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What is Crape?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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The word crape is the English form of the French word crepe. It is a type of silk fabric. Crepe de Chine, or Canton crape, is soft and has a wavy look to its surface. The other kind of crape is associated with Great Britain rather than China and is hard with a crimped, or crisp, appearance.

Hard crape is usually dyed black. It was used for mourning clothing for widows in the Victorian era as well as for the veils in nuns' habits. The hardness of this material is reached through processes that are still quite guarded in Great Britain's competing mills, but the crispness is achieved after weaving. The type of material sold today as Victoria crape is not traditional fabric, as it's made from cotton rather than silk.

Soft crape gets its wave pattern through boiling after weaving, plus a backward twisting of double bobbins of yarn. Unlike the hard type, the soft version is usually available in white plus many colors. It's used for women's scarves and other accessories. It's also a popular choice for costume making. Fringed and embroidered women's shawls were produced in China as early as the beginning of the nineteenth century.

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This material is commonly used for making belly dancing costumes. The wide array of colors and fairly inexpensive price make it an ideal choice for sewing up flowing curtains and pretty table cloths. You can even use it for pillow coverings. If you sew clothing, consider making a long skirt or elegant scarf.

It's used to make Indian saris for many reasons. It's a season-spanning fabric that is easy to care for. Since it has a naturally wrinkled-looking texture to start with it needs little, if any, ironing. Also, soft crape is airy and wraps and drapes well on the body. Fancy evening saris made of this material often feature embroidery in metallic threads and sparkling beads or gems.

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