Broadcloth fabric is a woven cloth traditionally constructed out of wool. The process for creating broadcloth requires three steps; a tight weaving technique, an underwater stretching process and a finishing surface preparation. The tight weave is essential for creating the sturdy structure that broadcloth is known for. Once the fabric is woven it is submerged under water and stretched on a special frame. The fabric is then allowed to dry at which point the wool shrinks due to its water immersion. After this the fabric is treated with fuller’s earth and pounded with a hammer. This mechanical stressing creates a surface that resembles felt in both its softness and durability.
The techniques for creating broadcloth arose out of a partnership between the English and the Dutch sometime around the year 1500. The typical business plan for this situation involved the English weaving the cloth and the Dutch performing the surface finishing. In modern times it has become acceptable to construct broadcloth fabric out of more than just wool. Today cotton, silk and polyester are all popular fiber choices and used extensively in the production of broadcloth.
Today broadcloth is still used in the construction of clothing, though not as frequently as it once was. It is far more common to find clothing produced out of broadcloth in colder climates than it is in warmer ones due to the installation that the tight weave provides. A more common modern use of broadcloth is in the upholstery trade.