What is a Pile Weave?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2019
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As a common form of textile weaving, the pile weave is a favorite technique when the situation calls for a material that is plush, yet resilient. It's used to make velvet, upholstery cloth, and carpeting, among other fabrics. This textile is made up of multiple layers that give it it's soft feel.

Creating this weave actually involves a process that establishes three different layers. The first layer is referred to as the ground fabric, which is the foundation for the pile and acts as the binder for the material. The second is composed of an interwoven layer of fibers that act as a cushion, creating a soft surface. The final layer is the actual pile and is created by running the fibers over metal rods or wires that creates a loop in the yard filaments. The looped yarn creates a raised effect that can be brushed back and forth with the hand; in many textile circles, this finished product is referred to as pile yarn.


Pile weave can be used to create a number of different types of textiles. Loop yarn is trimmed to create the fabric that is commonly referred to as velvet. This material can be used for all sorts of clothing items, as well as bedspreads, pillow shams, and even the backdrop for paintings that were so popular in years past. Because it is the process that creates the soft texture and not the actual fiber itself, this weave can be made from just about any natural or synthetic fiber.

The pile weave is especially popular in the manufacture of upholstery, particularly the cloth used in automobiles. Just as with the velvet material, the warped ends are cut short, leaving a slight nap that can be brushed back and forth with the hand. Often, sturdier synthetic fibers are used when creating the upholstery material, since the synthetic fibers tend to repel stains with more efficiency than many natural fibers.

Wall-to-wall carpeting is another textile that commonly uses this weave. The short loops are ideal for creating a soft feel underneath the feet and will tend to be easier to keep clean in comparison to some other types of floor covering. Along with the wall to wall carpeting, area rugs can be made with this method. In fact, many handmade Indian and Turkish rugs still employ the hand weaving techniques that were developed centuries ago to create the loop effect.

Other textile items also employ the pile weave technique. Terry cloth towels are produced with a pile knit composition, which not only makes the towels softer, but also more absorbent. Both wide line and think line corduroy is made using a form of pile weaving. Chenille bedspreads are another example of a durable yet comfortable item that is made possible by this technique.


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