Fabrics: Basic Weaves

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There are several basic weaving patterns used over and over again, creating the vast majority of fabrics we use. All the basic weaves can be produced on a simple loom, requiring no special attachments.

PLAIN WEAVE is the simplest and most common. Also known as tabby, each yarn in both the warp and the filling directions run alternately over one and under one of the yarns that it crosses. Basically a sturdy weave, strength can vary depending on the yarn weight and compactness of the weave. Some examples of this weave are percale, voile, calico, gingham, organza and chiffon, organdy, taffeta and challis. The actual fiber content does not matter to these fabrics as they can come in a variety of pure and combined fiber contents.



A rib variation occurs when the yarn in one direction of the weave is heavier or closer together than the other. Examples of ribbed fabrics, in order of fine to heavy rib are broadcloth, poplin, faille, grosgrain and ottoman.

Another variation of the plain weave is called the basket weave. This pattern consists of two or more yarns in the same alternating construction. Some examples of this fabric are oxford cloth, monk’s cloth and hopsacking. One drawback to this fabric is that it can be softer and less stable causing a problem with seam slippage. Seam slippage occurs when stress is applied to a seam causing the fabric to shred or separate along the seam stitching.

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Rib Weave

basket weave

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TWILL WEAVE is often used to produce strong, durable fabrics such as denim and gabardine. This handsome weave is characterized by a diagonal ridge usually running from the lower left to the upper right, it’s appearance depends on the yarn weight and specific twill construction. A variation of the twill weave is the herringbone, where the diagonal ridge switches direction back and forth, creating a zigzag design.


SATIN WEAVE (shown below) has a characteristic luxurious sheen. The surface is composed of floats, or warp yarns, which pass over many filling yarns before being caught under one. The surface yarns, usually of filament fibers, intersect cross threads at points randomly spaced so the smooth texture appears unbroken. A variation called sateen has similar surface floats, but they run in the filling direction and are usually of a spun stable yarn.

Decorative Weaves

There are two basic types of fabric designs — those that are the product of the fabric’s woven construction and those that are applied to the fabric after the fabric is woven, such as printing, embossing or embroidering.

To create woven designs, the basic weaves may be varied and combined, surface floats may form involved designs or any number of complex mutations using the loom may produce elaborate fabrics of beauty that surprise and amaze.

PILE WEAVES provide soft, thick textured fabrics used for many purposes. Several different constructions may be employed to emphasize specific characteristics such as absorbency in terry, density and durability in carpets or texture in velvet. Extra warp yarns may be woven over wires, which cut the loops as they are withdrawn. In terry cloth, some of the warp yarns are woven with slack tension and forced up into loops as the filling is beaten back. Corduroy is woven with long filling floats that are cut after weaving to produce wales or cords. Some velvets are woven face to face, sharing warp yarns between the two layers that are slashed apart when completed. Loop Pile

Cut Pile

PATTERN WEAVES are the glory of the weaver’s art. Crisp piques, filmy gauze and patterns with flowers and scrolls in rich deep brocades owe their existence to more complex variations of the loom.

Leno weaves are used most effectively in lacy, open fabrics. A special attachment twists the warp yarns around each other in a figure eight as the filling passes through, imparting stability to fabrics with widely spaced yarns.

Dobby weaves, such as bird’s eye pique, are produced on more complicated looms. Usually a geometric pattern, frequently these designs will employ heavy “stuffer” yarns in the filling to float on the back of the fabric and add texture to the weave.

Jacquard weaves are even more complex. These are some of the most beautiful fabrics available that could include huge repeats, detailed brocades, damasks, and tapestry effects. The jacquard loom controls each warp yarn with it’s own series of cards. Now all done by computer, there are endless variations and design possibilities.
Leno Weave

Dobby Weave

Jacuard Weave


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This page was last modified on: Tuesday, 2007-09-11 2:47 PST