Clothing Fabrics 101

Sewing factories either produce garments made with woven fabric, or garments made with knit fabric. You want to make sure you know the difference between woven and knit so that you don't waste time talking to the wrong factory. I do know one factory that does produce garments made with both but they are a rare case.

The best example of a woven fabric is a men’s dress shirt. The best example of a knit fabric is a t-shirt. Woven fabric does not stretch. Knit fabric stretches. There are hundreds of fabric variations that will make your head spin; at a minimum you MUST be clear about this simple distinction: Woven vs Knit. If a factory asks you, “is your fabric woven or knit” and you answer with, “I am not sure” then you will expose your level of expertise. Clothing fabrics 101 tip.

Because your choice of fabric is so important, I want to give you more clothing fabrics 101 information to help you distinguish the two types of fabric.

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This page is about Clothing Fabrics 101

Fabric is the most important part of a garment and the factory will ask you many questions about your fabric. If you are schooled in textile engineering then at least be familiar with some basic concept. Keep reading and I will give you a primer so you don't look stupid in front of a factory.

Be prepared to answer the following clothing fabrics 101 questions:

Are your garments made from woven or knit fabrics?
What is the fiber composition?
What is the color of the fabric?
What is the weight of the fabric?
Clothing Fabrics 101

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Are your garments made from woven or knit fabrics?

Woven fabric is made on a loom and does not stretch (unless it has spandex.) Examples of garments made with woven fabric are: toga dress, blazer, wedding dress, dress shirt, jeans, and surf trunks.

Knit fabric is made on a circular knit machine or flat knit machine. Examples of knitted fabrics are: T-shirt, polo shirt, hoodie, sweater, beanie hat, and socks.

Boxers can be made with either woven or knit fabric.
Cardigans can be made with either woven or knit fabric.
Pencil dresses can be made with either woven or knit fabric.
Pajamas can be made with either woven or knit fabric.

My point here is, you need to understand this basic concept about the difference between knit and woven fabric or else you risk losing face in front of the factory. I want to help you look smart and pass the clothing fabrics 101 test.

A fabric has a “Structure”. There are two sub-groups of knit structures: weft vs. warp. Woven fabric has many structure variations. Here are some examples:
Sourcing Clothing Fabrics 101

Weft knit clothing fabric stretches in one direction.

Some examples of weft knit structures are:
• Single Jersey
• Interlock
• Pique
• Rib
• Ponte Roma
• Jacquard

Warp knit fabrics stretch in two directions - left to right up and up and down. A classic example of a warp knit fabric is bathing suit fabric.
Some examples of warp knitted structures are:
• Tricot
• Milanese
• Raschel

Clothing fabrics 101 information.

Woven fabrics don’t stretch unless you add spandex.

Some examples of woven fabric structures are
• Twill Denim
• Rib Weave
• Chiffon
• Oxford
• Basket Weave

Do you know the composition of your fabric? If no, then I recommend contacting a fabric expert in your hometown to learn clothing fabrics 101 basics. There are many fabric retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers in the US that can help educate you. Vietnamese factories don’t speak English very well nor are they in the education business. Learn about fabric “in-culture” before you try to manufacture “out-of-culture.”

What is the fiber composition?

Now that you know the knitting or weaving structure of your fabric you need to inform the factory what the fiber composition is. Yarn and fiber are synonymous in this context.

a. Natural Fiber Options:

i. Cotton, Viscose, Bamboo, Linen, Silk, Wool, Hemp

b. Synthetic Fiber Options:

i. Polyester, Acrylic, Nylon, Acetate, Spandex and Kevlar

If you say, “I want a cotton/poly shirt,” without specifying the percentages then the factory will classify you as a beginner and you will be on your back foot. If you want to sound professional, you will need to be able to give the factory more information. The variations available in all of these yarns are beyond the information I can supply here, but I just want you to be aware that it is complicated and you need to do your homework about yarns before you approach the factory.

Two Options: In short, when it comes to discussing the fabric, you have two options. You can tell them the exact fabric composition or give them a physical sample of fabric to copy.

What is the color of the fabric?

Factories expect to hear a Pantone number when you speak about color. The Pantone color scheme is an industry standard way to indicate exact colors. Fashion designers, merchandisers, and dye-houses use Pantone colors to “be on the same page.” A good factory will have a light box where you can compare two pieces of fabric to the Pantone color card. Be sure to study up on the Pantone color system before you approach the factory. Another clothing fabrics 101 tip.

What is the weight of the fabric?

Fabric Scale and Cutter
Final clothing fabric 101 insight. The weight of the fabric is measured in g/m2 or oz/yd2. Here is a website that can convert fabric weight for you. It is important to understand how fabric weight is measured so you can test it yourself. A circle test is the industry standard, and there are special circular scissors and special scales designed specifically for this purpose. The first time you see them in real life you will “get it.” Here is a picture of scale and a circular cutter. If the factory does not have these scissors or scales then you should be looking for the nearest exit. If they don’t have the standard equipment then they are not professional.

T-shirt-fabric-weight ranges from 100 g/m2 to 280 g/m2. 100 g/m2 would be a light weight t-shirt. 280 g/m2 would be a heavy fleece. Denim fabric typically weighs 270 g/m2. Weighing relaxed-fabric versus not relaxed fabric can give different results. Moisture content in the fabric can affect the weight. Usually clients need to give the desired weight within a tolerance of +- 5%. Weight is important because it will effect the price and the “feel” of the garment.

In Conclusion: These are basic fabric topics that will arise during your discussions with a factory in Vietnam. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to work quickly with the factory. Getting the fabric right is half the battle.