Fabric Design 101 :: Warp, Weft, Selvage & Their Influence On Colourways

Hand-woven tablecloths, napkins, table mats and table runners from KOTHEA
Hand-woven tablecloths, napkins, table mats ad table runners from KOTHEA

This short article will tell you what the warp, weft and selvage of a fabric are. Then how easily, or not, colours in each can be changed in handwoven fabrics.

The Americanism ‘101’ normally means the introductory, grounding ‘lesson/lecture’ in a subject. So most interior designers already know that:

– WEFT is the crosswise thread that inter­laces with the warp threads on a woven fabric. ie it is the thread that goes from LEFT to right. (Weft and Left rhyme so that’s how you remember it)

– WARP is group of yarns placed first on a loom in weaving. These can be 100s of metres long running throughout the entire roll of fabric that you eventually buy.  Warp runs parallel to the selvage, forming the length of the fabric. The filling threads are interlaced over and under the warp threads in a pattern or weave.

– SELVAGE is the long, outer, finished edge of both sides of a woven fabric that does not ravel because the filling yarns wrap around the warp yarns. It may also be called self-edge or selvedge.

OK, so now if we take a few steps back to the design of a simple woven fabric. KOTHEA, for example, produce handwoven linens to order, often in small quantities. How do we plan to do this? One clever trick is to keep a plain, natural or white coloured yarn in the warp and then introduce colours into the weft as needed. Why? Much of the time consuming process of setting up a loom is in setting up the yarns for the warp. Yarns for the weft can be changed relatively easily without changing the warp yarn.

Simple but great for our customers who need the exclusivity and beauty of handwoven linens and who do not want the large minimum order quantities that can come with that.

Cashmere throws – bespoke / custom sizes

To supplement our range of coloured cashmere throws (147 x 183 cm), we now have the ability to weave 100% cashmere throws in any size up to a maximum width of 220cm in off-white and natural colours.

Our hand woven linen throws (pictured) can also be woven in bespoke dimensions, to order.

Damasks & Silk Damask

The term DAMASK is generally used to refer to ornamental silk fabrics, typically elaborately woven, perhaps incorporating; several colours, gold or other metallic threads. They are usually found today made from linen, silk or linen-based fabric with woven patterns that emphasise flowers, fruit, forms of animal life, and other types of ‘ornament’.

Usually it is made from one satin warp and one sateen weft interchanged and sometimes with a twill or other binding incorporated.

The name ‘Damask’ is derived from Damascus where, in the 12th century, it became the city famous for its production. Prior to that it was produced throughout Asia and known in the West as ‘diaspron’ or ‘diaper’.

Damask weaves in linen and cotton are currently most commonly found in table linens. Damask cloths for table or bedding purposes are most commonly made of flax but sometimes made partly of cotton or synthetic fibers. The finer damask textiles for these purposes are made of the best linen yarn. This yarn is a brown/ecru colour during weaving but the finished product it typically ivory/white. Highlights in the cloth are obtained by long floats of warp and weft,  set at right angles, to differently reflect the light depending on the position of the observer. Subdued effects are produced by shorter floats of yarn. The finest results are obtained when double damask weaves are used.