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Calico (fabric): Wikis


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A calico bag (in the UK sense)

Calico has different meanings according to which country the word is used in. Originally calico was a plain-woven textile which originated in the city of Kozhikode, Kerala, India, which was known by Europeans as Calicut, in the 11th century. The fabric was made by the traditional weavers called chaliyans.


In the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, "calico" refers to fabric made from unbleached, and often not fully processed, cotton, which may for example contain unseparated husk parts. The fabric is less coarse and thick than canvas or denim, but is unfinished and undyed. As it is inexpensive and readily available, calico is a fabric often used by tailors in the construction of toile, mockups of a garment for the purpose of testing a pattern.

In New Zealand

In New Zealand this same fabric is known as "mutton cloth" and is used for wrapping food for cooking underground, in a hangi.

In Canada and the USA

In North America the word calico is used quite differently. In American English, calico is a word for inexpensive printed cotton fabrics with a small, allover pattern, often floral.[1] These colorful, small-patterned printed fabrics are what gave rise to the use of the word calico in the name of a cat coat color: "calico cat". The patterned fabric also gave its name to one of the common names of a crab, the calico crab.

The fabric that is called calico in the UK is called muslin in the USA.


John Adams sent his wife bolts of calico from France while trying to work out an alliance with the French. (John Adams by David McCullough, page 205.) Due to the similar name 'Calico', as the British called it, the fabric was probably the same as found in the UK at the time.


The word calico is derived from the name of the city of Kozhikode, in Kerala, India, which was known by the British as Calicut.


Calico originated in India during the 11th century. It was mentioned in Indian literature by the 12th century when the writer Hemacandra mentioned calico fabric prints with a lotus design.[2] Indian textile merchants traded calico with the Africans by the 15th century, when calico fabrics from Gujarat made their appearance in Egypt.[2] Trade with Europe followed from the 17th century onwards.[2] Within India, calico originated in Kozhikode.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Kadolph, Sara J., ed.: Textiles, 10th edition, Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2007, ISBN 0-13-118769-4, p. 463
  2. ^ a b c d Encyclopedia Britannica (2008). calico


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