Woven vs. Knit Fabric

Textiles are defined by the yarns and threads that create them. Historically speaking, textiles have been used for the last 100,000 years, all the way back to the stone age. The earliest instances of cotton, silk, and linen being used, dates to 5000 B.C. Two different manufacturing processes of textiles emerged as the main types… woven and knitted. What’s the difference between woven and knitted fabrics? When choosing textiles, one of the main questions to ask yourself is whether you need a woven or a knitted fabric. The best way to answer this question is to understand the difference between the two types. In this blog I’d like to discuss the difference between woven and knitted textiles and some examples of each to help you understand what’s the best option for your project.

  Example of a woven fabric - Revolution pattern, Barkcloth

Example of a woven fabric - Revolution pattern, Barkcloth

Woven Fabrics

Woven fabrics have been developed throughout the ages by “weavers” and their predecessors. Weaving textiles involves the interlacing of two or more yarns to create fabric. In weaving, the warp and the weft are terms to describe the direction of the yarn compared to the loom. The warp is the yarn that runs up the loom vertically. They act as the beam or center that the weft, or the horizontal yarns, are interlaced through. A shuttle is a tool that neatly carries the weft thread through the warp repeatedly to crate your finished textile. Woven textiles are easiest to spot due to the crisscross pattern. They are also easiest to use because they do not unravel if you cut them.

Woven Fabric Types

Woven fabrics can be created in a variety of ways. The most common type of woven fabric is plain weave, also called tabby weave, linen weave, or taffeta weave. This is a style of weaving that alternates weft threads, or yarn, over and under the warp threads, or yarn. Plain weaves are most used in clothing and home textiles due to their durability.

 A sofa covered in a twill weave fabric by Revolution called Slipcover Twill

A sofa covered in a twill weave fabric by Revolution called Slipcover Twill

Another type of woven fabric is the twill weave. This woven textile is created by weaving weft threads in a diagonal pattern up the warp. This technique is known to add more durability to the textile and are preferably used in garments/textiles that will undergo wear and tear. These types of fabric are commonly seen in shirting and suits as well as durable upholstery furniture.

The final type of woven fabric is the satin weave. This is by far the more complicated weave out of the three types. Satin weave involves longer “floats “of the weft yarn or thread, exposed on the surface to create shiny and reflective effects. This type of weave is most commonly used in higher end garments and textiles like jackets, athletic shorts, nightgowns and blouses.

  Example of a knit fabric

Example of a knit fabric

Knitted Fabrics

Knitted fabrics are a little different than woven. Knitted fabrics are made by one continuous thread, much like continuous yarn in handknitting. Knitted textiles are created by a single thread or yarn, assisted by needles, to create interlocking loops, instead of the multiple warp yarns used in woven fabrics. The knitted fabric is a single yarn or thread that loops up and down the knitting machine. The easiest way to tell the difference between woven and knitted fabrics is knits create loops in the braided pattern vs the interlacing weave. Knitted fabrics are preferred in clothing due to their stretchiness and temperature control they provide. Knitted fabrics can also be a little tricky. If you cut a knitted textile, the fabric can unravel because it’s interloping single yarn or thread. Knitted fabric must be glued on the cut edge to prevent it.

  A loom creating woven fabrics

A loom creating woven fabrics

Woven Fabric vs Knit Fabric

Construction

  • Woven fabrics are created on bigger weaving looms

  • Knitted fabrics are created using a knitting machine or loom

How They Stretch and Move

  • Woven fabrics are less stretchable

  •   Knitted fabrics are stretchable in many directions

How They Are Used

  • Woven Fabrics are more durable and less likely to lose their color (upholstery preferred)

  • Knitted fabrics are preferred in warmth, comfort, and wrinkle resistant applications (garment preferred)

Washability

  •  Woven fabrics are less likely to shrink when washing

  •  Knitted fabrics shrink when frequently washed

Whatever your project may be, like knitting a hat or reupholstering a sofa, I hope this blog can help you further understand the key differences in woven vs knitted fabrics and gives you base guidelines for choosing a textile.