Fabric 101 – Yarn Construction

Fabric 101 – Yarn Construction

The construction of a fabric affects the appearance, properties, and performance. There are three main types of yarn construction that we see in the marketplace today.

  • Woven – The most common, where threads are woven together to create the fabric. The warp goes along the grain line, while the weft goes across.
  • Non-Woven – Fibers are bonded together in some way, like felt. The fibers are held together by mechanical forces, such as gum or heat.
  • Knit – Known as stretchy fabrics, knit threads are looped together to create the fabric, and the stretch is built into the weave. Knits do not wrinkle.

Woven Fabrics

In this section, I want to primarily focus on woven fabrics, since they are the most common in home textiles. As noted above, woven fabrics are created when two sets of yarns are interlaced with one another at right angles.

Before I get into the most common types of weaves, there are a few buzz words you should know.

  • Selvage – Two long finished edges, one on each side along the length of the fabric.
  • Warp – The yarns along the length of the fabric, or parallel to the selvage ‘ends’.
  • Weft – The yarns moving perpendicular to the warp. The weft is interlaced with the warp yarn in a crosswise direction to make the woven fabric. The weft is sometimes called the picks or the fillings.
  • Thread Count – The total number of warps and wefts per square inch. The higher the thread count, the better the quality and more durable the fabric will be. For the best quality, the warps and wefts should be more or less equal in number.

There are various types of weaves that you’ll come across within your home textiles.

  • Plain – The simplest woven type, with a straight under/over weave. Each and every weft yarn goes alternately under and over the warp yarns across the width of the fabric. The closer together the yarns, the higher the thread count, and the more durable the fabric will be.
  • Twill – This is a diagonal stitch, most commonly found in blue jeans. Twill weaves have a more decorative, un-even surface, allowing for soiling and stains to be less noticeable. Twills are extremely durable and great for heavy use upholstery.
  • Satin Weave – Warp yarns will float over several weft yarns before interlacing, creating a shiny surface. Satin weaves can snag easily, and they’re not as strong as a plain or twill weave.
  • Basket Weave – Two or more weft yarns are interlaced as a unit with a corresponding number of warp yarns, to give a basket-like effect.
  • Rib Weave – The rib, or line effect, is created by interlacing thin yarns with thick yarns, or single yarns with double yarns, in any one direction of the fabric grain.
  • Jacquard Woven – Jacquard woven fabrics are specifically made on a jacquard loom fitted with a patterning mechanism. The loom enables the individual selection and lifting of any of the warp threads, allowing a wide variety of complex patterns and designs to be produced. Jacquard wovens typically feature a raised pattern that is woven into the fabric. Popular designs include damasks, florals, and geometrics.
  • Crepe – Typically a silk, wool or synthetic fiber fabric with a distinctively crisp, crimped appearance. This effect is created when the yarn is twisted tightly during the weaving process. Crepe wovens are great for drapery.
  • Corduroy – Composed of tufted cords, created by raised parallel vertical lines, known as wales, and channels between the tufts. In essence, it is a rigid form of a typical soft velvet.


Other types of construction are braided fabrics, created in a fashion similar to braiding hair (mainly used to make trimmings), nets, open-mesh fabrics with geometric shapes, and laces, which are yarns that are crisscrossed to create intricate, and decorative designs.

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