What Are The Different Types of Cotton Blends Used in T-Shirts?

Have you ever wondered about the fabrics or fabric blends used in t-shirts, undershirts, or performance gear but just couldn’t find the information you were looking for?

Here’s a pretty interesting question from a reader who was in search of that information, and I did my best to help him out:

Tug,

Where can I find a reliable source that explains the different types of cotton blends used in t-shirts?

For example, if I say this t-shirt is 100% cotton then what exactly does this say about the fiber and weave?

Conversely, what does this statement not say about the fabric?

Thanks,
C

The Response

hi c,

the information you are looking for doesn’t really exist in one place. although i’m no fiber expert nor a expert when it comes to knitting, from my experience i logically break the fabric used in t-shirts down to these fundamental elements:

Many undershirts and t-shirts are made from cotton yarn like this
Many undershirts and t-shirts are made from cotton yarn like this
  1. fiber (thread): natural, synthetic/man-made/microfiber, cellulose
  2. fiber types: cotton (includes organic), polyester, nylon, modal, rayon, bamboo, lycra, etc.
  3. blends: a combination of fibers used to make a fabric
  4. fabric/textile type: this is basically how fibers are assembled via knitting, weaving, etc. since most t-shirts/undershirts are knitted, there are different knitting styles to review.
  5. knitting styles: we’ll need to talk to a fabric manufacturer (knitter) to be able to dig into this one more concretely, but different knitting styles will produce different end fabric behaviors. examples of this include tight knit (used in “jersey” undershirts like hanes/fruit-of-the-loom), loose knit, circular (used in seamless products), and rib (most common are 1×1/baby rib and 2×1)
  6. finishing: how fabrics are dried after being knitted can determine how much shrinkage there will be
  7. dyeing/rinses: many companies take finished white t-shirts and send them through a dying or washing process to add in additional treatments. some just simply dye white shirts another color, while others add other treatments to soften or further protect the shirts

to your question about 100% cotton and the fiber and weave – from my experience, it doesn’t tell you much.

all 100% cotton undershirts are not created equal. cotton can be sourced from different places, knitting differences between companies can result in less forgiving or more forgiving fabric, knitting styles can result in different types of stretching properties (jersey, 1×1, 2×1), blends will change that even further, and other dyeing and finishing applications can additionally alter the end product.

if you’re looking to educate yourself even further, you might want to consider doing some searches on wikipedia, since that is a great source of information that is usually pretty reliable.

hope the above information helps and let me know if you have any questions!

I would love to hear from a fabric manufacturer willing to provide some further insight and/or to correct anything I stated above that may be inaccurate.

7 thoughts on “What Are The Different Types of Cotton Blends Used in T-Shirts?”

  1. Hi,
    I am in the process of starting a clothing line, I am currently looking for ready made Tees with different fiber types. I would like tees with polyester, rayon and cotton. Eg. 15%rayon, 35% polyester and 50% cotton.

    I would appreciate it if anyone could recommend a reliable wholesaler.

    Thank you for this valuable information.

    Kindest Regards

    Reply
    • hey there ad2! thanks for stopping by and posting your question!

      your best resource to find ready made tees is t-shirtforums.com. there are many companies like next level apparel that offer fairly priced blank tees with tear-out lables that you can use for your line.

      make sure you check out t-shirtforums.com and search for “blanks” or “blank tees” or something like that. good luck!

      Reply
  2. Great info!
    I completely agree as to all undershirts not being created equal. For example, it’s not just the knitting (specifically why its different is because the machines are what affects the fabric to be more forgiving than others but many other factors come into play).

    To provide some insight on the different cotton options for making t-shirts..

    1. Yarn type: Based off of the quality you are looking for there are three main options to chose from:
    -open end- more of a rough feeling to the hand
    -ring spun karded- a bit softer than open end but can have dead cotton in it which leads to little specs showing in the finished fabric
    -combed- the highest quality and softest
    (price is reflective of these characteristics)

    2. How fine is the yarn?
    This is a question to ask when determining the type of weight you’d like to have for the t-shirt. For example,the sheerer you go, the higher thread count you would need to use. Standard t-shirt weight is about 7oz and most commonly you’d be using a 30/1 cotton to yield that weight. Now, for those who are looking to have a top of the line product is using Supima yarns (finer quality cotton fiber produced in the US)..not to be confused with Pima cotton which is produced overseas primarily in Peru. Check this link out for more details on that.. http://www.supima.com/whats-supima/faq/

    3. Finishes
    These days with the availability of softeners and enzyme washes, etc to be added during the finishing stage of the fabric process, you can get an incredibly soft hand to your fabric. This can be done whether you are keeping your fabric white or even dyed (garment or piece dyed). Some companies, to cut costs, will produce cotton tees using ring spun karded and add a softener. However, keep in mind that after a few washes the softeners get removed and the hand of the fabric is nowhere near the softness of combed cotton.

    Hope this gives everyone a bit of insight into the background behind cotton tees. If you’d like to some more details on our company, we produce all of our fabrics here in the United States and have been in the industry for over 28 years. Feel free to visit our website at http://www.eaglefabrics.com.

    Reply

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