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What is…Calico?

Cotton natural state

We sell a lot of calico, and our creative customers use it for all sorts of projects! Here’s a bit more information about this versatile cloth.

Calico is a simple cotton cloth which has a distinctive speckled appearance. It’s made in the same way as cotton fabrics, but the cotton is less processed, so you can actually see flecks of the cotton seeds woven into the finished fabric. This simple, characterful, and natural fabric is durable, cheap and very versatile; it has many uses in the sewing room, for upholstery projects and for all manner of craft projects as it can be easily sewn, dyed, painted or printed; you’ll have seen it used for shopping bags, aprons and as a base fabric for craft creations.

Calico is a plain weave fabric, which means that the warp and weft (the up to down and left to right weave of the fibres) are of equal weight, and tightly woven at right angles to give a strong and hardwearing fabric. This simple weave means that calico can be made quickly, both on mechanised looms as it is now, and on the non-mechanised looms of earlier times.

How to use calico

The different weights or grades of calico lend themselves to different uses; it’s great to use for toiles to practice your pattern before using your chosen and generally more expensive fabric; it’s also great for bags, aprons and cushions and any craft project as it can be painted, printed and dyed very sucessfully. 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.

Our calico is a loomstate fabric, which means it has not been ‘finished’ after coming off the loom. Luckily, you can do this very simply by popping it in the washing machine at home, which will relax the fibres from their freshly-woven state and also allow the fabric to shrink safely. Remember it’s ALWAYS worth taking the time to wash the fabric before you start your project if you think you might EVER want to wash the finished product.

You’ll find a range of different weights of calico at both our Bridport and Yeovil shops, or to order online click here.

CategoriesGuides and Tips


  1. Hil Gibbs

    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.

    • Livingstones

      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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