Textile sample

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Salesman's sample book showing a number of fabric swatches, 1784. Collection of the Cooper–Hewitt, National Design Museum.

A textile sample is a piece of cloth or fabric designed to represent a larger whole. A small sample, usually taken from existing fabric, is called a swatch, whilst a larger sample, made as a trial to test print production methods, is called a strike off. For plain-dyed fabrics it is called a lab-dip, and for yarn-dyed fabrics (like stripes and checks), it is called a handloom. [1]

The use of swatches is an essential part of the design process as it enables designers to show the type of fabric to use, demonstrating how colours and different materials and trimmings will look in real terms before going to the trouble of making up a full design. [2]

Swatches also offer the advantage of illustrating how colours and patterns will appear on an actual fabric, something that may not be readily apparent from a paper or digital design. [3]

The textile manufacturer might bring together many swatches of their materials into a single sample book, enabling a salesperson to show a wide selection of available designs in various colorways to potential customers without the necessity of having multiple rolls of fabric immediately to hand. [4]


  1. ^ Tortora, Phyllis; Ingrid Johnston (2013). Fairchild books dictionary of textiles (08 ed.). Fairchild Books. p. 594. ISBN 978-1609015350.
  2. ^ Baker, Georgia (2013). A Handbook of Costume Drawing. CRC Press. p. 28. ISBN 9781136083341.
  3. ^ Kight, Kimberly (2011). A Field Guide to Fabric Design Design, Print & Sell Your Own Fabric. Lanham: C & T Pub. p. 66. ISBN 978-1607056188.
  4. ^ Nielson, Karla J. (2007). Interior textiles : fabrics, applications, & historical styles. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 9–10. ISBN 9780471606406.