The Differences Between Knit and Woven Fabric

Fabric is generally made in one of three ways — woven, knit, or bonded. Woven and knit fabrics are the most common types and they have many differences and similarities. The terms “woven” and “knit” do not refer to specific fabrics, but rather the design or the way the fabric is put together. For instance, cotton is a type of fabric that comes in both knit and woven designs.

Here is a chart showing the differences between knit and woven fabric:

Knit Fabric Woven Fabric
Lengthwise stitches are called “ribs” and crosswise stitches are called “course” or “crossgrain” Lengthwise stitches are called “grain” and crosswise stitches are called “crossgrain”
Most stretch is either in the crossgrain or the bias Most stretch is always on the bias (diagonal stretch)
Generally have more stretch and natural give Require ease when sewing
Mold and fit the contours of the body better Look good with pleats and sharp corners
Cool and breathable Thick and wind resistant
Wrinkle resistant Hold a crease well
Edges curl and some knits run (think nylon panty hose) Edges are prone to ravel
No seam finish is required, although optional Requires seam finishing, like serging, to prevent ravel
Requires stretch stiches, like zig zags Easiest to sew on and feed through a sewing machine

The easiest way to tell whether a fabric is knit or woven is to look close to the fibers. If there are loops, it is a knit fabric, but if it resembles more of a checkerboard, it is woven. Instructions on the back of patterns usually suggest whether they work best with woven or knit material, so make sure you can tell the difference when shopping for fabric at the store. It will make your finished project come out a whole lot better.

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