Because of the dry conditions of the tombs, thousands of pieces of ancient textiles have survived in Egypt.
Information about the processes and methods of making textiles in Pharaonic Egypt can be obtained both from the samples of cloth that have been found and from depictions of the various stages of textile production from the sowing of the flax seed to the weaving of the material. Once fibers were removed from the plant or animal, they were spun and then woven into a textile. To produce long, useful threads, flax fibers were spun, or twisted together. This produced a long, cohesive thread that was slightly elastic. The technique of spinning in Ancient Egypt is seen as two distinct but related processes.
In the first stage, an initial loose twist was given to the flax fibers. In the second stage, the actual spinning of the fibers occurred to produce the thread. The spinning had three distinct stages: the drawing-out of the fibers, the twisting of the fibers, and the winding of the thread.
Once a spindle was set in motion, the spinner pulled or drew out a few fibers at a time from a mass. As the spindle turned the fibers, twist, or spin, was added. When there was sufficient twisted thread, the spindle was stopped and the thread was wound onto the spindle shaft. The most common form of spinning equipment used in Ancient Egypt was the hand spindle. It was made of a stick, which is called the shaft or spindle, with a weight, called the whorl.
The whorl acted like a flywheel, keeping the momentum of the spin regulated for speed and uniformity of motion. After the flax fibers were spun into a thread or yarn, they were ready to be woven into cloth. Weaving is the process of interlacing two or more sets of threads according to a predefined direction to produce all or part of a textile.
The first task was to remove the thread from the spindle and to warp the loom, which involves placing the warp threads, or vertical threads, in position on the loom with the threads pulled tight. Then the actual weaving commences. In Ancient Egypt, the range of weave forms, or patterns, seems to be limited to the types of weaves called tabby, basket, tapestry, and warp-pattern.
The most common weave from Ancient Egypt is the simple, or balanced, tabby weave, with an equal number of warp and weft, or horizontal, threads.
There are warp-faced tabby weaves, and weft-faced tabby weaves. A faced tabby weave has more threads in one direction than the other. Thus a warp-faced tabby has more warp than weft threads per centimeter or inch.