An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.

What Kind of Fabrics Did American Colonists Use?

What Kind of Fabrics Did American Colonists Use?


Buy Me A Coffee

OR Subscribe for free to the ThinkCivics+ newsletter.



The eighteenth century saw the invention of many modern sciences and tools. For example, people invented tools like the cotton gin, the power loom, and the flying shuttle to help make fabric production go quickly. That said, synthetic fabrics weren’t yet available, so everyone, including American colonists, had to use natural fibers. Keep reading to learn what kind of fabrics American colonists used.

Wool Fabric

Today, most people associate wool with heavy winter clothing. It’s true that wool is a good insulator, making it useful for things like peacoats and lining. However, wool can also be a heat barrier. It keeps the heat in, but it also keeps heat out, making it a good choice in very hot climates. For colonists adapting to the temperatures of North America, wool was an essential fabric in both summer and winter.

Cotton Fabric

Cotton is another well-known natural fiber that comes from the cotton plant. It’s extremely breathable, meaning it allows for the circulation of air between the cloth and your skin. This makes it a good choice for skin-layer garments like chemises, underpants, and shirts. American colonists also used cotton for many of their household linens like towels, tablecloths, and bedsheets.

Cotton Rag Paper

Did you know that paper used to come from cotton rags? That’s right! Up until the nineteenth century, people made paper out of cotton rags, which they could sell to make a small bit of cash. People from the past didn’t waste any part of their fabric!

Silk Fabric

Silk is a natural fiber that comes from the mulberry silkworm’s cocoon. Most American colonists had to get their silk from overseas, where the climate was better suited for breeding the worms. That made silk a luxury fabric that only wealthy families could afford to buy regularly.

That said, silk fabric did serve some practical purposes. Per the guide to the different types of flag materials, American colonists used silk to make American flags during the Revolution and early years of the nation.

Linen Fabric

You don’t hear much about linen fabric today. Linen comes from the flax plant, which isn’t as popular as cotton. However, linen is a breathable fabric that makes for good undergarments, towels, and bedsheets—anything that touches your skin and needs to provide good air circulation. In the years of the Revolution, it was common for farmers to grow their own flax, so they could make linen at home and avoid buying expensive cotton from England. Linen was the favored cloth of American revolutionaries!

Whether you’re making your own historical clothing or learning about American history, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the fabrics that American colonists used. The history of textiles can tell you a lot about a culture!

© 2022 ThinkCivics Media. All Rights Reserved.

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Create New Account!

Fill the forms below to register

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.