Cotton Sateen


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 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. 

Zoe Edwards   —  

Comments 12


I love sateen too… I recently made a skirt out of it, and it was so nice to work with!


How could you know that I was just marveling at the beauty of cotton sateen!! I came home to a shipment of deep blue cotton sateen and actually rubbed it against my face ;o)


Deep blue cotton sateen? That the stuff dreams are made of! I have some navy cotton sateen in my stash that I keep stroking!


Oooohh. I’m a big fan of cotton sateen as well. I love the Radiance Cotton/Silk Poplin that I found at Here’s the link to my favorite color:

I’m not sure how it differs from cotton sateen but it has the same lovely sheen and feel. Oh boy, this post has been bad for my fabric buying problem :)


I had this exact fabric in my cart the other day, and took it out at the last minute because I couldn’t really justify the money… sigh! It is beautiful, though!

Laurie Brown

I love cotten sateen, and haven’t seen any in *years*!! I’ll have to take a look online, because the closest Joannes and Hancocks certainly don’t have it. I’ll take a look at the Kaufmans.


Thank you for your in depth detail about fabric. I have such a hard time with what fabric is what!
I do research it on Wiki when I am shopping on line, but it does not give pictures or what you can make with it.
I love your description, it was very helpful.


You are most welcome Lyann, glad you enjoyed it.


I bought a couple of yards of sateen on impulse and now I’m not sure what to do with it…


you know, i love that Radiance cotton/silk blend sateen, too, but i’m always afraid i’ll ruin it in the dryer, and at the price, i’m afraid to find out. part of the sateen love it its easy care . . . would the blend be easy, too? anyone use the fabric and (eep) brave enough to dryer it?

We’re sorry, comments for this post have been closed.