday: Batiste

Batiste [buh-teest] is a very fine and light weight balanced plain weave fabric, which is opaque. It is breathable and lends itself to pleating and pretty gathers, and so is prized for high end summer weight blouses, and lingerie.
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Made of cotton or a wool cotton blend (though now often made of rayon and polyester as well) Batiste is also used for window panels, and baby items - especially christening gowns. It is believed that Cambric was the predecessor to batiste and was at that time always made of linen. 

The name derives from the Flemish word Cambrai and was made in the region that became part of France in 1677. The French word for the same fabric was batiste. Batiste is often said to have been invented in the 13th century (or later) by Jean Baptiste, a French linen weaver. However, we find no historical evidence to support this connection.

Our modern day fabrics are often misnamed and further confused by the wide array of fiber contents. Batiste made of all cotton (especially combed or carded cotton) is finer and more expensive than synthetic products. Organdy, which is the same fiber content and weave as batiste, differs in the finishing. It receives and acid wash which makes it more transparent and lustrous.
You may also be familiar with ribbon called organdy. Though there are some high quality ribbons woven and processed just as their larger fabric counterparts. Most of the ribbon you will see in craft and fabric shops is going to be synthetic polyester and for many decorating applications that is just fine.
Organza, another similar appearing fabric, is actually made of silk. Cotton lawn is also similar to batiste, but is generally made of a slightly looser weave resulting in a softer fabric. The name lawn, by the way, comes from the French Laune and was originally produced in Laon in France.

The history of this fabric is even more complicated by the fact that England banned the import of batiste from France at one time in favor of imports from their colony in India. This change resulted in the Indian fabric called Nainsook [neyn-soo k], which is similar in fiber content and weave, being called batiste. 

And then there is voile [voil; French vwal]. Voile, from the old French word for veil, is more like lawn than batiste (that is a looser weave and perhaps the thread is not quite so fine), but it is a bit stiffer than lawn. Both lawn and voile take dye well and are more likely to have printed designs, where batiste is almost always a solid color (white, ivory or other pastels are most common)

All of this history is interesting, but the most important thing to know is that fine cotton batiste and less expensive synthetic substitutes are readily available, and ideal for clothing, sheer draperies, and lightweight linings – especially for clothing that must be lined but where maintaining breathability is desired. It is also suitable for fine needlework, handkerchiefs, etc. Today some of the finest come from Switzerland, and organic cotton fabric is also available.

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