The pick ( sometimes called the shot) is used to describe the density of a cloth, i.e. the number of picks per cm is the number of times the shuttle has crossed the loom to lay down weft threads.
The shuttle takes the weft thread across the loom through the ‘shed’, the gap between the warp threads. At each end it weaves around the last thread, so creating the selvedge that holds the cloth together. On its return, at the end of the next pick, the opposite selvedge is secured.
We often refer to this as the ‘thread count.’ The talk of the cognoscenti of the bedding world – it sometimes seems that hotels suggest the level of care and comfort they offer, and by default your enjoyment of the experience, on the thread count of their sheets. Whether they are made by Frette or Porthault, or Irish linen… The thread count and the fibre are closely linked; only the finest fibre, of course, can be woven to the highest thread count. So a high thread count means the best fabric, which means a comfortable night’s sleep. A good sheet that feels lovely and crisp to get into, that will soften a little as you sleep in it, to return to normal after the next laundering.
The number of picks does potentially tell us quite a lot about the fabric, but without knowing the fibre as well there is little to make a judgement on. However if, with a given fabric – such as the same weight of linen, we know that one has a higher pick than the other, we can gauge their different properties – in terms of the drape, the density, the hand, the durability, and therefore something of the suitability for purpose.
So the pick clearly plays a crucial part in the design of fabric, it’s qualities and the set up of the loom – essentially, less picks for a loosely woven, rustic cloth and more for tightly woven industrial weight fabric.