What is Stretch Fabric?
Summer is now rapidly approaching, and all around us we see the reemergence of outdoor activity. The beaches are becoming more crowded and public pools have shed their winter tarps. While stores have begun to line their shelves with the newest swimwear fashion. But, whether you know it or not, those swimsuits wouldn’t be nearly as stylish or practical without one important material, stretch fabrics. Stretch fabrics can actually be found throughout your everyday life, often allowing you to go about your day in comfort. While stretch fabrics are an important piece of your life, they tend to go overlooked. So instead, let’s dive into a deeper understanding of just what goes into this special fabric, and why it all matters.
In the 1960s, DuPont, a chemical company, developed a new process for manufacturing fabrics that could stretch without damaging its structural integrity. What DuPont created was stretch knit fabrics, a malleable yet durable fabric that could easily be distorted, only to return to its original form. Where stretch fabrics differ from woven fabrics is the knit pattern that uses interlaced loops, compared to the grid pattern of fibers that can be found in woven materials.
This new innovation was originally exclusively used in producing swimwear and women’s bras. However, its knit designed, coupled with naturally elastic fibers, made stretch knit the fabric of choice for many athletes. In the mid-1980s, a major shift occurred when designers began to incorporate stretch fabrics into mainstream fashion. Today, you can still find stretch fabrics in swimwear as well as countless other products, everything from leotards to blue jeans. If you go for a run, chances are your entire outfit is made from stretch fabrics, even your running shoes. If you’re relaxing at home in your jeans and sweatshirt, there are actually stretch fibers in those items too.
While the process stays relatively uniform for all types of stretch knit fabrics, the output can vary in numerous ways. For starters, stretch fabrics all fall into one of two categories, two-way or four-way stretch. Two-way stretch means that the fabric can either stretch horizontally or vertically, while four-way stretch can stretch in both directions. However, stretch type isn’t the only variation, the fibers that go into the end result can come from a variety of elastic materials. Some common types of stretch fabrics that can be found are:
Spandex and Spandex Blends:
On its own, spandex can stretch up to 400% its size, but once it’s mixed with other materials, it can still lend up to 20% of its elasticity to the coupled fiber. Polyester, Cotton-Spandex, Nylon, and stretch velvet are some of the most common spandex blends found on the market, but many other adaptations exist.
Knits tend to be two-way stretch but is still widely used for sewing clothes. Knit fabrics can be found in everyday articles of clothing, such as socks and hats.
Latex comes from the sap of rubber trees and can be applied to other materials for their stretch and water-resistance. However, pure rubber isn’t commonly applied in clothing due to its lack of breathability and skin irritation.
This synthetic polymer resembles some of the stretch and water resistance qualities of rubber while cutting back on the limitations of the pure material. This material is available in a range of thicknesses and is increasingly being used in bodysuits and fashion pieces.
In 1978, John Sheils saw the importance of this material and established Pine Crest Fabrics. Our continued goal has been to provide wholesale stretch fabrics for a wide variety of creators. We continuously stock nearly all types of stretch material that can be applied to countless industries. The work that is done every day with our fabrics is a far cry from the limited field of products in the 1960s, and we continue to develop our products with the latest advancements in stretch fabric to accommodate for the future.
It’s no stretch to say that stretch fabrics have developed into one of the most important clothing innovations in centuries. The fields that this fabric applies to continues to stretch across varying professions and activates. So, the next time you suit up for a quick dip, understand everything that goes into the fabric that allows you to live your life in luxury and style.
More information about DuPont’s innovation in the clothing industry can be found here.
If you would like to learn more about the process that goes into stretch fabrics click here.
For a complete list of the different types of materials found in stretch fabrics click here.