Warp and weft

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Warp and weft in plain weaving
Senneh knot
The yellow yarn is the pile and the horizontal and vertical yarns are the warp and the woof.
A satin weave, common for silk; each warp thread floats over 16 weft threads.
A 3/1 twill, as used in denim

In weaving, the weft (sometimes woof) is the thread or yarn which is drawn through, inserted over-and-under, the lengthwise warp yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom to create cloth. Warp is the lengthwise or longitudinal thread in a roll, while weft is the transverse thread[1]. A single thread of the weft, crossing the warp, is called a pick. Terms do vary (for instance, in North America, the weft is sometimes referred to as the fill or the filling yarn).[2][3] Each individual warp thread in a fabric is called a warp end or end.[4][5]

The weft is a thread or yarn usually made of spun fibre. The original fibres used were wool, flax and cotton. Today, man-made fibres are often used in weaving. Because the weft does not have to be stretched on a loom in the way that the warp is, it can generally be less strong.

The weft is threaded through the warp using a "shuttle", air jets or "rapier grippers". Hand looms were the original weaver's tool, with the shuttle being threaded through alternately raised warps by hand. Inventions during the 18th century spurred the Industrial Revolution, with the "picking stick"[6] and the "flying shuttle" (John Kay, 1733) speeding up production of cloth. The power loom patented by Edmund Cartwright in 1785 allowed sixty picks per minute.[6]

A useful way of remembering which is warp and which is weft is: 'one of them goes from weft to wight'.[7]


The words woof and weft derive ultimately from the Old English word wefan, to weave. Warp means "that which is thrown away"[8] (Old English wearp, from weorpan, to throw, cf. German werfen, Dutch werpen).


Warp threads in tablet weaving

On a loom, the warp is the set of yarns or other elements stretched in place before the weft is introduced during the weaving process.The term is also used for a set of yarns established before the interworking of weft yarns by some other method, such as finger manipulation yielding wrapped or twined structures. In a finished fabric with two or more sets of elements, the warp is the longitudinal set.[9]

Very simple looms use a spiral warp, in which a single, very long yarn is wound around a pair of sticks or beams in a spiral pattern to make up the warp.[10]

Because the warp is held under high tension during the entire process of weaving and warp yarn must be strong, yarn for warp ends is usually spun and plied fibre. Traditional fibres for warping are wool, linen, alpaca, and silk. With the improvements in spinning technology during the Industrial Revolution, it became possible to make cotton yarn of sufficient strength to be used as the warp in mechanized weaving. Later, artificial or man-made fibres such as nylon or rayon were employed.

While most people are familiar with weft-faced weavings, it is possible to create warp-faced weavings using densely arranged warp threads. In warp-faced weavings, the design for the textile is in the warp, and so all colors must be decided upon and placed during the first part of the weaving process and cannot be changed. Warp-faced weavings are defined by length-wise stripes and vertical designs due to the limitations of color placement. Many South American cultures, including the ancient Incas and Aymaras used a type of warp-faced weaving called backstrap weaving, which uses the weight of the weaver's body to control the tension of the loom.[11]

Metaphorical use[edit]

The expression "woof and warp" (also "warp and woof", "warp and weft") is sometimes used metaphorically as one might similarly use "fabric"; e.g., "the warp and woof of a student's life" means "the fabric of a student's life." The expression is used as a metaphor for the underlying structure on which something is built. Warp or woof are also words found in the Bible in the discussion of mildews found in cloth materials in Leviticus 13:48-59.

In hairdressing[edit]

Weft is also a hairdressing term for temporary hair extensions. It can be attached to a person's hair in a couple of ways including cornrow braiding, using metal cylinders or gluing. The result is often called a weave.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Weft". The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. Washington, DC: George Washington University. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  2. ^ Burnham (1980), pp. 170, 179
  3. ^ Barber (1991), p. 79
  4. ^ Burnham (1980), pp. 170, 179
  5. ^ Barber (1991), p. 79
  6. ^ a b Aspin, Chris (1981). The Cotton Industry. Shire Library. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-85263-545-2. 
  7. ^ Burton, Anthony (2003). Guide to Britain's Working Past. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 136. ISBN 9780393325522. 
  8. ^ http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=warp
  9. ^ "Warp | The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum | The George Washington University". museum.gwu.edu. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  10. ^ Burnham (1980), p. 132
  11. ^ Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands, Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez
  12. ^ Walsh, Lynne. "Weft Hair Extensions". Hair Extensions by Hair Power. 
  13. ^ Glossary of hairdressing and hair styling terminology. Lee Stafford.com


  • Barber, E. J. W. (1991). Prehistoric Textiles. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00224-X. 
  • Burnham, Dorothy K. (1980). Warp and Weft: A Textile Terminology. Royal Ontario Museum. ISBN 0-88854-256-9.