Plain weave & the best of fabrics in this weaving type

plain weave A lot of fabrics we know are made by a process called weaving. It has been so from the time man discovered fabric making. In weaving, the fabric is made by interlacing the yarns made from fibers. Out of all the weaving processes, plain weave is the simplest and most commonly used weaving pattern – the weave used in around 80% of fabrics we know.

What is plain weave? How is a plain weave made?

plain weave fabric with warp threads and weft threads. Plain weave is a basic weave with a very simple interlacing of weft and warp yarns on the loom.

In the fabric manufacturing process, the fibers are made into yarns and then made into the fabric on a weaving loom. The weaving involves yarns laid out in two directions on a weaving loom –  the longitudinal direction and latitudinal direction.

The lengthwise yarns attached to the weaving loom are called the warp, and the crosswise yarns are called the weft. These yarns are interlaced to make the different fabrics.

How the yarns are interlaced in a plain weave

plain weave fabric structure In plain weave, this interlacing is done in the simplest way – in a simple criss-cross pattern. The plain weave fabric is made by alternate interlacing of warp and weft yarns, one up and one down.

Interlacing of yarns in a plain weave fabric

The yarns twist in one direction in the weaving, as it passes to the next row. Different effects can be attained by changing the way the twist is done. The warp twist can be to the right or to the left.

Plain weave can be made with the same kind of warp and weft or completely different warp and weft yarns – in type (diffferent fibers), color, size and yarn style.

When differently sized yarns or textured yarns are used in plain weaving this results in a fabric that has a lot of texture. These yarns can be placed at regular intervals in the warp and weft or randomly, resulting in different effects.

Striped fabrics can be made by introducing yarns of different twists.

Plain weave fabric

The benefits of plain weave

Plain weave is the easiest weave. The first weaving done must have been a plain weave. It requires the basic 2 harness set up on the loom. 

It is a balanced weave. There is a symmetry to the weave as you can see from the pictures. It is the close up of a plain weave fabric.

close up of the pattern of a plain woven fabric.

This weave makes very flat fabric textures – depending on the yarns. This results in comparatively smooth surfaced fabrics.

The drawbacks of plain weave

A plain weave is a sturdy, hard wearing weave but not as strong as the twill weave. It has lower thread count than twill weave fabrics.

As just one yarn is interlaced, it can result in weak areas depending on the yarns used.

The fabrics made of plain weave can tear easily when compared to twill weave fabrics because of the vertical orientation of the yarns. Usually, the weft threads used in plain weaves are weak and thin – they are, after all called filling threads.

Basketweave, which is a variation of the plain weave, is quite sturdy so instead of plain weave, basket weave is used to make more durable fabrics.

A plain weave fabric doesnot stretch in the lengthwise grain. It can have a little stretch in the crosswise grain.

Examples of Fabrics with a Plain weave

As the easiest way of weaving, you can confidently say that plain weave fabrics make up most of the known fabrics. The yarns for plain weaving can be made from natural fibers or synthetic fibers.

Natural fibers can be plant fibers like cotton linen or animal fibers like wool and silk. All the fibers can be woven in a plain weave. The most prominent plain weave fabrics are made of cotton, linen, wool, silk, polyester, and nylon

Cotton scrim fabric open weave cotton fabric Polycotton fabric  plain weave fabrics Chiffon smooth surfaced plain weave fabric. Cotton canvas fabric canvas plain weave Jute fabric Jute is an example of a plain weave fabric.

A lot of silk fabrics like Tusser silk, broadcloth

silk fabric with plain weave

Basket weave – alternative of Plain weave

This weave is made the same way as plain weave – in a criss cross way but here two yarns are treated as one (Weft and warp) and then interlaced.

Alternative names for plain weave

Plain weave is also called cotton weave (maybe because most cotton fabrics are made in this weave and linen weave, maybe for the same reason . Another commonly used name is Taffeta weave – this is associated with silk weaving. It is also called one-up-one-down weave or over and under pattern.

Updated on November 13, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

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