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Weaving. Part 6

Updated: Jun 4

The first step in the weaving process is of course the designing of the cloth - the determination of the look and feel, weight, type of wool and quality. Inspiration for cloths can be sporting, military, historical and naturally fashion.

The average weight of the cloths used for suits today has greatly diminished compared with twenty to fifty years ago. In the 1960s, cloth would generally weigh 400 to 600 grams per metre. Today the suiting collection of Dormeuil for example ranges from 190 grams to 360 grams. Heavier cloths are now only used for overcoats. The main reasons for this development are improved sheep breeding, spinning and weaving techniques and of course the demand for finer and shinier cloths.

Apart from the question of the design of the cloths, the number of threads per centimetre of cloth is also a consideration. The density of the yarn determines the durability, look and feel of the cloth. The English tend to go for cloths with a higher number of spun yarns to ensure quality and durability.

Cloth is woven on a loom, a device that holds the warp threads in place while filling threads are woven through them. The loom is set up with the warp threads running vertically. The weft threads run horizontally. (Weft is an Old English word meaning "that which is woven"). The warp threads are moved up or down by the harnesses, creating a space called the shed. The weft thread is wound onto spools called bobbins; these are placed in a shuttle that carries the weft thread through the shed The raising and lowering sequence of warp threads gives rise to many possible weave structures: plain weave, twill weave and satin weave.

Before the Industrial Revolution, weaving was a manual craft, usually undertaken part-time by home-based craftspeople. Looms might be broad or narrow; broad looms were too wide for the weaver to pass the shuttle through the shed, so the weaver needed an assistant. This ceased to be necessary after John Kay invented the flying shuttle in 1733, which also sped up the process of weaving. Tweeds are still woven on a 75 cm wide loom. Most cloths for suits are woven with a width of 140 cm and a length of about 65 metres; this is approximately enough for 28 suits. The fully automated computer-driven machines are monitored by staff to ensure that threads do not break during the weaving process. Thinner yarns will be woven at a lower (and therefore costlier) speed.

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