By | May 25, 2016
Cotton sateen for decorator use. Source:

Cotton sateen for decorator use. Source:

Satin, sateen. How different can they be?

About $3/yard, for starters.

As satin was traditionally made from silk, sateen was created as a cheaper alternative. It’s a twill-woven cotton with some yarns ‘floated’ as per a satin weave – it’s not quite one or the other, although most of my textile books prefer to refer to it as a twill weave.

The highest quality sateen out there can be quite lustrous. Like percale, such sateen is made from long-staple cotton, which makes it stronger than a shorter-staple cotton fabric, such as muslin, as well as smoother underhand.

Just as satin is no longer exclusively made from silk, sateen is no longer exclusively made from cotton. Stretch sateen, wherein the cotton is mixed with elastane to give it a bit of stretch (about three percent) is very popular. If you run across creatures such as sateen brocade or shantung sateen, check the fiber content, as those are more likely to be partially or completely synthetic (usually polyester).

It’s a good fabric for lightweight shirts and blouses, and pajamas. In costuming, I’d certainly consider a better-quality sateen as a viable alternative to satin, especially if it’s something I’m going to wear in hot weather. Cotton is always going to breathe better than polyester.

Sateen is available in a wide range of colors and prints and the price is all over the place, too. I’ve seen it for as little as $5/yd for a solid, 45″ wide cotton sateen, to $25/yd for “decorator” sateens, presumably suitable for draperies.

Because it’s cotton, you’re going to want to prewash it a couple of times to ensure you’ve gotten the shrink out. However, if it’s anything other than white or unbleached, don’t subject it to anything hotter than warm water for the sake of the dye. Also, let it drip dry if you can, rather than throwing it into a tumble dryer. Lustrous fabrics don’t like getting tumbled about and they’ll sulk by becoming (permanently) less lustrous.

Sew it with a universal needle and all-purpose thread.

Cotton sateen. Source:

Cotton sateen. Source:

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