Choosing the right fabric for your project can be a crucial decision. With an abundance of choices, it's easy to get lost in a sea of unfamiliar terms and materials. Fortunately, you're not alone in this journey. We're here to help with an explanation of the three primary classifications of fabrics, to assist in choosing a fabric that meets your needs and aligns with your creative vision!
The three fabric categories include wovens, knits, and non-wovens. Within each category, fabrics can vary in weight, drape, thickness, and opacity. These factors are impacted by the weave, yarn thickness, fiber content, and finishing treatments.
Woven Fabrics are produced by interlacing threads of two distinct yarns or fibers at right angles to each other. The process of weaving involves a loom, where the vertical threads are called the warp, and the horizontal threads are called the weft. Manipulating the warp and weft into different patterns can create various types of woven fabrics with distinct patterns and textures.
Woven Fabrics can be used for a wide range of applications including clothing and accessories, home decor, and upholstery. These fabrics typically have no stretch unless something additional (such as lycra or spandex) is added to the yarn before weaving.
This category of fabrics includes hard-wearing basics such as quilting cotton, denim, and flannel, as well as fancier fabrics like chiffon and satin.
In contrast, Knit Fabrics are produced through interlocking loops of yarn together with needles (just like you would knit a sweater). This creates a flexible textile that is comfortable to wear and drapes well. Knit fabrics can be soft and thin or thick and chunky. Like wovens, the outcome of the fabric depends on the knit pattern used, the thickness of the yarn, and other factors chosen by the manufacturer.
Unlike wovens, the yarns of Knit fabrics generally have more space between them so they move around and offer "give", which means that most knits will be stretchier. This allows for the cozy makes we all enjoy, like slouchy sweaters. The exception to this rule are "Stable Knits". Stable knits have no stretch.
Knit fabrics can be more difficult to work with than woven fabrics. They tend to curl at the edges, making them tricky to cut and sew. The stretchiness of knit fabrics can also make them harder to control. Luckily, with practice, this process becomes easier.
Finally, Non-woven fabrics are engineered fabrics made from fibers that are bonded together through various methods such as heat, chemical, or mechanical processes. Unlike woven and knit fabrics, non-woven fabrics are not produced from yarns or threads. Instead, they are made directly from raw fibers, which can be natural, synthetic, or a blend of both.
One of the key characteristics of non-woven fabrics is their lack of weave or knit structure. This gives them a unique texture and flexibility that can be useful in a variety of applications. Non-woven fabrics are often used to make things like disposable medical gowns, surgical masks, and cleaning wipes, as they are lightweight, absorbent, and affordable.
Some other examples of non-woven fabrics include leather, vinyl, and felt! This category is really a catch-all for any fabric that does not fall into either the woven or knit distinction.