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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

  • OZ refers to ounces per square yard

GSM is more commonly used than OZ, but there are tables & calculators available online to help you convert between the two. In either case, the higher the number, the denser the fabric will be; the lower the number, the more delicate the fabric will be. GSM can affect the thickness, stiffness, and durability of the fabric. A high GSM fabric may be suitable for a bag, while a low GSM fabric would be more suitable for a blouse.

You can also use these common terms to describe the density of the fabric you are looking for:

Because more raw materials are used in denser fabrics, a heavier fabric with a high GSM will often cost more than the same fabric of a lower GSM.

High GSM fabric (heavy cotton canvas, eg military tent)

Yarn Count

Most fabrics are made up of small yarns woven or knitted together. Yarn count is a numerical way to describe the fineness or coarseness of the yarn. There are many different systems for calculating yarn count that relates mass to unit length. Yarn count can affect the overall thickness and softness of the fabric. A bulkier yarn may result in a coarser, thicker fabric depending upon GSM and fiber content.

High gsm fabric wovenfrom thick yarn

Fiber Content

The type of fiber used to create the yarn and make the fabric can greatly affect the feel and performance of the fabric. Natural fibers are plant and animal-based. Synthetic fibers are petroleum and plant-based. Natural and synthetic fibers go through various processes to make them usable in fabrics. Below is a brief list of well-known fibers organized by their source.

Plant - cellulose fibers from plants

  • Cotton, hemp, linen, jute, bamboo, some types of vegan or faux leather

Animal - protein fibers from animals

  • Silk, wool, fur, feathers, suede, genuine leather

Mineral - mineral fibers from minerals

  • Gold threads, metal foil

  • Often included as an accent with another fiber as the base material

Synthetic - synthetic fibers mostly from polymers

  • Nylon, polyester, acrylic, faux fur, vinyl, Kevlar, elastane (spandex), vegan or faux leather

  • Viscose or rayon - made from regenerated cellulose fibers, a plant-based synthetic fiber

Fabric fiber blends involve wrapping fibers together to create the yarn which makes up the fabric or combining fibers in other ways. The desired performance of the fabric can be engineered to include the properties of different fibers. For example, a wool/polyester blend could give you the strength of polyester fiber with the softness and warmth of wool.

And here is a good book about fabrics: Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book


To save valuable time and money, you can hire Purnaa as your fabric sourcing team. We’ll create a material sourcing strategy to meet your needs and help you evaluate potential options based on your goals for quantity, cost, quality, and delivery time. Learn more and

Read these other Blogs to Learn More About Manufacturing


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