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What is Calico?

Ripe cotton plants

Calico is a very basic cotton cloth which gets its distinctive speckled and natural look from the way it is made; as it is made from partly processed and unbleached cotton fibres, the fabric usually contains flecks of the cotton seeds which get woven in. The natural fibres are what gives the fabric its versatility allowing it to be used for just about anything. It is durable, cheap and can be easily dyed, painted or printed on.

Plain weave – warp and weft are equal

Because of the way calico is made, it is cheap and versatile. Calico is made with a plain weave; this means that the warp and weft are equal (the up to down and left to right weave of the fibres are woven equally). It can therefore be easily and quickly made on mechanised looms as it is now, and also on non-mechanised looms as it was made back in the 11th century in India.

There are also different weights/ grades of calico available which can lend themselves to different uses. Calico is great to use for toiles to practice your pattern on an inexpensive fabric before setting off with your chosen and generally more expensive ones. It is also great for bags, aprons and cushions, and can be painted on and dyed just about any colour you can think of! It is also used in traditional upholstery as a lining. It can be used for just about any clothing, accessories or household furnishing and so is one of the most versatile fabrics available.

Calico is normally sold as a loomstate fabric, which means it has not been bleached or treated after weaving. Because of this it is liable to shrinkage and should always be washed before being used to make up an item that is likely to be washed in the future.

A little history

The history of calico is very long and can be traced back as far as the 11th century. Calico originated in Calicut in southwestern India and this is where its name is derived from (Calicut). At this time India was the biggest producer and exporter of cloth in the world and this was mainly because of how cheap and easy the calico was to make and also for traders to buy.

We have a range of different weights of calico available to buy at both our Bridport and Yeovil shops or click here to follow the link to our website where you can order these.

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2 thoughts on “What is Calico?

  1. Interesting post as I love using Calico. May I have a bit of a moan though – editorials need reading before publishing. You will see what I mean if you read it back.

    1. Fair point! some of us love editing more than others 🙂 I have tweaked it a little so it hopefully reads better. thanks for the feedback – it’s great to know you’re enjoying our website!

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