Warp and Weft – Meaning & Differences

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Learn all about warp and weft, what are their meaning and differences. On the Star Trek series, space crafts were propelled through star systems and into space via a different warp speed. It must have been a direct flight path because the warp is the straight length grain of the fabric. In sewing circles, the warp, combined with the weft, make up the weave of the fabric. It is these two components that turn yarn into fabric.

PinWarp and Weft

Contents

Warp and WeftWhat is Warp?What is Weft?Warp and Weft – Which is StrongerFabric Weaving Using Warp and WeftWhat are the 3 Basic Weaves Using Warp and WeftEven-WeaveFringesDenimWovensWarp and Weft Thread CountsWarp and Weft – In ConclusionMore About FabricsSewing Fabrics

Warp and Weft

The warp and weft refer to the direction of the woven threads.

What is Warp?

The warp is the lengthwise threads on the fabric loom. These threads are held stationary. The warp lies parallel with the selvage or edge of the fabric. The warp threads are the support network for the weft. In the photo below, the warp are the white threads.

What is Weft?

The weft, sometimes known as the woof, are the horizontal threads. They are threaded over and under the warp threads. The single thread of yarn that goes across the warp is known as a pick. In the photo below, the weft threads are colored.

Warp and Weft - White is Warp and Colored is WeftWarp and Weft - White is Warp and Colored is WeftPinWarp and Weft – White is Warp and Colored is Weft

Warp and Weft – Which is Stronger

Warp and weft yarns are prepared separately and the warp thread is generally the stronger of the two.

The warp thread needs to be stronger because it is the thread that is pulled taut on the loom while the weft thread is woven in and out of the warp threads to create the weave of the fabric.

When you look at a bolt of fabric rolled and ready to cut, it is the weft threads you will see running across the fabric in the width direction. 

Warp and WeftWarp and WeftPinWarp and Weft

During the weaving process, the warp remains stationary in the loom, while the weft weaves in and out, in different thread counts. The warp threads are sized or treated with chemicals before weaving takes place. These may be natural or chemical and are used to strengthen the thread while it is pulled taut on the loom. The weft is more supple as it is moved in and out of the warp. This weft weave is sometimes known as the fill or the filling yarn.

The weft thread is easier to pull out of the woven fabric if necessary. Pulling out the weft thread is a method used to find a straight line across the fabric. It is used as a way to find the straight line across the fabric and cut it accurately. More about cutting fabric.

Fabric Weaving Using Warp and Weft

There are different patterns used to weave different fabrics. The patterns are based on the number of threads that are picked up in each row. Most fabrics are known as warp facing, especially denim with the blue warp thread dominating the top or right side of the fabric.

In the garment industry, the warp direction is used as the length of the garment. This is because its lengthwise direction improves the fabric drape and the fall of the garment.

Warp and WeftWarp and WeftPinWarp and Weft

Different ways of weaving the weft thread create different piles or textures. A satin weave for example has each warp thread sitting over 16 weft threads. During the Industrial Revolution, the picking stick was modified into what became known as the flying shuttle. Weaving became faster and more industrialized.

The weft is more versatile than the warp because it is woven or moved over the warp that is stationary. Supplementary weft textures are created by a technique known as floating. This is when extra weft threads wrap over the warp without disturbing the basic weave. Wefts are threaded along the main passage of the weft, through the warp, and then woven to create the design. This method is carried out on a loom and known as brocading. Extra weft threads can be woven between normal thread directions to create different patterns. 

What are the 3 Basic Weaves Using Warp and Weft

The 3 basic weaves using warp and weft are the plain weave, satin weave and twill weave.

Plain weave – This is the most common and simplest warp and weft weave. It is considered durable and is often used for fashion and home decor products. The plain weave has the warp and weft threads crossing at right angles and going over one by one. Examples of plain weave include cotton, linen, chiffon, organza and taffeta.

Satin Weave – Satin weave refers to the weaving of the warp and weft threads rather than the name of the fabric itself. The satin weave has four or more weft threads going over a single warp thread. Satin often has a shiny top and a matt back and is used for lingerie, ties and blouses.

Twill Weave – This weave has a pattern comprised of diagonal ribs. It is created by passing the weft thread over two or more warp threads then one more. This step is what creates the diagonal pattern. Twill is known for its drape. Read what is twill fabric?

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Even-Weave

One of the well known woven fabrics used for embroidery is called even-weave. This fabric has an even number of warp and weft threads woven to create the canvass used for embroidery. Even-weave makes it easier for the embroiderer to count the threads and create the even patterns for an embroidered piece of work or a tapestry.

Fringes

A self fringe to finish a piece of embroidery is easily created by pulling out the warp or the weft threads after neatening the edge. The stitching to hold the threads is indented like a hem. It may be decorative, but its purpose is to hold the warp and weft threads in place while the loose threads are pulled out.

Denim

Denim uses the warp and weft threading to its advantage. The different color of the threads produces denim look. The warp thread is dyed blue and creates the twill denim texture with the bleached weft threads. The warp threads are dyed before weaving with indigo dye and the weft threads are left bleached without the indigo dye. This is why cotton denim is blue on one side and white or bleached on the other.

More About Denim:

Types of DenimSewing Denim

Wovens

Warp and weft ‘wovens’ are specialized types of fabrics made by weaving different colors of threads together to make unique collections of fabrics in various patterns and designs. These warp and weft ‘wovens’ as they are called, are very versatile. They are soft and very vibrant. They make beautiful quilts, home décor, and stunning bags. The distinct designs make the warp and weft ‘wovens’ very individual and creative.

Warp and Weft Thread Counts

Woven fabrics made with a high warp and a weft count are more durable generally speaking. These fabrics are easy to cut and turn into garments in different styles. The disadvantage of having a woven fabric is the warp and weft threads can fray easily.

The fabrics with a greater number of threads, or higher thread count, keep their shape better than the fabrics with fewer threads in the warp and weft. Low thread counts tend to be less durable and stretch as well as snag easily.

Modern power looms are able to create greater weft density. The weft threads can be pushed up with the ‘beater’ to be more securely in place and tighter. The weaving mills add lubricants to the warp threads in particular. Natural fibers use lubricants made with PVA, methylcellulose, synthetic wax or potato starch. Unsized fabrics, where the warp and weft have not been primed, are used for artists` canvasses.

Warp and Weft – In Conclusion

Knowing about the warp and weft gives you the edge on choosing fabric and using it to the best advantage. You will have a better idea about the weave and the creation of the warp direction. Knowing about the function of the warp and weft is a useful guide to cutting and designing your own garments.

More About Fabrics

Cutting Fabric for SewingFabric GSM – Fabric Weight ExplanationMan-Made Fibers For Sewing FabricsWhat is Twill Fabric? Fibers, Uses & ProjectsThread Count

Sewing Fabrics

Now you know all about the warp and weft it is time to get sewing. Here are articles on sewing various types of fabrics.

CHIFFON – Sewing ChiffonBATIK – What is BatikCANVAS – Sewing CanvasCOTTON – Sewing CottonDENIM – Sewing DenimFELT – Sewing FeltFUR – Sewing FurKNITS – How to Sew Stretch FabricINTERFACING – Types of InterfacingLACE – How to Sew LaceLEATHER – Sewing LeatherRAYON – Sewing RayonSHEER – Sewing Sheer FabricsSILK – How to Sew SilkTHICK – Sewing Thick FabricsVELVET Sewing VelvetWOOL – Sewing Wool

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