What Is French Terry Fabric?

Written by colleen reinhart
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What Is French Terry Fabric?
French terry is used for active wear and lightweight robes. (leopard print terry bathrobe for bath image by nextrecord from Fotolia.com)

French terry is a variation on basic terry cloth fabric. Like basic terry cloth, French terry is designed to absorb moisture. Unlike traditional terry cloth, French terry only has looped pile on one side. The other side of the fabric is unlooped and flat. French terry is also stretchier than plain terry cloth, making it suitable for a wider variety of sewing projects.

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Characteristics

Thread loops make fabric highly absorbent, so French terry is very good at sucking up moisture. Although some people use terry cloth to make towels and face cloths, its flat side makes it more well-suited to garments than bathroom accessories. Unlike heavier terry cloth, French terry has a medium-light weight that makes the fabric ideal for spring and summertime clothing.

Manufacturing Process

Manufacturers make the characteristic loops found on French terry cloth using automated pile weaving. Pile weaving incorporates an extra thread on top of what manufacturers use to create the base cloth. Workers or machines overlay the cloth with a network of thin wires and weave thread loosely over top. When the wires get pulled out, loops are left on the surface of the fabric. To make other fabrics, such as velvets, machines or people cut the loops. French terry fabric features uncut loops on one side of the fabric only.

Varieties

You can buy French terry cloth in a number of different patterns and colours. Although 100 per cent cotton fabric is most common, a number of blends are available. For instance, Fabric.com sells bamboo, rayon and cotton blends. Although French terry is relatively stretchy, especially when compared to conventional terry fabric, blends including synthetic stretch materials work best for garments requiring more give. Blends including Lycra, Spandex or both are also available from fabric retailers.

Specific Uses

According to Terry Cloth Fabric, French terry cloth is a popular choice for making robes, especially women's robes. The fabric also works well for beach cover-ups, offering a bit of warmth while helping you dry off by wicking moisture away from the body. Because French terry cloth is absorbent without being too heavy, it's a fitting choice for summertime active wear. The fabric soaks up sweat while keeping you cool. Finally, many parents choose French terry for making baby clothing and sewing cloth diapers.

Using French Terry

According to Terry Cloth Fabric, another popular name for French terry cloth is jersey terry cloth. The name is fitting, since the fabric behaves much like jersey cloth when sewing. For long-lasting seams, don't use sharp, universal needles. Instead, opt for a ballpoint needle when working with French terry. Watch for seam curling, and pull fabric tight while sewing. You're most likely to experience curling with blends featuring Lycra or Spandex.

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