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What is Dotted Swiss?

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The Kendra Wedding Dress with dotted swiss detail from the Avant Collection.

The Kendra Wedding Dress with dotted swiss detail from the Avant Collection.

I have favorite fabrics like some people have favorite books, movies and music. I love polka dot, houndstooth, gingham, ticking, seersucker and dotted swiss.

Dotted swiss, or as it is alternately known swiss dot, is the very embodiment of demure lady-like elegance. It is simply defined as a “sheer light muslin ornamented with evenly spaced raised dots.” But it is so much more that that! It’s a magical fabric that can easily be transformed into a fairy-princess wedding dress, a femme fatale fascinator and veil, light curtains that billow in the breeze of an open window, a memory of my Grandmother’s apron, and the sleeves on my sixth birthday dress. Dotted swiss is youthful, timeless and versatile.

A very brief history of dotted swiss

Dotted swiss was originally made in Switzerland on hand looms in 1750. Although there are multitude of variations on dotted swiss it is almost always raised, evenly spaced dots on sheer, lightweight fabrics. The dots are applied to cotton batiste, organza or a polyester blend fabric.

The dots are most commonly applied using one of these methods:

  • Clip spotting: the warp of the fabric has extra yarn woven into it and then “clipped” in the finishing stage of the fabric manufacture.
  • Flock-dotting: raised dots applied to the surface of a fabric with an adhesive are printed on the fabric in an evenly spaced dot pattern. The dots made up of finely chopped fibers are applied by using mechanical means such as dusting, air-brushing, or electrostatic charges. The fibers adhere only to the areas where the adhesive has been applied. The excess fibers are removed.
  • Lappet weaving: this process also applies extra yarn to the warp threads of the fabric during the weaving process using a lappet, which is bar containing a row of metal needles. (See image below.)
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Lappet used to weave dotted swiss fabric.

Lappet used to weave dotted swiss fabric.

Not Just Textiles!

Dotted Swiss wedding cake.

Dotted Swiss wedding cake.

Dotted swiss usually comes in white, pastel shades, such as pale pink, and muted neutrals, such as gray and cream, however, black is also popular for dotted swiss. The dots are most commonly the same color as the fabric, although multicolored dots are popular as well. Modern choices include bright colors and large dots. Dotted swiss featuring large dots is usually manufactured by printing the dots on instead of weaving them.

Early versions of dotted swiss and vintage finds for dotted feature small dots on cotton batiste, and are the type I like best. To me it is “true” dotted swiss. Dotted swiss can be purchased from fabric retailers by the yard or you can purchase ready to wear clothing and manufactured household goods made from dotted swiss.

Dotted swiss is experiencing resurgence in popularity and is no longer confined to only textiles.The term dotted swiss is used to describe anything with random arrangement of dots. The term has been applied to cake decorating and pottery in which the design looks like that of dotted swiss textiles.


Tess45 (author) from South Carolina on January 24, 2013:

Thank you Zipper. I feel its about to go big again; in much the way Polk Dots have this year.

Pat from United States on January 24, 2013:

I share your love of dotted swiss garments- it is so feminine and graceful.

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