Ethical Fabric Guide: How to Choose Vegan Materials

This ethical fabric guide will help you to understand which fabric fibres and textiles are obtained in an ethical, vegan way. Choosing vegan and ethical fabrics can be tough. With some traditionally non-vegan brands classing their items as ethical, as well as the rise in conscious materials referred to as vegan leather, it can be difficult to understand which fibres are truly ethical.

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A guide to choosing ethical fabrics

To use this ethical fabric guide, use this key to determine whether a fabric is vegan, not vegan or possibly both.

V – Vegan

N – Not vegan

V/N – Materials that can be made using either vegan or non-vegan materials.


Material Name                                    Fabric Description                  Ethical Status

Aba                                         N         Woven fabric, derived from goat and camel hair

Acrylic                                     V         Synthetic fabric

Aertex                                     V         Trademark name for a cotton fabric

Alpaca                                     N         Natural fabric fibre from an alpaca

Baize                                       V/N     Coarse felt-like fabric, used for covering pool/gaming tables.

Bamboo                                   V         Cloth made from bamboo yarn

Batiste                                     V         Light, translucent cotton fabric, often used for lingerie

Broadcloth                               V         Dense woven cloth, historically made from wool – now made from cotton or cotton blend

Brocade                                   N         Richly decorative fabric, often made in coloured silks

Buckram                                  V         Stiff cloth often used for bookbinding, made from cotton or linen

Bunting                                   N         Used for making flags, made from wool

Calico                                      V         Plain fabric, made from unbleached/unprocessed cotton

Cambric                                  V         White linen, finely woven

Camel hair                              N         Fabric made from real camel hair or camel hair blend

Camlet                                    N         Woven fabric made from goat/camel hair or wool

Canvas                                     V         Plain woven fabric, used for interiors

Cashmere                                N         Soft fibre made from the undercoat of cashmere goats

Cerecloth (altar cloth)             N         Waterproof waxed cloth, sometimes called “altar cloth”

Challis                                     V/N     Lightweight woven fabric. Originally made from silk/wool blend but now vegan variations are also available, made from cotton or rayon

Chambray (or Cambric)          V         Gingham cloth with a linen finish. Used for handkerchiefs, linens, or fabric for needlework

Chenille                                   V         Heavy fabric woven with chenille cord, used in bedspreads, carpets, rugs, etc.

Chiffon                                    V/N     Sheer lightweight fabric made from silk or cotton/other synthetic fibres

Chino                                       V         Often used for trousers, made from 100% cotton or cotton-synthetic fabrics

Chintz                                     V         Glazed cotton fabric in a bright colour or print

Ethical Fabric Guide

Cork                                        V         Derived from the soft bark of trees, often used as a vegan leather

Cord/ Corduroy                       V         A textile made from twisted fibres to form the unique cord pattern.

Cotton                                     V         Often used as thread for sewing. This is a plain soft white fibre.

Crepe                                      V/N     Soft fabric, traditionally made from wool but now made in synthetic forms.

Cretonne                                 V         Heavy cotton fabric, often used for embroidery work

Damask                                   V/N     Reversible woven textile, made from either silk/wool or synthetic fibres

Denim                                     V         Twill woven fabric, often used for dungarees and jeans

Dimity                                     V         Durable sheer cotton fabric with raised checks or stripes

Doeskin                                   N         Leather – the skin of a female fallow deer

Duck                                        V         Heavy cotton fabric, often used for tents and clothing

Duffel/duffle                            N         A heavy woollen fabric

Elastane                                  V         An elastic material made from polyester-polyurethane copolymer – more durable than elastic

Elastic                                     V         Stretchable, flexible material made from rubber or similar synthetic material

Etamine/etamin                      V         Light cotton fabric, often used as a curtain lining

Faille                                       V/N     A shiny fabric, often made from either wool/silk or cotton fabrc

Felt                                         N         Fleecy cloth fabric made from processed fur and wool

Flannel                                    V/N     Soft fabric made from either wool or yarn or cotton/synthetic fabric

Flannelette                              V         Light, soft fabric – vegan imitation of flannel

Fleece                                      N         Woollen coat of sheep after being sheared before being turned into yarn.

Foulard                                   V/N     Lightweight fabric often with a print design, made from either silk or cotton.

Frieze                                      N         Heavy woollen material

Fustian                                    V         Usually dyed in dark colours. A cotton and linen fabric.

Gabardine                               V/N     Used to make suits. Made from either wool, cotton or textured polyester.

Georgette                                N         Semi-transparent silk material used for dresses

Gingham                                 V         Lightweight cotton fabric, usually in a chequered pattern

Grogram                                 N         A mix of wool and silk

Grosgrain                                V/N     A fabric made from silk or a synthetic silk

Haircloth/hair                         N         Fabric cloth made from camel hair or horse hair

Hemp                                      V         Taken from the cannabis plant, used for yarn, cordage and other fabrics

Jersey                                      V/N     Usually used for clothing. Traditionally made from wool, now available in vegan, synthetic varieties

Khaki                                      V         Thick material used usually for making military uniforms

Lame                                       V         A material woven with metal threads

Leather                                   N         Tough material made from animal skins

Leatherette                             V         Vegan, imitation leather made from plants and other sources

Linen                                       V         A soft fabric made from flax plant fibres

Linsey-woolsey                        V/N     A strong fabric containing wool, cotton and/or linen

Lint                                         V         Cotton textile often used in first aid kids/ to dress wounds

Lisle                                        N         A woven fabric with lisle thread

Mackinaw                                N         Heavy woollen fabric

Mackintosh                              V         Waterproof lightweight fabric

Madras                                                V         Lightweight fabric made from cotton. Used for light, summer clothes

Marseille                                 V         Usually used for bedding, a strong cotton material

Microfibre                               V         A synthetic fabric – a very light yarn

Modal                                      V         A synthetic fabric made from beech trees

Mohair                                     N         Yarn or silk-like material made from the hair of the Angora goat

Ethical Fabric Guide

Moire, watered-silk                 N         Material made from silk, wool, cotton or rayon

Moleskin                                  V         A cotton fabric with soft, leathery finish – similar to vegan leather

Monk’s cloth                            V         A heavy cotton fabric in a basket weave

Moquette                                 V         A heavy duty synthetic fabric used for carpets, rugs and other textiles

Moreen                                    V/N     Strong textile made from wool and/or cotton

Mousseline de soie                   V/N     Light silky fabric made from silk or rayon

Muslin                                     V         Plain weave cotton fabric

Nankeen                                  V         Yellow coloured cotton cloth

Ninon                                       V/N     Sheer fabric made from silk, nylon or rayon

Nylon                                       V         Synthetic fabric

Oilcloth                                   V         A fabric painted or treated on one side using an oil spray

Organdie/organdie                  V         See-through muslin

Organza                                  V/N     Plain sheer material made from silk, nylon or polyester

Orlon                                       V         A brand of wrinkle-free, acrylic textile fibre

Paisley                                     N         Patterned soft woollen fabric

Percale                                    V         Fine woven soft fabric used for bed linen

PET/PETE                             V         Commonly used thermoplastic polymer resin, used for clothing and plastic containers

Pilot cloth                                V         Twilled woollen material used for blue uniforms

Pique                                       V         A weaving style with ribbing or raised cords

Plush                                       V/N     A fabric with a pile more than 1/8 inch high, made from vegan or non vegan fibres

Polar fleece/polar wool            V         Soft insulating fabric made from synthetic materials

Polyester                                 V         Synthetic fabric

Pongee                                                N         Thin, soft fabric woven from silk

Poplin                                      V         Lightweight cotton fabric

Prima Loft                              V         Thermal microfiber insulation material

Ramie                                      V/N     Flexible fabric able to hold its shape without wrinkling

Rayon                                      V         Chemically treated wood pulp made into a synthetic fabric

Rep/Repp                                V/N     Cloth fabric woven from silk, wool or cotton

Russet                                     N         Homespun cloth made from wool and dyed with wood

Sailcloth                                  V         Fabrics used for boat sails or tents, made from cotton, nylon or dacron

Samite                                     N         Heavy silk fabric, often with gold thread

Sarcenet                                  N         Soft fabric used for ribbons and decorative purposes

Sateen                                     V         Cotton fabric with a silky, satin finish

Satin                                        V/N     Soft fabric made from silk, polyester or nylon

Screening                                V         Plastic or metal mash material

Scrim                                       V         Lightweight fabric used for reinforcing buildings

Seersucker                              V         Light fabric made from cotton, linen or rayon. Often in a striped pattern and used for spring, summer wear.

Serge                                       N         Woven woollen fabric

Shag                                        V/N     Fluffy/shaggy fabric used to make rugs, carpets and other upholsteries


Shantung                                 V/N     Silk type fabric used for bridal wear

Shark skin/shagreen               N         Sharkskin used for its external appearance and texture

Silesie                                      V         Woven cotton fabric usually used for clothing pockets

Silk                                          N         Soft shiny fibre obtained from silkworms

Spandex                                  V         Synthetic fabric fibre used to make elasticated clothing

Sponge cloth                           V/N     Porous fabric woven into a honeycomb texture

Stammel                                  N         Woollen fabric often dyed red and used for undershirts

Suede leather                          N         A type of leather, obtained from the underside of animal skin

Swan’s down                            N         Very soft woollen fabric, often used for baby clothes

Taffeta                                                V/N     Smooth, plain fabric made from synthetic fibres or silk

Tammy                                    N         Plain woollen or cotton fabric used for linings

Tapa/Tappa                            V         Derived from tapa bark, a paper like fabric

Tapestry/Tapis                       V/N     Heavy fabric often used for soft furnishings

Tencel                                     V         Made from cellulose in wood pulp, used to make make-up brushes, t-shirts, and more

Thinsulate                               V         Brand of synthetic insulating material

Towelling                                V         Usually cotton or linen, used to make towels

Tweed                                     N         Woven fabric made from contrasting woollen thread

Ultrasuede                              V         Synthetic, vegan suede leather

Velcro                                     V         Nylon fastening fabric

Velour                                     V         A faux woollen knitted fabric

Velvet                                     V/N     Soft, shiny textile made from silk, wool, mohair, nylon, acetate, rayon, linen, etc.

Velveteen                                V         Faux vegan velvet

Vicuna                                     N         Wool obtained from the coat of the Vicuna

Viscose                                    V         Versatile rayon fabric used often in industrial materials, upholsteries and carpets

Viyella                                     N         Woven fabric, mixed from wool and cotton

Voile                                        V         Sheer, fine fabric made from 100% cotton or cotton blend

Vulcanised fibre                      V         Strong laminated plastic

Whipcord                                V/N     Cotton –like fabric made from twisted vegan or non-vegan yarn

Wincey                                    N         Plain or woven fabric often used for pyjamas

Wire cloth                               V         Woven metallic wire used for car windscreens and tea strainers

Wool/woollen                          N         Fibre taken from the coats of various animals

Worsted                                  N         Hard textured woven woollen fabric

Ethical Fabric Guide



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