What's in a Weave?

Last week, I asked the question What's that Fiber?  I provided a brief list of different fibers, then a slightly more thorough detailing of the three different weaving techniques most commonly used.  I'm working on moving over my blog posts describing what specifically each weave is, so eventually, a description of each specific type will be here on Damask Raven. But the SHORT version is: There are three essential weaves. Plain, Twill, Satin.  However, there is TREMENDOUS variety within those three categories.  So what's in a weave?

Just in a silk fiber, plain weaving is used to create Batiste de Soie, Broadcloth, Chiffon, China Silk, Cloque, Crepe, Crepe de Chine, Dupioni, Four Ply, Georgette, Habotai, Matka, Noil, Organza, Peau de Soie, Pongee, Shantung, Taffeta, and Shot Silk.  Seriously!  All of those DIFFERENT fabrics utilize a plain weave to create different drape, different hand, different look.  Which says remarkable things about the ingenuity of Man.  And none of that includes weaves that are specific to cotton, wool, or linen!

Utilizing a Twill weaving technique creates Gabardine, Surah, and Tweed.  Satin is it's own weave, but you use satin techniques to create brocade, charmeuse, damask, and matelasse.  And silk can be knitted!

Silk Knit Sweater…but knitting and weaving are two completely different things. So back to the weaving techniques…

Silk Knit Sweater…but knitting and weaving are two completely different things. So back to the weaving techniques…

Plain weave, as defined by The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Textiles 8th Edition, is as follows:

Simplest and most important of the three basic weaves, used in about 80% of all woven fabric...is executed by passing each filling yarn successively over and under each warp yarn, alternating each row (p. 463).

Blown up, plain weaving is one thread goes over and under a set of perpendicular threads.

Blown up, plain weaving is one thread goes over and under a set of perpendicular threads.

EIGHTY PERCENT OF ALL WOVEN FABRICS!  That's a pretty big number!  This also means the variety found in plain weaving is a result of thread spin and fiber treatment. But we’ll discuss that more as this series progresses

Twill weave, according to Fairchild, is "A basic weave characterized by a diagonal rib, or twill line, generally running upward from left to right...Each end floats over or under at least two consecutive picks (p. 643).

Close up, you can really see the diagonal lines in a twill.

Close up, you can really see the diagonal lines in a twill.

Twill is commonly found in denim, and is generally a very stable weave, not typically prone to snagging (although it can be done).

The third most common weave is Satin. From Fairchild, "A smooth, generally lustrous fabric, with a thick, close texture made of silk...Generally, there is a higher number of yarns on the face than the back (p. 531).  With Satin, the face of the fabric is very smooth and lustrous, while the back is dull with no shine.  A blown up line drawing of a warp faced satin would look like this:

Those long vertical threads, or floats, create a flat smooth surface.

Those long vertical threads, or floats, create a flat smooth surface.

Unfortunately, because those vertical threads sort of float on the surface of the underlying weft threads, satin DOES tend to snag and run easily.

So there is a brief description of what each weaving technique is. So what’s in a weave? A lot of innovation and technique, built up over centuries of trial and error.