Weave Structures

I got a new toy. We used magnifiers to look at weave structures in my SHD class in London, and I found a nifty one -it has its own light! – on Amazon. I need to start bringing this with me to fabric stores.


I looked at a couple of “plain weave” or “tabby” woven fabrics today. This is the simplest weave – one over, one under, repeat forever. Look at this clever person’s diagrams and explanations.

Now we’ll look at it in real life.

Looking first at a simple tabby woven linen:


Now looking at the same tabby linen close-up:


And a tropical weight (very lightweight fabric) worsted (from tightly spun threads – as opposed to “woolen”, which is fluffier and from looser spun wool threads) wool tabby:


And the close-up of the wool tabby:


A silk that has very thin warp threads (running up and down the length of the fabric, parallel to the selvedges) and very thick weft (crosswise) threads:


And the close-up of the silk with thin warp and thick weft:


Finally, what modern fabric stores call a “shot” silk – the warp threads are one color, and the weft threads are a different color, which gives it an iridescent effect when it moves in the light. In the 16th century, it was known as “changeable” silk – this one is red and black:


And here is the shot silk close-up, where you can easily see the two different threads.


Now you’d think that because tabby woven fabric is a simple weave that looks the same if you turn it 90 degrees (try it with the diagram in the link above or with the close-up of the linen above), it would behave the same regardless of whether you cut it on the straight grain (i.e., all of your pattern pieces facing so that the selvedge is running from the top to bottom of the pattern) or on the cross grain (i.e., turning your pattern pieces so that the selvedges are running from side to side of your pattern pieces).

You’d be wrong, as I was. I will do some demos in the near future so that you will know it in your heart of hearts as I now do, but until then, I have heard this from a patterner/cutter who has been doing this for decades, and I have seen it with my own eyes. You have been warned. Straight grain – every time, and *especially* for interlinings.