Weaving is one of the oldest and most popular methods of textile production. Sunbrella uses solution dyed acrylic fibers to manufacture fabric that is used in a variety of applications, like decorative pillows, furniture, boat upholstery, drapery, and shade structures. The fiber, yarn, and weave structure used affects the characteristics of a woven fabric. Through our state-of-the-art weaving process, we see how different weaves create multiple unique products, all held at the same quality standard.
What’s the difference between woven and printed fabrics?
On a base level, weaving is a fabric construction method that interlaces two or more sets of yarn to form a two-dimensional woven fabric. Texture, the essence of woven fabrics, is incorporated through the types of weaves used and resources like novelty yarns that are integrated to provide more dimension than a printed fabric.
Types of Yarn
When comparing a printed fabric to a woven fabric, there are two main differences: a woven pattern is made up of various yarn colors interlaced to form a pattern, whereas with a printed fabric, color is applied on the face of fabric to form patterns. The main benefits of woven fabric are the texture and dimension, whereas printed fabrics tend to be flat. Sunbrella woven fabrics offer UV resistance that printed fabrics cannot. Prints can also fade easily in the sun, but Sunbrella fabrics last for years in the elements.
From fiber to fabric, Sunbrella follows an intricate process to create the fabric that you know and trust today. Here’s what our manufacturing process looks like step-by-step:
Fiber: Sunbrella performance goes beyond the surface. It all starts with color to the core – durable fibers are saturated with UV-stable pigments and spun into yarn, creating color that lasts. This gives Sunbrella fabrics high-performance qualities like fade resistance and bleach cleanability.
Carding: “Opening” and aligning the fiber in preparation for yarn production. This is done by a machine to separate the fiber.
Sliver: A long bundle of fiber that is used to spin yarn. A sliver is created by carding or combing the fiber, which is then drawn into long strips where the fiber is parallel in preparation for yarn production.
Roving: When sliver is drawn further and given a slight twist, it becomes roving. Roving is the long bundle of fiber that will produce the yarn once it is spun.
Yarn Production: The yarn spinning process brings fibers together by machine, providing different qualities and creating different yarn structures. Factors such as the length of the fiber, yarn count, and twist direction can all contribute to the appearance, strength, and other properties of the fabrics.
Warping: Arranging of yarns in parallel lengths onto a beam in preparation for weaving. The finished beam is known as a warp. Once the warp is completed it is mounted on a loom where it can be converted to fabric.
Weaving: Woven fabrics are created on a loom by combining warp and weft yarns. The warp yarns are raised and lowered by the machine in order to create a path across the width of the warp called a shed opening. Once the shed is open the weft yarns are inserted through the path. The way that the warp ends are raised and lowered combined with the color/type of weft yarn being inserted allows for the presentation of different colors, patterns, and textures in the fabric.
Warp and weft: The warp yarns run up and down the length of the fabric, and weft yarns run across the width of the fabric.
Inspection: Fabric goes through an inspection process after it is woven on the loom. This is to ensure the fabric is uniform and meets all specific quality parameters.
Types of Weaves
Now that we have walked through the process, let’s take an in-depth look at a few different types of basic weave structures that form the fabrics you might be familiar with. Let’s check out how different structures can change the hand, appearance, and overall properties of the fabric.
Plain weave: The simplest and most basic woven fabric construction. To produce it, every other end of the warp is raised up and every other end is lowered during each cycle. When these ends are at the highest or lowest point of the cycle the weft yarn is inserted. On the next cycle the warp ends that were up go down and the ends that were down go up. Again, when they reach the high and low point another weft end is inserted. This is what creates the over and under weave. Also, on each cycle, once the weft end is inserted the reed comes forward and beats the weft yarn tightly into the fabric. Plain weave is the most balanced weave and offers a smooth surface of saturated color. You can see from the above example how two different colored yarns come together to create the color you see presented.
Basket weave: A derivation of a plain weave, a basket is when two or more weft and/or warp yarns weave side by side as one yarn to create a checkerboard effect. A basket weave is another weave that is balanced. The color is more cohesive, with a bit more variance than a plain weave.
Twill weave: A twill weave is distinguished by diagonal lines. The simplest twill is created by the weft crossing over two warp yarns, then under one, the sequence being repeated in each succeeding shot, but stepped over, one warp either to the left or right. Denim is the most familiar type of twill. With a twill weave, there is more saturation of color of the moving yarn and drape better than plain weaves with the same yarn count because they have fewer interlacings.
Jacquard weave: When the pattern is woven directly into the fabric, rather than embroidered, printed, or stamped onto the fabric. Unlike printed designs, the woven pattern won't fade or wear off your garments. Jacquards can be one or multiple colors and range from simple to complex patterns.
Weaving at Sunbrella
Weaving is such an essential component of what makes Sunbrella fabrics so unique. Without our weaving process, our products couldn’t tout the attributes that we are so proud of today. Because performance is woven into our fabrics, the quality of product is much higher and longer lasting. Learn more about what makes Sunbrella the leader in performance fabric.