Traditionally, broadcloth was a type of fabric originating in England in the 16th century. It was made of wool. It was a very dense fabric best suited for making dress uniforms, military uniforms and costumes. Woolen broadcloth was and is still used in making furnishings and car upholstery. Woolen broadcloth was well liked for its strength, durability and smooth, lustrous and luxurious feel. Today, there are several other kinds of broadcloth such as broadcloth polyester, broadcloth silk and broadcloth cotton. The fabric acquired the name broadcloth due to the fact that it was normally woven in widths that were broader than for most fabrics.
Broadcloth cotton is possibly the most common type of broadcloth fabric today. The broadcloth cotton fabric is either made of 100% cotton or made of a blend of cotton and polyester or rayon.
Like its predecessor, broadcloth cotton is soft, supple and extremely durable. However, the type of broadcloth made from cotton has the advantage of being lighter in weight than the broadcloth made from wool.
The good qualities of softness and durability found in broadcloth cotton and other types of broadcloth for that matter are derived from how the broadcloth is weaved. During the weaving process, an extra wide weaver’s loom is used. The cotton fibers, which can either be long staple or short staple fibers, are woven tightly. The tightly woven fibers are then soaked in water, while being stretched on racks to ensure the tension in the fibers is maintained. The soaking in water is to enable shrinkage. This treatment is important as it ensures that the resulting fabric is less prone to shrinkage and wrinkling.
After the soaking in water, the woven fabric is allowed to dry before the final step in the weaving process is carried out. The dried woven fabric is then pounded using wooden hammers so that the broadcloth cotton can acquire the soft, smooth and supple quality.
Even though broadcloth cotton and other types of broadcloth are not in as common use as they were before, it is still used to make dress shirts, blouses, dresses, skirts, jackets, smocks, aprons and other clothing accessories like scarves. It is also used to make soft toys, quilts and pieces of home furnishings such as draperies, lamp shades, bed linens and throws.
Due to the treatment process the fabric goes through during weaving, cotton broadcloth is sturdy and does not crease easily. However, it is still important to take care of your broadcloth fabric. Articles of clothing made of cotton broadcloth should either be hand washed or machine washed in cool water. They should then be hung on a line to dry. Steam ironing is recommended. The fabrics should be stored in a cool, dry place with low humidity and away from direct sunlight.