The original barkcloth was quite literally made from the bark of trees. To make this type of barkcloth the inner bark of certain types of trees (primarily trees of the Moraceae family)
is beaten flat and formed into sheets.
These sheets are then used as a primitive fabric in many different applications.
If you hear the term barkcloth used today, however, it is most likely referring to a different type of fabric all together. From the 1930's through the 1960's (and even early into the 1970's) one of the most popular decorating fabrics was also known as barkcloth. In this case, the term barkcloth refers to the weave of the fabric which is thick, nubby and slightly textured.
Barkcloth got it's name because the texture of the fabric bears a slight resemblance to tree bark.
Barkcloth fabric is often made of cotton, although it can be made of other fibers as well including linen, rayon, polyester, and fiberglass depending how old the fabric is.
Although thicker than a standard cotton, barkcloth is surprisingly soft and drapes nicely which made it a great choice for draperies and curtains.
Because of it's thick texture barkcloth is also quite durable which also made it well suited to being used as an upholstery fabric.