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Thread: "Crispy" finishes

  1. #1
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    "Crispy" finishes

    I have some older cottons that feel "crispy" and do not ravel - at all - when washed.

    Does anyone know what makes them that way?

  2. #2
    Power Poster nativetexan's Avatar
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    Hmmm, my many years old cotton sheets are great. hate the ones i bought in recent years. so even sheets used to be good. but today's fabrics are made in such different ways and from different Countries, i have no idea.
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  3. #3
    Super Member peaceandjoy's Avatar
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    I wonder if it is more like chintz?

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    Quote Originally Posted by peaceandjoy View Post
    I wonder if it is more like chintz?
    Chintz would be my guess too. Is it curtain fabric type cotton (y'know, big floral patterns, quite thick, kind of thing)? Does it feel smooth and look slightly shiny? It used to be fashionable to coat curtain and upholstery fabric in a kind of glaze. I used some in a quilt and washed it in the machine and it went ridiculously crinkly and won't iron flat, but oh well, it's all part of the charm! My other old cotton fabrics are pretty much the same as new fabrics, unless they've had a hard life in which case they are softer.

    I've also discovered recently that there are different ways of weaving cotton fabrics - I bought two new sheets, one sateen weave which is soft and floppy and one percale which is smooth and crispy and holds creases, so maybe it is percale weave cotton? Is it bedclothes fabric? If you look really closely you can see the threads are arranged in wiggles in the floppy fabric and straight lines in the crispy fabric - there's probably some pictures on google if you want to compare it with yours!

    Otherwise I guess it might not be pure cotton - perhaps it is one of those strange 1980s viscose fabrics?
    Last edited by SophieHatter; 04-29-2019 at 12:46 PM.

  5. #5
    Power Poster Onebyone's Avatar
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    I have some very old cotton fabric and it is heavier but has a better drape then the new fabric of today. It doesn't ravel unless I pull the threads. I think it has to be the way the fabric use to be manufactured and how the type of thread used then to make the fabric.
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  6. #6
    Super Member cashs_mom's Avatar
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    My mother used to use something she called "polished cotton" that had a crispy finish somewhat like chintz. That might be what it is?
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    Super Member Battle Axe's Avatar
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    Some of how the fabric appears is in the growing of the cotton. We were always told that cotton is a hollow stem, like a straw. If the sides start to collapse, you get something different. How strong the sides are depends on the growing season and where it was grown. Pima Arizona has a slightly longer growing season and that cotton is prized. Other parts of the world are actually better for the long season that cotton requires.

    Maybe this Global Warming thing will benefit the cotton production.
    Last edited by QuiltnNan; 04-30-2019 at 03:36 AM. Reason: remove controversial statement.

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    Thanks, BA, for the explanation. I've heard of Pima cotton and know it makes nice soft knit T-shirts but didn't really know why it is different.

  9. #9
    Super Member Rose_P's Avatar
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    In eighth grade sewing class in 1960 we were asked to bring cotton fabric that had been mercerized. I don't know much about the process, but Wikipedia says it involves treating the fabric with lye. It's supposed to make the fibers stronger and give them more luster. I still have some of the scraps and they are as nice as they were when new. Possibly this is what you have.
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    They could have a no-iron finish added to them. It tended to "plasticize" fabrics.

  11. #11
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    There are a number of ways fabric can be woven and treated. Even as 100% cotton there are processes and essentially additives, consider it 100+%. Threads can be round or flatter. There is a difference in the raw plants of Egyptian style cotton and American style (has to do with fiber lengths). They can vary in weight one direction or the other. The way color layers are added and what the colors are made with -- are they dyed or some sort of spray or overlay process? Etc.

    BTW, I've found some of these things give unusual results with burn testing. Fabrics I know for certain (like it's printed on the selvedge) may not burn "correctly" with a chintz finish in particular, other times it is something that washes out so I go ahead and prewash and get a more definitive cotton result.

    I'm really feeling the loss of so many LQS, for me the hand of the fabric is very important. You can't always tell by feel though, some fabrics are so treated with stabilizers or whatever that they change dramatically when washed. Rarely they seem to improve, mostly it's not so good news. I also smell the fabric, I'm sensitive to chemical odors, most quilting suitable fabric is neutral to me but sometimes there is something I react to.

  12. #12
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    I would vote also for polished cotton. It was popular in the 60's and 70's. It could be the type of weave used or it could be polished or it could have a glaze/lacquer finish applied to the top side. There definitely was a difference between the front and the back. Washing did not change it and it kept it's shape - it did not wilt in the summer heat.

  13. #13
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    Your situation really sounds like chintz or polished cotton. Generally fabrics labeled "chintz" were a heavier weight and used primarily in decorator applications. My small business used lots of it for draperies, slip covers and sometimes bed comforters. The polished cotton was generally dress weight and used for that purpose. I loved sewing on it and wearing clothing that was made from it. And, yes, because it was a chemical treatment applied to the surface fabric it gave the characteristic of not fraying.

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