Fabric Know How – Shirting’s Part 17

Shirts are key fashion garments this season and for the winter season too. Interest in shirt making has increased accordingly with home makers keen to increase their skills,  In January we ran a shirt making course  and as always we included fabric knowledge module.  In today’s Fabric Friday we would like to share our Shirting Fabric Know How with you.

Shirtings are mainly a plain weave or a twill weave, they are a lighter weight to provided drape. Part 1 of Shirting’s we will only explore plain weaves.


The most commonly used  shirt fabric is a plain weave classic poplin, not to be confused with quilters poplin, this is too heavy and the handle is stiff.  Shirt weight is woven with 2 ply 100’s yarn.  Poplin usually has twice as many warp threads to weft threads.

There are superfine poplin’s which produce a very soft drape and handle and also poplin’s with 4% Lycra which gives the shirt some give and more importantly allows the fabric to recover,  This fabric is perfect for slim fit shirts and reduces the creasing from the extension of the body through wear.

Note: Yarn thickness,  the lower the ticket number the thicker the yarn.  Confusing!  The thread you generally sew with is most likely to be ticket number 120.  Gutterman do not give you the thread thickness size but Coats threads will state thickness.  So a shirt poplin is woven with 2 x 100 yarns, which is  slightly thicken than your sewing thread.

Two yarns twisted together to create a single yarn can be described as 2 ply or 2 fold.  Multiple ply yarns when woven create a fabric with more lustre and a smoother handle. The yarn is also stronger and harder wearing.

Variations on poplin:

Poplin shirting can be plain, striped , checked and printed. Striped fabrics are named by the type of stripe pattern.


Pin stripe.  Generally a light, fine broken or chalky stripe on a dark back ground.

Candy Stripes.  Very narrow stripes, yarn dyed alternating dark and light plain weave.

Bengal or Regency stripes.  Originated in India and became popular in the UK during the Regency period. The stripes are the same width alternating between light and dark.

Awning Stripes. These are big and bold stripes alternating light and dark yarn dyed threads.  The stripes are approximately 1 cm thick.

Barcode Stripes.  Mulitple stripes of various thickness and/ or colours.










A plain weave, yarn dyed square check, classic gingham has a thicker yarn either side of check bur this is not used on shirting.  It is usually a bold coloured yarn with a white yarn.



This brightly coloured check originated in Madras India.  It is an uneven check with stripes in bright or garish colours.  It is suitable for summer shirts.




There are many more check patterns that are mostly described as a check, over check or window pane.  Others such as hounds tooth, tartan and plaids will be discussed in the next post when we look at twill weave shirting’s.


More Plain Weave Shirting’s


Chambray – a light-weight, plain weave cotton fabric having a coloured warp and a white weft, producing a mottled appearance. Acorn Shirting’s weave using a white warp and a coloured weft. The cloth is fine and soft, with excellent drape and does not look bulky.



End on end – The English term comes from the French “fil-à-fil”, meaning “thread-to-thread”. End on End is a type of closely woven, plain weave cloth using a light warp yarn and a dark weft yarn. Typically woven using white yarn with another colour to create a fabric with a soft, muted tone. End on end has the same properties as poplin, the only difference is that end on end features lighter coloured weft threads running in a horizontal direction on the shirt.  As you can see from the picture it gives a chalky cross hatched look.


Lawn. This it like a poplin but much finer, woven with 70’s x 70’s lawn fabric.  This plain weave cloth was originally made from linen but now it is mostly made from cotton using fine, high count yarns.  This results in a soft, smooth and silky handle to the cloth.  Tana lawn is the name Liberty of London give their lawn fabric. It is a top weight cloth at around 85gms/sq.mt


Batiste. A opaque, light weight cloth woven from cotton, wool or linen.  Linen batiste is also known as Chambric. It is not as sheer as a voile and is used for informal summer shirts, lining, lingerie and handkerchiefs. Acorn Fabrics use 2ply yarns in the warp and single yarns in the weft, the weight is 100gms/sq.m.



Most of the swatches are photographed from our swatch book from Acorn Classic Shirtings, Acorn are one of few companies left that still use production facilities based in England. Acorn collaborate with a handful of mills based across the North of England, working closely with each and every one to maintain a high standard of production. Although we can still weave some of our products in the UK, finishing has to be sent into Europe and then brought back again for stocking and distribution.  Acorn use mainly Egyptian cotton and their shirtings are of the highest quality.  You will always know the fibre content of your cloth and you will be given full technical info too.  Surprisingly there is no minumum order and they are competively priced.

Next week, part 2 of shirting’s Fabric Know How will concentrate on twill weaves and some of the specialist shirting weaves.  Due to demand we are rerunning the shirt making course in September.  We have a few places left, please let us know if you would like to join the course.