Flannel fabric is a soft woven material distinguished by the tightness of its weave and whether it has a nap. While flannel is most widely associated with blankets and with pajamas, it actually has a wide number of uses and a long history.
Cotton flannel is also known as Canton flannel. "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" defines it as a cotton cloth in a twill weave. The weave might be loose or tight, and this fabric may have napping on one side or both sides. The napping results from the fibers of one side of the cloth being raised and trimmed.
Most commonly used in clothing, such as pajamas, or in blankets, cotton flannel is a very warm fabric. This material may also be known as flannelette.
Bocking flannel is also known as baize. Bocking flannel, made of wool or cotton material, is fairly coarse with a feltlike texture. With a nap on both sides of the fabric, it dates back to the 16th century when it was used as a protective cover for doors, tables and carpets. During the Victorian era, homeowners applied bocking flannel on doors between the servants' quarters and the rest of the house to provide sound proofing.
Today, bocking flannel often covers gaming tables. The coarse grip of the fibers prevents the cards from sliding around on the playing surface.
Linsey-woolsey is a very coarse flannel typically made from linen and wool fibers. Dating back to the Colonial period of the United States, it was often woven with a linen warp and a woolen weft. Later on, when cotton grew in popularity, cotton replaced the linen as it was more durable and wore more easily. The use of cotton produced a sturdy fabric that did not require as much wool, a significantly more expensive fiber.
Linsey woolsey was a popular fabric due to its weight and its warmth. Today, it is generally used for Colonial decoration and by people who wish to recreate garments from the United States' Colonial era.