What is stretch fabric?
Stretch fabric is a generalised term used for any textile, woven or knitted, which has more stretch, elasticity and recovery than regular fabrics. They are usually synthetic but they can be blended with natural fabrics, such as cotton and linen.
These fabrics have either a 2-way or a 4-way stretch and the majority of weft-knitted textiles, such as stretch jersey fabric, are innately stretchy. 2-way stretches in one direction, usually from selvedge to selvedge – but can be in other directions, depending on the knit – whereas a 4-way stretches in both directions; crosswise and lengthwise.
Popular and widely available fabrics include:
- Stretch cotton
- Stretch jersey fabric
- Stretch lace fabric
- Scuba fabric
How is it manufactured?
Stretch fabrics have evolved throughout the years and fabrics, such as neoprene, spandex and elastane or Lycra have been invented and used widely in the fashion, artistic and decorative worlds.
Stretch fabrics can be made mechanically; by using the knitting process outlined above, or they can be made by including a yarn that already has an inherent stretch, such as spandex and elastane.
The actual elasticity comes from the fibres, which make up the fabric. The degree of stretch can vary from as little as 5% all the way to 500% of its original length. It is generally thought of that only fabrics with 15% elongation and recovery, and above, are described as true stretch fabrics.
Purposes of stretch fabric
Stretch fabrics are highly versatile and can be used either on their own or mixed with other fibres to create materials, which are useful and functional. Stretch fabrics are used predominantly in the fashion and sportswear industries to provide comfort, fit and flexibility as well as a beautiful aesthetic quality.
The main property of stretch fabrics is their elasticity. Textiles such as stretch jersey fabric, stretch knit fabric and stretch lace fabric are extremely popular, thanks to their stretch and recovery rate.
When choosing your stretch fabric online, it is important to understand just how stretchy they are, as there are several degrees of elasticity in fabrics.
- Comfort stretch fabrics stretch and recover within the range of around 15-30% and are commonly used for everyday items, such as t-shirts, sportswear, swimwear, trousers and more. They conform to the body contours without being overly tight.
- Power stretch fabrics can stretch and recover in the range of 30% all the way to 200%. These are mostly used to manufacture items that compress and control the body, such as bras, sports bras, activewear, skiwear and surgical supports.
Advantages of stretch fabric
These materials have a great variety of advantages, which have driven the desire to constantly improve them. The main advantage, as to why stretchy fabrics and materials are just so popular, is that when the fabric is stretched, it can return to its original state. Even when stretched repeatedly.
This attribute is especially important in clothing such as swimwear, activewear, hosiery and other garments, which are made to be worn close to the body. This includes form-fitting and cosplay.
The other major advantage of stretch fabrics is that they can be easily blended with either other synthetic materials or natural fibres to create an overall fabric of brilliant quality and functionality.