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Information About Madras Fabric

Payal Kanjwani
Call it plaid, checkered, or tartan-influenced, this hand-woven, natural-dyed cotton fabric that has Madras origins has stayed a fashion staple. This extract collects information on the Madras fabric, covering its history, characteristics, uses, and care instructions.
Magical Madras Material!
With every wash, the garments made from Madras fabric change their look and pattern, creating a vintage statement.
Do you have anything in plaid? We're sure most of you would answer saying 'you do.' But if we ask you whether you have something in Madras fabric, would your answer be the same?
Well, we bet, most of you have this checkered pattern thing at home. Be it your summer shirts, bow ties, pocket squares and napkins, or table covers, you sure have this fabric at home!
From being considered as a vintage preppy apparel, to being dropped down for being (un)stylish, to again being declared as the most fashionable thing possible, Madras fabric has weaved threads of all the facets and styles.
So, What is Madras Fabric?
■ The definition of Madras fabric is a lightweight cotton fabric that comes with plaid designs and patterned textures.
■ This Indian fabric is made by weaving together threads of different colors, creating beautiful squared patterns.
■ These yarns are generally combed or carded, thereby producing this fabric in plaid, checked, or stripped patterns.
■ Madras is usually associated with summer clothing, 'cause 'true madras' is 100% cotton. Blending it with polyester can make it colorfast and more durable, but with the compromise on its coolness.
■ Madras fabric has an interesting history. Named after the name of a city in India, Madras (now known as Chennai), this fabric was originally called Madraspatnam.
■ In the 17th century, the East India Company was impressed with the cloth weaved in the fishing village, Madraspatnam, and secured a grant with the local dealer there for exporting this handwoven fabric.
■ It is also said that to get an uninterrupted supply of merchandise, the British promised to the Indian weavers to exempt them from duties for about 30 years.
■ The original Madras fabric was plain-woven cotton fabric made with vegetable (natural) dyes, with printed and embroidered patterns, predominantly in hues of black, red, and blue.
■ The British then took this cloth from India to their resident country, and thus, this fabric gained popularity in the British Empire.
■ In the 1960s, the demand for this fabric increased since the time it got popularized with 'Bleeding Madras'. This was woven using yarns that have been dyed with only vegetable dyes, and no synthetic dyes because on washing this cloth, the dyed yarns would literally 'bleed' color as they were not colorfast.
This gave the fabric a washed-out appearance, rendering a classy, preppy look.
■ According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Madras fabric cannot be labeled or advertised in the US, unless it has come from the city of Chennai.
Characteristics and Properties
■ Madras fabric is soft and lightweight, making it apt for warmer weather. The breathing ability of the cloth makes the wearer feel cool during burning summers.
■ The true Madras fabric is not colorfast and is susceptible to fading.
■ This is one of the least expensive fabric that's available.
■ However, with goods, come the odds. This fabric is shrinkage-resistant.
■ A truly magical fellow, because it looks same on both the sides. Thus, it isn't an authentic Madras cloth if it doesn't have the same pattern on both the sides.
Uses of Madras Fabric
■ The primary use of Madras fabric is for making summer garments, owing to its cooling property.
■ Madras is everywhere, right from jackets, shorts, and pants, to skirts and dresses.
■ It is also used for making accessories like bow ties, neckties, headdresses, belts, and watchbands, to name a few.
■ This fabric is also used in the making of golf apparel and other sports outfits.
■ Bedspreads, tablecloths, pocket squares, and handkerchiefs are also popularly made of Madras fabric.
Care Tips
■ Segregate dark colors from the light ones before washing.
■ Use mild detergents for washing; detergents should be non-chlorinated.
■ This type of textile is bound to get wrinkled after wash. Hence, using a hot iron is suggested. It'd be better if you don't let the cloth dry completely, and iron whilst damp.
So, next time you think of dumping off your plaid shirt, think of the beauty of this fabric. Handle with care. (;-))