Comparison between Woven and Knit Fabrics

Woven fabric:
Woven fabrics are manufactured by interlacing two sets of yarn perpendicular (0°/90°) to each other by crossing each over and under the other in alternating fashion (Figure 1). The yarns along the fabric length are termed warp yarns, and those along its width are termed weft or fill yarns. In woven fabrics, the yarns are connected together by friction at the joint points, so a sufficient number of connection points are needed to hold the fabric together in a stable manner. Thus, these fabrics are relatively dense so that the yarns will not come apart during service, and therefore, they cannot be in a mesh form. In woven fabric, due to the method of connection, that is, passing the warp and fill yarns under and over each other, both yarns in both directions are in crimp shapes. A woven fabric which is used in clothing and garments or for decoration and covering purposes. Woven fabric is also ideal as upholstery fabric.

Woven fabric, plain weave structure
Figure 1: Woven fabric, plain weave structure

Knitted fabric:
The knitted fabric structure is produced by interlooping the yarns, which in the knitted fabrics is manufactured using a set of closely spaced needles that pull the yarns to form the loops (stitches) (Figure 3). This type of fabric can be produced using either flat bed or circular knitting machines. The vertical column of loops along the length of the fabric is called ‘wale’ and the horizontal row of loops along the width of the fabric is called ‘course’. The respective directions are called ‘wale direction’ and ‘course direction’. A single knit loop comprises a head loop, two side limbs and two sinker loops as shown in Figure 2.

Schematic representation of various portions of a typical knit loop
Figure 2: Schematic representation of various portions of a typical knit loop

The two main knitted fabric production methods are weft knitting (Figure 3a) and warp knitting (Figure 3b).

Knitted fabric structures
Figure 3: Knitted fabric structure: (a) weft knitted and (b) warp knitted

Weft knitted fabrics are very common in clothing applications and used less frequently for reinforcing applications, as the ultimate fabric shape ends up with high curvature. In these cases, the yarn forming the loops runs in the weft (cross-machine) direction of the fabric, passing from one loop to the next. Similar to the method used in hand knitting, the whole fabric structure can be produced from a single yarn. Moreover, because they possess low dimensional stability, weft-knitted fabrics are easily stretched.

In warp knitted fabrics, the yarns that make the loops run in the fabric’s warp direction (lengthwise, in the machine direction). To produce the whole fabric structure, multiple yarns are needed. The method involves connecting a set of warp yarns together by loops that shift in a zigzag manner along the fabric length from one column to another, alternately, depending on the fabric geometry required for the intended end use. Compared to weft-knitted fabrics, these fabrics exhibit much higher structural stability. Due to the strong, loop-based connection at the fabric joints, warp-knitted fabrics can be produced in a wide range of mesh openings and mesh structures.

Knitted fabric has useful properties that make it suitable for a range of garments including tights, gloves, underwear and other close fitting garments. The loop structure of knitted fabric stretches and moulds to fit body shapes. The air trapped by the loops keeps the wearer warm.

Difference between of Woven and Knitted Fabric:

We already know that the woven fabrics produced by interlacement of two sets of yarn and knitted fabrics formed by the interloping of yarn, have unique characteristics and have their own end-user applications. In most of the cases, both fabrics can be a substitute for each other and selection of the right fabric can possibly meet the requirement of the wearer in a better way. Below Table presents a difference between woven and knitted fabric.

Table: Comparison between woven and knitted fabrics, machine and process.

Parameter Woven Fabric Knitted Fabric
Process requirement Fabric requires two sets of yarn for interlacement, one is warp and other is weft yarn. Fabric can be produced from a single end or a cone of a yarn in case of weft knitting.
Fabric construction Woven fabric is at least made up of two separate groups of yarns (warp and weft). Knitted fabric can be made up of one yarn only.
Dimensional stability More stable Less stable. Careful handling is required for knitted fabric during wet processing and stitching.
Thickness and handle Woven fabric is thinner and easy to handle. Knitted fabric is much thicker and softer than woven fabric as it has a complicated 3-dimensional structure.
Comfort Less comfort due to tight structure More open spaces that give better air permeability and moisture management.
Fabric Density and Cover Generally, woven fabric can be produced in extremely tight and higher coverage when compared with knitted fabric. Generally, knitted fabric is looser in structure.
Shape retention Woven garments retain their own shape Knitted garments get  the shape of the wearer’s body, hence, best for undergarments.
Elasticity Woven fabric has poor extensibility. Knitted fabric has higher extensibility and instant recovery ability than woven fabric. up of one yarn only.
Sewing Easy to sewing Generally have more stretch.
Crease resistant Poor crease resistance High crease resistance
Fabric Selvage Woven fabric have selvage. Knit fabric have no selvage.
Development route Yarn preparation requires like warping, sizing drawing, etc. Fabric can be produced from yarn package. So process route is very short.
Conversion cost Conversion from yarn to fabric involves various processes. The conversion cost is higher. Conversion requires no preparation, so conversion cost is low.
Fabric Application However, if fabric requires good dimensional stability, high tenacity like trousers, jackets, canvas, woven fabric is the right choice. The popularity of sportswear, hosiery, underwear and high fashion knitwear make a strong demand on knitted fabric every year which cannot be replaced by woven fabric.
Environmental effect Preparation includes a sizing of warp yarn that has to remove before color application, that may cause environmental pollution. The yarn is just waxed. No need to size the yarn, so development cause less environmental hazards.

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