07.17.2023

Woven vs. knit: understanding the difference and their care needs

woven vs knit

There are many different types of fabrics. That said, the vast majority of these fabrics are prepared in one of two styles. The first is woven fabrics; the second is knit fabrics. Are you interested in knowing the differences between the two? Curious about the maintenance and care needs of woven vs knit fabric? We’re going to discuss them in detail below. 

Ready? Let’s go!

What characterizes woven fabrics?

First, let’s talk about what characterizes woven fabrics. These are fabrics consisting of two yarns that have been woven together.

They’re woven with the use of two looms. The vertical loom produces warp threads. The horizontal loom produces weft threads. 

When you look closely at woven fabrics, you’ll notice a checkerboard-like pattern. This consists of intersecting yarns running over and under each other, kind of like you’ll see in a woven basket. 

The primary characteristics of woven fabrics include the following:

Highly structured

The first thing you’ll notice about woven fabric is that it’s highly structured. It doesn’t flop around as knit fabric does. It’s stiffer and doesn’t have as much give. As such, it typically won’t stretch much. 

Coarse to the touch 

Not only is woven fabric highly structured, but it’s also typically coarse to the touch. This is opposed to knit fabrics, which are generally quite soft to the touch.

Prone to wrinkling

Another characteristic of woven fabrics is that they wrinkle with ease. This is because woven fabrics are highly structured and are therefore more sensitive to being bent in varying directions.

In most cases, to keep woven fabrics looking nice, you’ll need to iron them on a regular basis. For instance, think of how you have to iron a suit and tie before wearing them to a wedding.

Durable

Generally speaking, woven fabrics are extremely durable. This is because they’re highly structured and therefore don’t stretch out much over time. Their fibers don’t easily separate and therefore can take on a great deal of wear and tear.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for some woven garments to last a lifetime. Dresses and suits, for instance, often get passed down through the generations.

Require special care when cleaning

Woven fabrics can be highly susceptible to wear and tear. As such, they don’t tend to do well in clothes washers. Instead, they need to be dry cleaned or hand washed.

This makes their maintenance less convenient than what you’ll have to do to maintain knit fabric clothing. The tradeoff, though, is that woven fabric clothing lasts longer.

What characterizes knit fabrics?

Now, let’s talk about what characterizes knit fabrics. Knit fabrics result from interlocking yarn together with the use of long needles. There are two main types of knitting: weft and warp. 

Weft knitting involves running the loops of the fabric back and forth. Warp knitting involves running the loops of the fabric up and down. 

The vast majority of clothing is made out of knit fabric. This includes everything from t-shirts to sweaters to socks to swimsuits and more.

Some of the primary characteristics of knit fabrics include the following: 

Flexibility 

Whereas woven fabrics are highly structured, knit fabrics are generally quite flexible. While some of these fabrics actually stretch at the seams, others simply have a floppy consistency. The benefit of this is that they hang comfortably off the body, and don’t confine it in a rigid space.

Soft to the touch 

In addition to possessing flexibility, knit fabrics are also soft to the touch. They’re either flat and smooth or spongy and bumpy. In either case, however, they feel soft against the skin. 

Don’t easily wrinkle

Another characteristic of knit fabrics is that they don’t easily wrinkle. Whether you crumple them up, keep them in a clothes basket with other clothing, or completely neglect them in the back of your car, they’ll still only wrinkle to a small extent. If they do become wrinkled, you can de-wrinkle them by simply hanging them up for a few hours.

Lack durability

Of the two fabric types, knit fabric is undoubtedly less durable. It’s thinner than woven fabric and tends to stretch and tear as time passes. This isn’t to say that you can’t get a good many years out of a knit fabric garment; it’s just that it won’t last as long as a woven fabric garment will.

Challenging to sew

Another thing you might find with knit fabrics is that they’re challenging to sew. Their stretch, flexibility, and thin consistency causes them to move easily while sewing is being facilitated. This can result in crooked seams, especially if you’re not a trained seamstress.

Simple to care for

While knit fabrics do lack something in the way of durability, they make up for it in the ease of their care. You can maintain most knit fabrics simply by throwing them in a clothes washer. They don’t need to be dry cleaned or hand washed, though you can certainly clean them that way if you wish.

How to care for woven fabric

Now that we’ve discussed the characteristics of woven and knit fabrics, we’ll discuss how to care for each. We’ll begin by discussing the care of woven fabrics.

First and foremost, if it has a care label, read it and abide by all rules. Those instructions are there for a reason. The reading of care labels can make or break the upkeep of your clothing.

Regardless, however, you’re advised to approach the care of woven fabrics with caution. Generally speaking, woven fabrics should not be put in a washing machine. You should either hand wash them or dry clean them.

In addition, after wearing a woven fabric, you should brush it with a soft-thistle brush. This will remove surface-level grime and ensure that it doesn’t stain over time.

If hand washing, make sure to avoid harsh soaps. In fact, you should specifically seek out soaps made for woven fabrics.

You should also be sure to avoid extremely hot water. Warm or cold water is best for woven fabrics.

It’s generally a good idea to iron woven fabrics as well. This helps them maintain their structure over time. Plus, it simply looks better.

Finally, when drying your woven fabrics, avoid mechanical dryers. Instead, you should air dry your woven fabrics by hanging them on a clothesline. To induce quicker drying, you might also consider aiming a box fan at them.

How to care for knit fabric

Caring for knit fabric is a lot less intensive than caring for woven fabric. Generally speaking, it’s as simple as throwing the knit fabrics into a mechanical washing machine. That said, there’s a little more to it.

As with woven fabrics, you should begin by reading the care label. This will tell you everything you shouldn’t do with it. Note, though, that most knit fabrics are machine-washable.

When putting knit fabrics in a washing machine, it’s best to keep them separated by color. If you put different colors together, they can bleed onto one another, thus ruining each other’s colors. This is particularly true if you mix light clothing with dark clothing.

Generally speaking, it’s best to use cold or warm water. Hot water can cause knit fabrics to shrink, not to mention deteriorate before their time.

When washing knit fabrics in a machine, it’s best to use a gentle, delicate, or normal cycle. Using anything stronger than this can result in undue deterioration.

As far as drying knit fabrics goes, you can generally just throw them into a drying machine. This will rid them of all moisture and ensure that mildew isn’t able to grow within their fibers.

That said, using a drying machine can cause some knit fabrics to shrink. This is particularly true with cotton fabrics.

If you’re worried about your fabrics shrinking in the machine, you should instead hang them on a line. This way, they won’t be exposed to extreme heat and will have no risk of shrinking.

Woven vs knit: which is better?

When it comes down to the question of woven vs knit, there is no better. Both types of fabric have their uses. That said, woven fabric is generally considered to be more luxurious, as its interlocking style provides a more textured look, not to mention increased durability. 

Interested in purchasing custom woven products? If so, you’re in the right place. HiLabels has you covered. 

We manufacture a wide variety of woven products, from tags to labels to zipper pulls to patches and more. We also make care labels that attach to clothing, allowing manufacturers to list clothing care instructions to their customers. 

Contact us now to discuss your needs! 

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