Textiles 101

Why Brushed Cotton Is an Under-the-Radar Star

Sublime fabrics don’t have to be complicated. Take brushed cotton: There’s not much mystery in the name or the technique—it’s simply cotton that’s been woven and then brushed into a sumptuous softness—but it results in a fabric with a wonderfully luxurious feel.

Schumacher Solandra Vine Sisal Wallpaper

Brushed cotton’s irresistible softness makes it a perfect choice for cozy upholstery. Walls in Schumacher’s Solandra Vine Sisal in Sky.

Of course, there is some finesse involved in the process. After the cotton is woven, mechanical brushes are used to carefully rub the surface of the fabric, which raises fine fibers from the yarns and obscures the weave. This transforms the cotton into a fabric with an especially soft and fluffy hand and a fine nap that’s similar to suede, velvet and cashmere. Even better? The cotton fibers don’t felt, so there’s no worry of unsightly surface pilling. All in all, it’s a fabric that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Schumacher’s own version, the relaxed yet refined Elliott from our Perfect Basics collection, sums up everything that makes these fabrics so appealing. It’s sturdy enough for upholstery yet irresistibly soft, and available in a spectrum of 45 colors designed to suit any space.

Brushed Versus Combed: What’s the Difference?

Where cotton is concerned, brushing is not to be confused with combing! Brushing is a finishing process that can only happen after the fabric is woven, whereas combing is a specific treatment that’s applied to cotton fiber before it’s spun into yarn. While brushing cotton gives the surface a fluffier texture, combing has the exact opposite effect: The process removes short fibers and makes the remaining long cotton fibers straighter, resulting in a fabric that’s extra crisp and smooth. Combed cotton has its own uses, of course, but if it’s softness you’re after, stick with a brushed finish.

Is Brushed Cotton Related to Flannel?

The same process that gives brushed cotton its distinctive feel is also used to create flannel. Traditionally, flannel was made of leftover wool that was loosely woven and then brushed. These days, however, many flannels are made of cotton or synthetic fibers, leaving little to distinguish them from brushed cotton. The only real difference? Flannel is brushed on both sides, while cotton is only brushed on the face. Either way, it’s a softness you’ll want to live with.

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