Chambray fabric is a popular and versatile material which can be used to make clothes for all seasons.
Similar in look to denim, but softer, more lightweight and breathable, every wardrobe should feature it.
But what do you know about this type of fabric?
In this article we will explain more about it.
What is chambray fabric?
Chambray is a type of natural fabric that has been made for around 500 years.
The name ‘chambray’ is a derivative of the phrase ‘cambric’ which first came to prominence around 1530 and has been used since then to identify different styles of fabrics.
Known for being a plain-weave, lightweight fabric, it is most often created from pure cotton, though it can also be made from linen or silk as well.
Typically chambray is used today to manufacture clothing items like skirts, dresses, pants, tops and shorts. It is also incorporated within homeware products like bedding, pillowcases, tablecloths, curtains and upholstery.
Similar in look to denim, most of the time chambray comes in varying shades of blue.
It is a fine and dense type of fabric. Though as a different style of weaving pattern is incorporated to make chambray, the fabric is generally more breathable and much lighter than denim.
How is chambray fabric made?
While chambray has traditionally been made from linen and silk, these days it is most commonly manufactured from cotton.
The process of making chambray fabric from cotton can be summarized over the following stages:
- Cotton fibers are harvested from the cotton seed, either by machine or hand.
- The fibers are separated from the seeds and are then compressed into large rectangular bales.
- These cotton fibers are then ‘carded’ in a machine – which turns them into strands that look like rope.
- The carded fibers are then combed, before being loaded onto large spools.
- These spools are then spun into yarn to ensure it is ready to be woven into chambray fabric.
- Chambray cloth is woven with two strands known as the ‘warp’ and the ‘weft’. In the production of chambray fabric, both the warp and the weft strands are woven in an alternate pattern over each other.
How is chambray fabric used?
Ever since it was invented in the early 1500s chambray has been recognized for being a very good fabric for clothing.
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance period, it was seen as more of a special occasion type of clothing. With people wearing it for notable celebrations like weddings, as well as religious functions. It was especially popular with priests and other high ranking church officials too.
Today chambray fabric is predominantly used in clothing as a substitute for denim. Most typically in items like jackets, pants, shorts and even fabric topped shoes, where it is often dyed a similar shade of blue.
As well as clothing, chambray fabric is also utilized in household textiles. This includes in the likes of upholstery on armchairs and sofas. It is also used in bed sheets and pillowcases that have a high thread count and are desired to be softer and more breathable.
Characteristics of chambray fabric?
Chambray has a number of key characteristics that distinguish it from other materials. These include a thread count of between 150 and 500 variations, low stretchability and being less prone to pilling.
It is also known for being a soft and very breathable fabric, as well as its high moisture-wicking abilities.
Where Is Chambray Fabric Produced?
Chambray fabric was first invented in France back in the 1500s.
For many years the USA was the global leader in this type of textile production, until around the 1980s, when China took over the mantle.
While the USA is still a prominent player, and Pakistan and India are significant manufacturers of chambray too, China still leads the way.
What Different Types of Chambray Fabric Are There?
There is only one type of chambray fabric but it does come in a few different styles. These include the following:
The generic term which references any type of fabric that has been woven in the most traditional chambray style.
This style of fabric showcases a similar weave pattern to chambray, but it is generally a bit lighter and much smoother than it.
A term that originates from the surname ‘Baptiste’, this style or fabric is similar to cambric. It is named after the weaver who is believed to have created chambray fabric back in the 14th century.
How Much Does Chambray Fabric Cost?
As a general rule chambray fabric is fairly inexpensive to manufacture. However its cost does vary depending on the material that is used to produce it.
In terms of retail prices, some vendors may charge a premium for chambray clothing items because of its higher thread counts and more unique weaving patterns.
Advantages and disadvantages of chambray fabric?
The advantages and disadvantages of chambray fabric can be characterized as follows.
- Versatile fabric that can be used to make both summer and winter clothes
- Very soft and breathable
- Has fantastic moisture-wicking capabilities which ensures you don’t sweat
- Possesses a denim like appearance but with a lighter fabric
- Low maintenance fabric that can be machine washed
- Easy to remove stains
- Wrinkles very easily
- Can shrink if not washed properly
- Need to iron your garments regularly if you want them to hold their shape for a prolonged period of time.
What is the difference between chambray and cotton?
Chambray is a plain-weave fabric, that is most usually made from 100% cotton.
The key difference between the two is that chambray fabric tends to have a much higher thread count, so therefore it offers a finer weave.
This weave tends to make the chambray fabric more breathable and a little more textured as well.
What is the difference between chambray and denim?
As fabrics, Chambray and denim are often mistaken for one another. But there are some key differences between them, which will help you easily distinguish between the two.
Chambray has a plain weave construction, whilst denim’s is a twill.
It is also softer and more lightweight fabric than denim is too, which tends to feel thick and heavy to wear, and is a lot rougher to the touch.
In terms of look Chambray also has a bit of a sheen to it, whilst denim has more of that classic appearance.
Chambray fabric also features a much higher thread count that denim.
Does chambray wrinkle?
Chambray is a fabric that wrinkles very easily.
If you do find your chambray clothes full of wrinkles, you should gently press the fabric with a hot iron, on the cotton setting and steam.
Before you start ironing be sure to check your care label to make sure it is ok to do so.
Is chambray fabric stretchy?
Chambray is not renowned for being an especially stretchy fabric.
However most chambray fabrics do have a stretch of around about 10% from across the grain.
This makes it a terrific choice for clothing items like skirts, trousers, shirts, blouses and dresses, which can be worn all year round.
Is chambray good for summer?
Chambray is a very good choice of fabric for summer as it is light, breathable and very soft. Therefore it keeps you cool in temperatures of hot weather and high humidity.
As the fabric is often made up of a higher thread count and has a finer weave, you won’t sweat too much in it.
Does chambray fabric keep warm?
As well as being a very good choice of summer fabric, chambray is also an excellent winter material too.
Winter garments made of chambray tend to have a higher cotton ratio, especially when the fabric content is mixed with linen and/or polyester – a blend which tends to keep you very warm.
Can the chambray fabric be machine washed?
You can put on a load of chambray fabric clothes in the washing machine. However it is best to do so on a cold water setting otherwise they do have the potential to shrink.
It is important to note that as chambray is usually made of 100% cotton, it will increasingly soften with every wash cycle.
Will the chambray fabric shrink?
Chambray fabric has the potential to shrink as much as a couple of sizes when washed in hot water or put through a tumble dryer on a high setting.
So it is always worth bearing this mind when it comes to washing or drying clothing items made of this material.
Is chambray fabric soft?
In general chambray is a very soft, lightweight and airy fabric, which is why it is a very good material to use in summer clothing.
The reason for this is because chambray often comes in a higher thread count, which means it is a finer weave and thus more breathable.
How to maintain chambray fabric?
The best way to maintain your chambray fabric is to hand, or machine wash it, with cold water.
You can also dry it in your tumble dryer on a low heat setting, though you might prefer air drying it instead.
To remove any stains, spray a mix of 90% of water and 10% of bleach onto it.
How Does Chambray Fabric Impact the Environment?
Chambray is made from cotton, which can cause a negative impact on the environment, in terms of pollution and soil degradation, when it is massed produced.
Beyond this, as chambray is a type of weave, as opposed to textile fiber, the manufacture of this fabric does not do much additional environmental damage.
For centuries chambray fabric has been a popular type of material for clothing – as well as household textiles too.
A more affordable alternative to denim, chambray clothing makes for versatile pieces that can be used all year round.
For this reason, every wardrobe should feature a selection of chambray clothing in it.
How many does yours have?