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Fabric can come from various materials, including linen, rayon, spandex, lycra, viscose, and cotton. However, the preparation of almost all fabric falls under two main fabric types: knit or woven.

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What Is a Knit Fabric?

Knit fabric is a textile that results from interlocking yarn together with long needles. Knit fabric falls into two categories: weft knitting and warp knitting. Weft knitting is a fabric knit in which the loops run back and forth, while warp knitting is a fabric knit in which the loops run up and down.

Manufacturers use knit fabric to make items like t-shirts and other shirtings, sportswear, swimwear, leggings, socks, sweaters, sweatshirts, and cardigans. Knitting machines are the primary producers of modern knit fabrics, but you can also hand knit the material using knitting needles.

6 Characteristics of Knit Fabric

  1. Stretchy and flexible. Since knit fabric forms from a series of loops, it’s incredibly stretchy and can stretch both in width and length. This fabric type works well for zipperless, form-fitting clothing items. The texture of knit fabric is also flexible and unstructured, so it will conform to most shapes and drape or stretch over them.
  2. Wrinkle-resistant. Due to knit fabric’s elasticity, it’s very wrinkle-resistant—if you crumple it into a ball in your hand and then release, the material should spring back into much the same shape it had before.
  3. Soft. Most knit fabrics are soft to the touch. If it’s a tight-knit fabric, it will feel smooth; if it’s a looser-knit fabric, it will feel bumpy or ridged due to the ribbing.
  4. Easy to maintain. Knit fabric doesn’t require a lot of special care like hand-washing and can easily handle machine-washing. This fabric type doesn’t require ironing, since it’s generally wrinkle-resistant.
  5. Easy to damage. Knit fabric isn’t as durable as woven fabric, and it will eventually begin to stretch out or pill after wear.
  6. Difficult to sew. Due to its stretchiness, knit fabric is much harder to sew (either by hand or on a sewing machine) than non-stretchy fabrics, because it can be challenging to stitch straight lines without gathers and puckers.
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13 Common Types of Knit Fabric

Common types of knit fabric include:

  1. Jersey knit: Jersey is a soft, stretchy knit fabric that was originally made from wool. Today, jersey is also made from cotton, cotton blends, and synthetic fibers. The right side of jersey knit fabric is smooth with a single slight rib knit, while the backside of jersey is piled with loops.
  2. Purl knit: Purl knit is one of the most basic knits, characterized by little bumps for each stitch rather than smooth.
  3. Rib-knit: Rib-knit features long vertical columns of knit and purl stitch, forming tight, stretchy rows.
  4. French terry knit: French terry knit fabric has piles on one side and loops on one side. This fabric is commonly used in the making of robes because it’s incredibly soft and plush.
  5. Double knit: This two-layer fabric results in flat knit (smooth with a slight single rib) on both sides of the fabric.
  6. Fleece knit: Fleece knit is a knit fabric that is usually brushed on one or both sides to disrupt the fibers and create a soft, fuzzy texture.
  7. Cable knit: To make cable knit fabric, the knitter crosses multiple layers of stitches over one another to create raise motifs and patterns. This knit fabric is commonly used to make sweaters.
  8. Interlock knit: Interlock knit is a variation of rib knit in which both sides of the fabric have the smooth, right-side feel of flat knit.
  9. Jacquard knit: Jacquard knit is a single- or double-knit fabric that features a complex pattern made using the Jacquard controls on a knitting machine.
  10. Ponte knit: Ponte knit is a double knit that’s extra stretchy, usually a combination of spandex, rayon, and polyester.
  11. Raschel knit: Raschel knit is a warp knit, in which the right side has vertical loops, and the backside has horizontal floats.
  12. Tricot knit: Tricot knit is a knit fabric with a zigzag texture on the right side and is smooth on the back.
  13. Velour knit: Velour knit is a type of pile knit fabric with small loops that are cut to create a soft, plush feel.

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What Is a Woven Fabric?

Woven fabric is a textile that results from weaving two sets of yarn together. Manufacturers use looms to weave vertical warp threads and horizontal weft threads together to create woven fabric. Upon close inspection, woven fabric resembles a checkerboard of straight interlacing threads going under and over each other in right angles, similar to a woven basket. Woven fabric is a common textile for structured items like blazers and coats and upholstery items.

What Are the 3 Basic Types of Weaving Structures for Woven Fabric?

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Whether it’s denim or flannel, poplin or chintz, every type of woven fabric is made using one of the following three weaving structures:

  1. Plain weave: The threads in this type of woven fabric all run in a simple perpendicular weaving pattern that resembles a simple checkerboard pattern. Chiffon and organza are popular types of plain weave fabrics.
  2. Twill weave: Also known as twill fabric, the threads in a twill weave run in a ribbed diagonal pattern. When weaving twill, the weft thread (the horizontal thread) is woven over one or more warp threads (the vertical thread held taught on a loom) and then under one or more warp threads. Zigzag weaving like herringbone is a good example of this fabric.
  3. Satin weave: Satin weave features four or more weft threads going over one warp thread, or the opposite: four or more warp threads going over a weft thread. This type of woven fabric has four or more weft yarns floating over a warp yarn, or vice versa.

6 Characteristics of Woven Fabric

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In general, woven fabric is:

  1. Very structured. Woven fabric usually has a lot of structure, retaining its shape rather than softly draping around things. This fabric type is also not very stretchy and will remain rigid if you tug on it.
  2. Susceptible to wrinkles and creases. Due to its structure, woven fabric will hold wrinkles and creases easily, so it needs frequent ironing to look smooth and pristine.
  3. Often coarse. Woven fabric is often made with strands that aren’t as soft as knits, resulting in a fabric that is slightly coarse to the touch.
  4. Durable. Woven fabric is very durable, maintaining its shape after many washes and resisting pilling.
  5. Easy to sew. Since woven fabric usually isn’t very stretchy, it’s easy to sew without getting gathers or puckers.
  6. Expensive. Weaving fabric together is usually a more time-intensive process than knitting. As a result, woven fabrics tend to be more expensive to buy, either as fabric or pre-made into clothing.

15 Common Types of Woven Fabric

Common types of woven fabric include:

  1. Corduroy: Corduroy is a twill weave fabric, which means the threads are woven together in diagonal lines with thick vertical ribs. Corduroy is thick, durable, ridged, and cozy, and has the unique ability to look both dressed up and cozy at the same time.
  2. Denim: Denim is a twill-weave fabric where the weft yarn is usually woven underneath two or three warp yarns; the warp threads are usually dyed indigo while the weft is left undyed, giving denim a blue appearance.
  3. Flannel: This loosely woven twill or plain fabric is often brushed on one or both sides (called “napping”) to raise fine fibers and make it feel even softer. Learn more about flannel in our complete guide here.
  4. Chiffon: Chiffon is a plain weave fabric that is thin, airy, and sheer. The sheer fabric can be woven from a variety of textile types, both synthetic and natural, like silk, nylon, rayon, or polyester.
  5. Muslin: Muslin is a loosely-woven cotton fabric. It’s made using the plain weave technique, which means that a single weft thread alternates over and under a single warp thread. Muslin is known as the material used in fashion prototypes to test patterns before cutting and stitching the final product.
  6. Buckram: Buckram is a plain-weave fabric that can be loosely woven or tightly woven. The stiff, coarse fabric is most commonly used inside of baseball caps.
  7. Cheesecloth: Cheesecloth fabric is a plain-weave fabric that chefs use as a tool in the making of cheese. The fabric’s loose weave allows liquid to strain easily through it.
  8. Poplin: Poplin fabric is a plain weave fabric with very fine warp yarns and coarser weft yarns. This fabric is also very lightweight, with a light, airy drape.
  9. Chambray: Chambray is a plain-weave fabric in which the warp threads are usually dyed indigo while the weft is left undyed, giving it a blue appearance similar to denim.
  10. Velvet: Velvet is made on a special loom known as a double cloth, which produces two velvet pieces simultaneously. This luxurious fabric can be woven in any weave structure (plain, satin, or twill) with an extra set of warp threads that are sheared to create a soft feel.
  11. Taffeta: Taffeta is made using the plain-weave technique, which has a single weft thread going over and under a single warp thread, creating a checkerboard pattern. In making taffeta, threads are twisted as they are woven, which creates the resulting fabric’s stiffness and structure.
  12. Organza: Organza is a lightweight, sheer, plain-woven fabric that was originally made from silk. The material can also be made from synthetic fibers, primarily polyester and nylon. Learn more about organza in our complete guide here.
  13. Crêpe: This fabric can be woven from any weave structure (plain, satin, or twill). Crêpe has a rough, irregular texture due to specially twisted or crimped yarns. The materials used to make crêpe and the method used to achieve the texture define the different types of crêpe.
  14. Georgette: Georgette is typically a plain weave fabric woven using tightly twisted s-twist and z-twist yarns, which are yarns twisted in opposite directions. These twists create slight puckers on the fabric’s surface, which gives Georgette its signature crinkled finish.
  15. Cambric: Cambric is a finely woven plain-weave fabric rolled and flattened at high temperatures to create a smooth finish.

How to Tell if a Fabric Is Knit or Woven

Here are a few ways to identify whether a fabric is knit or woven:

  • Look at the threads. If you look closely at the fabric, you should see the individual threads that make it up. If the threads appear to have loops, then it’s knit; if the threads have a perpendicular criss-cross pattern, it’s woven.
  • Check for stretch. Knit fabrics will have much more stretch than woven fabrics. Try to stretch the fabric both lengthwise and widthwise; if it stretches, it’s likely a knit, whereas if it resists, it’s likely woven.
  • Do the wrinkle test. Squeeze a little bit of the fabric in the palm of your hand. A knit fabric will spring back quickly into shape with few wrinkles; a woven fabric will retain the wrinkles and often remain slightly crumpled.

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