Textile Design Terminology

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

This lesson introduces the basic terminology for textile design, spanning start to finish in the production process. Terms are separated into categories such as material, components, process, weaves, and finishes to aid retention.

Basics of Textile Design

To better understand textile design, you must first understand the industry terms, some of which are not used the same way in everyday language. This lesson focuses on basic terminology which will provide the groundwork for later study in more complex textile design. To aid in comprehension and memorization, these terms are broken up into related categories of materials, components, production, weaves, and finishes.


Materials refer to the basic components of textile production, the source components of the fabric.

  • Natural Fiber - These are textiles created from raw materials found in nature. While humans may alter these materials through treatments and dyes, they originate in the natural world. Examples include wool, cotton, leather, silk, jute, and even asbestos which comes from a mineral.
  • Synthetic Fiber - These are textiles that are woven from man-made materials, often from a petroleum and plastic base. They include common fabrics like polyester and rayon.

Natural and Synthetic Sources
Cotton and lab equipment


From the production materials, textile producers create components of fabric. Terms in this section discuss the basic components and associated terms.

  • Fibers - This is the basic component of any textile. Fibers are small, hair-like strands of natural or synthetic material that is bound together to create yarns thick enough to weave.
  • Yarn - Yarn is not just the skeins you buy in the craft store. In textile design and production, yarn refers to any long strand of fibers bound together for the purpose of weaving or knitting into cloth.
  • Blend - Blends are yarns made from fibers of two or more different materials and may include both natural and synthetic fibers.
  • Selvage - When weaving the cloth, manufacturers use a stronger yarn, more tightly woven to avoid unraveling of the finished fabric. This is usually a very narrow band that is discarded when cutting pattern pieces.

Warp and Weft Strands
Warp and Weft

  • Warp - In a basic weave, yarns are interlaced in a horizontal and vertical pattern. The warp includes all the yarn strands running the length of the fabric, parallel to the selvage. These are stronger and more prominent than the weft yarns.
  • Weft - In a woven fabric, these strands of yarn run the width of the cloth, perpendicular to the warp strands and the selvage. These are usually weaker yarns than the warp strands.
  • Yardage - This term refers to the length of any piece of fabric.


This section introduces terms necessary to understanding how a textile is produced from the parts of fibers and yarns.

  • Weave - This refers to both the process of combining yarns by intertwining warp and weft strands as well as the pattern used to intertwine them. There are three basic patterns (plain, satin, and twill) which we will define later.


  • Loom - This is the device used to weave fabrics, holding the warp strands of yarn while interlacing the weft strands using a shuttle. For a manual loom, people physically move the weft strands in place, but most fabric production today uses mechanical looms.
  • Beating-Up - This is the final step of loom production where the last strand is beaten into position to create a tightly woven end.
  • Greige Fabric (pronounced greyzh) - This is a fabric fresh off the loom before subjected to any finishing processes of treating or dying.


As promised, we will now address the three main types of weaves, known as plain, satin, and twill.

weave examples

  • Plain Weave - This is the most basic weave pattern in which weft strands alternate passing over a warp strand, then under the next warp strand.
  • Satin Weave - This style uses more weft strands than warp strands, creating a face that is almost completely weft yarn and appearing extremely smooth.
  • Twill Weave - This weave uses diagonal intersections to create a staggered pattern of the warp strands.


  • Finish - This can mean one of three different things in the textile industry.

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