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What is Baize Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

by Boris Hodakel  • October 30, 2020 • 7 min read

Fabric name Baize
Fabric also known as Baize felt, woven felt, bocking flannel
Fabric composition Wool, cotton, acrylic, or other synthetic fibers
Fabric breathability Medium
Moisture-wicking abilities High
Heat retention abilities High
Stretchability (give) Low
Prone to pilling/bubbling Low
Country where fabric was first produced France
Biggest exporting/producing country today Australia or China
Recommended washing temperatures Cold or dry clean
Commonly used in Pool table covers, other gaming tables, costumes, writing desk covers, soundproofing insulation, museum cases, altar cloth protectors, dresses

What is baize fabric?

Baize is a woven, felted fabric that’s commonly used as a cover for gaming tables. While baize is similar to felt, these two fabrics are structurally distinct, and they have widely different applications.

Conventionally, baize consists of woven and felted wool fibers, but lower-end baize might consist of cotton or even synthetic fibers. Baize is usually green, but it’s technically possible to dye this fabric in any desired color.

Unlike other types of felted fabrics, baize is not commonly used in apparel. Instead, it’s more common to use baize for recreational, decorational, or even industrial purposes. Compared to felt, baize is both thinner and more durable.

History of baize

The word “baize” has French etymology, but this term has been part of the English language since at least 1578. One of the first recorded mentions of baize is in an English drinking song that indicates “hops, heresies, bays [baize], and beer” all came to England during the year 1525. It is unsurprising, therefore, that baize remains associated with activities related to alcohol consumption such as gambling and billiards.

One of the first applications of baize remains among the most popular. Upon its arrival in England, owners of pubs and gambling establishments immediately started using this durable green cloth to cover tables used for billiards, which had rapidly become one of the most favored pastimes throughout both England and France.

Evolving from a lawn game played in Northern Europe during the 15th century, billiards involved moving balls across a table with a stick from the very beginning. Manufacturers of billiards tables chose baize as a table covering since this green fabric simulated the color of grass, and originally, billiards players shoved balls across these baize-covered tables using sticks called “maces.”

It was only later that billiards maces were replaced with cues, which were much easier to use even if they had a greater propensity to scratch baize table covers. Throughout all the changes that the game of billiards has undergone over the centuries, baize has remained the default covering for billiards tables.

Over the years, gaming table manufacturers started using this fabric for the surfaces of baccarat tables and other gaming table surfaces. During the 19th century, baize also became a popular material for the surfaces of writing desks.

“The green baize door”

Starting in the mid-1700s, baize took on another purpose that has made this fabric idiomatically associated with the dividing line between the upper and lower classes. Recognizing the unique sound-muffling properties of this textile, members of the British upper class started applying baize to the doors dividing servants’ quarters from the family’s living space.

The “green baize door” quickly came to signify the dividing line between the world of the servants and the world of the masters of a wealthy English home, and servants taught their children to never step beyond the confines of this door. Usually tacked onto the door with brass tacks, this green baize later came to more generally symbolize the division between the haves and the have-nots and the great lengths that members of the servile class would take to accomplish their tasks unnoticed and without getting in the way.

Though baize-covered doors ultimately became associated with the door leading to a home’s servants’ quarters, it was common practice until the late 19th century to apply baize to any door where soundproofing was desired. Doors to nurseries, kitchens, offices, and other areas often featured baize, and these baize door coverings were sometimes red, blue, or yellow instead of green.

Baize today

While some historical homes still feature baize-covered doors, this application of baize is no longer in vogue. Instead, it’s more common to find baize as a covering for pool tables, other gaming tables, or even simple folding card tables. Depending on the game a table is designed for, different types of baize might be used, but green remains the default color for baize fabric regardless of its application.

How is baize fabric made?

Since baize is a woven fabric, the initial steps in the baize production process greatly resemble the steps taken to produce other woven wool textiles. First, sheep or other wool-bearing animals are shorn, and wool workers then separate this shorn fabric into grades.

High-grade, long-fiber wool is then carded, which produces long, uneven strings of fiber. After a washing, wool manufacturers spin this carded wool into yarn, which is then washed again before it is woven into fabric.

Most types of woolen fabric would be completed at this point, but baize is not like other woolen textiles. To make this fabric into its matted final form, textile manufacturers subject baize to a process involving heat, water, and pressure.

Together, these three factors render baize into a thick, semi-inflexible sheet composed of irreversibly interlocked fibers. Despite often being thinner than felt, baize is significantly more durable since it consists of a woven base fabric while felt is simply made by combining loose fibers together using moisture, heat, and pressure.

How is baize fabric used?

These days, the most popular application of baize is in the production of pool table covers. This textile is also used as a cover for other gaming tables, but tables used for games other than pool may have covers consisting of alternative substances. For pool or billiards tables, however, baize remains the gold standard, and experts do not consider pool tables without baize covers to be genuine.

Historical records indicate that baize was a semi-popular fabric for women’s dresses during the American Colonial Period, but it is now quite uncommon to use baize in everyday clothing. Instead, baize is a relatively popular material for costumes, and this fabric has found renewed popularity among the international cosplay community.

In some cases, baize may still be used as a soundproofing material, but it is now much more common to incorporate soundproofing substances inside of doors or walls instead of on their exteriors. Other niche applications of baize include altar covers in Catholic churches and cushioning materials used in the bases of museum display cases.

Where is baize fabric produced?

The majority of baize fabric is still made with wool, but for centuries, low-quality baize has featured cotton instead. More recently, baize manufacturers have started using synthetic fibers, but since baize wool has unique properties that make it ideal for gaming tables, synthetic forms of baize have not become as popular as synthetic felt.

China is the world’s overall leader in textile production, and this country also produces the vast majority of the world’s synthetic fabrics. Australia, however, is the world’s biggest exporter of wool, and India grows more cotton than any other nation. Both Australia and India export large quantities of their raw textile fibers to China for finishing.

How much does baize fabric cost?

Baize is a reasonably expensive member of the wool fabric family due to the complex processes necessary to make this textile product. Cotton baize is, on average, slightly less expensive than wool baize, and baize fabrics made with synthetic fibers are the least expensive. Since the properties of synthetic baize are so dissimilar to the properties of wool or even cotton baize, however, baize made with acrylic or rayon should almost be considered a different fabric altogether.

What different types of baize fabric are there?

As you search the market for the best baize fabric for your purposes, you’ll come across a wide variety of different options. Here are a few of the most common types of baize along with a list of similar fabrics:

1. Wool baize

Most of the world’s baize is woolen. Wool was the first fiber that textile artisans used to make baize, and wool baize remains the gold standard of baize fabrics.

2. Cotton baize

For centuries, baize manufacturers have made do with cotton baize when wool was hard to come by. While cotton baize is less expensive than wool baize, this material is also less durable, and it lacks the sound-cancelling qualities of genuine baize.

3. Synthetic baize

It’s possible to make baize using synthetic materials like acrylic and rayon. In addition to being harmful to the environment, however, synthetic baize fabric lacks many of the beneficial qualities of genuine wool or cotton baize.

4. Nappy baize

Most types of baize fabric are napless with the notable exception of baize used for snooker tables. Since countering the effects of nap is an important part of this game, baize table covers used for snooker have enhanced nap.

5. Napless baize

Baize used for pool and billiards tables does not have much of a noticeable nap, and instead, this fabric is smooth while somewhat coarse in texture. Most baize used for non-gaming applications is also napless.

6. Woven felt

Baize is a type of woven felt, but it is not the only woven felt variety on the market. Other types of woven felt might be used for filtration or additional industrial purposes.

7. Pressed felt

Most types of felt are pressed. Textile manufacturers make this type of felt by pressing together wet textile fibers and adding heat. While baize undergoes a similar heat, moisture, and pressure treatment, it is pressed after it has been woven.

How does baize fabric impact the environment?

Wool baize has either a neutral or slightly negative impact on the environment. If wool manufacturers treat their animals ethically and practice proper land stewardship, wool production can be entirely sustainable. However, the wool industry is marred with animal cruelty, soil erosion, and other practices that harm the environment.

Cotton baize similarly has the potential to be 100% sustainable, but many cotton producers use fertilizers, pesticides, and other agrochemicals that harm local ecosystems. Worker exploitation is also rife within the cotton production industry, and ingrained poverty leads to environmental harm.

Synthetic baize is the most environmentally harmful form of this textile. While cotton and wool are biodegradable, acrylic, acrylonitrile, and rayon are not, and each of these synthetic textiles releases microfibers into the hydrosphere when washed. Additionally, the production processes used to make synthetic fibers involve lab-made chemicals that harm both textile workers and local ecosystems.

Baize fabric certifications available

Wool baize may be eligible for certification by Woolmark, a highly regarded wool apparel brand that also certifies high-quality wool products made by other producers. Both cotton and wool baize may also be eligible for USDA organic or European Commission organic certification if they are produced in the USA or EU respectively.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and OEKO TEX certify organic textiles made with natural fibers and synthetic fibers that can be verified as recycled. The Global Recycle Standard (GRS) also certifies recycled synthetic textiles, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifies both recycled and new synthetic fabrics.

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About the author:

Boris Hodakel is the founder and CEO of Sewport - an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former founder of various clothing manufacturing services. He is passionate about e-commerce, marketing and production digitisation. Connect with Boris on LinkedIn.