Friday, January 6, 2012

Warp Prints-Real & Fake

The print I called "The Schooner Minerva" in my Lately Arrived from London reproduction collection can be classified as an imitation warp-printed print. If this terminology is a mystery to you read on...
We have to start with the basics.
Fabric woven on a loom has a warp and a weft. The warp yarns are the long yarns that attach to the loom. Above: the vertical warp yarns are dark, the horizontal weft yarns are light. 
With that dark and light yarn setup the pattern would be similar to the above, something we might call a chambray.

Weavers obtain pattern by varying the colors in warp and weft, giving us woven stripes and plaids.

A warp-dyed pattern is obtained by using a variegated warp yarn. Above the warp yarns blend from dark to light. Many cultures maintain a tradition of warp-dyed pattern. We use the word ikat (ee'-kaht) to describe this style, a Malaysian word. Another, kasuri in Japanese (kuh-sur'-ee).

 Here's a blog post from a weaver on the topic

If the weaver uses variegated yarns in both warp and weft the pattern possibilities increase. This warp and weft dyed pattern can be called a double ikat. Knowing how the warp and weft yarns should be colored is a real skill.  
Yarn-dyed weaving patterns have a characteristic fuzzy edge. Above a geometric with the typical indefinite outline.

An Asian robe
The pattern possibilities vary with the collaborative skills of the weaver and the yarn dyer.

French weavers developed different looks
with expensive silks for luxury goods.
Here an antique overall floral, apparently warp dyed.

Florence Pettit in her 1970 book America's Printed and Painted Fabrics used the French word chiné (sheen-ay???) or flammé  (flahm-ay) for these French silks with woven pattern.

Late-18th-century Europeans inventing technology appreciated the traditional look but not the traditional skill so found faster, cheaper ways to get the effect

by printing imitations with blocks and rollers.
Above a late-19th century floral.  

These European fabrics have the characteristic diffused edges which makes them look out-of-focus from a distance. Many of these complex prints are both warp-dyed and weft-dyed. Sometimes the imitations are so good one has to flip the fabric over to see if it is printed or woven. If it's woven it will have the pattern on the reverse.
But if it's printed, like this reproduction, the back shows no evidence of variegated yarns. This could be called a warp-printed fabric, or an imitation ikat, I guess.

The document print from the early 19th century for this reproduction also has a fancy machine ground (sort of fingerprint whorls) a look not obtainable with weaving. Like many early roller prints, it's a layered extravaganza of new technology.

The fact that the style is imitation ikat or imitation warp dyed pattern really doesn't offer any clue to date. It's just interesting to think about the complexities of pattern on cloth.


  1. WOW, I loved this lesson on ikat. Never really gave the weaving or printing process much thought when shopping for fabrics, but this is going to give me a new perspective when I look at fabrics. Love this Lately com London rose!

  2. I love the Lately Arrived from London line!! I'm making a simple king size charm quilt from it. Mrs. Brackman, I'm trying to get information on how to care for some 1920s/1930s Grandmother's Garden Blocks that have been given to me. Not sure if I can finish what the maker started. If there's anyway you can contact me, I'd appreciate it. I'm not having any luck getting advice. Thanks!
    Lynn Frank
    North Carolina

  3. I love fabrics with patterns and always get confused about which was the warp and weft, now I might be able to keep that in my mind.


  4. this is great - thanks for the "edumacation" - was always curious about those "fake" ones. and it's interesting to see the different directions design can go from a given process/technique.

  5. Thanks for the informative blog concerning warp and weft. Have recently purchased Lately Arrived from London precuts and fabric yardage for a quilt. Just beautiful colors, too!!

  6. Hi Ms Brackman!

    I apologize for contacting you through your blog comments, but I've been unable to find your contact info. I'm the Vice President of the Front Range Modern Quilt Guild in Colorado and we are interested in having you speak to our guild. I'd love to hear about your availability as well as your speaking and travel fees. It would be a great honor to have you speak to us!

    traci @ realphotography.com (spaces removed)

  7. Hi Ms. Brackman,

    I was wondering if you could tell me where the late 19th century floral fabric is from. Did you find it in a book? A museum collection? Any info would be much appreciated!

    Thank you.
    cass @ ladycass.com