A burnout pattern is a special type of treatment for tufted fabric which creates a distinctive look for jackets, scarves, coats, and skirts. More rarely, it is used in upholstery, usually as an ornamental accent. It is often used on materials like brocade and velvet, which have a thick pile, allowing the pattern to stand out much more clearly. The technique was developed in France in the early 20th century, and was extremely popular in fashion design during the 1920s. A revival of “roaring twenties” styles at the close of the century led to an increased interest in this style.
In the fashion industry, fabric with a burnout pattern is known as devore. Crafters call it "fabric etching," because of the technique used to create them. It starts with a chemical paste, commonly containing sulfuric acid, that is applied to the fabric to create the desired pattern. The acid eats away the fibers, leaving the fabric backing behind. The fabric is rinsed to remove the acid, which does not compromise the integrity of the garment.
Making a burnout pattern is relatively easy, and some fabric stores sell the necessary equipment. It is important for crafters to wear face, eye, and hand protection when working with acid solutions, to prevent injuries. Cautions on the packaging should also be followed, and the acid should be disposed of in a safe and responsible way. Ideally, the work should be done outdoors, rather than in an enclosed environment. It also helps to use a stencil to draw out the desired design before beginning, unless the crafter is confident with his or her freehand.
A garment may be accented with a burnout pattern, or the pattern may cover the entire textile, depending on the desired look and feel of the item. It shows as a sheer pattern within the thicker fibers of the garment, allowing the natural color of the skin to show through. These garments tend to be heavy, because of the weight of the base fabric, leading them to drape distinctively.
Botanical themes are most commonly used to make a burnout pattern, although geometric designs may also be used. The fabric is often also dyed innovatively, for a customized look, and it may also be crushed or treated to make it even more distinctive. The garments should be hand washed in cold water and laid flat to dry or hung, depending on directions.