As much as I love Barkcloth, I must admit there is another fabric type that regularly vies for the covetable title of My Favourite Fabric. Whereas the appeal of Barkcloth for me is predominantly based on the awesome midcentury patterns and prints often featured, the attraction I feel for Cotton Sateen is all about the texture.
It’s handle is sturdy (read: pleasantly sewable) yet also manages to drape well. Plus on top of these two awesome properties, Sateen also has a distinct but subtle lustre/sheen which I think gives it a luxurious but not flashy appearance. Oh, and did I mention that is doesn’t crease as much as other types of pure cotton?! It’s love, I tell you!
Sateen is usually made from cotton, using a long-fibre, combed or carded variety. The fibres are then mercerised using a process originally devised in 1844 by John Mercer, an Englishman from Lancashire, which was later improved by H. A. Lowe into its modern form in 1890. The mercerisation process requires the cotton fibres to be soaked in a bath of sodium hydroxide and then rinsed in a neutralizing acid bath. Basically, mercerisation alters the chemical structure of the cotton fibre and causes swelling of the cell wall of the cotton fibre. This brings much of the lustre and softness to the end-product fabric as well as making the cotton fibre more receptive to dye.
These cotton fibres are the constructed into a fabric by the using the satin weaving method. The sateen structure is four over, one under, placing the most threads on the surface and a matte, flat finish on the underside. The majority of warp threads laying on the top make it extremely soft, though slightly less durable than other weaves because the the long surface strands are susceptible to the wear caused by rubbing and snagging.
Sateen may have a satin-smooth finish but it is not satin, Sateen is generally made of cotton and Satin is usually made of silk. Sateen has been a popular fabric since the early 1900s. Being made of cotton, it is much cheaper than silk satin, and is also more durable, as well as being machine washable. However, Sateen can be produced in different weights and is available for various clothing and home decor (it’s often used for bedspreads and upholstery) uses and is a very popular choice as linings for both.
So now my love has been revealed, you don’t have to worry, I’m not the possessive type! Cotton Sateen can be purchased relatively easily in a whole rainbow of plain colours or in pretty and cool prints either in larger fabric shops on online. Robert Kaufman produces some great solid colour options and you just have to search Cotton Sateen on Etsy.com to see some stunning printed options like the peacock fabric pictured below. If you like to get more closely involved with the design of your fabric, Spoonflower offers Cotton Sateen as one of its base fabrics on which your own designs can be digitally printed.