Warp, weft, weave… these are the terms that describe what defines textiles ‘woven fabric’. So, what is woven fabric ? Let’s simplify the term to get an idea of what exactly this type of fabric is

Woven fabrics are fabrics that are produced by weaving on a loom. 

The fabrics are created 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 textile.

To weave 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 fabrics and silky textiles to semi-synthetic rayon fabrics and man-made polyester to weave this type of textile.

You can even knit these fibers together. But that’s another story.

Note: When we talk about a woven textile, this describes how we make the fabric, not what the fabric is made of. 

The difference between knitted and woven fabrics

You can have two different types of textile that are both made from the same fibers. A good example would be knitted and woven fabrics which have both been made by weaving or knitting yarns.

Is this type of fabric stretchy you ask? No, not unless it contains lycra. Generally, if the textile is made of just one fibre, it tends to only stretch in one direction – diagonally. We call this fabric one with a ‘mechanical’ stretch. This stretchy 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 textile products by hand, including blankets, baskets and clothing. 

That was years ago. In fact, these days, you’d have to search to find a genuine hand loom to weave fabrics with. Although there are still some used to make unique and very expensive one-off weave fabric masterpieces. 

Woven fabrics tend to be made using a mechanical loom which follows the same process as an old-fashioned one.

Modern technology involves a quicker and more efficient weaving process for woven fabrics, where one can make a small or a large fabric run and use a variety of fibers to make fabrics, from delicate silk to durable cotton, and everything in between. 

Woven fabrics and those that are not woven fabrics all have certain characteristics these days. 

What you use woven 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.

Types of woven fabric

Weaves come in four basics: plain woven fabricspanama or basket woven fabrics, twill woven fabrics and satin woven fabrics

Each type of weave describes how we weave the fibers together to create woven fabric. Each woven fabric that is manufactured has a specific texture and appearance. 

1.   Plain woven fabric

This is the most basic type of fabric weave, the strongest and the most used. Plain weave is used for most textiles. 

The method we use is by interlacing one thread over another (1 x 1). This creates a tight plain weave textile that tends to crease. 

We use the plain weave process to create numerous woven fabrics. This includes a heavy-weight woven fabric type made for upholstery like canvas and those fabrics for garments, like calico and a soft, delicate muslin or taffeta textile.

Some examples:

  • Chiffon: A lightweight, sheer fabric usually made from silks, polyester or rayon. Great fabrics for summer garments and accessories.
  • Chintz: A medium weight glazed textile commonly created from natural yarns. Usually has a floral print. This fabric is used 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. This textile is created by using either silk, polyester or rayon. Ideal fabrics for women’s evening wear.
  • Organza: Sheer, lightweight woven fabrics made from silk in the old days. These days we make organza out of nylon or polyester. The textile finish is stiff. This fabric is used for women’s garments.
  • Poplin:Created with coarse weft and fine warp threads. This fabric is usually light weight, although it could be a bit heaver, depending on what the textile is made from – cotton, silk, lycra or polyester. These types of fabrics are commonly used to make shirts and dresses.

2.   Panama or basket weave textile choices 

The next type of fabric is 'Panama' or 'basketweave'. It’s used for more durable fabrics, where one needs a stronger textile.

One makes Panama fabric in a similar way to plain woven fabric – 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.

It is often called Canvas or Panama fabric. This textile 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.

Some examples:

  • Canvas fabrics: Durable, Panama fabrics that are tightly woven fabrics– 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 fabrics can be quite stiff and unwieldy to work with.
  • Panama fabrics: These are medium-weight fabrics. We use these fabrics 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.
  • Basketweave: The fabric's more open basketweave 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 woven fabric

Woven fabric is solid 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 types of fabrics are available in several variations, depending on the thread used – especially polyester, cotton or silky fabrics people are manufacturing for garments and upholstery.

Examples of twill woven fabric

  • Corduroy: Great for winter, this thick fabric has a ribbed effect on the surface. We usually make it out of cotton or polyester. The textile is then made 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. These fabrics have become a favourite clothing fabric, used for everything from jeans to dresses, jackets, shirts, handbags and hats. 
  • Gabardine: Twill fabrics are tightly woven fabrics; they are strong and have 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 fabric

The loosest of the 4 types of woven fabric, satin fabric has the characteristic shiny, luxurious appearance of satin fabric.

Weaving this 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, silky satin and sateen. 

We usually use these types if fabric 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 techniques.

Example of satin woven 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 is tightly woven, a lustrous shine and heavy body, making it perfect for a sewing pattern for dresses such as ballgowns, prom dresses and wedding gowns. 

    What do we use woven fabric for?

    We make lots of clothing out of these types of fabric. Other very popular uses for this kind of fabric are soft furnishings and upholstery.

    1.  Making curtains from woven fabric

    Woven material is popular for curtains for windows as it has an excellent drape. The curtains can also be dyed and printed on with various designs and patterns. maake offers more than 10,000 stunning designs to choose from, or you can create your own designs for woven curtain fabrics. Learn about how maake digitally prints a pattern on fabric in our blog Digital Printing on fabric made simple.

    2.  Making upholstery from weave fabric

    Because this fabric is hard-wearing and durable, this type of fabric is ideal for upholstery. You can also treat the materials to make them waterproof so that you can use it outdoors. The fabric will also be fire-resistant. (Find out all about fabric certifications here. And make sure to read our comprehensive guide on upholstery fabric, too.)

    Which is better: knit or woven fabric?

    We make fabrics using two main processes – weaving or knitting. People always want to know which of the two is the better textile, one that is woven fabric, or a textile that is not (knit materials). 

    We’ve given you the characteristics of this type of fabric. Now here’s an idea of what knit fabrics are all about:

    Knit textiles are very similar to knitting a garment by hand, using unbroken thread.

    With knitted pieces of materials you use that one continuous thread or yarn for making interlocking loops on a knitting machine. 

    If you’ve compared woven fabric to knit textiles, you’d find that the knitted fabrics create loops in the pattern whilst woven fabric interweaves. 

    Knit fabrics have far more stretch or ‘give’, while woven fabric is tightly woven and only stretch diagonally. 

    As with hand-knit garments if you cut knit material it will unravel. We always glue manufactured knit fabric on the cut edge of the fabric so that this doesn’t happen. 

    The differences between weave and knit fabrics

    • This type of textile is stronger than knit material. It's also a more hard-wearing fabric.
    • After washing, these fabrics don't fade or shrink.
    • Materials 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.
    • Knit textiles are made from one or more long inter-connecting and looping yarns.
    • You’ll find that knit textiles look like loosely woven fabrics. They tend to stretch easily.
    • Knit textiles are usually warm. They are comfortable to wear. This fabric also doesn't crease. This is why it’s a popular choice for men’s and women’s comfort wear.
    • Also, knit textiles are softer, although they aren’t as durable.

    maake's fabric selection

    View information on the examples of woven fabrics for summer or winter in our fabric collection before you shop: