Napped Fabrics – What Type Of Fabrics Are They?

What do we mean by napped fabrics? The term napped fabrics can be used in two ways. One way is to say that a fabric is with nap and the other is to say that a fabric is napped during cutting of the fabric from a pattern for garment construction.

Fabrics With Nap

Actual napping is a finishing process applied to one or both sides of a woven or knitted fabric. Napping raises the fiber ends to the surface of the fabric, so that they can be clipped, brushed flat or left erect. This then creates a surface texture that creates a softer, heavier and usually a warmer fabric. These raised fibers all lie in one direction.

Some fabrics that are napped, those created through a finishing process are ones such as: melton, wood broadcloth, flannel, serge, sweatshirt fleece, mohair, camel’s hair, suede cloth, brushed denim, lamb’s wool, and synthetic suedes, to name a few.

Pile Fabrics

Pile fabrics are often loosely referred to as fabrics that are napped. These fabrics are woven with an extra set of yarns to produce a pile on one or both sides of the fabric, which creates their raised surface, but they are not truly napped, because they have not undergone a finishing process to make them true napped fabrics. However, because of their raised surfaces, piles require a with nap layout, since the raised fibers all run in one direction, and they must be cut in this napped direction for the best presentation of the raised fibers in the garment, otherwise the finished garment can look strange.

Some pile fabrics with a nap are those such as: velvet, velveteen, corduroy, fleece, terry, fake fur, and boucle, and chenille to name a few.

So, in essence what is the difference between fabrics that are said to be napped? One fabric is napped during a finishing process during manufacture to produce the raised surface, and the other is knitted with an extra layer of yarns during the manufacturing process to produce the raised surface.

Determining Direction of Nap

To determine the direction of the nap, prior to layout and cutting, one should run the hand over the surface of the fabric parallel to the selvage. The fabric feels smooth when it is stroked with the nap and rough when stroked against the nap.

For more information about true napped and pile fabrics some great references are:

Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide

More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina

For more information about napped fabrics and pile fabrics click here on the link to to view the sewing guidelines 4.120 and 4.218 for napped fabrics.

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Fabric Facts
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