Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nainsook - A Little Known Treasure

"Cultivate your gift for clothes."   

                  - Paris Frocks at Home

I'm always on the look out for vintage fabrics or reproductions to use in my children's clothing. To be honest using the "real deal" is a big thing to me, weren't these patterns designed with a certain type of fabric in mind. I recently purchased a lovely length of  vintage embroidered fabric that the seller listed as batiste, but once it arrived in the mail I quickly realized that I had a real find on my hands. It wasn't batiste at all but a lesser known cousin called Nainsook.

Example of corded nainsook.
Nainsook is a fine, lightweight, plain woven cotton made from the same gray goods as batiste, cambric and lawn, with a soft hand and slight luster due to it's combed and mercerized threads. Most commonly manufactured in white and occasionally produced in pastel colors, printed, or made with a closely woven satin or twill stripe forming a corded effect, nainsook is often tucked or embroidered in blouses, night wear, lingerie, and infant's wear.

During the 50's and 60's nainsook was used to manufacture bias tape. Unfortunately after the 1960's, when inexpensive synthetic fabrics which closely resemble the drape and feel of expensive natural fabrics became more widely available, it fell out of favor. Little is manufactured today but it can still be found used in store bought clothing and on rare occasion sold on the bolt. I most frequently see it - along with dimity - used to manufacture ready-to-wear western style clothing, specifically shirts.
A rare printed nainsook.

Nainsook is frequently mistaken for batiste or voile.  An easy way to tell the difference between these fabrics is to take a close look at the material, voile is loosely woven generally using rougher threads and batiste is more tightly woven with smoother threads. Cotton voile will have a very slight fuzzy feel while batiste will be smooth. Both are more sheer than nainsook.

For those of us who live in colder climates nainsook might be preferable to batiste because of it's heavier nature. I love the feel and look of the few pieces that are in my stash, they are reserved for girls summer dresses and layette sets.

1 comment:

  1. I just loved your article. :D I subscribe to a "Word of the Day" email and today's word was "nainsook", which I've never heard of, EVER! I had to do a *bing* search to read more about it and see actual e-samples of the fabric. In your article, WHO KNEW that there were SO many types of "lawns"---batiste, voile, batiste and nainsook?! I can't sew to save my life but I do love the entire creative process; thanks for a very nice article. It was a bright spot in my day. :D