Woven Fabrics and Knit Fabrics: Properties and Qualities

Years ago, when I started studying fashion design, I knew very little about this new world that was opening in front of my eyes. The truth is that it is so vast and full of fundamental concepts when designing that I felt a bit overwhelmed. And no surprise there, because as long as I learned more and more, I discovered thousands of topics that a designer must know and handle to do the job efficiently. However, there is an essential issue to master when designing, and that is choosing the fabric. Moreover, because together with other factors, it becomes a fundamental aspect to evaluate for the correct implementation of a project. Even for the most experienced professionals, this issue can often cause headaches.

Technical Concepts

For this reason, it is always good to review some technical concepts and refresh them to ensure that, at least in our checklist of designing, the textile issue under control, and we do not make mistakes regarding the material we select.

In general, most people without technical knowledge in the textile area recognize there are different types of fabrics. They have garments made with them or just have appreciated the differences among them. However, not everyone knows why they are different or what are their names.
Since fabric classification is one of the first and most important technical notions to learn, let’s start from the beginning, establishing the differences and singularities.

We can divide textiles into three groups:

  1. Woven
  2. Knitted
  3. Non-Woven

In this article, we will address two of them: woven and knit fabrics.

Woven Fabrics

Starting with woven fabrics, we can say that it used to be one of the most frequently used materials to make clothing. However, with the incredible advances during the last decades and to seek for comfort and freedom of movement, knitted fabrics have become in the new protagonist. The Sporty trend of recent years is a true reflection of it.

Construction

Coming back to the woven fabrics, they are produced on industrial looms and made by the interweaving of two types of threads: Warp and Weft.

The first ones (wrap) are located along the fabric, parallel to each other, making a resistant base on which the weft threads will interweave across the fabric (the width), and they provide the stability that characterizes this type of materials.

The variations within this group of fabrics depend on the quality of yarn and the type of interweaving. The types of woven fabrics are extensive. However, some of the best known and used are Satin, Poplín, Chiffon, Linen, Gabardine, and Denim.

Properties

As I said before, wovens are a stable material. In general, they do not stretch. The stability is its most distinctive characteristic, and it is the main difference with knit fabrics. Although we well know that there is an exception for every rule, since the appearance of elastane, weft threads have been combined with this fiber in their composition to obtain new and more comfortable variants of woven fabrics.

We can also recognize these textiles because along the edge, they have a different texture known as selvage, it prevents the material from fraying and is the product of the weaving process. Due to the twist of the threads at the end of each pass, the selvage is usually thicker than the fabric itself.
It is essential to recognize the woven fabrics before developing a garment, since due to the stability. It does not adapt to the body, so it is necessary to add darts and cuts, among many other pattern making resources, to give shape and ensure the correct fit of the garment.

And to finish with woven fabrics characteristics, we can mention that it is sold in different widths, although the most frequent is 1.50mts.

Knit Fabrics

Construction

Regarding Knit Fabrics, we can identify a big difference from its construction: a single thread intertwines with itself throughout the length and width of the textile, forming chains, loops, or meshes. This construction generates an elastic structure that can recover itself after stretching it, and that confers comfort to the fabric by being able to better adapt to the body.

Same as Woven Fabrics, how the thread interweaves also determines construction variants that may or may not have elastane in their composition. This way, not only different aesthetic effects are generated on the surface but also multiple degrees of elasticity and different directionalities in the sense of maximum elongation of the material, which can result in textiles with a single rebound or double rebound. Therefore it can stretch in one direction (length or width) or both directions. It is important to note here that the elastic capacity of Knitted Fabrics is not only determined by the use of Elastane, but mainly by its construction.

Properties

So, it is clear that knowing the stretch and recovery capacity of this type of fabric is a fundamental factor when making decisions about a design. It is for the stretching, comfort, and movement-free properties that these fabrics are ideal for sportswear, lingerie, swimwear, and children’s clothing. And from a pattern perspective: darts, pleats, shaped cuts are no longer necessary to ensure the correct adaptation of the garment to the body, which significantly reduces and simplifies the construction processes.

Another advantage is that, due to the type of construction, they tend to create fewer wrinkles than Woven Fabrics. However, precisely for this reason, they might have higher shrinkage percentages, so it is vitally important to consider this factor in production processes. For this reason, it is necessary to lay the fabric between 24 and 48 hours before cutting it. This step avoids the shrinkage and deformation of the material, and this changes the quality of the finished product.

Another comparison from the manufacturing process of the material, the production speed of knit fabric machines is significantly higher than woven fabric machines. Also, knit fabrics are more versatile and adaptable to the changes that fashion imposes. The construction processes of the garments are simplified, and the production cycles are shorter than the woven clothing. The result is usually lower-cost products and more rentable. Not to mention if it is a garment made entirely on knitted looms, avoiding the processes of mark, overlapping, cutting, and sewing.

Regarding the commercialization, knit fabrics are sold per kilo in a tubular or open way. Therefore, it is necessary to check with our supplier the fabric yield.

In summary, and to give closure to this article, we need to remember that different materials with different characteristics will require specific machinery, the proper finishes and constructions, and appropriate yarns to achieve the best quality of the product. As an example, a knitted fabric will need a type of seam with a certain elasticity that supports the material stretching, thus preventing it from tearing with the first pull. It will also be necessary to take care of the tension of the threads and the stitch lengths. But that is a topic for another article.

I hope all this information has been useful to you and that we can meet again somewhere on the networks.
Personally, it has been a pleasure to be able to bring you these lines.

Merce

Mercedes Sogo

Mercedes Sogo

Technical Designer at ABC Seams®
Expert in apparel development and technical communication. Former Product Developer at Burberry.

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