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Fabric Lab: Woven Piqué

Texture and a crisp hand go from formal to casual
Threads #198, Aug./Sept. 2018
Craft the perfect all-season tunic in lightweight cotton piqué. Pattern: StyleArc Juliet Woven Shirt. Fabric: cotton piqué, MoodFabrics.com.

If you’re a fan of classic, easy-to-sew textiles, you may already have discovered the beauty of woven piqué. This fabric offers a firm drape, stable hand, and pleasing surface texture.

Piqué denotes a fabric created on a dobby loom, which has a special attachment that enables the loom to produce fabrics with small, raised geometric patterns. Woven piqué is traditionally made from cotton yarns, and its surface may appear padded, quilted, or embossed.

Early history

Developed in England during the 18th century, piqué made a fine addition to the cotton industry. Also known as marcella, or piqué de Marseille, the weave was created to imitate the look of corded Provençal quilts, known as boutis, made in Marseille. In the 20th century, piqué became a staple in men’s fashion and is associated with men’s white-tie attire, particularly men’s dress shirt fronts and waistcoats. Piqué fabrics absorb more starch than plain weaves, resulting in a stiffer shirt front, desirable for formal occasions.

Weave structure

Piqué is a double-cloth fabric, composed of two layers, each with its own warp and weft, with a definite right and wrong side. It is composed of one warp of fine yarns and one warp of yarns approximately twice as thick. The fine warp is woven in a plain-weave structure on the face of the fabric, while the thicker warp yarns are woven on the back of the fabric in a much looser weave structure. The thick warp yarns are raised onto the surface of the fabric at intervals, which joins the two layers and forms horizontal ribs or vertical cords in the fabric.

Texture options

You’ll find piqué in a range of weights and designs, from fine, cross-grain ribs to geometric patterns. Small diamond shapes characterize bird’s-eye piqué, while larger diamond or…

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