Fabric Weaves: What’s Weft Got to Do With It?
Different weaves create different textures of fabric. Two fabrics that are made of the same yarn can have vastly different appearances and textures. This is due to the weave used to make them. When choosing a fabric, it’s helpful to consider the weave.
What is a Weave?
Fabric consists of two directions of thread intertwined, or woven, together. The material, or yarn, that runs up and down the fabric is the warp. The yarn that runs side to side is the weft. The pattern that the warp and weft make is the weave.
Types of Weaves
There are many types of weaves, and today we will focus on four of them: plain, basket, twill, and jacquard.
The plain weave is the most simple of our chosen four. Each warp yarn goes up and down alternately: if its neighbour is up, it is down, and so on. When the weft yarn enters the weave, the warp yarns switch from down to up or up to down, and the pattern repeats.
Plain weaves have the benefit of being simple to make. Additionally, the fabrics are smooth to the touch, with no variation on the surface. A plain weave can consist of yarns that are the same colour, or can use different warp and weft yarns to create a new colour. Plain weaves can make solid or striped fabrics.
The basket weave is named after the common pattern in basket weaving. Where each yarn was independent in the plain weave, in the basket weave, two or more yarns in the warp and the same number in the weft are paired together. This creates a strong texture. If the warp and weft use two different colour yarns, a checker board pattern emerges. Overall, it is a balanced fabric, but can feel bulkier than a plain weave. Basket weaves can make solid or striped fabrics.
The twill weave, distinguished by diagonal lines, is one that is familiar to most of us. Denim is a twill weave. There are several types of twill weaves, but the simplest crosses the weft over two warp yarns, then under one, and repeats. Each weft yarn is ‘stepped over’, so that no weft yarns next to each other weave over the same two warp yarns. This creates the diagonal lines.
Twill weaves are often soft and drape well. The colour of the weft is more pronounced than in plain weave alternatives of the same yarns. Twill weaves can make solid or striped fabrics.
The final and most complex weave that we will cover here is the jacquard weave. There is no one set pattern for jacquard weaves, as the pattern in which the warp and weft are woven by the machine depends on the final pattern of the fabric. These fabrics can use two or more yarn colours. The more colour and complexity in the design, the thicker the fabric. There is great variation in jacquard fabrics; some are soft and pliable, others more rigid.
Jacquard weaves are preferable for patterned fabrics, because the pattern will not fade or wear off over time. As these weaves are more complicated to make, they tend to be more expensive than the other weaves. However, they are certainly the most eye-catching of the fabrics.
Choosing a Weave
Picking a fabric can be the most intimidating part of ordering cushions, but knowing what weaves to look for can help narrow things down.
If you want a pattern, a jacquard weave is the best way to go. All Sunbrella patterned fabrics are jacquard weaves.
When selecting the weave of fabric that you would prefer for your cushions, consider ordering samples. You may love the look of a plain weave fabric, but hate how it feels, and the fabric that you were unsure of online might look and feel excellent in person.