A less commonly used fabric, cambric is most popularly known for its brief reference in the famous English carol popularized by Simon & Garfunkel. But no matter how well we know the words, do we really know what cambric is?
Cambric is a very fine cotton fabric, known for its tight, even weave and glossy appearance. While this may sound like sateen, cambric is a plain-weave fabric, whereas sateen features a weave with floating warps. Cambric is also sometimes confused with poplin — but the difference here is that cambric has an equal ratio of warp and weft threads, while poplin has more warp yarns than weft.
Originating in the 1500s, cambric has mostly fallen out of use in today’s textile industry as more fabrics and weaves became available. However, it’s still a popular fabric for making pillow and duvet shells. Because it has such a tight weave, it’s very adept at keeping pillow filling from coming out of the casing.
The most common problem to look out for is cheap, low-quality cambric, which is easy to make. This kind of cambric doesn’t have such a smooth, even texture, and its gloss usually comes off after one or two washings. A well-made cambric will maintain its gloss for a very long time, thanks to the calendaring process that tightens the fibers to give the fabric a stiff, smooth finish.
Now, whether or not you can actually make a cambric shirt without seams or needlework is a totally different topic. But if we figure it out, we’ll let you know.