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Marled cotton is a fabric that preppy retailers designers such as J.Crew and L.L. Bean used in their 2013 fall menswear collections -- and for good reason. This sophisticated textile is a subtle and eye-catching fabric that features a subtle weave of colored, 100 percent cotton fibers. Specifically, marled cotton features fibers of different colors that are twisted together to produce an unusual look that complements both neutrals and patterned wardrobe options.

Definition of Marled Cotton

Marled cotton refers to marled cotton yarn. This type of yarn is made by twisting single plies of different colored yarns together to create a multi-toned effect. Many definitions describe marled yarn as two-toned, being made from two colors twisted together. In fact, marled yarns can be made of two, three, four, five, six or even more color of yarn. The key is that each colored ply of yarn is twisted with the others to create multiple tones in one long, continuous piece of yarn. This look is also referred to as mottled.

Similar Hues Marled

Many times, single plies of similar hues are twisted together to create a tone-on-tone effect. Usually two fibers of similar colors, such as sky blue and baby blue, or medium purple and lavender, would be twisted into one, two-ply strand. This gives a subtle tonal quality. The finished item appears to be a beautiful, unusual color. It takes a closer inspection to see that the item is actually two subtle shades of one color.

Contrasting Hues Marled

In other cases, clearly different colors may be twisted together for a more vibrant look. Still, the look is not the same as when two different colors of yarn are knitted together, because marled yarns are first twisted together, and then knitted. This is where three or more different colored fibers may be twisted together. Depending upon the colors used, the result can vary from cheerful and bright to outrageously colorful.

Sweaters and Scarves

Marled yarns are used most often in making sweaters and scarves. Some manufacturers make knitted marled socks, too. If thinner, lighter yarns are used, however, marled cotton yarns can produce lighter weight shirts and tops in a ribbed knit with the tone-on-tone look that marled yarns give. Sweaters and scarves may be made of marled cotton, but also marled wool, marled silk, or man-made fibers, as marled refers to the color, not the makeup of the fiber.

About the Author

Barbara Bean-Mellinger

Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.