Woven Words

A blog by Regal Fabrics

Dobby Fabric Defined: Small Patterns, Big Style

June 13, 2024

Did you know the invention of the dobby loom basically revolutionized the textile industry? It’s true! Read on to learn where dobby fabric came from, how it’s made, and best uses for durable, versatile dobby fabric in home furnishings and decor. 

What’s the history of dobby fabric?

Dobby fabric is named for the dobby loom, a specialized weaving machine invented in the early 19th century. The term “dobby” is thought to come from the word “dobbie,” which was a nickname for a mechanical loom attachment that simplified the weaving of small, geometric patterns. It also could be a corruption of the name for weavers’ helpers that controlled the warp thread by pulling on draw threads, “draw boys”. 

With the invention of the dobby loom, weavers could create complex designs with much greater efficiency, basically revolutionizing the textile industry! Unlike the Jacquard loom, which produces large, intricate patterns, the dobby loom is designed to weave small, repetitive patterns into the fabric. So manufacturing dobby fabric was ideal for producing a wide range of textures and designs less expensively because it greatly reduced the need for manual labor. 

How is dobby fabric made?

On a manual dobby loom, the weaver manipulates a chain of bars, typically 50, by inserting pegs into the shaft he wants to move. This allows for an intricate pattern sequences, but increases the chances the weaver will lose his place and make an error that ruins the entire cloth.

Computerized dobby looms raise and lower shafts electronically, controlled by the weaver using a computer to load and switch weave drafts remotely and accurately. Modern software also allows weavers to design fabric more intuitively with the ability to visualize the end product as it’s difficult to envision fabric patterns by looking at the dobby chain.

Popular dobby fabric designs feature small, subtle geometric patterns like dots, stripes, or diamonds. Dobby fabric often has a textured surface due to the small patterns, varying from smooth to slightly raised depending on the weave (see the subtle textures woven into some of Regal’s dobby fabrics in the image below). It’s made from a wide range of natural and synthetic fibers and blends including cotton, silk, and polyester.


What are the best uses for dobby fabric in home furnishings?

Dobby fabric’s intricate weaving process gives it a sturdy, durable structure which makes it a versatile choice for curtains, upholstery, and bedding. (In fact, some of Regal’s longtime upholstery fabric best-sellers are textured woven dobbies like R-TURBO & R-INDY!)

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Some Regal Fabrics Dobby Selections:

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