After talking quite a bit about twills last week, and woven vs. knit fabrics, I thought we could get into more characteristics of woven cloth. But first, I can tell from the discussions over several weeks of Fabric Fridays that we don’t all experience fabric in the same way. The internet offers great images and descriptions (although there is a lot of misinformation out there), but it doesn’t provide examples for all the senses—and fabrics use all the senses. If we were together with fabrics to look at, feel and smell, it would take very little time to understand many of the concepts that seem abstract when using language and photos (even videos) instead of all the senses to perceive. I was lucky to have a mother who had me choose fabrics for my clothes—she sewed them until I was ready to take that on myself. She explained a lot about the fabrics and gave me experience with handling and appreciating them. She also had me wash clothes, and learn to mend. (Don’t ask about the carefully sewn daisy-embroidered pink organdy dress I wore as the goalie in a soccer game on the same rainy day as class pictures in 5th grade unless you want to see a grown woman cry. ) The point is, if you can find yourself a fabric mentor to learn from in person—maybe a seamstress in your area—I’d do that. It really makes a difference to learn about fabric in person. I can tell that a number of VFG members, and I'm sure some of our guests, have had this experience. Others have had to learn, or are learning. The reason both Claire and I mentioned microscopes for looking at fabrics is that one could add a layer of knowledge using the eyes. Besides being something you can perceive without other senses, it may be something that some find easier. See how distinct fibers look when magnified? Now, about the concept of 2/1, 3/1, 2/2, etc. in fabric weaving: Woven fabric consists of warp and weft yarns crossing each other one at a time or in groups. Plain weave consists of equal amounts of warp and weft yarns crossing one another. Most are one weft crossing one warp yarn, a 1/1 weave. When two warp yarns cross one weft yarn, this can be indicated as 2/1 weave. 2/2 weave has two warp yarns crossing two weft yarns. These fractions are read, for example, “three up, one down” for 3/1, indicating that three weaving harnesses are raised, then one is lowered for three warp yarns on the face, then one weft yarn. There are many 1/1, plain weave fabrics. Here are percale and plain weave wool flannel as examples: These are also called balanced plain weaves in that the warp and weft yarns are the same number per inch and are of the same size and character. When you see a balanced plain weave fabric with the same multiple of yarns in both warp and weft, you have an example of basket weave. The most basic basket weave is 2/2. This is a 2/2 wool basketweave: Here's a late 40s coat made of wool in a basketweave. It takes getting up close to see that weave: Here's a 4/4 fabric called monk's cloth. Monk's cloth is a natural oatmeal cotton fabric woven in a 4/4 basket weave (there may be more than four yarns in each direction), making for a rough, heavy, coarse and saggy cloth. It may have gotten the name from being used in monasteries as a penitent’s sack cloth garment. It was originally also made of flax, jute or hemp. The fabric is less commonly dyed or woven in stripes or plaids. Also called abbot’s cloth, belfry cloth, bishop’s cloth, cloister cloth, druid’s cloth, friar’s cloth and mission cloth. I've heard of clothes being made of this fabric, but it seems pretty rare. Remember our friend twill from last week? An even 2/2 twill uses 2 yarns in the weft and 2 yarns in the warp. The fabric will have a 45º diagonal line and the fabric will show the diagonal equally on the face and reverse. Examples are wool serge, twilled wool flannel, and authentic tartans and district checks. Here's an authentic Buchanan tartan: Wool serge: Maybe we can get into the fabrics that are not balanced/even more next week. We seem to get the most out of questions and comments, so let's have some please!