How Fabrics Get Their Names
( Originally Published 1924 )
Fabrics are almost invariably named for the cities in which they were originally manufactured. Every age, as well as the four quarters of the globe, are represented. Some of the exceptions, however, are:
Alpaca, which comes from the animal of the same name in Peru. It is one of the llama species, and its wool was once used to make the fabric which is so popular for summer garments.
Baize, which we commonly think of as green, was named from its original color, a reddish brown. The word is really the plural of bay, and the color indicates that of a horse.
Bandanna is from an Indian word meaning to bind or tie, and refers to a manner of tying knots in fabrics to prevent the dye from reaching every part (the tie-and-dye process). In this way, the spots are left white, and the rude pattern remains in the cloth.
Calico first came from Calicut, a town in India, which was once celebrated for its cotton cloth.
Cambric is from Cambria, a city in France.
Damask was obviously derived from the name of the city of Damascus, in Syria.
Gauze is from Gaza, in Syria, tho possibly it may have come from the Hindoo word gazi, meaning thin cloth.
Muslin is named from Mosul, a city on the banks of the Tigris in Asia.
Silks and serge come from the Latin word Seres, meaning Chinese. These fabrics originated in that part of Asia which is now northern China.
Velvet is from the Italian word velluto, which means woolly; this in turn is derived from the Latin vellus, a fleece; vellum is a derivative of the same root, a pelt or hide.