Last Updated on February 21, 2024 by Shariful Alam

Calico fabric was so popular that it took down the British textile industry single-handedly back in the 18th century. Cotton calico fabric is still a very popular and versatile fabric choice because it is durable, budget-friendly, and 100% cotton. 

Today, The Muslin Dhaka Team is showing A to Z about the famous Calico fabric. 

We have more than 27 years of cumulative experience in fashion marketing. Our team consists of textile engineers, fashion marketers, textile designers, and researchers. 

So, let the story begin. 

What is Calico Fabric?

Calico is a half-baked cotton fabric with a plain weave. It is thicker than many other cotton fabrics. Due to its thickness, the fabric remains durable. You can find calico in dresses, bedding, home decor items, daily essentials, etc. 

Industrial NameCalico fabric
OriginAncient Kerela, Hindustan (currently India)
Other NamesCalico cotton, Cotton calico, Loomstate cotton, Half-processed cotton, Unbleached pure cotton, etc. 
ConstructionOrganic cotton fibers without dyeing or bleaching. Doesn’t undergo any special finishing. 
Weight70-250 GSM or more
ColorTraditionally comes in faded white or cream color; the raw cotton color.
AirflowBreathable but not see-through
Moisture AbsorbanceMore than 60%
WeavingPlain and weft (criss-cross)
StretchMinimal 
Heat InsulationDecent
Shrinkage RatioLess than 10%
UsageClothing, lining, DIY items, quilting, bedding, interior decoration, upholstery, etc. 

 

A Brief History of Calico Fabric

The origin of calico fabric was in Kerela, India. The name came from the hometown of the textile, Calicut. 

During the 11th century, calico fabric became a commercial fabric for the people of the Hindustan. You can find the evidence in a novel written by a local writer called Hemchandra. In his novel from the 12th century, he mentioned calico or Caliyan (another local name for this fabric). 

At first, calico was produced in faded white color, the raw texture of cotton fibers. A few centuries later, Rajasthan, Gujrat, and other nearby areas became the center of printing calico fabric. 

History of calico fabric

Archeologists also found the calico fabric in the Egyptian empire. They assume that it was made during the 15th century. The British Empire started to purchase calico textiles from Indian locals back in the 17th century. The reason was that calico was very cheap and took less time than other woolen or cotton fabrics. 

But for some years, The East Indian company banned this fabric as buyers were more attracted to calico than other European textile productions. But that didn’t last long. Britishers finally lifted the ban and started producing calico using advanced machinery. 

How are Calico Fabrics Made?

Even at this age, calico fabrics are still in demand. Global manufacturers are producing thousands of tons of calico each year. 

The process of producing calico fabrics is the same as that of other cotton fibers. Manufacturers first collect cotton with other foreign matters. Then, they use the ginning machine to gain pure cotton fibers. 

How Calico is made?

Traditionally, cotton fibers aren’t dyed or combed here. So, you can see some leftovers in the final product. Calico fabrics remain durable because of this. The fibers and constructions remain mostly unharmed. So they last longer than washed cotton. 

But there are some special cases where fibers or threads for calico fabric get dyed or appropriately washed. 

The last part of the production is weaving. The fabric gets a weft or crisscross weaving. Here, one thread overlaps another at a 90-degree angle. Just like graph paper, several nano boxes are created. 

Finally, the plain woven fabric goes into the cutting department. Without any finishing, the fabric gets packed into several sizes for customers. 

Types of Calico Fabric

All calico fabrics are 100% cotton, plain woven, and safe to use. Here are a few famous types of calico fabrics produced commercially:

Traditional Calico:

Traditional calico has a plain woven structure with an 80-200 GSM weight range. The weaving is moderately tight. The color is off-white or cream, the raw color of cotton fibers. 

Drill or Twill Calico:

This type has a closer weaving pattern. Drill calico weighs more than normal calico sheets. The weight range is more than 220 GSM. The heavy textile is used for added durability. You can see canvas calico as well!

Bleached Calico:

Sometimes, calico fabrics are bleached during production to obtain a vibrant or bright color. It helps to print designs later on. This type is very popular in the fashion industry. 

Fire Retardant Calico:

Calico fabrics are thicker than linen or muslin. That’s why calico sheets can protect from flames and heat. Some calico fabrics are infused with chemicals that resist fire. These fire-retardant fabrics weigh around 150 GSM. 

heat resistance calico

Cotton Calico Fabric Characteristics

During our research, we found these specific natures of the calico fabric. Follow them to differentiate calico from other textiles. 

Finish

Calico comes without any additional finishing. You can see some foreign matters inside the threads of a calico sheet.

Purity

Calico fabrics are completely pure and chemical-free. You can only feel and smell cotton from them. The musty smell with a decent amount of softness is what you get from this fabric. 

Softness

Calico is moderately soft. But not like muslin cotton. It is also softer and smoother than khadi cotton. The first thing that came to our mind after touching the calico was Indian Roti. Rotis are soft yet don’t have any smooth finish. The matt-finish fabric felt like something between gauze and denim. 

Further Printing

As there is no chemical present, the calico fabric grabbed prints perfectly. After drying the prints, it is certain that they will last for a long time. 

Low transparency can not see through

Breathability

The weaving technique is plain. If you put it in front of sunlight, you can see the light is easily passing through the threads. The fabric is also breathable. Good for summer outfits. 

Stretch

Calico fabric won’t stretch too much. But the pure cotton threads are durable because they aren’t treated or brushed. 

Water absorption

Moisture Absorbance

We also soaked calico in freshwater. After soaking, the fabric gained 60-70% weight additionally. So, calico fabric is an excellent absorbent material. But it also takes some time to dry up. 

Care Process

We spilled some curry over the fabric. We saw that the stains got off easily. Two things we also noticed were the tendency to wrinkle and shrink. The fabric will wrinkle if you don’t wash it properly or use hot water with hard detergent. 

Special Note

However, you can fix it by ironing and stretching while drying. We also discovered the reason for shrinking. Most of the time, calico fabrics don’t come prewashed. Thus, you might get only 90% of the whole fabric after several washes. Better you wash them before stitching to make something. 

Organic Calico Cotton Fabric & Sustainability

Organic or traditional calico cotton fabric is a safe option to use almost everywhere. They have no chemical, bleach, or inorganic ingredients infused. Pure cotton calico can treat your skin better. 

Don’t worry about wear and tear. Organic calico features strong threads. They also keep you dry and cozy. You can wear calico fabric most of the seasons.

As calico doesn’t undergo bleaching or special brushing, it contains organic cotton matter. The neutral smell is also good for breathing. 

And most importantly, calico textile production doesn’t require vast amounts of water or other natural resources. That’s why Calico is an environmentally-friendly fabric. You will see GOTS certified calico fabrics in the market.

Uses of Calico Fabric

Cotton Calico is a versatile textile. The main uses of this material are:

Fashion Mockup:

Calico production is cost-efficient. That’s why fashion industries use calico textiles to make mockups before confirming any clothing design. 

Clothing:

Calico is breathable. But not see-through. 70-180 GSM calico fabrics can be good summer clothing. It’s perfect for sewing projects. You can easily learn the sewing pattern in this cloth.

Lining:

Low GSM (below 100) calico fabrics also help to layer or line different types of dresses. 

Home Decor:

Medium or heavy (over 150 GSM) calico also features a good range of drapes. You can make curtains, table covers, etc. using calico. There are some designer shams and upholstery items in the market made with calico sheets.

Cleaning:

Thin and light calico fabrics are good cleaning essentials. They absorb moisture, liquid, and dirt easily. Furthermore, it takes normal detergent formulas to clean a calico cloth. Can use a washing machine for this.

Bedding:

Calico pillow shams and bedsheets are famous for sustainability. But not for design or outlook. You can prefer this over muslin bedding for regular use. 

Crafting:

Calico fabric is a blessing for DIY enthusiasts. The budget-friendly fabric is found in homemade cotton quilts as batting. One can also make shopping bags or small vanity bags using calico sheets for durability. 

This fabric has the perfect appearance and texture for oil painting canvas.

uses of calico

Advantages and Disadvantages of Calico

Below are some key advantages and disadvantages of using calico fabric. 

Advantages

  • Cheap
  • Adaptable to prints and designs
  • No harmful chemicals
  • Softens after every wash
  • Versatile use
  • Easy care
  • Breathable
  • Moisture absorbent 

Disadvantages

  • Not smooth finish
  • Foreign matters present sometimes
  • Takes time to dry
  • Can wrinkle
  • Shrinks not more than 5-10% after the first few washes

calico fabric producer

How to Take Care of Calico Fabric?

Cotton Calico doesn’t need any special treatment. The fibers remain pure in this fabric. That’s why the regular methods will be fine for it. 

Just make sure you have washed the calico fabric twice in mild hot water before cutting and making any items. Otherwise, the fabric will shrink later on and ruin the craft or dress. 

Don’t use bleach or hard detergent to clean any cotton fabrics. It can damage the organic fibers. 

Calico Fabric by Yard

The price of calico fabric depends on the weight and condition. Some calico rolls come with a very small amount of foreign matter, almost like well-finished cotton. These rolls are a bit pricier. 

Also, the GSM range is a factor in pricing. But no matter which type of calico cotton sheets you choose, the price will always be within your limits. A yard of calico will cost half of what a muslin cotton would cost. 

Where to Buy Calico Fabric?

You can buy Calico by the yard or a whole bolt from trustworthy sites like Amazon and Etsy. They sell calico by yards at reasonable prices. You will also get to know about the fabric details there so that you can pick the right GSM and texture. 

FAQ

Is there any difference between calico fabric and 100% cotton?

Calico is a type of 100% cotton fabric. This type is unbleached and remains half-baked. It is less pricier than other pure cotton types. 

Is calico tightly woven?

Calico is tightly woven. But not as tightly as twill or denim.

Which cloth is known as calico?

Cotton fabrics, that are produced in a loom state without any bleaching or finishing, are known as calico clothes. 

Is calico a polyester?

No, calico is 100% cotton. Nothing is infused to make calico except cotton fibers. 

Why is calico fabric so inexpensive?

Cotton calico fabric doesn’t undergo the complete process of industrial fabric production. The half-baked fabric comes undyed, unbleached, and unfinished. 

Sum Up

Calico was invented almost a thousand years ago for the rural residents of South India. Something affordable, easy to make, and comfortable was the main factor in inventing this fabric for clothing. 

But now, calico isn’t only used in clothing. Experts have invented several other uses of this material. Using Calico won’t disappoint you. 

The fabric carries a revolutionary history that impacted the foreign textile industry. It played such an important role in the history of fashion and fabrics!

We really enjoyed writing this article about Calico, and believe you liked reading it. Recommend getting the best calico fabrics today.

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam

Shariful Alam Pavel, A fashion lover, passionate marketer. Love to share wisdom based on real life experience to enrich knowledge.
Founder of Muslin Dhaka, a brand, speaks the truth about royal muslin and fashion. Explore the digital fashion universe with organic cotton muslin and much more!