There are many different types of fabrics on the market. Each differs based on fiber content, weight, and style of weave.
Some knit fabrics have a low level of stretch – these are called one-way stretch and can only stretch lengthwise (warp) or crosswise (weft). This type of fabric does not quickly return to its original shape.
Elasticity is a key element of comfortable, flexible clothing that allows movement. Although most people think of elastic as a product used in sportswear, it has long been an essential component of workwear, from flex-waist trousers to suspenders and bungee cords. Since the industrial revolution, rubber has been incorporated into clothing through natural processes and inventions. Painting rubber onto cloth gradually led to the building of elastic fibers into fabric.
The most familiar form of elastic is braided elastic, which has existed since the late nineteenth century and remains used today. In modern times, automated looms handle the weaving of stretch fabrics. Elastic fabrics have multiple favorable properties, including stretching and returning to their original shape after enlarging. They also have good tear resistance and dimensional stability.
Economically, elasticity is a spectrum of customer sensitivity that goes from highly inelastic to perfectly elastic. There are five types of elasticity: price, cross, income, and advertising. A specific product’s elasticity will land in one of these categories, depending on the variable that triggers it. For example, purchasing behavior changes radically when the price of a product rises or falls.
Stretch fabrics make the process of sewing garments with a figure-flattering fit much more accessible. They usually contain elastic fibers such as LYCRA (elastane), spandex, or nylon, while some also feature a knit structure due to the way they are made, with interlaced loops rather than woven threads.
Many fabrics are lightweight, making them comfortable, even during prolonged physical activity. They also offer a flexible and unrestricted feel, helping to ease movement.
In addition to offering excellent elasticity, many stretch fabrics are durable and robust. This makes them suitable for everyday clothing, including workwear and leisurewear.
Unlike woven fabrics, stretch fabrics are sensitive to heat. High temperatures and hot water washing may cause them to warp or lose elasticity. Some may also be prone to sticking to the skin, which can be uncomfortable. The best option is to follow the specific care instructions provided with the fabric.
The use of stretch fabrics in clothing brings multiple benefits to garments. From enhancing movement and flexibility to preventing chafing or pressure points in the skin, these fabrics improve comfort by reducing friction. Additionally, stretch fabrics are typically wrinkle-free and dimensionally stable, making them easy to maintain.
Other material properties also influence garment comfort. For example, knit structure can affect air permeability, improving thermoregulation and sweat evaporation. Studies have shown that stockinet and mesh knit structures have superior air permeability compared to other fabric types.
In addition to their elasticity, stretch fabrics are comfortable against the skin, providing softness and lightness. They also help to prevent chafing or skin irritation due to their high elongation coefficients.
While elastane is often used for stretch garments, other fibers can be equally comfortable. For instance, the new XLANCE fiber is developed with sustainable fashion in mind. It is produced through clean melt spinning technology, unlike spandex which uses dry-spinning methods (with toxic solvents). It offers long-lasting performance fit while being sweat-resistant, chlorine-resistant, UV-resistant, and durable.
When a fabric is stretched, the inherent forces that keep it together shift. When the force is removed, these forces return to their original state of equilibrium. This process is called stretch recovery. It helps create high-quality, long-lasting elastic fabrics with many of the same benefits as traditional spandex.
This technology is essential to the fashion industry because 91 percent of consumers say durability is vital in their apparel. It also reduces waste, as the clothes can be worn again instead of thrown away when they are no longer in style or fit.
Besides using this stretch technology, companies are developing other materials that add durability to the clothing they produce. For example, neoprene rubber is used in some athleticwear to make it more demanding and more durable. It also makes jeans that can withstand more wear and tear. However, physical durability alone is not enough to extend the lifespan of a garment. Instead, research has shown that garment longevity is determined more by a culture of use than by the material robustness of a piece.
Stretch fabrics are a pleasure to wear; they fit any figure and emphasize body lines. They are also very durable and make a beautiful addition to every collection. However, they can be challenging to sew as the fabric constantly stretches. This is why we recommend using a ballpoint needle with a rounded tip instead of a regular sewing machine needle, as it will help the fabric to keep its shape and not become stretched along the seams. In addition, it’s best to use a polyester thread. This type of thread has a slightly greater stretch than cotton thread.
Stretchy garments are often made of knitted fabrics, like lycra, elastane, or spandex (three different names for the same synthetic fiber) mixed with woven fabric. These are perfect for women’s clothes, sportswear, stage outfits, underwear, and home textiles.
Recovo offers a wide selection of fabric blends with a stretch element. Choose from a variety of patterns, colors, and textures. All our materials are made from excess textiles that would otherwise be discarded, so they have additional plus points of sustainability.