One of the key skills in building a functional and lasting wardrobe is a basic understanding of different fabrics and their uses. When learning about different fabrics you must focus on the fiber structure (woven or knitted fabric) as well as fiber content (natural, semi-synthetic, and synthetic fibers).
Fabric is a very large topic, therefore we intend to publish a series of blog posts the topic. The purpose of these posts is to give you an understanding of the composition and properties of the material, its best uses of it, and how to care for it.
Fiber Structure: Woven Vs Knitted Fabric
There are two main manufacturing processes for textiles. These are woven and knitted fabrics. The textile resulting from the two methods has different properties and is suited for different uses.
Knitted fabric is produced by interloping a single yarn. These fabrics are flexible and comfortable, therefore better suited for casual wear. Knitted fabric tends to be durable and can be produced thin (fabric used in cotton T-shirts) or thick (fabrics used in hoodies). Cotton and Viscose are the most commonly used fibers in the production of knitted fabric.
Woven fabrics are produced by interlacing two or more threads at right angles. These only stretch in a single direction and usually tend to be thicker (due to the use of multiple yarns) and stiffer, therefore holding their shape well. These tend to be used more for formal wear such as shirts, trousers, and jeans.
Fabric Weight or GSM:
Fabric weight is a combination of how the fabric has been woven and fiber type in the creation of the textile. The metric measurement used in the determining fabric weight is GSM. It stands for grams per square meter.
Generally, higher GSM fabrics tend to be thicker. However, this is not always the case as some fibers tend to be heavier. Fabrics produced with heavier fibers tend to have a higher GSM than fabrics produced with lightweight fibers for equal thickness.
Heavier fabrics require more raw material and time to produce therefore they tend to be higher in price than lightweight fabrics.
Based on weight fabric can be divided into three categories.
- Light weight (30-150 GSM)
- Medium weight (150 – 350 GSM) and
- Heavy weight 350 GSM+.
Weight can sometimes be an indication of quality. Especially, when you are choosing between items made of the same material. For example, between two cotton bedsheets. The thickness of the fabric can predict durability and comfort, and therefore an indication of quality.
When choosing between two different types of fabrics GSM can’t be used to measure quality. It's more an indication of the best use and the behavior of the material.
For example, wool fabrics are heavier and thicker therefore warmer and shape well. These tend to be used in the production of jackets that are warm and well structured. In contrast, silk tends to be flowy and lightweight. Silk fabrics produce beautiful blouses and dresses.
In general, lighter weight materials are more breathable and drapes better, therefore, a better choice for your summer wardrobe. Thicker material generally retains more heat and structure, therefore, better for your winter wardrobe.
There are many different fibers used in the production of fabric. These can be broadly divided in to three categories, natural fibers, semi-synthetic and synthetic fibers. In our next post we will be discussing natural fibers.