Broadcloth is a tightly-woven fabric with very fine – almost imperceptible – ribs running the length of the warp. The ribs are so fine that it’s often mistaken as a balanced plain-woven (totally smooth) fabric. It’s most often made of cotton or a cotton-polyester blend. It can also be made from wool or silk.
Historically, it was woven on looms that were wider than standard, which is how it got the name broadcloth. Wool broadcloth, if you can find it, is quite different from its silk and cotton counterparts, in that it’s heavier in weight and the surface is smoother and feels a lot like felt. It’s sometimes confused with melton wool, which is superficially similar. Woolen broadcloth is a napped fabric.
Broadcloth can be a solid color, or have a pattern printed on to it.
You can find cotton-poly broadcloth starting at around $3 a yard, and higher quality broadcloth – pure cotton with a higher thread count – for more like $12 a yard. The cheaper stuff is good for kids’ costumes, especially because you can find it in a wide range of colors without breaking the bank. The higher quality varieties are used for shirts and skirts. The lightest weights are suitable for quilting. If you find it cheap enough, it can be used as an alternative to muslin for making mockups.
Broadcloth is machine washable and can go into the dryer. It presses pretty well, but don’t turn up the iron too high unless you’re sure there’s fabric composition can take it. When reaching for the iron, base your temperature on the yarns in the broadcloth – warmer and steamier for pure cotton, cooler and no steam with a press-cloth for silk and wool. Using a presscloth reduces the risk of putting a shine on the fabric from it getting too hot.
Use a universal needle in the middle weight range, with all-purpose thread.