The History of How Flannel Came to Popularity
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  • Sewing Fabrics
  • Posted October 27, 2015
The History of How Flannel Came to Popularity

The History of Flannel’s Popularity

The History of Flannel’s Popularity

The history of flannel dates back to the 17th century in the Scottish Highlands. During that time, farmers wore warm garments in order to protect themselves from harsh elements that defined the historic region. Fast forward today, the term flannel is used either with plaid or tartan despite the actual fabric being associated to various patterns.

Farmers wearing cloth made of flannel fabric.(Picture from

Flannel has been popular since its humble beginnings. In fact, you can see it being used from shirts and skirts to bedding and pajamas. Let’s take a look back the at its rich history and to where it is today.

How it was conceived

Originally, flannel was made from Scottish sound terms (but not necessarily of Scottish backgrounds) – carded wool or worsted yarn. The latter is a mechanical process of different fibers that are broken up from their original state. They are made to complement each other. This results to a constant web of fabric, which is called a sliver or tow and is apt for subsequent processing.

Worsted yarn, on the other hand, regardless of being made of wool as well, is more or less not carded. Instead, it was washed, gilled, and combed through heated long-tooth metal combs. Its end result, nonetheless, is somewhat similar to that of carded wool.

On its Way to the World

Flannel together with its reputation paved its way all throughout Europe; that is first to France (late 17th Century), then in Germany (18th Century). Its popularity continued to bloom thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the period when carding mills were invented in most of the manufacturer’s based in Wales.

Lumberjackers wearing flannel-made garments.(Picture from

And, of course, the United States wouldn’t want to stay behind the classic fabric’s bandwagon. However, it wasn’t until Hamilton Carhatt, an entrepreneur in the late 19th Century took matters into his own hands. Only by then flannel began to catch on. It is worth noting that at that time the US was experiencing rapid expansion railroad construction that would usually require workers to spend long hours in unfavorable, harsh conditions.

The Carhartt Innovation

Hamilton Carhartt was an observant enterprise, thus noticed this lack in proper work-wear. As a result, he began interviewing railroad workers all over the country for the goal to to gain knowledge with their ordeals as well as their desire to resolve it.

Hamilton Carhart, founder of the US-based company Carhartt.(Picture from

Not long after that, he designed and manufactured an overall garment, one that can prove popular among the working class. He then followed it up with the now iconic flannel, which the family-owned company still makes.


Alvin is a fashion and lifestyle writer who has recently earned interest in sewing his own clothes. Writing for Sewing Ideas gives him another avenue to express his experiences and learning in his sewing journey.

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