If you’re looking for a soft and absorbent fabric, terry cloth is worth considering! It’s a versatile material that can be used for all sorts of things, from bathrobes to beach towels and more. So, if you’re after comfort and functionality, terry cloth might be the way to go.

Collage of different colours and types of terry cloth fabric

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at terry cloth, where it comes from, its characteristics, and how it can be used.

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What Kind Of Fabric Is Terry Cloth?

Terry cloth, also known as terrycloth or towelling, is a woven fabric with loops or piles on both sides, creating a soft and absorbent surface. These loops give the fabric its signature plush texture, making it highly desirable for various applications, especially water absorption.

This fabric is primarily made from cotton, which ensures its absorbent properties. Still, you can also find terry cloth blends that include polyester or other synthetic fibres to enhance durability and quick-drying capabilities.

White terry cloth towels in a pile

Terry cloth is made from a variety of materials, such as:

  • Cotton
  • Microfibre
  • Bamboo
  • Modal

Where Terry Cloth Originated From

Did you know that terry cloth has a centuries-old history? Its name is believed to come from the French word “tirer” or the Latin word “tergere,” both of which mean “to wipe” or “to dry.”

Initially, terry cloth was created for practical purposes, specifically as towels for Turkish baths, known for their luxurious and cleansing experiences. With its looped design, this fabric was perfect for absorbing moisture and drying the body after a bath.

Terry cloth bathrobes in different colours hanging up

What Is Terry Cloth Used For?

Terry cloth is a versatile fabric that is highly absorbent and soft, making it suitable for many things.

  • Bathrobes and Wash Towels – After a refreshing bath or shower, there’s nothing like snuggling up in a soft and cosy terry cloth bathrobe. And, when it comes to drying off, towels made from this fabric do an excellent job absorbing all the excess moisture. Other popular items are spa wraps and hair turbans.
  • Swimming Towels – If you’re planning on hitting the beach, terry cloth is the way to go for your towel. Not only does it dry off the sand and water in a flash, but it’s also super easy to shake clean. You’ll also find it in a lot of beach cover-ups and swimwear, so it’s a versatile fabric to have in your beach bag.
  • For Baby – If you’re making bathrobes, hooded towels, or bibs for babies, you may want to consider terry cloth. This fabric is known for its softness and gentle feel on delicate skin.
  • Sportswear – Athletes commonly use Terry cloth sweatbands and headbands to absorb sweat during workouts.
  • At Home – Terry cloth is found in kitchen towels, cleaning cloths, and mattress protectors for added comfort.

What Is The Difference Between Terry Cloth And Towel?

When it comes to drying or wiping, the terms “terry cloth” and “towel” are related but have different meanings. A towel is a general term for any fabric used for this purpose, regardless of the material used. On the other hand, terry cloth is a specific type of fabric made from cotton that has a soft and plush texture with looped or piled surfaces on both sides. Because of its absorbency, terry cloth is commonly used for towels and bathrobes.

What Is French Terry?

French terry is a type of terry cloth fabric that longer loops on one side and a smooth surface on the other. It is popular for sweatshirts, hoodies, and athleisure wear.

Types Of Terry Cloth Fabric

While all terry cloth fabrics share the common looped texture, there are different variations to consider when choosing the perfect one for your projects:

1. Standard Terry Cloth – This type of terry cloth is very popular and has medium-length loops on both sides. It’s commonly used for bathrobes, towels, and casual clothing.

2. French Terry – French terry has longer loops on one side and a smooth surface on the other. This type of terry cloth is popular for sweatshirts, hoodies, and athleisure wear.

3. Micro Terry – Micro terry is made from microfiber yarns, creating a fabric with smaller and denser loops. It is incredibly soft and lightweight, perfect for travel towels and lightweight apparel. I use small mico terry cloths for cleaning around my house.

4. Organic Terry – Organic terry cloth is made from certified organic cotton, free from harmful chemicals and pesticides. Learn more about sustainable materials.

Close up of purple terry cloth fabric

Tips For Sewing & Caring For Terry Cloth Fabric

If you’re planning to work with terry cloth, it’s good to know that the fabric’s thickness and texture can impact your project. To help you out, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Cutting – For clean cuts through the loops, using sharp scissors or a rotary cutter is recommended. To avoid slipping, consider placing the terry cloth between layers of tissue paper while cutting.
  • Seams and Finishes – If you’re working with terry cloth, it’s worth keeping in mind that it can be quite bulky. One way to finish raw edges neatly is to use a serger or a wide zigzag stitch. Another great option is to go for French seams, which will give you a strong and polished finish.
  • Needle and Thread – It’s best to use a ballpoint needle and a sturdy polyester thread. This will help avoid snags and make sure your stitches stay strong and last for a long time.
  • Washing and Drying – If you have terry cloth items that need washing, you’ll be happy to know they can be machine washed and tumble-dried! To keep them soft and absorbent, use a gentle cycle with cold water and don’t add any fabric softeners.
  • Avoid High Heat – It’s best to avoid using a hot iron directly on the fabric as it could harm the loops.

You can learn more about the different types of fabrics – I also have guides covering the different types of sustainable fabrics and the different types of clothes linings and types interfacing fabrics too!

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