Plain weaves are by far and away the most common of all fabrics used worldwide in all fiber types. In a plain weave the weft yarn passes over and under the warp yarns in the first pass and then under and over in the next. This produces a very strong fabric because it yields the highest number of crossings in warp and weft. While plain weaves tend to wrinkle and show soil, they are also more easily cleaned and one of the most easy fabrics to produce.
Balanced plain weave fabrics have warp and weft yarns that are essentially the same although warp yarns are usually somewhat finer, higher twist and set in more closely than weft for added strength. Examples of balanced plain weave fabrics are batiste, canvas, gingham, madras, organdy, and voile.
|Batiste flower girl dress image courtesy of French Knot Couture on Etsy.com|
Unbalanced plain weave fabrics use a different number, size, or type of yarn between warp and weft. This type of weave will generally result in a visible rib to the fabric, which can be either very fine or coarse. Examples of fine cloths include broadcloth or taffeta formed when the warp and weft yarns are similar in type and almost the same type, but the ratio of warp to weft yarns is at least two to one. Coarser fabric like poplin is formed when weft yarns are thicker and there are more warp yarns than weft.
|Silk Taffeta image courtesy of Sylvia Leinweber (Bandidos on Etsy.com)|
Basket Weave is a variation of an unbalanced plain weave that results when two or more yarns are treated as one for either the warp or the weft. Basket Weave is also sometimes called hopsack.
cloth is an example of a basket weave in which fine warp yarns are doubled and single or softer twist weft yarns are as thick as the two warp yarns. Oxford
|Oxford cloth image courtesy of Theresa Porter (cherrycheckers on Etsy.com)|
Other variations can be achieved through using different fibers or tensions, color or allowing occasional loops in the yarn for surface texture. Seersucker is an example of a fabric that uses differing tension on the yarn to create a puckered texture. Gingham and madras fabrics create distinctive patterns in the fabric through the use of color. These fabrics are often described as yarn dyed meaning that color is applied to the yarns before the weaving process rather than applying color to the whole cloth as in printing. End-on-end is a term that refers to cotton shirting fabric having alternating warp yarns resulting in a striped effect. The fabric could be broadcloth, chambray, madras or others.