What is woven fabric? A full textile guide
Warp, weft, weave… these are the terms that describe what defines fabrics ‘woven fabric’. Let’s simplify them to get an idea of what exactly this type of fabric is
These types of fabrics are fabrics that people created on a loom using a weaving process.
We create the fabrics by weaving yarns. We use a thread called ‘a warp’. This goes down the fabric’s entire length. And there's a ‘weft’, which goes across the fabric.
To form the fabric, you interlace 2 sets of yarns at right angles to each other, ie the warp or weft threads interlace this way on the loom to form the fabric.
You can include anything from natural linen and silk fabrics to semi-synthetic rayon and man-made polyester to make this type of fabric.
Actually, you can even knit these fibers together. But that’s another story.
Note: When we say ‘woven fabric’, we are describing how we make the fabric, not what we make the fabric out of.
The difference between knit and woven textiles
In actual fact, you can have two different types of fabric that you make from the same fibers. A good example would be a knitted fabric and a woven fabric that we've made by weaving or knitting yarns.
Does this type of fabric stretch? No, not unless it contains lycra. Generally, if you make the fabric out of just one fibre, it tends to only stretch in one direction – diagonally.
We call this fabric one with a ‘mechanical’ stretch. This stretch fabric doesn’t only stretch; it usually also frays at the edges.
What do we use modern woven fabrics for?
People have used weaving for centuries to create all sorts of fabric products by hand, including blankets, baskets and clothing.
However, that was a long time ago. In fact, these days, you’d have to search to find a genuine hand loom. Although there are still some used to make unique and very expensive one-off fabric masterpieces.
We usually make fabrics with the weaving process using a mechanical loom; this follows the same process as an old-fashioned loom.
Modern technology involves a quicker and more efficient weaving process where one can make a small or a large fabric run and use a variety of fibers, from delicate silks to durable cotton, and everything in between.
Woven and non-woven fabrics all have certain characteristics these days.
What you use this particular fabric for depends on what type of fiber you’re weaving. It depends on so many different things, including whether it’s synthetic or natural fabric as well as what makes it unique, such as the thickness of the fabric and how heavy it is.
Woven fabric types
There are four basic weaves: plain weave fabric, panama or basket weave fabric, twill weave fabric and satin weave fabric
Each type of weave describes how we weave the fibers together to create a woven fabric. Each weave fabric made has a specific texture and appearance.
1. Plain weave fabrics
This is the most basic fabric weave, the strongest and the most commonly used. We use plain weave for most fabrics.
The method we use is by interlacing one thread over another (1 x 1). This creates a tight p lain weave fabric that tends to crease.
We use numerous fabrics in the plain weave process. These include heavy weight woven fabric types made for upholstery like canvas and those for garments, like calico and soft, delicate muslin or taffeta.
· Chiffon: A lightweight, sheer fabric usually made from silk, polyester or rayon. Great for summer garments and accessories.
· Chintz: A medium weight glazed fabric commonly created from natural yarns. Usually has a floral print. We use this fabric for women’s dresses and pyjamas.
· Georgette: A sheer, light fabric made with twisted threads that give the surface of the fabric a crinkled look. We create this fabric by using either silk, polyester or rayon. Ideal for women’s evening wear.
· Organza: A sheer, lightweight fabric woven in the old days from silk. These days we make it out of nylon or polyester. The finish is stiff. We use this fabric for women’s garments.
· Poplin: Created with coarse weft and fine warp threads. This fabric is light weight, although it is sometimes heavier, depending on what we've made from – cotton, silk, lycra or polyester. Commonly used to make shirts and dresses.
2. Panama or basket weave fabrics
The next type of fabric is 'Panama' or 'basket weave'. We use it for more durable fabrics when we need a stronger fabric.
One makes Panama fabric in a similar way to plain weave fabrics, although it has a softer break. In fact, instead of using one warp and weft, the fabric uses two. This gives the effect of a wicker basket. It creates a uniform structure that has a wider gap, giving a more textured look.
We often call it canvas or panama fabric. It is very popular for internal and external use, especially when one needs a durable fabric for deck chairs or covers, or where the designer might want to add some depth into the fabric.
· Canvas fabrics: A durable, Panama fabric with a tight weave– usually between 250 - 600 gsm. We use the lighter fabrics for artist’s canvases, towelling or home fabrics. We use the heavier canvas ones for more heavy duty applications such as awnings, outdoor furniture or coverings. The fabric can be quite stiff and unwieldy to work with.
· Panama fabrics: This is a medium weight fabric. We use this fabric for table coverings for lighter weights and heavier weights, and woven cotton for home fabrics such as cushions, aprons and tea towels that have a lot of abrasion.
· Basket weave: The fabric's more open basket weave allows a softer handle and break on the fabric, with some openness in the fabric, too. The fabric has a lighter look but the same texture Panama is famous for. We use this fabric to make home fabrics and clothing items.
3. Twill weave fabrics
This type of fabric is particularly strong and durable. We make this fabric using a relatively complicated weaving pattern that creates a diagonal appearance.
The process involves passing the weft yarn or fiber over 2, 3 or more weft threads before crossing over – either 2 x 1 or 3 x 1. One repeats the pattern by moving one warp thread over, which gives the fabric a diagonal look.
This type of fabric is heavier than the others and doesn’t crease as much.
These fabrics are available in a number of variations, depending on the thread used – especially cotton, polyester or silk fabrics produced for garments and upholstery.
Examples of twill fabric including woven cotton fabric:
· Corduroy: Great for winter, this thick fabric has a ribbed effect on the surface. We usually make it out of cotton or polyester. We then make it into various clothing articles like pants, skirts and shirts.
· Denim: Traditional denim fabrics have blue warp and white weft yarns to give them that distinctive colour and appearance. This fabric has become a favourite clothing fabric, used for everything from jeans to dresses, jackets, shirts, handbags and hats.
· Gabardine: Twill fabric has a tight weave; it’s strong and has a raised finish. We usually make twill fabrics out of cotton yarns. You’ll find this fabric used to make coats, raincoats and suits.
4. Satin or sateen woven fabrics
The loosest of the 4 types of woven fabrics, satin fabric has satin’s characteristic shiny, luxurious appearance.
Weaving this particular fabric is quite a complicated manner. It involves passing 4 or more warp yarns or fibers over one single weft yarn or yarn (4 x 1). We call this a ‘floating’ thread. The exposure of more of the same yarn gives the fabric a shine and a smooth, soft finish.
Fabrics used for this weaving process include cotton satin, polyester satin, silk satin and sateen.
We usually use this fabric type for formal dresses, including wedding gowns, shirts, ties and bedding. It tends to snag easily due to the longer exposed yarn face, which can cause the fabric to ‘pull’ if handled roughly or created by careless sewing.
Example of satin weave fabric:
· Velvet: This sumptuous fabric is created on a special loom with a satin weave. We also use it to make simple or twill fabrics.
The fabric has a soft, smooth surface and its threads, which give it the name ‘cut pile fabric’, actually stick upwards.
Duchess Satin – This satin fabric has a tight weave, a lustrous shine and heavy body, making it perfect for sewing formed dresses such as ballgowns, prom dresses and wedding gowns.
What do we use woven fabric for?
We make lots of clothing out of this type of fabric. Other very popular uses for this kind of fabric are soft furnishings and upholstery.
1. Making curtains from woven fabric
This is a popular fabric for windows as it has an excellent drape. You can also dye and print on the fabric with various designs and patterns. maake offers more than 10,000 stunning designs to choose from, or you can create your own curtain design. We digitally print these patterns on the fabric (link to blog on digital printing).
2. Making upholstery from this type of fabric
Because it’s hard wearing and durable, this type of fabric is ideal for upholstery. You can also treat the fabric to make it waterproof so that you can use it outdoors. The fabric will also be fire resistant.
Which is better: knitting or weaving yarns?
We make fabrics using two main processes – weaving or knitting. People always want to know which of the two is the better textile, one with a weave, or one without (knit fabric).
We’ve given you the characteristics of this type of fabric. Now here’s an idea of what knitted fabrics are all about:
Knit fabrics are very similar to knitting a garment by hand, using unbroken thread.
In knitted pieces of fabric, you use that one continuous thread or yarn to create interlocking loops on a knitting machine.
If you’ve compared woven fabric examples to knitted textiles, you’d find that the knitted fabrics create loops in the pattern, whilst woven fabrics interweave.
Knitted fabrics have far more stretch or ‘give’. We weave woven fabric tightly and it only stretches diagonally.
As with a hand-knitted garment, if you cut knitted fabric, it will unravel. We always glue manufactured knitted fabric on the cut edge so that this doesn’t happen.
The difference between woven fabric and knitted fabric
· This type of fabric is stronger than knitted fabric. It's also a more hard-wearing fabric.
· After washing, these fabrics don't fade or shrink.
· Fabric made with a loom doesn't lose shape. However, this type of fabric can be susceptible to weft distortion (a wave appears along the weft of the fabric).
· We often use this type of fabric to make durable clothing and household goods.
· Knitted fabrics are made from one or more long inter-connecting and looping yarns.
· You’ll find that knit fabrics look like fabric with a loose weave. They tend to stretch easily.
· Knitted fabrics are usually warm. They are comfortable to wear. This fabric also doesn't crease. This is why it’s are a popular choice for men’s and women’s comfort wear.
· Also, these fabrics are softer, although they aren’t as durable.
Here’s a handy list of woven fabric at maake: