Fabrics: Fabric Structure

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The thread of textile weaves through history, touching each civilization since the dawn of man and creating a tapestry of variety and excitement. Each culture has made its own unique contribution, and the panorama of fabric designs and types provides deep insight into the development of artistic achievement. Despite these subtle cultural distinctions and mechanical developments that have vastly increased the speed at which textiles can be produced, the basic principles involved in textile construction have remained essentially the same for centuries. The basics still remain weaving, knitting, knotting and felting.


A woven fabric is easy to recognize by the fact that there are two sets of yarns at right angles to each other. The loom that produces it, while it may be an extremely complex device, works on a fairly simple principle. A frame holds a series of yarns called the warp taut between two rollers, one each at the front and back of the loom. Arranged in a specific order and extending the width of the projected fabric, these yarns are each drawn first through a heddle, which has an eye like that of a needle and may be raised to alter the position of its yarn, then through a space in the reed, which is a comb like device at right angles to the warp yarns, serving to keep each thread straight and in its proper place. The heddles are raised in a specific sequence as the design dictates, and a single crosswise or filling yarn or pick is drawn between the warp yarns with a shuttle and beaten into place against the previous filling threads by the reed. Then the warp yarns are lowered, a different series is raised, and another filling yarn is drawn through and packed in place. This series of crosswise threads forms the weft or woof. As the fabric is completed, more yarn is released from the back warp beam and the fabric is rolled toward the front of the loom and wound on the cloth beam.
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Weaving (continued)

The warp must withstand considerable strain in weaving. It undergoes tension as it is held between the front and back beams and considerable abrasion as the reed slides back and forth through it. Its threads must be strong, tightly twisted, and uniform in structure. Consequently, the lengthwise grain (warp direction) will stretch less, may wear better, and because of its stronger yarn, will drape differently than the crosswise grain (filling direction). The selvage is formed along the edges of the warp where the filling thread changes direction. It is likely to be a tighter weave, since the warp edges must support the greatest strain. Fabric durability is found in the proportion of warp to filling yarns. Fabric with a nearly equal thread count in both directions often gives longer wear.

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This page was last modified on: Wednesday, 2020-03-04 8:43 PST