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:
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?
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:
- fiber (thread): natural, synthetic/man-made/microfiber, cellulose
- fiber types: cotton (includes organic), polyester, nylon, modal, rayon, bamboo, lycra, etc.
- blends: a combination of fibers used to make a fabric
- 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.
- 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)
- finishing: how fabrics are dried after being knitted can determine how much shrinkage there will be
- 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.