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What is…Calico?

cotton plants calico

Calico is a basic cotton cloth which gets its distinctive speckled, natural finish 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.

Calico traces back as far as the 11th century, when it originated in Calicut in southwestern India. It is a plain weave fabric; the warp and weft (the up to down and left to right weave of the fibres) woven equally. This simple weave means it can be made quickly and easily; both on mechanised looms as it is now, and on the non-mechanised looms of the 11th century.

We sell calico 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 any item that is likely to be washed in the future.

How to use calico

calico fabric

There are different weights or grades of calico, which can lend themselves to different uses. Calico is great to use for toiles to practice your pattern before setting off with your chosen and generally more expensive fabric. It is also great for bags, aprons and cushions and any craft project; calico can also be painted on and dyed just about any colour you can think of! Calico 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.

We have a range of different weights of calico available to buy at both our Bridport and Yeovil shops; to order online click here.

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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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