What is the difference between spinning and weaving?

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Both spinning and weaving are traditional textile skills. These two activities are both related to the making of fabric, but spinning is focused on the creation of yarns or threads which are later used in other processes such as weaving or knitting. Spinning is often done with natural fibers such as wool, flax, cotton or silk. Natural fibers have organic variations in texture, and so spinning these fibers into thread or yarn smooths the inconsistencies while giving strength and retaining flexibility. The most ancient method of machine spinning is the drop spindle, but the spinning wheel has dominated since the 13th century.

Weaving is the art of layering yarns or threads in a crosswise pattern to create continuous lengths of fabric, including patterned weaves and ribbons. Weaving is most often executed on a loom. Looms may vary in size and can be operated by hand or automated. Some woven fabrics are what is known as "loose weave." This type of weave is often used with flax fibers to make linen or with finely spun cotton to make gauze.

Spun yarns may also be used to make knit fabrics. Most knitwear available commercially is made with a special machine; hand-knit clothing can be bulkier bulkier depending upon the type of yarn. Hand-knit sweaters may be made of any fiber but are most commonly made of wool or other yarns such as cotton or ramie. Machine-knit fabrics may also be made of many different fibers both natural and synthetic, including silk, cotton, rayon, and polyester. Knitted fabric (such as jersey) "drapes" with a softer "hand" than woven fabric, making it often desirable in the fashion industry.

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Spinning and weaving are two steps in the production of textiles.  The most basic difference between them is their process and purpose.  Spinning is the process of making thread out of raw fibers.  Weaving is the process of taking threads and making them into cloth.

To make threads, a person would need to take the raw materials (wool or cotton, for example) and spin them.  This was done with a spindle or distaff in ancient times and then eventually through the use of a spinning wheel.

But that only gives you a single thread.  In order to make cloth, many threads must be woven together.  This process requires a loom.  In weaving, a single thread is interlaced over and over again with a set of threads that run the other way.  When this has been done enough times, the result is a piece of woven cloth.

So spinning is an earlier step in textile production--the purpose is the making of thread.  Weaving is a later step--the purpose is the making of cloth.

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