Barkcloth

By | May 7, 2016
Traditional barkcloth. Source: barkcloth.de

Traditional barkcloth. Source: barkcloth.de

Originally, the term barkcloth referred to a non-woven material made from the strips of inner bark of certain trees (variety depending on place of manufacture). Strips were peeled and pounded together into a serviceable fabric.

Today, barkcloth usually refers to a soft, dense, plain-weave – usually of cotton or a cotton/rayon blend – with a texture that is somewhat reminiscent of tree bark (although the fabric soft). It was popular in the middle of the 20th century, especially when printed with pop-culture motifs of the time. Think geometric abstracts and hula girls.

 

Contemporary barkcloth with a retro-style print. Source: vintagetrailersupply.com

Contemporary barkcloth with a retro-style print. Source: vintagetrailersupply.com

If you’re looking to make groovy vintage-styled shirts for that Mad Men theme party, you want to look for barkcloth. It’s also used as a home decor fabric, although it’s not as popular as it once was, barring the trend for retro looks that landed on us in the early 2000’s.

I’ve seen garment-weight barkcloth – or faithful imitations – starting at $12/yd. The upholstery-weight prints seem to start around $20/yard.

Sew with a universal needle and all-purpose thread. Cleaning and care depends on the component fibers. If it’s pure cotton, it can be machine-washed in cold water (for the sake of the printing) and laid flat to dry. Only throw it in the dryer if you don’t mind the color fading.

Contemporary barkcloth with a retro-style print. Source: retrorenovation.com

Contemporary barkcloth with a retro-style print. Source: retrorenovation.com

Leave a Reply