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What Is Homespun Fabric?

By Christine Lebednik
An old loom used to make homespun fabric.

In modern times, the term homespun refers both to fabrics made entirely in the home and factory-made cloth with similar characteristics. To appreciate the definition of homespun fabric you need a basic understanding of the associated cloth-making processes.

Original Meaning

Originally, homespun referred to fabrics entirely made in the home. From collecting and processing fibers to weaving or knitting fabrics, all the steps of the process were done in a home setting.

Washing, Carding and Spinning

After collecting the fibers, the first two processes are washing and then carding, which involved removing any remaining debris or foreign materials and smoothing out the fibers. Next, a spinning wheel is used to spin the processed fibers into yarn or thread, hence the term homespun.

Knitting and Weaving

Once the yarn or thread is spun, a craftsperson can make a whole, flat cloth or a garment. Thicker yarns are knit with needles to become a finished garment, such as a sock or scarf. To make a whole cloth, threads are woven on a loom, which tightly interlocks vertical and horizontal threads. The cloth is then cut and sewn into garments or other items.

Modern Homespun

Modern homespun fabrics are primarily factory-made but resemble traditional homespun cloth through the incorporation of certain characteristics.

Source Fibers

Source fibers for both traditional homespun cloth and modern homespun are natural fibers. Most commonly, the source fibers are either cotton or wool.

Characteristics of Modern Homespun

Characteristics of modern homespun fabric include an imperfect finish. Homespun fabric also has no distinct front or back. Designs are created by weaving colored threads together. Further, with homespun cotton fabric, the material tends to fray in a way that lends itself to rag-style quilts.

About the Author

A writer/editor since 1984, Christine Lebednik has spent much of her career in business and technical writing, and editing. Her consumer print and online articles include product descriptions for TDMonthly Online, book reviews for Catholic News Service, consumer reports for Consumer Search and works for various other publications. Lebednik received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Salem State College.