Definition of Cotton Sateen

Updated February 21, 2017

Sateen is a fabric that has a lustre and softness that makes it an attractive choice among fabrics. It tends toward a soft, luxurious feel and is found at a much lower cost than silk. Sateen is used in a variety of applications, from fashion to home decor. Its distinctive sheen makes it stand out.

Is Sateen Satin?

Sateen may have a satin-smooth finish but it is not satin. Sateen and satin are each woven from a different source fabric. Sateen is generally made of cotton. Satin is usually made of silk. Sateen resembles satin in its softness and shine. Both reveal a soft, silky, glossy finish on one side and a matt, flat finish on the underside. Both are made using similar weaving techniques.


Sateen begins its life as cotton fibres. The cotton is then mercerised to soften the fabric. Mercerising cotton creates a sheen through the use of sodium hydroxide (lye). The cotton fibres are soaked in a bath of the sodium hydroxide and then are rinsed in a neutralising acid bath. The lustre comes to the fabric when it is under tension or stretched as it is mercerised. Sateen holds dye extremely well and is lustrous to the touch and eye due to the mercerising process.

Weave Structure

A sateen fabric resembles a satin because the weave structure is the same---four threads over one. This weave explains the sheen that sateen holds. Four threads together reflect light differently. Fabrics that place one thread over another, as in a plain weave, scatter the light, because the surface is broken up by the weave. Sateen uses the satin weave, which creates a smooth surface. Combine the satin weave with a mercerised cotton fibre and strong, luxurious sateen is created.

Best Uses For Sateen

The weight and "hand" of sateen make it perfect for drapery linings, sheets, duvet covers, quilting and lining in tailored clothing such as jackets and coats. It is also found in home and apparel market as place mats, napkins, tablecloths, soft handbags and accessories. Marimekko is a popular bedding designer that uses cotton sateen often in their designs.

Variations Of Sateen

Sateen can be found in pattern variations. One such variation is striped sateen. Striped sateen is a woven in pattern that alters the satin pattern, thus creating a solid sateen stripe within the dull side of the sateen pattern. Other variations are a granite weave and a check weave. Sateen can also be printed on to create various patterns.

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About the Author

Alex Burke holds a degree in environmental design and a Master of Arts in information management. She's worked as a licensed interior designer, artist, database administrator and nightclub manager. A perpetual student, Burke writes Web content on a variety of topics, including art, interior design, database design, culture, health and business.