Well, it’s a bunch of threads that are interlaced (passed around each other) so they can’t escape! I might be oversimplifying here, but really that’s it, and in woven cloth the threads are at right angles to each other in a sort of grid (as I talked about in my post on weaving).
[For a more graceful – and thorough – description of cloth, see the Wikipedia entry for textile. I really like how they put it.]
Depending on the fibres used (think cotton), how densely fibres are packed together (think high thread-count sheets) and how they are interlaced (again think sheets), will give you cloth that’s:
- see through/solid
Another way to put it is that, the way the fabric hangs (the drape) and how it feels to touch and handle (the hand) are the result of a particular fibre (or fibres) being woven in a particular way.
In these images you have an ordinary cotton sheet and a cotton scarf.
Both are made of fine cotton thread, but one is much denser than the other. Because the scarf is less densely woven it is softer and has a lovely soft drape compared to the sheet. Why? A more open weave allows the threads to move a little.
Both of these cottons have a plain weave structure (simple over, under repeating), and this is one the two most common weaving structures. The other structure is twill, which I’ll come back to another time, but it’s important to understand that each structure gives the cloth certain characteristics.