Stretch fabrics are an important piece of our life. They were exclusively used in swimwear back in old days, but nowadays, you can find them in countless other products such as leotards, blue jeans, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Like its namesake, stretch fabric has the ability to stretch without breaking the fibers and to return to its original length. Providing clothes or accessories made with it much-needed ease, this allows us to go about our day in comfort!
Stretch vs Woven fabric
The key difference between stretch fabrics and woven fabrics is the pattern. Stretch fabrics are made with the knit pattern that uses interlaced loops, however, in woven materials, a grid pattern of fibers can be found.
Two-way vs Four-way stretch
For starters, there are two types of stretch materials, two-way or four-way stretch. Two-way stretch means that the fabric can stretch in one direction either horizontally or vertically, while four-way stretch can stretch in both directions. Both are comfortable enough to wear but might not be suitable for some types of clothes. 2-way stretch fabrics may not have enough stretch to return to their original shape, but the 4-way stretch fabrics, have better elasticity so they are more suitable for sportswear.
Stretch fabric can have more variation than the two stretch types, depending on types of elastic materials which the fabric can come from. These are some common types of stretch fabrics that can be found:
Types of stretchy fabrics
Knit is a 2-way stretch but is widely used for sewing clothes due to its stretch that is suitable for clothes. The fabric can be found in everyday clothing, such as hats and socks. There are many different types of knit fabrics and one of which is the Jersey Knit. This is a light to medium weight single knit fabric, and it is the most preferred knit fabric for making t shirts and dresses.
Spandex is a type of flexible polyurethane synthetic fiber. Spandex can stretch up to 400 percent on its own. Because it is as elastic as rubber, it doesn’t get dirty even with sweat, oil, or cosmetics, and it is resistant to washing. When the fabric is blended with other fibers, it’s called Spandex blends. Spandex blends can lend about 2-20 percent of its elasticity to the coupled fibers. Some of the most common or most used spandex blends are Polyester-spandex, Cotton-spandex, Nylon-spandex, and stretch velvet.
Latex comes from the sap of the rubber tree and can be used to make clothes but not everyday clothes because of its lack of breathability and skin irritation. However, for the stretch of rubber and water-resistance, it can be applied to other materials.
This is a synthetic polymer resembling rubber. This has some stretch and water resistance qualities of rubber but cutting back on the limitations of the pure material. For its features, wet suits used in scuba diving is usually made of Neoprene rubber. But Neoprene rubber is also increasingly used in garments and accessories as well.
I hope this article is helpful for you to understand stretch fabric better and to try using it as a sewing material!