Textile Glossary: Basic weaves

A weave is a method of interlacing warp yarns and weft yarns. There are three basic weaves: plain, twill and satin.

Plain weave:

This is achieved by alternately passing even and odd-numbered yarns over and under the weft, reversing at each pick.

  • Characteristics: a plain weave is the most stable of all weaves, and has neither a face nor a back.

Examples of plain-weave textiles: poplin, taffeta, muslin, barathea


There are many variations of plain weaves.

  • Basketweave: the warp yarns are grouped in pairs (or more), and pass alternately over and under the weft after several picks.

Example: Panama, Oxford

  • Weft-rib weave: odd and even yarns pass alternately over and under the weft, with inversion after several picks. This is also known as a filling-rib weave.

Example: ottoman, grosgrain

  • Warp-rib weave: the warp yarns are grouped in pairs (or more), and pass alternately over and under the weft at each pick.

Example : Rep

Twill weave:

The pattern of the warp yarns passing over or under the weft yarns is offset with each pick, creating an “S” or “Z” diagonal effect.

A twill weave is described by the pattern of the bindings. Thus, a “2/1 twill” means 2 warp yarns pass over the weft for every 1 warp yarn passing under the weft, with the pattern offset on the next pick.

  • Characteristics: a twill weave is characterized by a diagonal groove effect on the fabric surface. As the intersections between warp yarns and weft yarns are less frequent than in a plain weave, twill-weave textiles offer a certain suppleness to facilitate the easing in of one piece of fabric to another.

Example: serge, twill, gabardine, whipcord


  • Cross twill: here, the number of yarns running over the weft is equal to the number of yarns running under the weft (for example, a 2/2 structure). The back of the fabric is identical to the face. This weave is used quite frequently, particularly in suitings.
  • Herringbone / Broken twills: a twill whose line periodically reverses (depending on the weave, in a horizontal or vertical direction) creating a diagonal or sometimes sawtooth effect. Broken twills are commonly used in denim, as they provide good fabric stability.

Satin weave:

A satin weave is achieved by spacing the yarn intersection points so they are nearly invisible. We speak of warp-effect satin when the warp yarns dominate the face, and weft satin when they do not.

  • Characteristics: satin has long floats, which increase the fabric’s softness, luster and slipperiness, but also makes it more fragile under abrasion, and easily scuffed. The fabric back is quite different from the fabric face.

Satin can be made using any fiber, but the most spectacular effects are achieved with silk and silk-like fibers. Whether for linings or lingerie, satin lends a slipperiness to fabrics, helping them to fall properly. As the face is markedly different from the back, true double-faces can be achieved. For example, satins with a silk warp and cotton weft have a silky exterior, while the skin is in contact with cotton.

Note: “Duchesse satin” has additional yarns in the warp, which strengthens the fabric and gives it a dense, rigid handle.

Plays on weaves

Starting from these basic weaves, many variations are possible.

  • Crepe: an irregular-looking weave with no visible diagonals or long floats. This emphasizes the grainy look of fabrics made using crepe yarns, or makes it possible to imitate their effect (see the Textile Glossary – Yarns article).
  • Jacquard: the jacquard loom makes it possible to modify the passage of the warp yarns independently of each other, above or below the weft, creating highly complex motifs by playing on the weaves. Examples: figured fabrics, damask, brocade
  • Dobby: the dobby loom works on the same principle as the jacquard loom, but the yarns are gathered in groups, which limits the complexity of the patterns. Patterns are generally in the form of small, symmetrical and geometric motifs, achieved by playing with the weaves.

Example : plumetis

  • Leno / Gauze: this weave is produced on a special loom with  two alternating warp yarns –  a ground end and  a doup end. The doup end is a warp yarn that can be moved to either side of a neighboring ground end. With each pick (or after several picks), the doup end appears either to the right or to the left of the ground end. This net-like interlacing makes it possible to space out the weave without compromising its stability. Used to make fabrics that are fine and airy, or light and supple, yet with a good hold.
Leno / gauze

A note on yarn twisting:

  • Warp and weft yarns twisted in the same direction will bring out the binding points (the crossings between the warp and weft yarns), resulting in well-marked weaves.
  • When warp and weft yarns are twisted in opposite directions, the binding points are less visible, and thus the weave less pronounced.
  • In satins, the yarns that dominate on the face are generally not too twisted. As a result, they tend to spread out in width, covering the binding points, which are thus nearly invisible. This results in surfaces that are smoother and more lustrous, but also more fragile.

Single wovens include all wovens with one set of warp yarns and one set of weft yarns. There are other textile constructions involving several warp and/or weft yarn systems, which are known as complex wovens.

Weave glossary:
Pick : passage of the weft yarn.
Over : the weft yarn passes over the warp yarn.
Under : the weft yarn passes under the warp yarn.
Floating yarn : the weft yarn passes over a few warp yarns.
Weave repetition : grid defining the over-under rhythm.   

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