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    AUTHOR:     Emery, Irene
    TITLE:      The primary structures of fabrics : an illustrated
                   classification / by Irene Emery.
    PUBL.:      New York : Watson-Guptill Publications/Whitney Library of
    FORMAT:     xxvi, 341 p. : ill. ; 31 cm.
    DATE:       1995
    SUBJECT:    Textile fabrics--Classification.
    ISBN:       0823043940 :
    CONTENTS:   Includes bibliographical references (p. 259-308) and index.
    RID #:      ocm30437380

In the majority [of fabrics], separate "elements" (each with its own structural makeup) are systematically interworked to form a coherent material. The particular nature and order of the interworking (the pattern or grouping of elements) is what distinguishes one such fabric from another, and consequently classification of the structures rests on classification of the systems of interworking. For this it is necessary, first, to determine the number of elements or sets of elements on which each system is based.

ELEMENT - a component part or unit of the structure of an interworked fabric. The term refers to yarn, thread, strand, cord, thong, or whatever natural or contrived unit of fibers or filaments is interworked to form a fabric.

SET OF ELEMENTS - a group of such components all used in a like manner, that is, functionally undifferentiated and trending in the same direction. Whenever certain elements are differentiated from others in the same fabric, either in the direction they take, or by the purpose they serve in the structure, they constitute a separate set of elements.

Classified on the basis of the number of elements or sets of elements that are interworked, fabric structures fall into four main categories:

single-element structures,
two-single-element structures,
one-set-of-element structures,
two-or-more-sets-of-element structures.

A single-element structure is made up of a single continuous element interworked with itself....

A two-single-element structure is made up of two functionally distinct elements, the passages of one interworked and secured by the stitches of the other....

In one-set-of-element structures a minimum of three functionally undifferentiated elements have a common directional trend and are interworked with each other.

In two-or-more-sets-of-element structures there is a basic minimum of two sets (warp and weft) which differ from each other in the direction they take in the fabric. The last named category is large and immensely varied...

A. Single Element

A fabric structure can be built up by the repeated interworking of a single continuous element with itself. The structure is based on the formation of rows (or courses) of "stitches" of varying types and degrees of complexity, into which successive rows are worked. It is classified according to the type of connection that the element makes with the previous row...

It is possible to develop any of the single element fabric structures in either of two ways:

spirally to form cone-shaped, tube-shaped, or flat circular fabrics; or

back and forth in the same plane to produce square, rectangular or otherwise shaped fabrics.

1. Linking (presented for background and comparison MB)

In "simple linking" (fig 7) successive rows of running "open loops" are formed by a stitch like that known in sewing as overcasting or whipping. Each row is formed by a progressive spiraling of the element round the portions between the stitches of the previous row. The meshes tend to be elongated and the openings may be barely perceptible unless the fabric is spread (as in figures 7 and 8) or the element is stiff enough to retain the openings. The two faces [front and back sides] are identical.

fig 7
figure 7. Simple linking.

Variation: Link and twist The link is made firmer by the addition of a twist, that is, by taking a complete turn (two overcasting stitches or a "round turn") round the element in the previous row (figure 8)....

fig 8
figure 8. Link and twist (or twisted linking). (The twist shown here occurs when you give the bubbles an extra twist or two while connecting them. This extra wrap of latex is hidden down between the bubbles. MB)

NOTE: the structures produced row after row by one continuous element in linked fabrics are identical with those developed vertically by means of a set of elements in interlinking. Unless ends and edges of the fabric are intact, it may be impossible to determine the process of construction from the evidence of the specimen.

B. Two Single Elements

Fabric structures composed of two single but differentiated elements are closely related to those of only one. The two-element structures are effected by interworking the linking or looping stitches of a single element with a second or "foundation" element. The element which forms the stitches is the active or sewing element. The other one is used concurrently as a relatively passive foundation or support, round or through which the stitches are formed by the sewing element.

Although the two elements are clearly differentiated in function, they may or may not differ in quality or in kind.... In laces and many net-like fabrics the same thread or cord is used for both the sewing and foundation, but an identical fabric structure may be found (in a basket for example) in which the sewing element is relatively fine and flexible while the foundation element is a large and somewhat rigid unit often of complex make-up. Such qualitative differences in the elements are important items for descriptive analysis but should not be allowed to affect the identification of the structural type.

Classification of two-single-element structures is based primarily on the structure of the stitch, secondarily on the way it is used.... Two-single-element structures, like the single-element ones from which they derive, can be developed either back and forth in the same plane, or round and round to form flat spiral, cone, or tube shapes.

Note on the classification of a related structure:

Wrapping one element round another is one of the most elementary methods of fastening separate units together or adding unit to unit in the construction of fabrics. Linking (see previous explanation and figure) is primarily a fastening of one passage of a single element to another by repeatedly and at regular intervals "wrapping," or winding, it part or all the way round the previous passage.

In linking on a foundation (figure 57) successive passages of one element are secured by being wrapped in a similar running-spiral fashion by a second element. In both these structures, the general directional trend of the wrapping element is the same as that of the element it repeatedly wraps.

fig 57
figure 57. Simple linking on a foundation element (interlocked stitches)

But there is also a kind of wrapping in which one element successively crosses and encircles each of a series of elements running at more or less right angles to it. Wrapping of this sort (the Hardy method used for sunbursts/lanterns MB) can be described as progressive. It is extensively used, and with such freedom and diversity of application that it is exceptionally difficult to classify. References to it should identify both the essential structure (wrapping) and its particular application.... Each particular example of the use of wrapping can be individually classified according to its particular combination of elements or sets of elements - as two single elements, two sets of elements, a single element on a foundation set, a set of elements wrapping a single foundation element, and so on. (THE HARDY/MOSS METHOD IS A TWO-SINGLE-ELEMENT STRUCTURE, COMPRISED OF A SINGLE "ACTIVE" OR "SEWING" ELEMENT PROGRESSIVELY WRAPPING A SINGLE "PASSIVE" FOUNDATION ELEMENT. MB)

fig 64
Fig 64 - Horizontal wrapping on vertical elements. Plain (above) and countered (below). (The wrapping shown here occurs when you twist the bubbles together to connect them. This wrap of latex is hidden down between the bubbles. MB)

C. One Set of Elements

Classification rests on the four essentially different ways in which the undifferentiated elements of a single set can be interworked:

1. Interlinking (or plaiting), which is interworking by means of the simple connection between parts that is termed linking in single-element structures, and called interlinking when it is used in the multiple action of interconnecting the elements of a single set.

2. Oblique interlacing (or braiding) which is a flat, over-and-under interworking, the nature of which is frequently the same as that of interwoven warp and weft elements, but which is clearly distinguished (if there is an edge intact) by the oblique crossings of the elements and their common directional trend.

3. Oblique twinning in which pairs of elements, twining about each other, enclose elements on the opposite diagonal course.

4. Interknotting (or macrame')...

A single set of undifferentiated elements, particularly with free-hanging ends, offers almost unequaled opportunity for varying the manipulation of the elements at will and for combining different types of structure in a single fabric. Although the one-set-of-element structures are especially appropriate for narrow fabrics, very few of them are restricted to that use.

1. Interlinking (plaiting)

The terms "interlinking" and "plaiting" are not always considered equivalent because plaiting is not only used but defined in quite contradictory ways.... many definitions relate plaiting to braiding, although agreement on the relationship is lacking... Plaiting is also defined as synonymous with weaving "when all weaving elements are of like quality." Since this presumably refers to "finger-weaving" or "weaving without a loom," it is a method of handling elements that is being called plaiting, not a fabric structure.

It seems that before the term plaiting can be used effectively its meaning will have to be clarified and its connotations differentiated from those of braiding and weaving. For example, by limiting the term plaiting to one-set-of-element structures in which the elements interlink with adjacent ones (figures 66-71), and the term braiding to those one-set structures in which the elements interlace with each other obliquely (figures 72-77), both terms would be given more precise meaning and the term "weaving" could be used without ambiguity to denote warp-weft interlacing of two-or-more-sets-of-elements.

Interlinking is the structure produced by the link type of connection between undifferentiated elements of a single set. ***Elements consistently link with adjacent or nearly adjacent ones on either side, and change their relative positions only slightly throughout the fabric. In the simplest form of interlinking (figure 66), each element zig-zags back and forth, linking alternately with one to the right and one to the left.***

fig 66
figure 66. Interlinking or plaiting (crossing right over left)


One widely used variation of interlinking is effected by the addition of one or more twists to the link (figure 70). It is used at times for entire fabrics, at times in conjunction with plain interlinking for openwork effects and textural variety.

fig 70
figure 70. Interlinking with an added twist in one row of links. (The twist shown here occurs when you give the bubbles an extra twist or two while connecting them. This extra wrap of latex is hidden down between the bubbles. MB)

Another common device for creating open spaces is the omission of certain links in the regular order of interlinking (figure 71). These and other variations are sometimes combined to produce intricate and beautiful patterning in structurally simple fabrics.

fig 71
figure 71. Open space created by the omission of one link in the regular order of interlinking.

2. Oblique Interlacing (braiding)

Interlacing..., this over and under crossing of elements will produce the coherence necessary for a fabric without fastening one element to another by any sort of linking, looping, wrapping or knotting. When undifferentiated elements with a common starting point are interlaced, the course of the elements is oblique to the edges of the fabric and the structure differs from that of interlinking not only in the nature of the interworking but in the fact that changes in direction usually occur only at the edges of the fabric where the elements turn back on the opposite diagonal (figure 73).

The general principles of oblique interlacing are exemplified in its simplest manifestation, the three strand braid...

Oblique interlacing and weaving are both forms of interlacing, and whenever the order of interlacing is the same in both, the same term is likely to be used to designate it. Nevertheless, the structural types are different and the distinction should be evident in the designation. The common starting point and directional trend of the elements - elements that are oblique to the edges of the fabric and do not necessarily cross each other at right angles - distinguish oblique interlacing from weaving proper, even when the order of the interlacing is the same.

Figure 72 shows a plain oblique interlacing entirely comparable to a plain-weave textile except for the oblique trend of all the elements without differentiation. Figure 73 shows the turn of the elements at the edges of the fabric.

fig 72
figure 72. Plain oblique interlacing, or plain braiding.

fig 73
figure 73. Loose worked construction of plain oblique interlacing, showing change of direction at the edges.

3. Oblique twining

In descriptions of fabric structure, the term twine is so commonly used to denote a turning of two or more elements about each other so as to enclose other elements, that it should be restricted to that use. The term twist will then distinguish a simple turning of two or more elements about each other without enclosing others.

To twist: to combine two or more elements by winding together

To twine: to enclose one or more elements in the twisting of two or more others.


In oblique twining, pairs of elements moving on an oblique course enclose elements moving on the opposite diagonal as they twine about each other. The elements may be proceeding singly or in pairs, but in either case, the oblique twining is said to be single if, in a given area, the twining elements all move on one diagonal while the elements on the opposite diagonal are all passively enclosed. In single oblique twining, then, all elements necessarily change their roles when they turn at the edge of the fabric to proceed on the opposite diagonal. (figure 78)

fig 78
figure 78. Diagrammatic construction of single oblique twining, (twining on only one diagonal at a time).


Oblique twining can be described as double when the elements consistently function in pairs and twine continuously on both diagonals (figure 79). There is no "change of roles"...

fig 79
figure 79. Diagrammatic construction of double oblique twining, (twining on both diagonals) when one twining pair encloses another.

Notes on the use of terms

Interlinking - Plaiting

The ambiguity of the term plaiting was discussed briefly, and a clearer distinction between the meanings of plaiting, braiding and weaving was suggested as a way of making it possible to use plaiting for precise designation of the type of interworking known as interlinking. At present, the term plaiting is so commonly used for general reference to any interworking of elements accomplished without mechanical aids, and has, in addition, so many less general but extremely variant uses, that it conveys no exact concept.

A rapid survey of some 50 definitions and explanations of the term reveals that the most common distinction made between plaiting and other interworking is based on the premise that plaiting is constructed with a single set of undifferentiated elements. This distinction is more-or-less ambiguously expressed in a variety of ways: "the elements are all active and passive at different times," "no elements are passive," ... On the other hand, plaiting is quite often explained as the "basketry equivalent of weaving" and the term weaving implies at least two sets of elements differentiated in direction if not necessarily in quality.

Differentiation between plaiting and weaving is variously said to be based on the nature (quality) of the elements, on the absence of a loom, on the oblique rather than parallel relationship of "both sets of elements" to the edges of the fabric, or on the use of only "one group of elements" as opposed to the "two groups" used in weaving.... [various uses of "plaiting" mentioned] In many of these terms, plaiting may only be meant to imply the absence of a loom or any use of implements.

These few examples of the diversity with which the term plaiting is defined and used are enough, perhaps, to demonstrate the importance of greater restraint in appropriating the term for special uses, and the real necessity of making the exact meaning clear whenever it is used. For precise designation of structure, the term interlinking is less subject to misinterpretation than plaiting, and... has the virtue of being reasonably explicit. With either term, clear representation of the structures referred to should accompany description of particular examples.

Braiding - Braids - Oblique Interlacing
The term braiding is obviously subject to some of the same confusion of interpretation as plaiting. The two terms are, in fact, peculiarly intermixed in use, although braiding is less apt to be used as a designation of interworking without the use of implements, and is more consistently associated with one-set-of-element constructions....

If all specific association with narrow bands and cords is restricted to the word braid, braiding can be used to designate both the process and structure of all oblique interlacing, But until and unless the term braiding is clearly associated with interlacing of a single set of elements as contrasted with other forms of interworking, "oblique interlacing" seems to be the only explicit term for the structure.