Seersucker is a type of lightweight fabric made from cotton that originated in India. It is produced made a slack-tension weaving process, and is commonly used to make suits and shirts best suited for warm weather.
Seersucker fabric originated in India. The name comes from the phrase “shir o shakar” in Hindi, which means milk and sugar, and refers to the two textures in the fabric. Seersucker fabric was later brought to the Western world by Muslim traders. It became popular in British colonies as a material worn in warm climates. In the United States, the fabric was originally thought of as a cheap material worn by lower class citizens. When college students began to wear the fabric to make an ironic statement, it became popular among the higher classes. Seersucker suits became popular in the southern United States, as the lightweight pants and shirts made seersucker an ideal fabric for the hot Southern climate.
Seersucker fabric is both light, breathable and durable. It is woven such that some threads bunch together, giving the fabric a wrinkled appearance with distinctive stripes woven in. Seersucker fabrics are generally made from cotton or a cotton blend. The uneven texture causes the fabric to sit away from the skin, allowing for air circulation. As an added benefit, because of its wrinkled texture, seersucker fabric is machine washable and does not need to be ironed.
To weave fabric on a loom, two sets of yarn are needed. One set of yarn, called the “warp” yarn, is held in tension vertically on the loom. To weave fabric, a second set of yarn, called the “weft” yarn, is woven through the warp horizontally. In the past, fabric was hand-woven or made on a manual loom. Today, most fabrics are produced on computer-controlled looms.
Weaving Seersucker Fabric
To make most fabrics, one set of warp yarn is used, held in uniform tension. To created the crinkled stripes characteristic of seersucker fabric, a slack-tension weaving process involving two warps must be used. One warp is held under regular tension, producing a plain stripe. A second warp is held at a higher tension and produces and crinkled stripe. By weaving one warp threat slack and the other tight, the result is a puckered effect. The yarns are wound onto the warp beams in groups of 10 or 16 to create a narrow stripe. Sometimes a larger yarn may be used for the stripe to produce a more noticeable crinkle.
Today, seersucker fabric most commonly made in a blue-and-white stripe pattern, although comes in a variety of colors and patterns including stripes, plaids, and check. Clothing can be made out of seersucker fabric in the same way that other fabrics are used. Seersucker is commonly used to make suits, shorts, shirts and robes. Drape and curtains made out of seersucker fabric work well in warm climates as they allow for air circulation. Seersucker fabric is fairly inexpensive to buy, and can be found in most fabric stores or can be purchased from an online fabric retailer.
Stacey Howell has a bachelor's degree in English and media studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She currently works as a writer in New York City, and has covered fashion for various blogs and publications, including "BARE" and "Twenty6 Magazine."