What is poplin?

by Leah Taylor on October 13, 2010

β€œWhat exactly is poplin?”

A customer asked me today what poplin is, as Sewbox has a selection of Liberty poplin fabric, and here’s my attempt at an explanation:

Poplin is a durable, tightly woven cotton fabric, primarily intended for making clothes, but also suitable for other crafting too. It uses a plain weave and is actually very similar to quilting cotton, but with a tighter, less distinctive weave, less prone to wrinkling, and much easier to iron. The weight varies but is generally light to medium weight – the Liberty poplins in my shop all weigh 120 grams per square metre. It is a “shirting” fabric and its most common uses would be for shirts, dresses, and skirts.

What is poplin?

A close-up of the poplin weave

If you know what cotton broadcloth is, poplin is essentially the same. I think there is a subtle difference between the two, but I have yet to work out what it is, and it looks to me as though what Americans call cotton broadcloth, we call poplin (if anyone can elaborate on whether there is a difference or not, please do share!)

Poplin can generally be machine washed up to 60 degrees, tumbled dryed on low, and ironed on a warm setting. However, the care instructions for the Liberty poplins differ – they state 40 degrees only, and no tumble drying.

I hope I haven’t confused you more, and if anyone can elaborate at all on the nature of poplin or how it differs from broadcloth please do so in the comments. Thanks!

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Fabrics for Gertie’s Colette Crepe Dress Sew-Along β€” into the sewing box
November 18, 2010 at 9:03 am

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tabatha Tweedie October 13, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Ooh, I’ll be sure to add some of this information to my fabrics folder for my course!


Wendy Darby October 14, 2010 at 7:26 pm

I’ve been wanting to research all those lovely fabric terms like chintz, poplin and broadcloth for a future blog post. What a great detailed description. I’ll be sure to reference back to it. πŸ™‚


Millie October 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Would this be a good fabric to use to make a sort of artsy blazer?


Steven December 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm

As far as I know, a poplin broadcloth weave is just a poplin weave with finer yarns. I have a description on my site here



Kathy Bennett April 28, 2013 at 12:11 am

Traditionally, broadcloth was made from wool whereas poplin was always made from cotton. Broadcloth as its name suggests was also woven as a broader fabric on wider looms in America i.e. above 19″ wide. Poplin should have a diagonal thread added to the weave, which gives it the closer weave. More often, broadcloth was a plain weave but not exclusively. UK broadcloth developed as a collaboration with Flemish artisans who had the looms and techniques for weaving the broader woollen cloths and our higher quality wools.
Today the fibres and widths used have become intermingled.
This is my understanding from what I was taught as a child (a long time ago!) and from reading up over the last few decades! I could be wrong though…


Penny April 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Thank you so much for the verry clear definition of poplin. I must admit though it is quite ‘stiff’ to wear as a blouse and not so comfortable as linen. Though, it doesn’t crease and looks fresh all day.


Sara Cook February 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm

I understand Broarddcloth to be an American term for 100% wool fabric that has a slight nap that hs been pressedd own to conceal the weave and is used for making coats.


Spring Boat Shoes 2014 December 25, 2014 at 12:14 am

I just added this website to my feed reader, great stuff. Can’t get enough!


Margaret Andrews May 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Dear Leah,

Thanks for sharing such useful info. about poplin. I’m wanting to sew a simple dance dress. My husband and I dance tango but in the class we also move round from partner to partner.

I was looking at lawn at one supplier but they said it would probably be slightly see-through and might require a lining. Is it the same for poplin or is it opaque as twill is?

I’ve got some Liberty tana lawns and they are really superb in quality but I wanted to start with a less expensive material before moving on to those. I will be using vintage 1950s patterns for full-skirted dresses.

Many thanks for your consideration, Daisy


Vix Scarlett October 16, 2016 at 1:41 am

From my limited experience, I would say poplin is heavier than lawn, but a tad lighter than twill. Last spring I was given a large roll of off-white poplin fabric by one of my son’s customers. They moved before I could ask them how to use it. The fabric is on a 60-inch roll with a tag attached that reads “Test Fabrics, 50 yards, Poplin, bleached and mercerized.” My Poplin fabric is opaque and is about the weight of summer dress slacks. This fabric does not have the same “drape” as lawn. I have been trying to figure out how to use it myself, and I think that it might work for dresses, skirts, or lightweight slacks. I have a suspicion this fabric may have been intended for drapery lining since it came on a roll instead of a bolt. I am going to try dying it since I’ve heard mercerized fabrics take dyes nicely. I hope this gives you some idea about what poplin fabric is like.


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