What is Chambray Fabric? All You Need to Know

Chambray fabric is loved for being lightweight, comfortable, and okay for all occasions. More specifically, there are a few fabrics as amazing for summer days as chambray.

What is Chambray fabric

But, talking about the most fundamental part, what is chambray material?

Chambray is a lightweight plain-weave fabric that’s typically made from pure cotton or linen. It can be used in dresses like shorts, tops, and skirts. Also, home furnishing items like tablecloths, upholstery, pillowcases, and curtains can be made of this fabric.

You’ve known what’s what but that’s not all. If you’re curious about the characteristics of chambray, the differences between chambray and other fabrics, and how you should clean and care for the fabric, stay with us!      

What is Chambray Fabric?

Chambray is a double-ply fabric that can be made with cotton, linen, or silk. It comes with a tight but plain weave that makes it smooth and light in weight. Most of the time, chambray is found in different blue shades but there are other color variations as well.

Chambray fabric

This fabric is dense and fine and looks almost the same as denim. However, denim and chambray have differences and we’ll talk about them later.

Giving the concentration back to chambray, it’s been used for decades to denote several types of fabrics. The very first area where chambray was made is near Canbrani, France. So, that’s where the name chambray comes from.

Read Next: What is the Minky fabric?

What is Chambray Made of?

Let’s break down a term we’ve been using here ‘plain weave’. What does it even mean?

Plain weave is a basic weaving style where the weft threads are overlapped and go under the thread of wrap. Remember the days of your school art classes when you wove a two-color concentration paper placement? Have you pictured this?

What is Chambray Made of

If yes, now you know exactly what plain weave is!

So, long story short, the wrap and the weft strands go over each other by following an alternating pattern. Still, the overall production process depends on the material type of chambray.

Chambray Fabric Characteristics

By now, you’ve known that plain weave is responsible for the smooth and soft texture of the chambray. In spite of being soft and proving a comfortable feel, you can also find it in both lightweight and heavy shirt options.

Chambray Fabric Characteristics

The thing is, the heavier pieces are more durable and rugged. For this, it’s used widely for enjoying chilly night-outs in the woods. Other than this, a lighter chambray shirt can be the best option for a casual office look.

Key characteristics of chambray fabric are:

  • 150-500 thread count variations
  • Very breathable
  • High moisture-wicking abilities
  • Low stretchability
  • Less prone to pilling

Is Chambray Soft?

Yes, chambray is soft and breathable. Most times, this fabric is made with short-staple cotton but you’ll find ones that are made with long-staple as well. The longer fibers mean softer and stronger fabrics. Overall, chambray is softer in texture as well as thinner in construction.

Is Chambray Stretchy?

Chambray is not notably stretchy. It comes with around 10% stretch across the grain which makes the fabric the right choice for making skirts, blouses, shirts, and other stylish dresses.

Is Chambray Fabric 100 Cotton?

In most cases, yes. Usually, Chambray is 100% cotton but other variations like linen are also used. Most types of chambray fabric have a bright and smooth finish which is well-adapted to sewing.  

Is Chambray Denim?

No. But chambray often gets confused with denim for some reason. As in chambray, dyed yarn in the vertical and white yarn in the horizontal is used in the denim fabric.

For the typical light blue color, chambray often gets wrong with denim. But chambray is lighter than denim and the weave is also not the same.

Unlike a plain weave, denim is woven using a twill construction. What it means, manufacturers weave the threads in the chambray fabric one over the other. But in denim, before the vertical threads go under one, they go over two horizontal threads first.

Is Chambray a Summer Fabric?

Yes. For being lightweight, chambray is summer-friendly. Cotton in Chambray fabric keeps you cool in heat and humidity. And, higher thread counts in the fabric ensure a finer weave. So, it’s very breathable and comfy for summer days.  

Types of Chambray Fabric

There is only a single type of chambray fabric but people use different terms to address the fabric and you should be clarified about the terms.

  • Chambray: Any fabric that’s woven by following the traditional chambray style is simply called chambray.
  • Batiste: It comes with a similar weave to chambray. The difference is, the batter is smoother and lighter.
  • Cambric: It’s identical to batiste fabric. 

What is Chambray Material Used for?

What is Chambray Material Used for

Chambray is mostly used for festivals as it’s very luxurious clothing. The other uses of the fabric are:

  • For garments for priests
  • As household textiles
  • As a substitute for denim

Chambray was also used as a substitute for silk fabric in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It’s because chambray is a luxury textile like silk and despite silk being softer than chambray, it’s less durable.

And, people who love denim clothes but don’t like the heaviness of the fabric, can go for chambray without a second thought. You can use chambray anywhere like light jackets, shorts, pants, and even fabric-topped shoes.

Another mentionable use of the fabric is household textiles. For instance, you may find chambray as upholstery on chairs, sofas, and fabric for bedsheets as well.

Speaking of use as bed sheets, although chambray is soft, it can be woven in high thread counts as well which makes it the perfect sheet material.   

Pros and Cons of Chambray

Pros and Cons of Chambray

Chambray is an unbeatable choice for:

  • People living in consistently warm areas want a breathable fabric.
  • One who is prone to perspiration as chambray offers an excellent moisture-wicking capability.
  • For people who want a versatile piece to dress up or down; one chambray shirt is okay for keeping it all the way buttoned up or throwing it over a tee!
  • One who needs a low-maintenance fabric that’s machine washable.
  • One who’s looking for a denim-like but softer and lighter fabric.

See? There are enormous advantages to using chambray fabric but hey, there’s nothing perfect in the world. Chambray won’t be a great choice for the reasons below:

  • If you want something that’ll hold its shape for an extended time; you have to iron it regularly.
  • Although chambray is easy to remove stains, it may shrink.
  • It wrinkles easily.  

Difference Between Chambray and Other Fabrics

Difference Between Chambray and Other Fabrics

So, what about the competitors of chambray fabric? If you feel like you want to get introduced to the alternatives to chambray, stick to this section for a while!

Chambray vs Cotton

Although cotton is the most common fabric used for chambray fabrics, there are differences between cotton and chambray fabric. Chambray fabric has higher thread counts so it offers a finer weave.

This weave type makes chambray fabric more breathable and more textured as well. There are other differences but, overall, it’s the weave type that makes cotton and chambray different.  

Chambray vs Linen

The key difference between the fabrics is linen is made with flax fibers whereas chambray is made with a plain weave with white selvage. Flax fibers are more rigid compared to silks or cotton. For this, linen fabrics somehow lack elasticity.

Both chambray and linen originated in Europe, linen is the oldest textile in human history.

About the uses of the fabrics, both chambray and linen are great for regular appearances on summer days, linen is more widely used as outside apparel.

Linen also offers high absorbency and durability so, for tablecloths, bedding, and other household goods, linen is used more than chambray. And, chambray is the best option for luxurious clothing.

Chambray vs Denim

People often mistake chambray with denim fabric at first sight. After reading this, you won’t let the fabrics fool you!

Weave constructionPlainTwill
WeightLightweightThick and heavy
FeelSoftRough to the touch
SheenThe luxurious, unique sheenClassic look

So, yes, from the weave construction to the sheen, chambray and denim are significantly different. Denim has a lower thread count than chambray so denim is not as soft and breathable as chambray.

Although both chambray and denim are made with cotton, threads of chambray fabric are woven more tightly. About durability, both denim and chambray are highly durable but about comfort, chambray is comfier than denim.

Chambray vs Poplin

It’s even difficult to differentiate chambray and poplin. Basically, chambray is a type of poplin, and poplin is made with thinner yarn. Also, poplin doesn’t necessarily come with white and blue yarn.

However, Poplin is also made with a tightly closed weave. Poplin is also popular for its luster and traditionally, it was a plain weave constructed with fine silk warp yarns. But nowadays, poplin is made from pure cotton which makes it more lightweight.

Poplin is also used for skirts, shirts, jackets, and trousers. Like chambray, poplin’s subtle sheen offers a luxury that allows it to be used as both formal and casual dress-ups.

Chambray vs Twill

Twill fabric is usually made with cotton, polyester, and sometimes, a blend of the two. Twill isn’t that different from chambray because of its stain and plain weaves.

But you can easily distinguish twill from chambray by seeing the darker color at the front of the twill fabric whereas chambray comes with the same color in and outside. Still, twill has a high thread count like chambray. So, twill is nothing less when it’s about durability.

And, if you want an alternative to chambray that doesn’t wrinkle, twill is what you’re looking for.

Chambray vs Flannel

Flannel is also soft to the touch like chambray fabric. For this, flannel is widely used for cold-weather outfits. Usually, flannel is made with 100% cotton but sometimes it’s mixed with silk.

However, flannel is not lightweight as chambray, it’s rather, a medium-weight cotton fabric that offers a napped finish. Also, unlike chambray, it has a loosely spun weave that makes it perfect for winter clothes.

Chambray vs Canvas

Canvas fabric is highly durable and it’s also made with plain-weave cotton. Sometimes, linen with PVC is used to make the fabric. Moreover, it can be blended with natural and synthetic fibers.

So, overall, chambray and canvas are not on the same page.

Canvas is a thick and heavy fabric that’s made from a simple weave. It’s hard and sturdy as well. Therefore, canvas fabric is very strong and highly durable so it’s usually used for tents, sails, backpacks, shoes, or handbags.

Chambray vs Oxford

Oxford fabrics are heavy in weight but have fine textures. The fabric ages well and gets softer with every use. Unlike chambray, the oxford fabric is naturally resistant to wrinkles. 

Also, it offers excellent insulating properties which makes it an ideal choice for winter uses. However, it’s also breathable fabric like chambray and easy to wash plus maintain.

How to Care for and Clean Chambray?

How to Care for and Clean Chambray

To remove stains from your chambray items:

  • Firstly, mix 5 parts water and 1 part of laundry detergent.
  • Select the stained area and apply soap mixture to the area.
  • Let the solution remain on the stain for 1-2 minutes.
  • Use a clean, dry towel to blot up the stain.
  • Rinse the remaining soap.
  • If the stain still remains, repeat the steps.

What if beaching clean is required for your chambray clothing?

Try to follow the instructions below:

  • Mix 90% water and 10% bleach and spray the mixture on the fabric.
  • Wait a few minutes and allow the bleach to do its job.
  • Rinse the item thoroughly and pat dry.

Final Words

After such a detailed discussion, hopefully, ‘what fabric is chambray?’ isn’t a big question for you. Chambray has thousands of reasons to be one of the best fabrics. And, about its disadvantages, I believe that by following the right ways to care for and maintain the fabric, you can have a long journey with the fabric.

Hi, I'm Robert Jameson. I'm a textile engineer. As a textile engineer, I design & create fabric. When I'm not busy with my family members, I research, write, and edit content for Fabric Fits.

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