What Is French Terry Cloth?

by Joanne Thomas

French terry cloth is a variety of terry (or toweling) fabric, which is identified by its uncut looped pile. French terry cloth only has the highly absorbent looped pile on one side of the fabric; the other side is flat and smooth. It can be woven from different kinds of threads and can be stretch or non-stretch. French terry cloth is used primarily for sportswear, casual clothing and infant clothing.

Weave

Terry cloth is woven on a loom using two individual sets of warp threads. One set of threads has a very loose tension. When the filling yarns are woven and then packed, the looser set of threads is pushed backwards, forming the characteristic loops of thread. With regular terry cloth, there are loops on both sides of the fabric. French terry cloth, on the other hand, is woven so that the loops of thread are only on one side of the fabric. The other side is smooth, flat and knit-like in texture. French terry cloth is sometimes machine knit rather than woven.

Characteristics

French terry cloth is a light to medium weight fabric. Like regular terry cloth, the looped side of French terry cloth is highly absorbent. Regular terry cloth is thicker and used to make towels and other bath linens. Because French terry cloth is more lightweight and has a smooth side, it is suitable for garments, particularly sportswear and beachwear.

Varieties

French terry cloth is widely available from fabric retailers in a variety of colors, patterns and materials. The fabric is commonly made from cotton threads, but it is also available in synthetics and blends. French terry cloth comes with different degrees of stretch, from none to highly elastic four-way stretch varieties. Sometimes it is blended with Lycra for additional elasticity.

Garments

French terry cloth is commonly used to make robes. These are popular during summer months and in warm climates as they are considerably lighter and cooler than regular terry cloth robes. The fabric is also used for special hair-wrapping towels and beach cover-ups due to its absorbent properties. Sportswear like sweat suits, hooded sweatshirts, yoga attire and shorts are sometimes made from French terry cloth. Infant and toddler clothing and bath linens are other items commonly made from the fabric.

Sewing

When sewing with French terry cloth you should treat it like you would a jersey fabric. When sewing stretch French terry, use a ballpoint needle with your sewing machine and sew double-stitched straight seams or narrow zigzag seams. You may find that the looped side of the fabric gets caught in the feed dogs of your sewing machine. To remedy this, place a sheet of thin tissue paper between the looped side and the machine; sew through the paper and the fabric, then carefully tear the paper away.

References (3)

Photo Credits

  • Aleksandra Ozimek/Demand Media

About the Author

A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.