What's a Moire?

by Melissa Wolck

Moire, pronounced MOORE-A, comes from the French word moiré meaning water. This distinct watery or wave-shaped pattern can be achieved through a finishing process performed after weaving, printed on top of a base cloth or woven into a fabric from the start. 

A true moire or Moiré Antique is attained by performing a finishing process to a ribbed fabric such as a faille cloth. The fabric is folded so that the face is touching and the ribs are slightly offset. It is then passed through heated rollers causing the ribs to crush one another where they are pressed together. As a result, the flattened areas reflect light differently than the raised areas do, giving the fabric a woodgrain or watermark apperance. The results of this particular finishing process is truly unique. The pattern is irregular, making it a one of a kind piece. As you can imagine, this process although ancient, can get pretty pricey, since each piece is handcrafted.

Check out a video of the traditional moire process here.

Moiré Antique, a moire fabric with a pronounced irregular effect. 

Another more cost effective way to achieve a moire effect, is by using a metal roller with a moire pattern engraved into it. The technical term for this process is Moiré Français. Fabric, typically one with a horizontal rib, is embossed with the moire design by pressing the fabric with a heated engraved metal roller. This creates a beautiful ripple pattern on the face of the fabric.

Click here to see a short video of this technique.

Moiré Français, a striped effect produced by a metal roller. B2913 Light Gold/B2931 Canyon

As with most popular patterns, the watermark design can be imitated by basic printing methods ie. screen print or digital. To create a more textural effect, textile designers have incorporated the moire pattern into the actual weave of the fabric. This is accomplished by varying the tension of the warp and weft yarns. Take a look at the construction below.

Woven Moire Pattern B1188 Peacock/B1178 Geranium

The moire pattern has been around for centuries and continues to be a favorite among interior and fashion designers. There have been many, many variations of moire fabrics produced with a myriad of patterns, fiber contents, and processes; solids, silks, cotton blends and printed moire fabrics. Below is my favorite moire pattern from Greenhouse Fabrics, B2092 GEMSTONE. A bold floral print enriched with a bright red woven moire base cloth creates the ultimate statement fabric! 

Browse our moire fabrics to incorporate into your next interior design.