Updated on October 2, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
Any fabric made by weaving yarn is called a woven fabric. As the name ‘woven’ itself indicates, this type of fabric uses two or more yarns to interweave or interlace at right angles to one another. The vertical yarns that run along the length of the fabric are called the warp and the horizontal yarns are called the weft or filling yarns.
How is Woven fabric made?
Woven fabrics are made on a loom, handloom, or power loom. The loom is a device used to hold the warp yarns under tension so that the weft threads can be interweaved. The yarns can be natural like cotton, wool, or synthetic like nylon, polyester.
The warp thread is kept in a spool and the filling thread (weft thread) is kept on a shuttle/bobbin.The warp thread is kept under tension on the loom and the filling thread is woven through the warp threads, perpendicular to the direction of the warp threads, going over and under them in different patterns, from one selvedge to the other; these threads are interlaced to make the fabric. The warp threads are stronger than the weft threads.
The fabric can be woven with dyed yarn or the fabric can be piece-dyed after the fabric is made. You can use dyed yarns to make your fabric or use white yarns and once the fabric is finished dye it to your desired shade.
Different types of weaves in a woven fabric.
There are different kinds of weaves, most important of them being Plain weave, Twill weave, Satin weave. But these are the building blocks of all other weaves – ie all others are modified version of these 3 main weaves.
Also known as the Tabby weave, it is one of the most basic construction. The weft thread is passed over the first warp thread, then under the second, again passed over the third, then under the fourth and this process is continued till you reach the end of your warp threads. These alternating rows produce a high number of intersections making the fabrics very strong.
Since the warp yarns used on the front and back are exactly the same, these fabrics are reversible. There are three kinds of plain weave – waft rib, weft rib and matt weave.
The plain woven fabrics are used both in fashion and furnishings. Some examples are cotton, chiffon, gingham, canvas, chintz
In a twill weave, the weft thread is taken over two or more warp threads to create a diagonal pattern. This characteristic diagonal line that goes across the fabric is what makes it stand apart from other weaves.
This pattern makes it very durable and stain-resistant. The high thread count in the pattern leaves the fabric strong and long-lasting. It is a favorite fabric for workwear.
The most common and popular twill weave fabrics are denim and chinos. You can learn more in detail about Twill weave here.
Satin weave is made by using three or more weft threads going over one warp thread or the opposite, one weft thread over three or more warp.
The scattering of weft yarn farthest from the warp makes it more indistinct. No lines are formed in the face of the fabric in this weave as no two interweaves or interlacings are adjacent to each other. This gives the face a smooth shiny look.
However, the back will show lines making the face and back show different from each other. The less interlacing also makes the fabric more pliable and less wrinkled. In satin weaving yarns are used are shiny filament yarns to produce a lustrous finish.
Satin clothing is widely used in fancy dresses especially wedding dresses and drapery lines
Learn about the other different types of fabric weaves here
Some fabrics are available in different weaves. For eg. Brocade fabric is available in satin weave and Jacquard weave. Huckabuck fabric maybe available in dobby weave and basketweave. Tweed fabric is available in plain weave and twill weave.
Characteristics of Woven Fabric
Face and back of a woven fabric
The woven fabrics have a front and back, the front being the side that is shown outside and the back being the inside or the underside of the cloth. Not all fabrics are reversible, ie, you can equally use the face and back of the cloth. For example, a plain weave fabric has the same front and back due to the kind of interlacing that is used. However, those fabrics made especially of satin weave have different front and back, face side soft and backside matt.
A method of weaving 2 layers of fabrics together on the same loom creates a Double cloth. This fabric is strong and you may not want a lining for clothes made of a double cloth. Double-face cloth is different from a double woven cloth – A Double-face woven fabric doesnot have two layers but the patterns/colors on either sides of the fabric may be different.
Count of woven cloth
The number of ends and picks per inch in a woven fabric is called the count of the woven fabric. It is mentioned in numbers – 64 * 64 (Warp count x Weft count) ;This has an impact on how the fabric feels and looks ( a uniform look). In a woven cloth, every end and pick should spread out equidistant from each other – if it doesnot it is said to be a reedy cloth. If it does, it is called a well covered cloth.
When the ends and picks are the same per inch it is called a square woven cloth. When the ends and picks are maximum per inch of equal counts it is called a balanced woven cloth.
Type of yarn used
The feel, texture, size of yarn used for the construction of the fabric determines how it will turn out. A cashmere fabric made of the softest yarn is obviously more silky and soft than a tweed fabric made from textured yarn. Learn more about the different types of yarns used in weaving here.
Grainline of woven fabric
All fabrics have a grain direction. The thread direction in the fabric is referred as the ‘Grain’ or Grainline of the fabric.This is very important in cutting and sewing fabric.
Lengthwise grain refers to the threads that run parallel with the selvedge – this is also called warp threads. Crosswise grain refers to the threads that run across the fabric – this is also called weft threads. The lengthwise and crosswise grainline has to be maintained for the fabric to hang well.
When you cut your fabric at an angle, ie, your warp and weft are 45° to its major seam lines, it is called a bias cut. Bias cut is also known as off-grain or cross-grain cut. The word bias cut is popular in the US and off-grain or cross-grain cut in the UK. The bias cut gives the fabric more drape and fluidity
The woven fabric shrinks more in the lengthwise grain. Woven fabric stretches more in the crosswise grain (though not as much as bias grain)
Generally, woven fabric has no elasticity or stretch having a tight or rigid construction, especially along the lengthwise grain. But sometimes to bring some stretch to the fabric, elastic fibers are woven with the other yarns. A typical example of this kind of woven fabric is stretch denim.
Size of a woven fabric
Depending on the purpose and end-use, woven fabrics are produced in varying widths. The fabric width is the distance from one selvage to the other. It is measured perpendicular to the length. Usually in woven fabrics width is generally 48 inches or 63 inches. If you are selecting a fabric for a dress, go for textiles that have these measurements. But if you are going for furnishing, go for sheets which are wider.
Woven vs Knit
A woven fabric is made using warp and weft yarns whereas knitted fabric uses only a single yarn that loops up and down the knitting machine continuously to give a braided look. Generally, a woven fabric is tough and strong and does not stretch like knitted fabric. That’s why woven fabrics are generally used for upholstery.
Related post : Woven Vs Knit fabrics.
Special Woven fabric
Fabrics suitable for sewing and embroidery
If you have a choice of fabric for sewing and embroidery you should choose woven. It is easy to sew and you can do all kind of embroidery stitches on woven fabric. But some woven fabrics are better for embroidery than others. Even weave fabric like plain woven fabrics is best for surface embroidery. From delicate shadow work to pulled work and cross stitch plain weave is the best suited. Eg. Cotton, Muslin, Aida.
You can learn more about the different types of fabrics used for embroidery here