Apart from animal hide, all fabrics fall into one of two categories: knits or wovens. It’s not the fiber content that distinguishes them, it’s the manufacturing process. Yarns like cotton, viscose, rayon, wool, polyester, velvet or silk can either be knitted or woven.
- Knitted fabrics are produced on huge knitting machines that “knit” different yarns together. These machines use exactly the same hand knitting method to make fabric. They knit a row of plain and a row of pearl at the speed of light to create a “stocking stitch” effect. You’ll see the familiar stocking stitch pattern on knitted items if you look closely. All knitted fabrics stretch. T-shirt fabric, sweatshirt fabric, knitwear (fabric that sweaters and cardigans are made from), jersey, mesh, toweling, felt and La Coste fabric are examples of typical knitted fabrics.
- Woven fabrics are produced on huge looms that “weave” different yarns together by interlacing threads both horizontally and vertically. Woven fabrics do not stretch unless Lycra, elastic or spandex fibers are woven into the fabric at the same time. This is how button down shirts and jeans get their stretch. Linen, denim, cotton twill, satin, chiffon, corduroy, tweed and canvas are examples of typical woven fabrics.
It’s important to distinguish between knits and wovens because each fabric type has a set of good and bad properties. See if you can distinguish between what’s knitted or woven in your wardrobe.