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What Is Ticking Fabric?

Ticking fabric is a tightly woven heavy cotton or cotton linen blend fabric. The tight weave makes it ideal to use as a mattress or bed tick, pillow and bolster case. Feather pillows use a fabric ticking because the density of the fabric keeps the feathers from working their way out of the pillow. Fabric ticking is very durable and can be used as a covering for upholstery.

Vintage Ticking

Vintage ticking fabric is woven tighter than modern day ticking. Vintage ticking was used to hold the feathers of old mattresses and pillows. It was important to individuals who slept on feather mattresses and pillows that the feathers did not poke them through the fabric. It was also important to keep as many feathers in the mattresses and pillows as possible. The very tight woven vintage ticking provided both qualities. The weight of vintage ticking is heavier than the ticking made today. This is due to the density of the woven fibers. The weight of the fabric limited the usefulness in everyday clothing.

Modern Ticking

Modern ticking is a durable material that holds up well to washing and normal everyday wear and tear. Unique designs for clothing, bedspreads, throws, purses, coats, hats and other items have been made from the ticking. Some feather pillows still are covered in cotton ticking. Synthetic ticking is now produced and used on pillows and as covers for mattresses. The new cotton ticking allows for more feathers to escape through the weave.

Ticking Fabric Designs

Vintage cotton fabric ticking designs include narrow pin striping, floral and a cloth with a solid center and stripes around the edges. Modern cotton ticking is still sold with the vintage patterns. It is also sold in numerous colors. The new colors and patterns allow the fabric to be made into more items that fit into today's decor.


True vintage ticking was woven with natural cotton colored thread and thread died with indigo blue dye. Original ticking was sold only with indigo blue stripes. As time progressed, different colors and patterns were developed and sold. Ticking was also made with washed-out red, blue and green stripes. Floral patterns followed. Today, many ticking colors and pattern designs are available.

How is Ticking Made?

Ticking fabric is generally woven with a bed-tick, twill or herringbone weave in a medium or heavy weight. A plain, single box loom provides the best method for making ticking, but it can be adapted to a power loom. There are 60 to 84 ends and picks per inch in the fabric, making it very stout according to weaving standards. It is sheared and brushed after it is made to remove any bumps and foreign objects.

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