Have you ever wondered about the variances between different knit fabrics? Which ones are natural, and which ones are synthetic? Today I’m going over the different kinds of knit fabrics according to their fiber content, as well as describing a few trusted brands of knit fabric manufacturers I recommend.
I’ve already written two articles on modern types of knit fabrics:
All About Modern Types Of Knit Fabric
This article will continue the series on knit fabric types: we’ll explore both natural and synthetic fibers that knits are made of and look at some interesting facts about their fiber content.
Knit fabrics come in so many different types! The possibilities really do seem endless with what kind of knit fabric could possibly suit you best.
What do fruits and vegetables have in common with knit fabric? If you ask someone a general question about fiber content, you will likely get responses based on fiber amounts found in different foods. That’s unless you happen to be in a fabric store, where (nearly) everyone there will realize that you’re talking about fiber content in different fabrics.
Although the exact building blocks of fiber differ between food and fabric, the purpose is similar. Just as with the fiber found in fruits and vegetables, fiber is the foundational structure of the fabric. Okay, now it’s time to veer away from talking about the fiber in foods and focus on fabric.
The fiber content in different kinds of knit fabrics determines how they look, feel, and wear. The more natural the fibers are (like cotton, silk, or linen), the better they feel against the skin. Unfortunately, they may not be as durable or wear well over time.
Synthetic fabrics (like polyester or nylon) have some great benefits too but often are not that good for our skin. Allergies, breathing problems, and other issues may occur when you use certain synthetic fabrics.
Fiber Content Of Different Knit Fabrics
When you look at clothing labels, you tend to see different kinds of fabrics listed. Fabric labels are used to inform customers about the type of fabric that is being purchased. Common types include cotton, linen, wool, silk, and synthetic fibers like polyester or rayon.
Knowing these details can help you make important decisions about the types of fabric you choose to use in your projects.
Here are some common types of fibers that are used to make different types of knit fabric.
Acrylic Knit Fabric
Many types of knit fabrics are made from acrylic fibers. Do you know what acrylic is? I never use acrylic fabric in my sewing projects, I never buy this fabric because I don’t like it. But I have some clothing made from acrylic – I found out that the boots I bought have 100% acrylic lining.
Acrylic is 100% man-made. It’s a synthetic fabric made with petroleum-based fibers. Acrylic fabrics frequently have a shiny appearance. Because it’s made from fuel-based fibers, acrylic does not breathe as easily as natural fabrics.
It does not absorb moisture, it tends to stick to the skin when damp or wet, which makes it uncomfortable to wear during hot weather. It also creases badly and tends to pill with wear.
Acrylic fabrics are generally less expensive than natural fibers.
Anyone who has tried to clean an acrylic garment will tell you that the fabric is difficult to clean, as it snags and pills easily, and can lose its color in just one wash cycle. Acrylic fabric may become firm and inflexible when washed in cold water, and it can melt if you wash this fabric in water that is too hot.
The fibers of acrylic are often bonded with chemicals such as formaldehyde, requiring special care when laundering; moreover they tend to attract static electricity. Flame retardants, for example, are needed in acrylic textiles due to their high flammability; without these undeniably hazardous treatments, the acrylic fabric would be quite dangerous.
Acrylic knits are primarily used for outdoor clothing because they are wind resistant and water repellent.
Acrylic is also used in a variety of cold-weather clothing (like sweaters, gloves, scarfs, hats, hoodies), and in sports clothes, it’s often used to make the lining. There are worries that acrylic might be carcinogenic, so it’s best to keep your skin away from this fiber.
But I noticed that 100% acrylic knit fabric is not very common, and acrylic fibers are often used to make knit fabrics in blends with cotton, rayon, and wool.
✅ Related tutorial: How To Cut Knit Fabric: Ultimate Guide
Cotton Knit Fabric
Well, we all know what cotton fabric is.
Cotton is 100% natural. It’s made from the fluffy fibers that surround the seeds of cotton plants. It’s been used to make clothing for thousands of years and is still one of the most commonly used fabrics around the world. It remains a popular fabric because it’s both sustainable and biodegradable.
But do you know that there are different types of 100% cotton fabric? Most people are familiar with Pima cotton, but this is really only one of many types of 100% cotton fabric. The biggest difference between all the different types lies in the length and waviness of each fiber.
Long staple cotton – these are the softest, most rare, and most expensive types of cotton. It is very difficult to grow this type of cotton – one in particular that always gets a lot of mention is Egyptian Pima Cotton which is famous for its strength and softness.
Short staple cotton- these fibers are slightly less expensive than the long staple fibers, but they are still very soft and strong.
The most popular type of knit made from cotton is jersey knit fabric. I use cotton jerseys a lot in my projects and even have a tutorial DIY Wrap Dress.
Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself.
You can find great 100% organic cotton jersey fabric on Etsy.
By the way, do you use organic fabric for your projects? I have an article on my site you might find interesting:
Organic cotton benefits: Interview with an organic fabric store owner
Linen Knit Fabric
What is linen knit fabric? Linen is an all-natural fabric made from the long fibers of the flax plant. Linen fabric is strong, breathable, absorbent, and naturally antimicrobial.
Linen fabric is known for its antibacterial properties, which help to eliminate body odor. Many people like linen for this reason. However, because the fibers are very long and the fabric tends to be quite heavy, it can rub or hurt sensitive skin.
Linen fiber is mostly used to make woven fabrics but it can be found in knits too. Linen knit fabric doesn’t wrinkle like linen woven fabric, and because of this, I really like sewing with linen knit fabric. Linen is also stronger than cotton, and it dries faster, too, making it preferable in hot climates.
Flax plants have been cultivated in nearly every country and have been used to make fiber for over 6,000 years. Unlike cotton, flax does not need pesticides to grow abundantly. It grows very quickly.
I found linen knits on Etsy!
Nylon Knit Fabric
Nylon is 100% synthetic. It’s essentially a plastic derived from crude oil that undergoes a lengthy chemical process to create the stretchy fibers we know as nylon. Nylon is a man-made fiber that is used in many fabrics, from sheer to heavyweight styles. Nylon has been around for some time being used first on parachutes and then on tennis balls. Even though 100% nylon was thought to be a durable, low-cost fabric, it was discovered that it is highly prone to runs and tears. Now it is being used in many types of fabrics that are blended with cotton, polyester, or rayon.
Nylon fabrics are popular because nylon absorbs very little moisture and dries quickly after washing. The disadvantage of nylon fabric is that they have a limited lifespan when washed frequently, especially if bleach is used for whites. Nylon also has the ability to shrink.
Nylon knits are often used in form-fitting apparel – tights, leggings, athletic wear, yoga pants, etc.
Polyester Knit Fabric
Polyester is a man-made material derived from petroleum, air, and water. This fabric repels sweat and other fluids and offers low levels of wicking. Polyester doesn’t move fluids away from your skin easily, which can cause discomfort in certain situations. In addition, the fibers are thermoplastic which means they can be melted and reformed when heated.
I have the whole article on polyester fabric so check it out.
Rayon Knit Fabric
Rayon was the first manufactured fiber. It’s considered a semi-synthetic cellulosic fiber instead of a true synthetic because it’s derived from natural materials – the cellulose of plants like trees and bamboo. But it’s still synthetic because the manufacturing process uses lots of chemicals to liquefy the natural pulp before it’s made into fibers and used to make fabrics. There is more than one way to make rayon.
The result is a very strong and smooth fiber that has a great drape and lustrous appearance like silk, but rayon is much more affordable and durable.
Rayon knit fabric has a unique look and feel. I probably can recognize rayon knit fabric if I touch it. It’s softer than other synthetic fabrics like polyester, but it might not be as soft as cotton or silk. Rayon is more lustrous than cotton, so it gives off a bit of a sheen when it catches the light.
Rayon is generally absorbent and hypoallergenic so it’s considered good for sensitive skin. It has natural wrinkle resistance. It also drapes well and wears nicely over time. This makes it great for activewear, lingerie, kids’ clothing, etc.
But some knit rayon fabric is piling a lot after the garment made from rayon is worn for a while so it doesn’t last long. At least this is my experience with rayon.
I like to use rayon for my sewing projects. Here are a few items I made from rayon knits (but didn’t have time to make tutorials though).
Also, this simple pink slip dress is made from rayon, and for this, I have a detailed tutorial, check it out if you are interested. The slip dress is tight-fitting, very plain but comfortable, and of course, you wear it under lace or sheer dress.
Silk Knit Fabric
Silk is a natural protein fiber made by silkworms and used to create cocoons. It’s known for its shine, softness, and strength as an incredibly strong material that doesn’t tear easily. Natural silk is also an eco-friendly material because of not use harmful chemicals during the growing of cocoons and manufacturing fabrics from silk threads.
Most of the time silk fabric is woven (and you can read my article on types of silk fabrics) but I bought some silk knit fabric and used it for my projects.
It’s so soft and smooth, not like any other fabric that I know.
I have a detailed tutorial on making panties from natural silk fabric.
DIY panties tutorial (plus how to sew knits and how to attach elastic)
If you want to buy silk knit fabric you can find it on Etsy!
Bamboo Knit Fabric
Bamboo fabric is a type of rayon because bamboo is also a semi-synthetic cellulosic fiber made from bamboo plants which means that natural bamboo plants are converted through a chemical process into a fiber that falls into a category between naturals and synthetics. Bamboo is more sustainable than cotton and does not require pesticides or fertilizers.
Bamboo fabric is soft and absorbent, it holds its shape well, and it dyes easily. It has a natural sheen to it that makes the fabric look silky smooth.
I haven’t managed to sew something from bamboo yet.
You can easily buy bamboo rayon knits online.
Modal Knit Fabric
Modal fabric is another type of rayon.
Modal fabric is a soft and stretchy semi-synthetic material made from the pulp of beech trees. It’s similar to rayon but even softer and more durable.
The modal knit fabric feels very soft, almost silky, and has moderate stretch. It’s thin, has a nice drape, and is also pill-resistant, giving it a sought-after smooth finish. There are plenty of reasons to love modal!
I made lots of clothes from one modal fabric because I liked the fabric so much that I bought 6 yards at once and had to use everything. Below are only a few examples.
Online fabric stores carry modal knits but most often you will find modal blended with spandex.
Mohair Knit Fabric
Mohair wool is a natural type of knit fabric with a very fuzzy surface, it comes from the shaggy-haired Angora goat. It’s also soft and isn’t as prickly as wool might be. Mohair fabric is soft, lightweight, warm, water resistant, strong, and skin-friendly.
But there is a difference between real mohair fabric and fake mohair fabric. There may be many types of fibers that look like mohair, but you’ll still want to make sure that you’re getting the real thing. Real mohair fabric is expensive, while fake mohair fabrics are cheap and easy to find in most stores. Mohair fibers are often blended with wool and acrylic to make knit fabric.
Mohair would be the perfect material for sweaters, gorgeous cardigans, vests, scarves, and hats. But it’s very expensive and not easily found in fabric stores, even online shops.
Vinyl Knit Fabric
Vinyl knit fabric is a tough and durable man-made material. It was designed to imitate leather, which makes it useful for many different purposes. Vinyl knit fabric has a smooth leather-like surface and can stretch. Don’t mix vinyl knits with regular vinyl which is not knit not woven material. It is often used for making dance costumes, athletic uniforms, and cheerleading outfits because of its ability to stretch with the body.
Viscose Knit Fabric
Viscose knit fabric is a type of rayon derived from cellulose and then treated with chemicals to make fibers look like natural silk fiber. This semi-synthetic type of knit fabric often looks like silk and feels soft as cotton, but it isn’t as absorbent. Viscose knit fabric has a tendency to pill (this means small balls of fiber are created on the fabric’s surface) so it is often blended with other fibers to improve its appearance. Viscose is best suited for fluid, flowing garments rather than structured shapes.
Here is an example of a dress I made from viscose knit fabric (the fabric was made in Germany).
Wool Knit Fabric
Wool is a versatile and natural fabric made from the hair of sheep, camels, goats, etc. It has great insulation properties. Wool has many characteristics that make it excellent for producing fabric. It can absorb moisture, but not so much that it becomes soggy and takes a long time to dry out. It also provides warmth without being heavy or bulky. With all of its benefits, wool fabric is a great choice for a variety of products. But wool fabric shrinks when exposed to high temperatures and humid conditions.
Cashmere Knit Fabric
Cashmere is a type of wool made from the hair of Kashmir goats that live in China, India, Iran, and other Asian countries. The fiber is extremely soft, fine, delicate and one of the most expensive wools available.
Cashmere knit fabric is often used to make shawls, scarves, hats, sweaters, and other clothing items. Cashmere garments are very popular because of their luxury.
This fiber is “harvested” from goats without hurting or killing them, making it a more ethical choice for clothing compared to fur and other down fabrics. It’s also a sustainable fabric that can be naturally made by simply combing the fiber out of living goats’ coats after shearing.
Cashmere is prized for its warmth and softness, and it can be quite expensive depending on the quality. Some items can cost hundreds of dollars.
Cashmere items are typically thinner and lighter than most other wool sweaters.
You can buy cashmere fabric on Etsy, for example, this silver one (I am not sure it’s knit fabric though because the seller didn’t say anything about it), “luxurious mulberry Italian cashmere”.
Hemp Knit Fabric
Hemp fabric is made from the fibers of the hemp plant. Hemp is a natural fiber that is durable and strong, making it an ideal material for clothing. Hemp fabric is also breathable and moisture-wicking, which makes it a good choice for activewear and other garments that need to stay cool and dry. It’s also non-allergenic and eco-friendly, making it a good choice for sustainable apparel.
Hemp fabric can be dyed any color but unfortunately, it’s often treated with flame retardant chemicals to make it more fire-resistant.
Hemp and linen fibers are extremely similar; there is little to distinguish flax fibers from hemp fibers. Hemp fibers are probably a little stronger and more durable, but other than that, the two fabrics are basically the same.
Tencel Knit Fabric
Tencel fabric appeared on the market not long ago, maybe 10 years or so and it is made from the cellulose of wood pulp. The fabric is known for being environmentally friendly because the process used to make it does not require a lot of water or energy. In addition, the fabric is soft and comfortable to wear. It’s also a kind of rayon but Tencel is a brand name for fiber called lyocell.
Tencel fabric is a semi-synthetic fiber made from the pulp of trees such as beech, birch, eucalyptus, and spruce.
Tencel fabric is lightweight and soft, which makes it comfortable for year-round wear. Unlike many synthetic fabrics, Tencel does not pill or fade easily. It also has natural breathability and works well as a hypoallergenic and eco-friendly choice for those with skin sensitivities.
Tencel fabric can be blended with other fabrics to create a variety of textures and colors. For example, it can be blended with cotton to create a soft, lightweight fabric that is perfect for summer wear. It can also be blended with wool to create a warm, durable fabric for winter wear.
There are several reasons why fabrics are combined. For example, they might be blended to improve the look or feel of a fabric (known as its hand), make it easier to care for and handle, or more economical for manufacturers.
All fabrics must be labeled with their fiber content (percentage) if they contain more than 1% in order for consumers to know what kind of product they’re buying. Here are some common fabric blends:
- Polyester / Cotton
- Polyester / Spandex
- Rayon / Spandex
- Polyester / Wool
- Rayon / Cotton
- Wool / Acrylic
- Nylon / Wool
- Linen / Cotton
- Linen / Silk
- Linen / Rayon
Different Knit Fabrics By Designer/Brand
Just as there are different brands of, well, just about everything, the same is true of different types of knits.
There are many fabric brands in the world, and each of them has its own fabrics with different textures and appearances. Let me introduce some of the most popular fabric brands.
Is brand name fabric better than no name?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some people believe that fabric from well-known brands is of a higher quality than fabric without a brand name. Others maintain that the quality of the fabric is not related to the brand name, and is instead determined by the materials used and the manufacturing process.
Art Gallery Fabrics
Art Gallery Fabrics produces comfortable knits that are often a blend of cotton and spandex. The fabrics are stretchy, super soft, and beginner-friendly, which are forgiving of mistakes. Enjoy the range of beautiful prints available in their collection.
Art Gallery Fabrics are high-quality fabrics for a variety of projects. The company has been in business for a long time and is known for its innovative designs and superior craftsmanship. You can find these different knit fabrics at JoAnn Fabrics or online at Etsy.com. They are on Amazon too!
Another well-known fabric brand is Cloud 9. This brand is famous because they sell 100% natural organic cotton knits that are well suited for many types of garments, from baby clothes to hoodies. The company also offers a range of textures and finishes, making it a great choice for quilters and sewers.
You can find these knit fabrics at JoAnn Fabrics or online at Amazon.
World famous Liberty Fabrics brand is based in London, UK. The fabrics are printed in Como Italy using traditional printing techniques along with digital technologies to make beautiful prints. They sell only fabrics with floral, paisley & abstract prints, I didn’t see solid colors, and they are more expensive than many other brands. They are known for their vast collection of fabrics.
Liberty’s prints are designed in-house and use colors from nature, including bright reds and vibrant greens. Their historical prints include iconic designs, which have a colorful floral motif that was once associated with royalty. You can find them online at Amazon.
Quilters and sewists love the versatile cotton fabrics from Robert Kaufman. You can find hundreds of prints from this company for quilting and sewing projects. They are well-known for their high-quality quilting fabrics but they sell knits too. Their fabrics are made with high-quality materials and are designed by talented artists.
Find them in your local fabric shop or online at Amazon.
Telio brand offers a range of different types of knits depending on where they are going to be used. Their fabric line is designed to be comfortable and versatile, as well as stylish. You can always find modern fashion fabrics that are meant to fit your busy lifestyle. This is the Telio basic idea: beauty, comfort, and usefulness. There are so many designs, colors, and textures to choose from.
You can find them at JoAnn Fabrics or online at Amazon.com.
Looking for silk, wool, fleece, cotton knits, and more? Chances are you can find them here. One of the newer companies on this list, E.Z. Fabric has a few stores and is carried in some JoAnn Fabric locations. Your best bet is to find their fabric online. From the latest fashion trends to timeless classics, E.Z. Fabrics offers a variety of options for you to explore and enjoy. Shop their fabulous prints today and get ready for some sewing fun!
Fabric Merchants is a premier textile supplier that offers some of the finest printed fabrics around, including t-shirt knit cotton and cotton spandex. They have all sorts of designs, from floral to camouflage prints. Find this fabric at JoAnn Fabrics or online at their website and Amazon.
This company specializes in providing polyester, rayon, and cotton knits for kids’ and women’s fashion. Find their fabrics online on Amazon.
Pine Crest Fabrics
This company is a wholesaler specializing in providing activewear fabrics with amazing 4-way stretch, including polyester, spandex, and nylon. Shop wholesale on their website. But you can buy Pine Crest Fabrics by the yard on Amazon.
I hope this post has given you a useful resource for distinguishing between different types of knits based on their fiber content. Try a few of the brands that make some of these amazing different types of knit fabrics.
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