The Differences Between Woven and Knit Fabrics

The Differences Between Woven and Knit Fabrics

For folks getting into the business of making clothes, it’s easy to get a little lost. All you wanted to do was to make a nice outfit for yourself, and suddenly you’re thrust into a world of terms and jargon you didn’t even know existed. What’s more, you realize that all of this is related to what you’re trying to do and you’re going to have to know what a single knitting machine is and why it’s not the same as a double jersey knit machine.

One thing that is crucial for newcomers to understand is that there are differences between fabrics that are woven and ones that are knit. This may seem unimportant, but it can be the difference between something that fits well and having something you’re more inclined to rip apart.

Basic Tests

Identifying the differences between woven and knit fabric can help you. It’s important to know what sets them apart because they have physical properties that make them suitable for different tasks. One is better adapted for colder weather than the other, for instance. So the first part is knowing how to tell the two apart. For that, there are a few tests one can perform.


The easiest test is wrinkling. Woven fabric tends to wrinkle easier and to retain those for longer. A knit fabric won’t, displaying a tendency to bounce back almost as soon as the pressure is gone. Take a sample of the fabric and crush it in your hand. If it springs back with little to no sign of wrinkling, what you have is knit rather than woven.


If you can look into individual fibers and threads, you’ll find the key difference is numbers. Woven and knit fabrics are mainly differentiated by the thread composition. Knit fabrics ones will be made from a single thread, looped over and over again until it looks similar to a braid. This means that if you see a loose thread and pull on it long enough, you’ll probably make the whole thing unravel.

In contrast, woven fabrics are made of multiple threads. These will be crossed at right angles from each other. This creates a grain that is visible if you look at it up close. The appearance is distinctive from knit fabrics, and it’s pretty easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for.


Look at the edges of the fabric. When a knit fabric is made, they usually get rounds of starch along the edges, which is meant to prevent curling. In the absence of starch, they might go with glue instead. Along the cut edge, the effect of this is that the fabric doesn’t fray. Along the length of it, you’ll find that the fibers don’t move around and are very strong. This is something you won’t see in a woven fabric.

There is also the generally-reliable stretch test. It is a known fact that knit fabrics have a greater stretch. This is true particularly for the jersey knit, which is fairly popular for cardigans, sweaters, and any attire that needs to drape over the body.


What you do is conduct the stretch test. Pull it along the width and see how far it will go. Knit fabrics will go far along this direction, so you should see a visible difference. If you stretch along the length, the pull is not as impressive. However, avoid pulling too hard, because you could cause a run along with the fabric in the same way you could cause runs in women’s stockings if you’re not careful.

Woven fabrics tend to stretch along the length, the opposite of the knit counterparts. At the same time, you’ll find they don’t have as much flexibility along the width, where the crosswise grain is.

Production Costs

For people on the production side, there is also the matter of cost. Knit fabric is cheaper because it requires less labor. This is especially true if you have the machinery needed to automate much of the work. Woven fabrics tend to take more effort and require human labor to complete the process, which adds to the cost.


There is also a matter of things being sewn on them. Knit fabrics require more effort in sewing, particularly because of their resiliency and stretchiness. In contrast, woven fabrics are easier and more straightforward to sew things onto and there are much less time and effort required.

Visual Factors

Finally, there is the visual element. Woven fabrics look better if you need pleats in the design, and they also tend to handle sharp corners better. In contrast, if you want something to drape over the contours of the body or mold to the general shape of it, knit fabrics have a clear advantage.


Knit and woven fabrics have different properties and being able to tell them apart can go a long way to making your textile interests much easier. There’s a number of physical elements that make them distinct from one another. With this, you can get the right machines and plan the sort of designs that you can expect to roll out of your clothing factory.