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Monday, December 27, 2010

Pssst...They're called slubs.

Nubbies, knots, flecks, knobblies, tweedy-things…no matter what you call them, you’re probably talking about slubs. From barkcloth to wool upholstery fabric, and all kinds of blends in between, much mid-century fabric was all about the slubs. By definition, a slub is a soft lump or unevenness in a yarn, either an imperfection or created by design.

One of the early problems with automated carding and spinning processes was the appearance of an incidental section of the yarn that was fuller than the yarn was intended to be. This soft lump would have to be removed before the material would be ready for warping or twisting. Originally, there were standards set in place that established what was considered an acceptable amount of slubbed or nubby yarn for first quality grading and sale.

Over time, however, the concept of yarns containing a high count of slubs as a textural and style alternative began to develop. Slub yarn began to be used intentionally, especially in fabrics that were characterized by what is referred to as roves. Essentially, a rove is an intentional pattern of slub yarn that is produced when spinning and twisting machinery is adjusted to allow the presence of the fuller lumps in the yarn itself. The result is that when the fabric is woven, the slubs form a continuous pattern in the material.

While slubbed fabric was very popular for mid-century furniture and draperies, the presence of slub yarn, particularly in upholstery fabric, results in a lower level of durability than one finds in smooth, more tightly woven material, making it all the more amazing that some of our favorite pieces have been preserved with their original covering still intact. 

From and

My highly slubby sofa, with original upholstery fabric

Close-up of sofa upholstery fabric

My semi-slubby chair

Close-up of chair upholstery fabric

A few months ago, I found a set of drapes at an estate sale that must have originally been ceiling-to-floor and covered an entire wall. I got half a dozen huge panels for $5. The orange and green fabric is very slubbed and is so typically mid-century. I've literally covered everything that would sit still with the stuff, including my daughter's dining room chair seats, the seat of a desk chair at my house and several pieces we sold in our booth. I've made pillows out of it too, and I still have a ton of fabric left. I swear, every time I cut a piece off,  the stuff regenerates in the dark at night.

The oddly regenerating slubby fabric that will never be used up

One of the chair seats I've recovered with the drapery fabric

Slubby pillows in my TV room/grandson playroom

Some highly slubbed Robert Allen fabric I'm considering for a reupholstery project


  1. Gee! GEE!! 6 huge curtain panels for $5!!

    I paid, well, a LOT for 4 large panels for my living room windows, and I still don't have enough!

    Ha ha so funny, I remember this stuff as a kid, and you know being a kid, thought the nubby "lumpy" materal back then was "dumb" lol...

    I feel differently now!

    Hope you feel better soon!!!

  2. I'm surprised they didn't raise the price on the drapes, simply based on my reaction, because I know I didn't keep my poker face on when I asked if it was $5 for EACH panel and they said that it was $5 for the WHOLE LOT. I've never seen $5 go so far!

    Thanks for the get well wishes. My daughter and SIL just got home from the pre-op session at the hospital (for her C-section tomorrrow), where they were told that sick family members couldn't come to the I'll be sitting at home tomorrow when my second grandson is born. I just have a really bad head cold, but it's something the mothers and babies don't need. :( Thank goodness for cell phones!

  3. Ah yes, I too over time have changed my mind about slubs. Though the slubby fabric you've posted is tasteful. As opposed to that pastel & white slub crap that became popular in the 80's, I hope that never comes back.
    Congrats on the new Grandbaby!

  4. I've always been a slub lover, for some reason. When I got married in the 60s, my bridesmaids' dresses were street-length bateau-neckline sheath dresses made of pink silk shantung. My wedding dress was a long version of white silk shantung with a heavy lace bodice. Slubs everywhere! LOL

  5. Thanks Dana!
    I never knew there was a word for that.
    Next time I'm sitting on the Sofa, it will be forever known as Schlub on a Slub.

  6. @Bob: I'll never look at slubby fabric quite the same again. I'm still laughing about Schlub on a Slub.