If you’ve ever handled a piece of canvas—and really, there’s no way you haven’t—you’ve encountered a plain weave fabric. In fact, even if you’re nowhere near a pair of Chucks or a sturdy tote bag, you’re probably within spitting distance of something made of plain weave right now. That’s because it’s the most common of the three fundamental weaving techniques. And it’s the most common (shocker!) because it’s the most basic.
Plain weave is basically Weaving 101. It’s made by aligning the warp and weft threads so they create a simple criss-cross pattern. Each warp thread crosses the weft threads by going over, then under, then over, then… you get the idea. Same goes for the weft crossing the warp, and each row alternates. If it sounds complicated, just take a look at the image to the right, and you’ll see it’s not. The simplicity of the technique means that both faces of the fabric are the same. So long as one doesn’t have a print or surface treatment, so there’s no “right” or “wrong” side. And the sheer number of intersections in the weave makes for a fabric that’s sturdy and not prone to unraveling, which explains the popularity of textiles like canvas for hard-wearing jobs. It also explains why you’re oxford cloth shirt—which is made using basket weave, a simple variation of plain weave where the warp and weft threads are bundled up in groups of two and woven with the same technique—keeps on kicking no matter how thoroughly you abuse it.
Check back on Tuesday for a look at twill, second in a three-part series on the fundamental weaving techniques.