Soft Surroundings
Glossary Of Terms
Product Terms A to Z

Acetate: A synthetic fiber made from wood cellulose like a bio fiber, but treated with acid to produce a strong, lightweight absorbent fabric often used in linings.

Acid Etched: Designs on or carved into glass by use of acids on the surface.

Acrylic: A synthetic fiber with the properties of very soft wool. Holds up well to machine washing. 

Alpaca: Luxurious natural fiber made from the fleece of the alpaca (related to the llama).

Angora: Luxurious natural fiber made from the fleece of the angora goat or the combed soft hairs of the angora rabbit. Products sold by Soft Surroundings containing angora fiber are humanely harvested and confirmed cruelty-free.  Our angora is sourced by combing and humane shearing, never from plucking.  We use best practice standards to ensure animal welfare is always safeguarded, and we are committed to working closely with our suppliers to maintain this.

Applique: A piece of fabric, cut to shape and sewn on to a larger piece as decoration.

Arabesque: From the mideastern style - an intricate pattern or design featuring spiralling or serpentine lines.

Armoire: A large, sometimes ornate cabinet or chest.

Artisan: Made by, or having the visual appeal of the work of skilled craftsmen, using time honored methods.

Asymmetrical: Varying in length or pattern from one side to the other. Different on each side, not symmetrical.

Ball Fringe: Corded fringe ending in tufted pom poms.

Bamboo: The latest of the bio fibers, Bamboo (rayon made from bamboo) fiber comes from the cellulose of bamboo plants. It is a very soft yarn that blends well with other fibers. Bamboo is the most absorbent and quickest drying of this fiber group. The bamboo used is an easily renewable crop and not taken from the wild. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth.

Bateau: Boat neck - a neckline with a straight horizontal opening at front and usually back.

Batik: Originally, a hand dyeing process using wax to create intricate patterns. A print in the ethnic style of batik work.

Batiste: A fine, sometimes sheer, linen or cotton fabric. Handkerchief weave.

Battenburg: An intricate form of flat, cutwork lace.

Batting: Synthetic or natural filling in a quilted piece or pillow.

Beading: The decorative application of ornamental beads, including seed beads (small spheres), bugle beads (tubes), charlotte beads (with single facet) or any variety of novelty shapes.

Bed Cap: A coverlet with squared, fitted corners at the foot.

Bedskirt: Fabric used to cover the area from bottom of mattress to floor. May be tailored (straight fabric, with or without pleats) or gathered. "Drop" refers to the length of the fabric from mattress bottom to hem. Puddling occurs when a longer drop (usually 18" plus) is used that causes the fabric to bunch at floor level.

Bedspread: A (usually) unlined covering for the bed that reaches completely to the floor and has additional length at top to fold over bed pillows.

Beetling: Hammering fabric (usually linen) to achieve a smooth, polished finish.

Bengaline: Fabric woven not unlike taffeta, but with a slightly raised directional cord or rib, usually of blended fibers.

Berber: A fairly flat woven carpet with varying woven loop sizes and minor color variations for a textured effect.

Bias Cut: Fabric cut at a diagonal angle to enhance the drape and curve appeal.

Biofiber: Any yarns of a family made from plant cellulose that is treated chemically to produce monofilament fibers (rayon, tencel, modal, etc.).

Bleeding: Fabric losing dye when exposed to water.

Bodice: The area of a garment covering the upper torso.

Bolster Pillow: A long, often cylindrical, cushion or pillow for a bed, sofa, etc.

Bouclé: Fabric woven of a curled yarn, for a textured, "Chanel" effect.

Bouillon Fringe: Fringed trim ending in thick, twisted individual cords.

Braid: Applied trim in a braid or loop pattern.

Broad Cloth: A heavy, sturdy woven fabric, with a slightly felted surface.

Brocade: A jacquard style weave in which some thicker yarns are used for a substantial tapestry or chenille surface in some areas. 

Brocante: An antique fair or flea market (French).

Brushed Cotton: Cotton fabric that has been brushed after weaving, for a soft, peached surface.

Brushed Fringe: Simple fringe ending in full, unraveled yarn at a uniform length.

Burlap: Woven jute in a basic canvas weave to an almost open weave. Textured and sturdy.

Burn-Out: A process of printing which uses chemicals, rather than color, to "burn out" or dissolve away one fiber in a cloth. Purpose is to achieve a sheer lacy & intricate design. Also used to obtain eyelets or other type patterns in a fabric.

Canoodle: Canoodle lounging chair. To canoodle is to snuggle up playfully.

Capodimonte: Literally "top of the mountain", from an old legend of an Italian prince whose castle set too high in the mountains to maintain a garden. Ceramic flowers were created by artisans to mimic the beauty of nature. An Italian born ceramic technique in which individual clay pieces (petals, leaves, roping or cutwork) are hand formed and placed before the piece is fired.

Cashmere: Luxurious natural fiber made from the fleece of Kashmir goats.

Ceramic: Kiln fired clay pottery.

Chaise: A long chair, suitable for lounging.

Chaise & a Half: A wider chaise, suitable for two people.

Chambray: Fabric given an aged, vintage look by weaving white threads in one direction.

Charmeuse: A lightweight monofilament weave that is soft, smooth, drapes well and has a semi-lustrous face.

Chenille: Derived from the French word meaning caterpillar. A fabric using special yarns with pile protruding from all sides for a fuzzy texture.

Chiffon: A very lightweight fabric made with fine, hard spun threads in a plain weave. Very sheer and drapey.

Chinoiserie: A toile print of traditional asian scenes.

Chintz: Printed cotton fabric with a flat weave and a (usually) glazed finish.

Coir: Fiber from coconut shell husks.

Combed Cotton: Cotton fibers are combed before weaving for a finer finish and softer hand.

Comforter: A thickly padded bed covering, either plain (duvet) or ornamental.

Contadora: An exotic region of Latin America.

Cotton: A natural fiber taken from the cotton plant. There are many different varieties of cotton. The average length of the fiber is called the staple. A longer staple provides smoother, stronger yarn and softer fabric. Pima cotton is a common long staple variety. Both Sea Island and Egyptian cotton are considered to be the longest staple fibers. Most Egyptian cotton is no longer grown in Egypt, but refers to the variety of the plant. Combed Cotton is the process in which the fiber is combed before weaving, giving a softer, fluffier yarn.

Coverlet: A shortened bedspread that allows for the use of a bedskirt.

Crepe: A silk or synthetic fabric with a waved or pebbled texture.

Crepe de Chine: A very fine, flat woven crepe with a soft finish.

Crewel: Embroidered designs using thick (usually wool) yarn.

Crochet: A variety of "knit" fabric or lace created by looping yarn together with an open hook.

Cutwork: Cut out, decorative areas of fabric, heavily stitched to avoid fraying.

Damask: Jacquard-woven monofilament fabrics using shiny and flat fibers to give the pattern a contrasting finish, traditionally in floral patterns. Reversible. Similar to brocade but flatter.

Decking: Fabric that lies under the mattress on a bedskirt.

Dobby: The flat edge and occasionally inset area of a towel or blanket.

Down: The fine under feathers of fowl, usually geese. Down is remarkably soft and resillient. It provides an insulating layer to keep out cold air. White goose down is particularly fine. Fill Power refers not to how much down is used in an item, but to the quality. It is the measure of how well the down will resume its shape after being compressed, so a small decorative pillow can have the same fill power as a king sized duvet. Anything over 500 fill power is considered a luxury down item. Down must be thoroughly cleaned and encased in a down-proof ticking to be classified as hypo-allergenic. Some people are naturally sensitive to down and need to use synthetic substitutes that mimic down's properties.

See bedskirt. 

Dupioni: A silk weave using some shorter fibers for decorative irregularities (slubs) in the fabric. Also called shantung.

Duvet: A filled comforter, commonly with down filling.

Duvet Cover: An ornamental covering (completely enclosing like a sham) for a duvet.

Elastane: Elastane fibers, better known under their trade names, Lycra and Dorlastan, represent a further high point in the development of man-made fibers. Elastane fibres can be stretched from four to seven times their length, reverting to their original length when the tension is relaxed. Elastane has the highest stretch tension of all textile raw materials.

Elastene: See definition for Elastane.

Empire Waist: From the court of Empress Josephine, a seam line placed under the bust, but above the natural waist.

Espadrille: A (traditionally) canvas shoe with robe trim or wedge on a rubber sole.

Euro Sham: A sham made to fit a Euro (26" square) pillow.

Eyelet: A small opening, usually reinforced with stitching.

Eyelet Lace: A cutwork and embroidery lace pattern.

Faille: A closely woven, lightly ribbed fabric with a slight sheen.

Faux: Made to look like another (usually precious) material for ornamentation. "The coated glass beads are faux pearls."

Fiber Fill: A poly or other synthetic fill used in pillows and quilting instead of cotton or down.

Fill Power: The measure of how well the down will resume its shape after being compressed (
See down.).

Flange: A fabric trim applied to the outside edge of an item.

Flannel: A basic sheeting weave, finished with a heavy brushing that raises the fibers for a fuzzy surface. 

Flat Welt: A small flange set in to the body of a piece, similar to a pin tuck, but may be of a different fabric.

Flax: The fibrous grasslike plant traditionally used to weave linen.

Fleece: Yarns woven through a mesh base and cut on the surface to give a furry texture. Derived from the name for a sheep's skin.

Florentine: A traditional scroll/floral pattern that originated in Florence, Italy.

Flounce: A gathered or pleated ruffle at the outer seam of a garment.

French Fold: An interior flap of fabric within a pillowcase, starting at the border hem that tucks around the pillow to keep it from slipping out of the pillowcase.

Garment Dyed: Or "piece dyed", in which color is applied to a finished item, rather than to the unsewn fabric or unwoven yarn.

Gauze: A sheer, lightweight fabric similar to cheese cloth. May be silk, poly or cotton.

Georgette: A semi-sheer, lightweight silk or synthetic fabric with a slightly pebbled (crepe) finish.

Godet: A triangular piece of fabric inserted upward from the hem to give more fullness. This is needed when the fabric is not wide enough to meet the desired fullness of the sweep (bottom opening) of a garment.

Gossamer: Having the quality of sheerness, filminess. Ultra light weight.

Grommet: An ornamental eyelet, reinforced with metal or other sturdy material.

Grosgrain: A weave with narrow, parallel ridges. Usually applies to ribbon.

Gusset : An inset piece of fabric at a seam.

Habotai: A fine, basic silk weave, common in sheeting.

Hand: A textile term for the feeling of the fabric surface - "Satin has a very smooth hand".

Hand Guided Quilting: Quilting done on a machine, but with a person feeding the material through slowly to copy intricate designs.

Hand Quilted: Quilting that is strictly done by a person using a needle and thread - no machine.

Hardwood: Any of a number of varieties of trees used for furniture manufacture.

Heirloom: Of a quality to pass down through several generations.

Hem: The finished border of a garment or other textile piece.

Hemstitch: An open work hem detail (ladder design).

Hypoallergenic: Not causing an allergic reaction in susceptible people.

Interlock: Knit fabric made on a circular knitting machine with varying needle lengths. The weave allows more stretch with good memory.

Jacobean: A traditional stylized floral vine design associated with old England.

Jacquard: Monofilament fiber weaving where patterns are created by layering the fibers to create specific shapes.

Jakarta: Jakarta Hotel bench and table. A longstanding Indonesian trading port, where many cultures have added vital influence. The feeling is a marriage of traditional British and Dutch influence, with a strong feeling of the tropics.

Jersey: A basic knit fabric that allows stretch. T-shirt weave.

Jute: A coarse, natural rope material used as trim or for rough woven fabric.

Kiln Dried: Hardwood that has been treated with heat to remove moisture and insure stability in furniture construction.

Knit: Any fabric produced by looping yarns back into themselves as opposed to weaving.

Kurta: A loose fitting, collarless tunic.

Lace: Any of a variety of decorative open work techniques (tatting, crochet, machine made, etc.).

Lettuce Edge: An edge treatment on knit fabrics in which the edge of the fabric is stretched during stitching and then overstitched, resulting in a wavy or "curly" edge.

Linen: Can also refer to a basic textured weave in many different fibers, but traditional linen comes from the fibers of the flax plant. Very fine linen can be very soft and long wearing. The terms table linens, bed linens, come from the time when linen was used exclusively for these items.

Lycra: Lycra is a segmented polyurethane. An elastic polyurethane fiber or fabric with a remarkable ability to stretch up to 600% and spring back to its original length, it can be combined with virtually every other fibre. LYCRA® is a registered trademark for the INVISTA brand of textile products.

Lyocell: Is the generic name for Tencel.

Matelassé: French word for Padded. The same weaving technique as jacquard, but using thicker spun yarns such as cotton to produce raised patterns.

Mattress, California King: 72" X 84". A fairly new mattress size, most popular on the west coast of the US. Narrower and longer than traditional (Eastern) King sized mattress. Generally Eastern King flat sheets, blankets, duvets and duvet covers will accommodate a California King mattress. Fitted sheets must be sized differently.

Mattress, Full: 54" X 75". There is also an "extra long" Full mattress, though less common. Our Full sheets are designed to fit a traditional Full sized mattress.

Mattress, King: 76" X 80". This is the traditional (Eastern) King sized mattress. See "California King" above.

Mattress, Queen: 60" X 80". There are also an Olympic Queen (wider than traditional) and a California Queen (longer than traditional) available on the market, but fairly rare. Our Queen sheets are designed to fit a traditional (Eastern) Queen sized mattress.

Mattress, Twin: 39" X 75". There is also an "extra long" Twin mattress, though less common. Our Twin sheets are designed to fit a traditional Twin sized mattress.

Mesh: Open weave sheer fabric, sometimes base for lace design.

Micro Cotton: Long staple cotton is ring spun to create greater loft and softness for the weight.

Microfiber: Very fine filament or staple fiber (synthetic), generally less than 1.0 denier per filament, used to produce lightweight, soft fibers.

Modal: Is from the bio fiber family. These are man made fibers derived from natural, organic materials. Modal is derived from the processed pulp (cellulose) of the beech tree. These fibers are known for their softness, durability, wicking properties (very absorbent and pull moisture away from the skin) and conforming to body temperature, making them very good for all seasons/climates.

Moire: Wood grain pattern is pressed or heat set on fabric for a wavy, water-like surface texture.

Mola: A reverse applique in which designs are cut from a fabric and the total piece is backed by another fabric.

Monofilament: Any yarn made of very long, fine fiber such as silk or most synthetics and biofibers.

Monogram: Initials or name applied to an object (embroidered, etched or painted).

Mother of Pearl: The shell lining of various mollusks, carved in to ornaments, jewelry or buttons. Known for its pretty, irregular sheen.

Muslin: Soft cotton weave with a homespun feeling, some irregularities in weave and fiber, often unbleached/undyed.

Nap: The surface of a sheered fabric, such as velvet.

Nylon: A wholly synthetic fiber, invented as a replacement for silk.

Olefin: Is a synthetic polymer known for being extremely light weight, soft and stain resistant. It adds softness and durability when blended with other fibers.

Organdy: The same weave as organza, but using thicker spun yarns such as cotton.

Organza: A light weight, sheer monofilament fabric, similar to chiffon, but with a stiffer finish.

Paillette: An ornamental disk with a hole at the edge, made to dangle from fabric and catch the light.

Panne Velvet: Lush velvet, often washed down for milky surface tones and drapability.

Patina: A naturally occurring color layer on metals, or any applied color meant to bring out detail and add age.

Peached: Monofilament weaves in which the surface is lightly brushed for a softer feeling. 
See sueded.

Pearl (Purl) Stitch Edge: An edge of small loops on the side of some kinds of ribbon; also, a narrow kind of thread edging to be sewed on lace or hems. An inversion of stitches in knitting, which gives to the work a ribbed or waved appearance.

Pearl Fiber: Fabrics that have been enhanced with nano grade freshwater pearl powder to increase softness and absorption.

Pebble Silk: Silk fabric with an irregular crepe finish.

Percale: Has many acceptable definitions - for our purposes, a sheeting weave made of combed cotton yarns.

Pile (fabric): Raised loops of fibers deliberately made to stand away from the surface of a fabric. May be trimmed on the surface for a fleecy finish.

Pilling: The formation of hard knots of lint on the surface of fabric. Not desirable.

Pillow, Boudoir: A 12" x 16" decorative pillow or pillow insert.

Pillow, Euro: Large square bed pillows, 26" X 26". 

Pillow, King: Larger than standard bed pillow 20" X 36".

Pillow, Queen: Larger than standard bed pillow 20" X 30".

Pillow, Standard: Traditional American bed pillow, 20" x 26".

Pintuck: A straight, stitched down fold in a fabric.

Piqué: Woven or knit cloth with a uniformly dimpled surface.

Pleated: Fabric gathered in a uniform creased fold top to bottom.

Pocket Depth: The length in inches of the corner seams on fitted sheets. There is also a slight curve above the seam that allows for added depth, so a 15" pocket depth may accommodate up to a 17" mattress. With some materials, such as jersey or flannel, there is a natural stretch to the fabric that allows an even deeper mattress to work.

Pointelle: Fine knit fabric made with an ornamental pattern of openings formed in the weaving.

Polyester: "A synthetic fiber that mimics many of the properties of silk. It can be blended with other fibers to add durability."

Polyfill : Polyester fiber fill used in quilting or pillow stuffing.

Print: Any variety of knit or woven fabric in which the design comes from dyes applied to the surface rather than being incorporated in the yarns themselves.

Provencal: Having to do with Provence - rustic, charming European village feel.

Provence: A rural area in the south of France.

Quilted: Padded and stitched to hold the padding in place. Quilting patterns may be highly ornamental.

Raffia: Fiber of the raffia palm tree. Used as trim (fringe) or for rough woven fabric.

Rattan: The woven stems of various tropical vines, used in wickerwork and caning.

Raw Silk: Raw or Tussah silk is produced by harvesting the silk cocoons after the moth has emerged, producing very short fibers and a heavily textured, less soft fabric.

Rayon: One of the first of the wood pulp based bio fibers, soft, drapey and static free.

Rhinestone: A foilbacked, cut glass or paste stone, meant to resemble various gem stones.

Ruched: Fabric gathered and held in place at two parallel points, creating creases straight across.

Ruffled: Fabric gathered on one side, fanning out on the other.

Sandwashed: Fabrics that have been brushed with sand for a very soft, fuzzy surface.

Sateen: The same weave as satin, but using thicker spun yarns such as cotton.

Satin: A monofilament weave in which some surface threads are not attached tightly to give the fabric a very smooth feel and shiny surface.

Scalloped: A series of repeating curves used in a hem or a print or embroidery design.

Seersucker: Lightweight cotton fabric crinkled into lengthwise stripes.

Sequin : An ornamental disk with a hole in the center, sewn to fabric to sparkle.

Seychelles: A series of tropical paradises in the Indian Ocean.

Sham: A decorative cover used for pillows, encasing completely.

See dupioni.

Shirred: Fabric gathered and held in place at a center point, creating creases in a vee shape.

Silk: The natural fiber of the silk worm cocoon, silk fiber is very long and fine. It is a very strong fiber that can be woven in any number of ways for different finishes (organza, chiffon, taffeta, satin, etc.). The major varieties of silk are based on fiber length, so the silk used in most weaves from bridal satin to light weight habotai comes from a cocoon that has been unwound as a single fiber and spun in to yarn. Dupioni or Shantung silk, uses shorter fibers to produce slubs (the striations and nubs in the fabric that give it a more three dimensional effect). Raw or Tussah silk is produced by harvesting the silk cocoons after the moth has emerged, producing very short fibers and a heavily textured, less soft fabric. Silk is known for it's extreme softness, beauty, drapability, versatility in weaving and its wicking properties (pulling moisture away from the body) and adaptation to body temperature. Unwoven silk fibers can be used as fill in pillows and comforters.

Slipcover: A fitted cloth cover for a piece of furniture.

Soie: French word for silk.

Soleil: Soleil mirror. French for "sun".

Spandex: A manufactured elastomeric fiber that can be repeatedly stretched over 500% without breaking, and will still recover to its original length.

Split Corners: Open bottom corners on bedskirts to allow them to be used with a footboard.

Spun Yarn: Any yarn made of thicker, twisted lengths of short fibers such as cotton, linen or wool.

Staple: Refers to the length of cotton fibers.

Suede: Leather finished with a napped, soft surface.

Sueded: Monofilament weaves in which the surface is heavily brushed for a softer feeling. 
See peached.

Surplice: A garment cut to cross at the bodice for a wrap effect.

Sutash: Applied ribbon, center stitched in decorative patterns.

Swiss Dot: A traditional jacquard pattern consisting of small, evenly spaced dots. May also be printed.

Synthetic: Completely man made.

Tapestry: A thick, heavy weave in which (sometimes intricate) patterns are produced by using various colors of yarn.

Tencel: "A very popular example of the bio fibers, man made from wood cellulose, Tencel is the trade marked name for Lyocell. It is soft and durable and blends well with other fibers."

Terry: Weave with looped (usually cotton) yarn. Toweling material.

Thermal Knit: Waffled knit fabric, intended to create a warm air layer against the skin, but also used in fashion.

Thread Count: Total number of yarns/threads (both directions, warp and weft) in a square inch of fabric. Applied to pure cotton sheeting as one of the factors in quality. Single ply - All of the threads in the sheeting weave (both directions, warp and weft) are single layered. Double pick (or double insertion) - Threads in one direction of the sheeting weave are double layered to add stability to the finished sheeting. Double ply - Threads in both directions of the sheeting layer are double layered to add stability and thickness to the finished sheeting. Thread count is one factor that may impact the quality of sheeting.

Throw: Small blanket used for comfort and/or decoration.

Ticking: Refers to the fabric on the outside of a mattress, pillow, featherbed, etc.

Toile: Traditional French and English prints of people and pastoral scenes or florals, usually printed in one color on a lighter background.

Tonal: Very close to or matching colors.

Tulle: A stiff, open weave mesh.

Tuscan: Having to do with Tuscany - rustic, earthy, sunshine and vineyards.

Tuscany: Rural area of Italy.

See raw silk.

Tweed: Nubby woven fabric in a herringbone style, mainly used for cold weather wear.

Twill: Basic, large chevron weave, often used as binding/finishing tape.

Ultrasuede: Synthetic or "faux" suede, usually featuring an easier drape and washability.

Velour: A knitted fabric that has many properties of velvet, but stretches.

Velvet: A thick monofilament weave in which the surface pile is cut for a soft, luxurious feeling. Nap velvet is finished directionally so that the surface reacts differently to light from different directions.

Velveteen: The same weave as velvet, but using thicker spun yarns such as cotton. Also commonly called cotton velvet.

Vintage: Old, or having the visual appeal of an antique.

Viscose: Rayon.

Voile: A lightweight, very soft cotton weave.

Wool: A natural fiber from sheared sheep, there are many different varieties and grades. Many people think of wool as being hot and scratchy, but there are very fine, soft weaves available.

Woven: Any fabric produced by crossing yarns in two straight directions (warp and weft) as opposed to knitting.

Yarn Dyed: Color applied to fiber before the weaving stage for uniformity and stability.