Catena, Disegna e Variante

These three words are what go into the color variation, and pattern of your typical woven tie.

But first lets understand the difference between a woven and a printed.

Your tie’s design can be made by one of two ways.  Either it was woven into the silk or the design was imprinted onto the tie after the silk threads are woven into one large piece of silk.  This is the basic difference between a woven tie or a printed tie.  There are many ways that one can tell the difference between the two without deconstructing the tie.  Firstly, if the tie has a detailed design or many colors on it then most probably its printed.  If the ties hand is hard (when you touch the tie its got a stiff feel  i.e. it doesn’t bend and drape that naturally or will hold a shape that you pinch into the silk,  then its probably woven.  Softer then it could be printed.

Finally, if you get a glimpse into the underside of the tie you will be able to tell almost conclusively  if its printed or woven.  What does the underside of the silk look like?  Is it all one color and smooth or does it look like alot of unfinished threads in colors entirely not like what you see on the face of the tie.  If its the former then its probably printed.  If its the latter then its most definitely woven.

Here are some pictures of silks used in ties that I carry.  The bottom swatch in each picture is what the tie actually looks like.

Note that the front of the tie looks totally different than the underside.  The threads running across in the first tie occasionally pop up to the front of the tie and make the pin dot pattern you see in the bottom picture.   The bigger the pattern the more the under threads will appear on the face of the tie, popping up to say hello and then diving back down until the next appointed place where they will pop up again until they complete the pattern.  In fact in this first picture the gold you see dominant on the top swatch is merely because its a small contributor to the actual silk design of the tie and is relegated to spending most of its life in obscurity under the tie, contenting itself to peek out in the form of stripes on the ties front.

Here the coral of the top swatch is used as the catena of the satin on the bottom swatch giving a reddish tinge to the gold stripe and creating peach.

Here the blue stripe courses through the tie and pops up now and again to manifest itself as  the blue pin dot on the white field.

Which is better?  Its hard to compare as it’s entirely a matter of personal preference.  Generally a woven will make a thicker knot (all depending though on the thickness of the weave and the interlining of the tie) and a printed will have a more intricate design.  However one thing you will gain in a weave which you won’t in a printed is mutiple dimensions.  What I mean by that is by virtue of the fact that more than one color is woven into the silk often to create the field (the base color) of the tie. depending on the way in which the silk is held you might get see color hue .  This brings me to the title of the post, Catena, Disegna e Variante.  +

Catena is the Italian silk weavers word the base color.  Although this might not appear on the face of the tie directly, it will influence the color of the tie.

Disegna is the design or the pattern.  this is whats woven into the tie.

e = and

Variante – is the variation.  Usually that is the color that combines with the catena to produce the color you see on the face of the tie.  Generally when we purchase our silks we are given one large piece of silk with 6-8 different Catena running across the underside and the manner and colors which are woven in to the catena will produce hundreds of different variations on that single 2 Meter square fabric.

We have now given a little background so you can understand as to why I wasn’t that keen on the dark purple tie with the brown suit.

Bob, I will wrap it up tomorrow.

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Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 4:03 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Tie By Tie 23 (Going where others can’t) Woven silks are nice but for colors and designs, its difficult for a weave to go where twill prints go. Thats why you will find many designers using twills to get their designs from the mind onto the silks. (For more on woven silks vs printed see this post) […]


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