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Fabric Types - What are the Differences?

Fabric types can be confusing, but at Eastbay, we break them down to make your online shopping a breeze!

Jersey. Knit. Heathered. Piqué. You've probably seen these words before, but what do they mean? As you might have guessed, they have to do with clothing, but what you may not know, is that the fabric or fabric technique chosen for a piece of clothing is often the contributing factor to its mass appeal and price. Why? We'll tell you why!

Jersey fabric comes from a blend of cotton and synthetic materials. At Eastbay, that blend is usually cotton/polyester and it can most often be found in t-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts. In t-shirts, the result is a super-soft, lightweight fabric that is flexible, stretchy and very comfortable against the skin. In hoodies and sweatshirts, the result is a super-soft fabric that is flexible, stretchy and insulating. Most jersey fabric feels buttery soft to the touch, making it a popular choice for the layer worn closest to the body.

When considering the benefits of a knit fabric, it's important to know that the term "knit" is general; it refers to the technique that's used to make clothing and is not specific to any one type of fabric. Knit fabrics can be made from cotton, polyester or a number of other fabrics. Knit fabrics, as opposed to woven fabrics, are more elastic and can stretch quite a bit without losing their original form. The elasticity of knit fabrics helps them resist wrinkles better, which means they are low maintenance and great for quick wash and wear.

Heathered fabric is made from different colored yarns or fibers that are blended together to create a muted shade or a varied color effect. The resulting garment will have flecks of color throughout that give the item a textured look. For example, black and white may be blended together to create a heathered grey. Heathered fabric typically contains two to three fibers within its makeup.

The term "piqué" refers to the raised weaving style that's normally used to create cotton polos. Piqué fabric holds more starch than plain fabric, producing a stiffer shirt for a premium, sophisticated look.

Organic clothing is made of all-natural, non-synthetic materials like cotton, wool, silk and hemp, which means the fibers are not processed with toxic chemicals and do not contain any dyes or synthetic materials. This makes them extremely beneficial for our environment. At Eastbay, organic cotton is the most popular type of organic fabric.

Looking to go green? Recycled fabrics may be for you. They're made from post-consumer PET containers, which are used plastic bottles. To be made into fabric, the bottles are cleaned, chopped, melted and then extruded into fibers. Plastic-derived fabrics have superior insulating properties, which make them not only earth-friendly, but warm and comfortable, too.

French terry fabric is a lightweight variation of terry, the fabric used to make bath and swimming towels. The looped weaving on towels and washcloths are an important part of their fabric makeup when it comes to being absorbent and keeping the body warm. On the other hand, clothes made from French terry only have the looped construction on one side - the side we wear against our bodies. This construction creates garments that are cozy, absorbent and stretchy, making it perfect for warm-weather clothing like light sweat suits, hoodies and yoga pants. French terry is usually woven from cotton fibers, but synthetic and blended materials can also be used.

Mesh fabric is easily identifiable by its net-like appearance and open-hole construction. It is made from synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon and polypropylene. At Eastbay, mesh is found the most in jerseys, shorts and the linings of performance wear due to its light weight and breathability, which makes it perfect for indoor workouts or outdoor summer wear.

The burnout effect is mostly seen on t-shirts and sweatshirts. It is achieved by applying a chemical, like sulfuric acid, to fabric during the printing process in place of a color. The acid is usually mixed into a colorless print paste and then applied to the fabric in a way that will create a specific pattern. The acid then eats away at the fabric, thinning out the fibers in the first layer and creating a contrasting light and dark look. The result is a thin, t-shirt-like fabric that offers a vintage look and feel.

Like knit, the term "twill"- simply refers to how the fibers are woven together. Twill fabric can be made from cotton, cotton/polyester blends and even denim. All of these fabrics are diagonally woven, usually at a 45 degree angle. This creates visible ribs and grooves, and when used with cotton fibers, it can even produce a shimmery effect. This weave creates extremely durable fabrics, which means clothes made from twills will be durable and long lasting.

The distinct V-pattern of this twill weave creates repeating chevrons that mimic the skeletal structure of the herring, giving herringbone fabric its name. Herringbone construction is highly durable and usually made with wool, so it is seen most often on suits and coats. You might also see this term used to describe the tread pattern on the outsoles of shoes, as it provides excellent traction on a variety of surfaces.

Looking for durability? Ripstop may be for you! Ripstop fabric is used in sportswear and outerwear often because it is lightweight and both water- and wind-resistant. The material is constructed from double yarns woven in a box pattern, which makes the fabric extremely durable and resistant to tearing without adding any extra weight.

Think soft. Tricot fabric is formed when adjacent parallel threads are looped around each other. These threads can be any number of synthetic materials, like nylon, polyester or acetate, and the end product is a very soft, silky material. Tricot is mostly used for slips and nightgowns. At Eastbay, however, polyester tricot is used to create track jackets and pants that are intended to keep you extra comfortable.

If you need a fabric that is lightweight and stretchy, then anything made from spandex is going to be a great choice. Most foundation garments and compression gear is made from spandex, because it is able to stretch to the shape of the wearer's body while remaining breathable, so you stay cool and comfortable through any workout. Spandex is made from any number of synthetic materials, like nylon or polyester. Sometimes it can also contain a small amount of rubber or latex, so make sure to read garment tags to avoid any possible allergic reactions.

Now considered a fashion choice, slub yarn actually began as a defect in the spinning process of natural and synthetic fibers. The look is created when a section of yarn turns out fuller than it is supposed to be, making the material softer, slightly less durable and leaving a visible mark on the fabric. When created purposefully, the fuller lumps in the fabric create an alternating pattern and leave the garment extremely soft to the touch, for a relaxed, cozy feel.

Now that you have the knowledge you need to know which fabrics are right for your body and your lifestyle, you can feel more confident in your online shopping experience by choosing the clothing that's best for you. Happy shopping!