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Everything you need to know about fabrics in one post

By: Diana Posted on: Feb 16, 2022

Cotton, Polyester, Blends, Tri-blends - fabric options are unlimited when it comes to buying apparel. So which ones should you choose, and why? Here we compare the popular fabrics and their features to help you find the answers.


Cotton

Cotton

Of course, we had to start with cotton. Making its earliest appearance back in ancient times, this soft fabric often dubbed “the fabric of our life” still continues to be one of the most popular options for clothing.


Pros

  • Soft and comfortable

  • High Breathability

  • Pulls moisture away from the body

  • Hypoallergenic - gentle on the skin

Cons

  • Susceptible to Shrinking

  • Fades faster than synthetic

  • Wrinkles easily

  • Slow drying

Recommended cotton styles: Gildan - Ultra Cotton T-Shirt(2000), Port & Company - Core Cotton Tee (PC54)


Types of cotton

Cotton is made by spinning the fiber from cotton plant pods. However, not all fabric made from these natural fibers is the same. 100% cotton fabrics can be of different types based on the processing it undergoes


Ring-spun cotton

Ring-spun cotton undergoes a manufacturing process where the fibers are continuously twisted, softened, and straightened out to flow in the same direction. This results in yarn that is softer, stronger, and more breathable.

Ring-spun cotton undergoes a manufacturing process where the fibers are continuously twisted, softened, and straightened out to flow in the same direction. This results in yarn that is softer, stronger, and more breathable.


Combed ring-spun cotton

This is the same as ring-spun cotton but with an extra layer of refinement where the fibers are combed to remove impurities. The lack of impurities in the yarn gives you an even softer fabric with a smoother surface to print on.

Recommended cotton styles: BELLA+CANVAS Unisex Jersey Short Sleeve Tee. BC3001, American Apparel USA Collection Fine Jersey T-Shirt. 2001A


Polyester

Polyester

Polyester is a synthetic fabric derived from petroleum. Thanks to its affordability and durability, this versatile material was nicknamed the “miracle fabric” as it started to become a household name in the 1970s. Today, polyester is widely used for t-shirts, polos, jackets, and all sorts of apparel. Although the use of polyester does raise some environmental concerns, the popularity of recycled plastics such as plastic water bottles has given it a sustainable edge.


Pros

  • Durability

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Lightweight

  • Resistant to shrinking and wrinkling

Cons

  • Low breathability

  • Not the best option for sensitive skins

  • Heat sensitive - requires caution when heat pressing

Poly-cotton Blends

How do you decide between the soft natural feel of cotton and the durability of polyester? Why not both? Poly-cotton brings you the best of both worlds.

Poly-cotton Blend

Poly-cotton blends features of both fabrics to give you apparel that is almost as soft and breathable as 100% cotton while being moisture-wicking and fast-drying like 100% polyester. Most poly-cotton blends have at least and the ratio of the fabrics will be indicated as 50/50, 60/40, and so on.

Poly-cotton blends with more cotton than polyester are called CVC (Chief Value Cotton) blends.

Pros

  • Retains shape

  • Lighter than cotton, softer than polyester

  • Less shrinking and wrinkling than cotton

  • Dries fairly quickly

Cons

  • The polyester content might cause allergies in some people

  • More expensive than polyester

  • Minor restrictions on printing options

Recommend poly-cotton styles: Gildan - DryBlend 6-Ounce Jersey Knit Sport Shirt (8800), Port Authority Silk Touch™ Polo (K500), Port & Company - Core Blend Tee (PC55).

Tri-blends

Tri-blends

Tri-blends, as the name implies, are made by blending three fabrics. Usually, it is a combination of Cotton and Polyester with the addition of Rayon, a synthetic fiber. Most tri-blends will have 50% polyester with varying ratios of the other two materials.

While the light, thin, and drapey rayon by itself is unfit for making apparel, it is a gamechanger when combined with cotton and polyester. The addition of rayon gives the fabric a luxuriously soft feel akin to that of silk. Because rayon is also very absorbent, lightweight, and has a little bit of stretch, it is widely used to make athletic wear.

Pros

  • Significantly softer

  • Durable

Cons

  • Costly

Recommend tri-blend styles: BELLA+CANVAS Women's Triblend Racerback Tank (BC8430), American Apparel Tri-Blend Track T-Shirt (TR401W), District Girls Perfect Tri Tee (DT130YG).

Fleece

Fleece

Recommend tri-blend styles: BELLA+CANVAS Women's Triblend Racerback Tank (BC8430), American Apparel Tri-Blend Track T-Shirt (TR401W), District Girls Perfect Tri Tee (DT130YG).

Recommend styles: Port Authority Ultra Warm Brushed Fleece Jacket (F211), Sport-Tek Ladies Sport-Wick Stretch Contrast Full-Zip Jacket (LST853), Port & Company - Core Fleece Crewneck Sweatshirt (PC78).

Micro Fleece

Micro Fleece

Micro Fleece features ultrafine yarn that is lightweight yet dense, making it one of the best options for staying warm without adding bulk. The material has a shorter loft and is often used as the inner lining of softshell jackets and other outerwear. That said, this layerable and packable fabric can also be worn on its own.

Recommend micro-fleece styles.

Port Authority ® Microfleece Jacket (F223, L223), Eddie Bauer ® Full-Zip Microfleece Jacket (EB224).

High-loft fleece

High-loft fleece

High Loft fleece, which is brushed on both sides, was originally used for outerwear. Today it is categorized as a sweatshirt fleece. It is midweight, warm and comfy, and easy to layer with base layers like t-shirts

Recommend high loft fleece styles: The North Face High Loft Fleece (NF0A47F8), Port Authority Ladies Brushstroke Print Insulated Jacket (L320).

Spandex

Spandex

Spandex is a twist on the word “expands”, and describes the exceptional stretch quality of the fabric. Spandex is often mixed with other fibers such as cotton to introduce an element of stretch. Spandex fabrics are best suited for garments where mobility is key, such as fitness clothing.

Port Authority Ladies Concept Stretch V-Neck Tee (LM1005), District Flex Tee (DT7500).

Acrylic

Acrylic

Acrylic is a synthetic fabric that provides excellent warmth, making it a favored choice for cold-weather clothing, such as gloves, beanies, and sweaters. This soft and lightweight material is considered a cheaper alternative to wool and is often blended with cotton to increase heat insulation.

Recommended styles: Port Authority ® Marled Crew Sweater (SW417), Port & Company Knit Cap(CP90).

Fabric features you must know

Finding the perfect t-shirt, polo, or apparel is not just about the fabric. You should also keep an eye on these features to get the best products every time.

  • Singles: Singles refer to the gauge of the yarn based on the number of times it is twisted. The higher the number, the finer the yarn, and the softer garment. This means a t-shirt made from 30 singles will be significantly more comfortable than one from 18 singles.

Fabric features you must know
  • Anti-pilling/ Pill-resistant:

Anti-pilling/ Pill-resistant

Pilling is the formation of small knots of fibers on the surface of the fabric. This is common with heavier outfits like hoodies, sweatshirts, and fleece blankets and could affect your comfort when wearing them. Garments with a pill-resistant finish are treated to reduce the likelihood of pilling and stay smooth and comfortable for longer.

  • Moisture-wicking

Moisture-wicking

Moisture-wicking fabrics pull sweat away from the skin and towards the surface of the fabric so that it evaporates quickly. Moisture-wicking works on capillary action which is the movement of liquids through the narrow spaces in the fabric. This keeps the wearer from getting drenched especially when engaged in physical activities or workouts. Polyester and nylon are excellent at wicking moisture away whereas cotton is not.

  • Fabric weight

Fabric weight

The numbers on product description - like 3.8oz. or 4oz. - is not the weight of the garment itself but rather a measurement of the fabric used. The standard is to express it in weight in ounces per square yard of the fabric. Generally 3-5 oz. apparel is considered lightweight, 5-5.5oz. mid-weight, and 6oz. or more, heavy.

  • Breathability

Breathability

This is the ability of a fabric to absorb moisture and release it through the material itself. Breathable fabrics speed up sweat evaporation and keep you cool.

  • Pre-shrunk

Pre-shrunk

Pre-shrunk garments are made from cotton that has undergone a compacting process to stimulate shrinkage. Since the garments are already shrunk, their change in size will be minimal when you wash or dry them.

  • Performance

Performance

The term “performance” generally means that the product can be used as sportswear. It does not necessarily imply that the dress is moisture-wicking or fast-drying. So, make sure that the features you want are explicitly stated in the description.

  • DWR – Durable Water Repellent Finish

DWR – Durable Water Repellent Finish

Durable Water Repellent (DWR) technology causes water drops to bead on a surface and roll-off without soaking into the fabric. DWR is ideal for keeping away drizzles and snow and is a common feature for outerwear and jackets.

Conclusion

There you have it - a quick rundown of the most common fabric options and features to help you choose the right clothes faster and more efficiently. Stay tuned to our upcoming post for more informative content.

Ready to find the perfect apparel that fits your requirements?

Dive into our collection of wholesale t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, polos, jackets, and more. Feel free to get in touch with our customer service team if you have any issues finding the right products.

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Top Customer Comments

Pauline
Aug 22, 2022
There is a lot of good information in this that helped me better understand fabrics and terminology.
replay Reply
Deborah
Jul 17, 2022
Great post. Which fabric for t-shirts would you say lasts the most?
replay Reply
Steven
Jul 14, 2022
Is it better to get pre-shrunk ones when you want cotton shirts?
replay Reply

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