The three main weaving structures are hira-ori, aya-ori and shusu-ori.
Hira-ori (plain weave), is the simplest and most commonly used weave structure. Weaving one weft thread over one warp thread and under the next, with each row alternating the order, results in an even, flat weave with no woven patterning.
Kasuri, originating from the ikat dyeing techniques of South-East Asia, involves resist-dyeing threads in predetermined areas according to the pattern design before weaving. The three designs possible in a plain weave are tategasuri (only the warp threads are design dyed), yokogasuri (only the weft threads are design dyed) and tateyokogasuri (both warp and weft are dyed). The name kasuri translates as grazed which refers to the grazed or blurred look of the pattern designs.
Notable variations of the plain weave are used in karami-ori, gauze weaving techniques grouped according to structure. The simplest of these weaves is called sha and involves the twisting of warp threads after each weft to create an open, yet firm, fabric. This is followed by the more complex ra, in which warp threads run at diagonal angles to the weft. Ro combines the plain weave with the sha weave to separate strips of densely woven material. These create light fabrics suitable for summer wear.
In aya-ori (twill weave), the weft passes over or under two or more warp threads, forming what is known as a float. Continually staggering the starting point of the weft to the one side creates a diagonal pattern. Longer floats are created when the weft passes over 4 or more warps.
In tate-nishiki (warp nishiki), the width of the cloth limits the use of colour warp threads to only a few and combined with a weft of a single colour for each row. Whereas in nuki-nishiki (weft nishiki), the pattern is driven by weaving of multicoloured weft threads to create luxurious designs. Nowadays, nishiki broadly refers to multicoloured woven fabrics. The production of nishiki is synonymous with Nishijin, where it is still handwoven today.
Originally, the term kara-ori described the fabrics imported from China but today it specifically refers to the solid yet extravagant garments worn for female roles in Noh theatre. This one example symbolises the strong relationship master craftsmen had with Noh theatre in creating elegant fabrics, sometimes exclusively, to be worn onstage. Coloured floating threads were initially used to lie on top of the fabric like embroidery, and this was later followed by strips of precious metal thread woven into the material. Patrons of the theatre helped finance lavish designs including kinran and ginran, fabric woven with gold and silver strips respectively against a monochrome background.
Shusu-ori(satin float weave) is characterized by the use of either long weft or long warp floats brought to the surface by alternating the crossing points of the threads to create a varied pattern.
The most commonly used of these fabrics is rinzu, patterned satin, which is light and smooth to the touch suitable for summer clothing or as a lining for winter wear.
A similar but heavier damask, donsu, relies on the contrast of the pattern directions to reveal its designs often intensified by using pre-dyed warp and weft threads of contrasting colours.
Technological advancements during the period of industrialisation drastically changed how fabrics were woven. The groundbreaking Jacquard loom, programmed by a series of punch cards, arrived in Japan in the 19th century and would replace the old style of looms. and with it some of the techniques were lost.