Dealing with different types of fabric day in and day out, I cannot but notice the fascinating weaving patterns of the fabric. And every time I am entranced by the movement of the yarns that make up the fabric. Studying this is part of my fabric love.
Other than this, it is important to know more about fabric weaves, because when you choose fabric for your project, you should know that the types of the weave of the fabric can determine the smoothness, comfort, thickness, durability, tear strength and even drape of the fabric. In effect, the whole success of your hard work and dreams about a sewing project hinges on the weave of your fabric -how’z that!
A fabric weave refers to the way warp and weft yarns are interlaced in a fabric. In the most basic of fabric weaving, the threads (lengthwise warps and crosswise wefts) go criss-cross in the simplest of pattern, at right angles to each other. But in others, they are woven in so many interesting patterns – artistically, decoratively. Do you know that the fabric factories can come up with a mind-boggling number of weave structures?
But the basic weave types that mix and match to form all the others are – plain, twill and satin weaves. They are given interesting variations or they are combined with each other to form different other woven patterns
Different Types of fabric weaves
1 Plain weave
This is a weave with the most simple interlacing but it makes for a very strong and firm fabric because these interlacings are more frequent than for any other weave.
In this weave, the warp thread is interlaced over the weft thread by alternately lifting and lowering of the yarns. ie each and every weft thread goes under and over the warp threads across the width of the fabric.
The advantage of this weave is that it is quite strong and durable and produces very fine good quality fabrics.
It is also called tabby weave or taffeta weave or linen weave.Also called Panama weave.
Hopsack is a plain weave with two or more threads in weft and warp interlaced instead of one. Also called Celtic weave
Percale is a type of plain weave which produces a very smooth high thread count fabric by the same name.
Poplin weave is an unbalanced plain weave in which two weft-threads and one warp-thread of the same colour cross each other. As weft threads are more than the warp thread there is a ridge on the weft thread creating a ribbed weave. In this weave cotton polyester and nylon fibers are used.
In most of the plain weave fabrics the weft thread and the warp thread are of the same colour resulting in an even coloured fabric but for some fabrics like end-on-end poplin and cambric the weft thread will be white or some other colour while the warp thread will be coloured – this results in a subtle shade of the colour.
Fabrics with a plain weave: About half of the woven fabrics are in this weave. It includes most of the different types of cotton like muslin, organdy, canvas; linen, rayon, silk, Chiffon, organza, voile, wool, crepe and a whole lot of other fabrics
2 Rib weave
A variation of the plain weave. Here, either weft yarn or warp yarn is woven raised because it is a thicker yarn ie the warp and weft yarns are of different weights. Usually, it is the weft yarn which is thicker in which case there is an appearance of prominent ribs in the horizontal direction.
Fabrics with a rib weave : Broadcloth, Faille, Poplin, grosgrain
3 Basket weave
This is a variation of the plain weave but with more than one thread. Two or more warp fibers alternately interlace with two or more weft fibers. Instead of the over under pattern in a plain weave we have a over over under under pattern.
The resultant fabric has a matt weave and flexibility and a looser construction. It is not as durable as plain weave, though and may shrink in the wash. It is difficult to sew. Another name is a hopsack weave
Fabric with this weave: Canvas, Duck cloth, Monk’s cloth.
4 Twill Weave
In this weave, one or more warp fibers alternately weave over and under two or more weft fibers repeatedly (Weft-faced)or one or more weft fibers alternately weave over and under two or more warp fibers repeatedly (warp-faced). This results in a strong and soft fabric which has more drape than all other weaves with a self-design effect, with parallel diagonal ribs formed left-to-right or right-to-left but the fabric has a smooth surface.
There are clear diagonal lines on the surface of the fabric. The back side of this weave is rough and will show the opposite pattern of the front. Fabrics with twill weave are more durable, heavy and wrinkle resistant than ones with plain weave
In denim, inarguably the most famous twill fabric, the weft-thread is white or off-white and the warp-thread is indigo-dyed.
Fabrics with Twill weave: Denim, flannel, Velvet, Drill, Jersey, Gabardine etc has this weave.
Twills have a wale. Wales can be S or Z. If the wales run from upper right to lower left the weave is called right-hand twill / z twill;
If the wales run from upper left to lower right the weave is called left hand twill / s twill. When there is a combination of right-hand and left hand twill it is called a broken twill
Variations : One and one (Pick & Pick) has light and dark warp and weft. 3 by 1 twill has three threads crossing over one weft thread. This is a common denim weave. 2 by 1 twill has two warp thread crossing over one weft thread.
Gabardine is a fine steeply set twill weave. Cavalry twill is a slightly broader steeply set twill; Whipcord is another bold and steep twill. Diagonal twill has a pronounced diagonal twill weave. Double diagonal twill weave has two or three differently wide and bold twill lines.
Twilled hopsack weave looks as if twill is running both left and right. Pinhead has one ligt and one dark warp and a solid dark weft. Barleycorn is a twill way arranged to look like barley corn.Pepper and salt is a variation of the one and one with highly contrasted twist in the warp and weft.
5 Herringbone weave
This refers to a broken twill weave which gives a herringbone (zig zag) pattern with right and left twills appearing alternatively side by side , both having the same width.
The herringbone weave is also called feather twill or arrowhead twill. Other than the attractiveness of its design it has all the qualities of a twill weave. This is similar to other broken twill designs like the chevron pattern
Shell weave has a combination of right and left-hand twills – looks like a shell
Corkscrew weave has the herringbone pattern but at a very low angle.
Fabric with the herringbone weave: Tweed
6 Satin weave
This is a variation of the twill weave but with continuous warp yarn, with as few interruptions of weft as possible ie it has fewer intersections of warp and weft threads – weft yarns are floated over warp yarns, which results in a smooth and shiny surface.
The fibers used are filament fibers like silk or nylon. The fabric in this woven pattern will be very smooth and lustrous and has a flexible structure, because of the long floats. The greatest luster will be in the lengthwise direction.
The disadvantage is that the fabric fibers will easily snag so this weave is not considered as strong as the other weaves.The advantage of this weave is its own disadvantage – it is the long floating yarns that snag.
Fabrics with this weave: Many types of satin fabric like peau de soi, charmeuse.
7 Sateen weave
This is a satin weave with short staple yarns like cotton. The floats will be in the weft direction ie continuous weft yarn, with as few interruptions of warp as possible. The fabric is not as lustrous as the satin weave fabric but they are more durable.
8 Leno weave
In this weave, wrap yarns do not lie parallel to each other as in other weaves; the adjacent warp fibers (two or more) are twisted around consecutive weft fibers (one or more)to form a spiral pair (figure 8). It results in a sheer open weave fabric which is at the same time strong. It is also called gauze weave
Fabrics with Leno weave : Gauze, net, tulle.
9 Oxford Weave
In this two, thin warp yarns are woven to each very soft, thicker yarn in the weft direction. This results in the thin warp yarns to break leaving holes. The resultant fabric is very fine and soft. In a similar Pinpoint weave weft-thread alternatively pass over and under two warp-threads
Fabrics with oxford weave : Oxford cloth, shirting.
10 Bedford cord weave
This is a characteristic weave found in the fabric Bedford cord with lengthwise ridges. The weave has prominent lengthwise ribs with sunken lines in between. This is a combination of a plain weave and whipcord twill weave. Wadding threads are introduced in this weaving to bring more prominence to the cords.
11 Waffle Weave
This is also called honeycomb weave because of the pattern it creates on the face of the fabric. The warp and weft threads are interlaced and floated in a manner that produces a regular pattern of small square ridges and hollows in the fabric. This weave has a 3D effect but makes for a rough surface because of the raised areas on the face of the fabric. The shapes formed on the fabric surface maybe square or diamond.
12 Pile weave
This is a weave that is used to make a soft pile fabric which is very absorbent and insulating . You will find cut/uncut piles on one side or either side of the fabric as a result of this weaving. The uncut or loop piles has loops
on the face and back of the fabric. Ground yarns and additional yarns for the pile are used in the fabric construction
Fabrics with a pile weave: Velvet (Cut pile), terrycloth , Corduroy, Velveteen (Uncut/loop pile).
13 Jacquard weave
This is a beautiful weave with intricate and colourful designs woven into the fabric. This weave is produced on a jacquard loom.
The weave results in a fabric which is strong and lustrous and has a luxurious look and feel. Jacquards can be made one color or a mix of colors and can be used to create simple as well as complex patterns. Often the back side of a jacquard is the mirror image of the pattern on the front. The weave is named after the Frenchman Joseph Marie Jacquard who invented the jacquard loom.
Fabrics with this fabric weave : Brocade, Damask, Brocatelle, Matelasse are fabrics with this weave and these fabrics are typically used for bedding, upholstery, draperies etc.
14 Dobby weave
This is a patterned plain weave with small designs/geometric patterns. You need special dobby machines to create this weave. The machine selectively raises some warp threads and selectively depresses others with the help of a dobby card. The fabric which is woven this way is comparatively flat and fine.
Fabric with Dobby weave : Moss crepe.
15 Crepe weave
A type of weave that results in a broken irregular pebbled appearance by the use of high twist yarns and a special method of weaving.
Fabric with this weave : Crepe fabric
16 Lappet weave
Lappet weave is a method of creating machine-made embroidery-like figures on a fabric ground, by introducing warp threads. Swivel weave a similar weave in which weft threads are introduced. It is very similar to how embroidery is done.
17 Tapestry Weave
This is also done by the jacquard loom but it is mostly based on handlooming techniques and has very elaborate designs made usually of a single repeat. The complex designs characterized by numerous colour changes are formed by weft yarns and warp yarns. It is used interchangeably with jacquard weave. You will find wall hangings and flatweave rugs made in this technique
18 Striped weaves
A pinstripe patterned weave has a single fine striped thread that looks like a line made up of pinhead shots
Eton stripe is a Plain weave variation with light and dark warp and weft – resulting in a straight vertical line of light and dark alternatively. Also called Hairline.
Chalk stripe weave results in light lines like the one made by a tailor’s chalk.
You can check out the names of more striped patterns on fabric here.
19 Checquered weaves
This weave makes beautiful checks on the fabric. Think tartans and plaids
Block check weave has blocks of check patterns in light and dark yarns
A diamond weave is a twill weave with right and left twills looking like a diamond pattern
Two and two glen stripe with overcheck has one and one base with a two and two stripe
Three and Three has a twill base with three light three dark weft and warp
Shepherds check has a twill weave with five or more light, five or more dark warp and weft
Glenurquhart check has a twill weave with dark and light warp and weft coloured yarns to give a chequered effect.
Dog’s tooth has a twill weave with four or more light, four or more dark warp and weft
Gun club check has four or more light, four or more mid, four or more light, four or more dark, warp and weft.
You can check out the names of more chequered patterns on fabric here.
20 Double cloth weave
In this weaving technique, two fabrics are held together with another set of yarns. Sometimes, they are separated, as in the case with velvet
Fabric with this weave : Velvet.
Choosing Fabric according to weaves
If you want a durable strong fabric you will choose a twill weave fabric or a plain weave fabric than a basket weave or jacquard weave. If you want a drapeable and lustrous fabric you will go for a satin weave than a twill weave. If you want a see through fabric you will now know a leno weave fabric serves you better than any other weaves. For a kitchen towel you would want one with a waffle weave with better absorbency.
Don’t you agree that the patterns that the woven yarns make is a subject in itself and very important for you to know in buying fabrics?
To know more about the surface fabric patterns check out the post 80+ fabric patterns and their names
More interesting reading on fabric weaves :
- Classic and Modern Fabrics by JANET WILSON
- Woven Textile Design by JAN SHENTON