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Fabric 101: Five Fabric Fundamentals

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

by Mary Faber

Dhaka fabric stacked up in a Nepali shop - showing the differing Nepali fabrics

Sourcing the perfect fabric for your product can be a daunting task and describing the fabric you want can be difficult.

By learning about fabrics, you can understand how they can affect the quality of your product, but by no means do you have to be an expert! Whether you’re developing a new product or sampling in preparation for a bulk production run, we can help you find a fabric you love.

At Purnaa, to ensure we understand what you are looking for, we ask you to share details about your desired fabric. Below are five fabric fundamentals that will help you to describe what you need.

How is Fabric Made?

Almost all fabrics fall into these four categories and are based off how they are made and what material is used to make them

Wovens are made up of multiple yarns crossing each other at right angles (called the warp and weft) to form the grain. Wovens generally are not stretchy and wrinkle easily, and the unfinished edge of the fabric will often fray. Button-down shirts, jeans, & canvas bags are made from woven fabrics.

Knits are made up of a single yarn, looped continuously. Knits are generally stretchy, slow to wrinkle, and do not fray. Knitted garments can be made by more than one method - cut and sew like a t-shirt or fully fashioned like a cashmere sweater or socks.

Differing weaves, comparing woven and knit material showing the fabric construciton

Nonwovens are fabrics made of a sheet of material. One example is felt, which is made up of matted and tangled fibers. Some types of interfacings, quilt batting, and clear vinyl are also examples of non-woven fabrics.

Hides are made from animals and include materials like leather, suede, real furs (faux furs are typically a knit), and shearling. They are processed and tanned using softeners and dyes.

Fabric Construction

The way a fabric is constructed can affect the drape, look, and texture of it. Most fabrics have a different texture on the front and the back. There are numerous ways fabric is woven or knit. Here are a few examples that you might find in your closet:


  • The body of a t-shirt is often made from single jersey

  • The neckline of some t-shirts and the hem and wrists of hoodies are often made from rib knit

  • The body of hoodies is often made from brushed fleece or french terry


  • Classic canvas for bags has a plain weave

  • Dad caps and denim jeans are often made from a twill weave fabric

  • Shimmery prom dresses often use fabric with a sateen weave

Fabric Weight

Fabric weight is a measurement for the density of the fabric. You will often see two types of weight measurement

  • GSM refers to grams per square meter