Warp and Weft

Our latest lesson in fashion vocab covers the the intricacies of the weave, north to south and east to west.

Any weaving operation–including those that produce dress shirts–begins with the warp threads (or “varp,” an Old Norse term for “cast of a net”), which run vertically when stretched tight onto a loom. These are generally made of stronger fibers than the latitudinal weft threads (from the Old English “wefan” meaning “to weave”), which are threaded through the warp yarns with a shuttle in an over/under pattern. Oftentimes, the weft threads are colored differently from the warp, or made of different fibers to create a certain pattern or texture, such as herringbone or seersucker.

What does any of this mean for your average broadcloth button-down? Funny you should ask, because the more formal the article of clothing, the heavier (i.e. more densely populated)  the warp threads become in order to mask the weft fibers and smooth the texture of the fabric. This means that your typical broadcloth has about twice the number of warp threads as weft threads. Conversely, more textured garments are weftier, which, we’re sure you’ll agree, really ought to be a real word, even though it’s not.

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