There are many kinds of weaves, starting with a basic single layer plain weave and evolving into infinitely complex weave structures. Many traditional weave pattterns are well known to weavers by their traditional names such as overshot and twill.
The majority of commercial fabrics are woven on computer controlled Jacquard looms. In the past, simpler fabrics were woven on dobby looms and the Jacquard looms were reserved for more complex patterns but as computer controlled Jacquard looms have become more popular it is more economical for mills to weave all of their fabrics on Jacquard looms so that one setup may be used for all of their designs.
History of Weaving
There are some indications that weaving was already known in the Palaeolithic. An indistinct textile impression has been found at Pavlov, Moravia. Neolithic textiles are well known from finds in pile dwellings in Switzerland. They are made of flax or tree bast, wool has only been attested since the Bronze Age. Plain weaves and tabbies predominate.
Enslaved women worked as weavers during the Sumerian Era. They would wash wool fibers in hot water and wood-ash soap and then dry them. Next, they would beat out the dirt and card the wool. The wool was then graded, bleached, and spun into a thread. The spinners would pull out fibers and twist them together. This was done by either rolling fibers between palms or using a hooked stick. The thread was then placed on a wooden or bone spindle and rotated on a clay whorl which operated like a flywheel.
The slaves would then work in three-woman teams on looms, where they stretched the threads, after which they passed threads over and under each other at perpendicular angles. The cloth was then taken to a fuller.
Mythology of weaving
See the entry Weaving (mythology).
Weaving in Colonial America
Weaving was not allowed by the British in Colonial America. Colonists were supposed to send unfinished goods like cotton and flax to Britain and buy finished cloth back from England. Nonetheless, many people wove cloth in Colonial America.
In Colonial times the colonists mostly used cotton and flax for weaving because the English would not send them sheep or wool. They could get one cotton crop each fall. Flax was harvested in the summer.
In preparing wool for weaving, colonists would first shear the sheep with spring back clippers. This was done while keeping the sheep's feet from touching anything so it would not try to break free. They would try to cut the wool off the sheep in one big chunk because that way they would get long fibers. Sheep-shearing was done in the spring so that the fleece would regrow in time for the winter.
After shearing, wool would be washed in hot water to get out the dirt and grease (lanolin), then carded, at which point it would be ready for spinning into yarn.
A card is a set of two brushes rubbed against each other with the fibre in the middle. The process of carding lines up all the fibres in the same direction, making the wool or cotton ready for spinning.
Cotton was harvested from little stalks. The cotton boll is white, roughly spherical and fluffy. Its seeds had to be removed before carding, a difficult and time-consuming process. ( later a "cotton gin" was invented which took a lot of the work out of seed removal.) After carding it would be ready for spinning.
Linen is made from flax fibre. To prepare flax for weaving, the stalks would be beaten with a scutching tool to crush them, and then pulled through a heckling comb to get it ready for spinning. A scutching tool looks like a paper cutter but instead of having a big knife it has a blunt arm. A heckling comb is like a brush with metal bristles that you pull flax stalks through.
After they spun the yarn, it would be dyed with berries, bark, flowers, herbs or weeds, often gathered by children.
With the yarn made, they would prepare the loom. The strings on a loom run in two directions. The yarn that is attached to the loom is called the warp, and the woof or weft is woven through it. The woof is wrapped around the shuttle, and woven alternately over and under the warp strings.
A plain weave was what most people liked in Colonial times. Almost everything was plain woven then. Sometimes designs were woven into the fabric but mostly designs were added after weaving. The colonists would usually add designs by using either wood block prints or embroidering.
The text below was originally at "Weavers weaving" and is to be integrated with this the above.
This entry incorporates text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897, with some modernization.
Weavers Weaving - Weaving was an art practised in very early times (Ex. 35:35). The Egyptians were specially skilled in it (Isa. 19:9; Ezek. 27:7), and some have regarded them as its inventors.
In the wilderness, the Hebrews practised it (Ex. 26:1, 8; 28:4, 39; Lev. 13:47). It is referred to in subsequent times as specially the women's work (2 Kings 23:7; Prov. 31:13, 24). No mention of the loom is found in Scripture, but we read of the "shuttle" (Job 7:6), "the pin" of the beam (Judg. 16:14), "the web" (13, 14), and "the beam" (1 Sam. 17:7; 2 Sam. 21:19). The rendering, "with pining sickness," in Isa. 38:12 (A.V.) should be, as in the Revised Version, "from the loom," or, as in the margin, "from the thrum." We read also of the "warp" and "woof" (Lev. 13:48, 49, 51-53, 58, 59), but the Revised Version margin has, instead of "warp," "woven or knitted stuff."
An enormous online resource of documentation is here. CDs may be purchased.  (http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/weavedocs.html)
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