Fabric Properties and Characteristics for Garment Manufacturing

Fabric Properties and Characteristics:
In garment manufacturing the main raw material used is fabric which is either woven or knitted or nonwoven. In addition to textile fabrics, sometimes leather and fur are also used in apparel manufacturing. The fabric should have appropriate texture and color according to end use. Cover factor, tensile extensibility, bending and shear rigidity, frictional hysteresis, thickness, and lateral compressibility are the important fabric properties. Fabric characteristics distinguish one fabric from another.

Fabric Characteristics

Physical Properties / Characteristics of Fabric:
Physical properties are generally the static physical dimensions of a fabric. The physical properties used for describing a fabric are given below.

  1. Fiber or filament: type, size and length
  2. Yarn: linear density, diameter, twist and number of ply
  3. Weight: grams per meter or yards per pound
  4. Thickness
  5. Fabric structure: for woven fabrics: type of weave, count of war and weft, ends per inch (EPI), picks per inch (PPI). For knitted fabrics: type of knit, wales per inch (WPI), course per inch (CPI) and loop length
  6. Non-fibrous matter: residual chemicals left over the fabric
  7. Finishes: chemicals and mechanical finishes applied to the woven fabric to improve the durability, and/or utility values
  8. Fabric width: the length of the filling or course
  9. Color, hue, value and intensity: hue in color refers to the type of spectrum such as red, green, blue, yellow, etc. Value refers to the shade of spectrum such as light blue or dark blue. Intensity refers to the degree of brilliance such as bright light blue or dull light blue
  10. Fabric density: weight per unit of volume
  11. Surface contour: the geometric dimension of the surface plane

Six major categories of fabric characteristics that are of significance for the garment manufacturer are:

  1. Style characteristics
  2. Hand characteristics
  3. Visual characteristics
  4. Utility characteristics
  5. Durability characteristics
  6. Garment production working characteristics

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Above fabric characteristics are described below.

A. Style Characteristics:
Style characteristics generally change, which has an effect on the emotional appeal the fabric imparts to the consumer. This is validated when a customer handles a fabric and rates the fabric with adjectives like stiff, soft, hard, etc.

B. Hand Characteristics:
Hand characteristics are the transforms in the fabric surface with hand manoeuvring which apply tensile, compression and moulding forces on the fabric. The hand characteristics involve few utility characteristics. The characteristics that influence the fabric hand are:

  1. Thickness compressibility
  2. Plane compressibility
  3. Elongation
  4. Elasticity
  5. Torsion
  6. Malleability
  7. Flexibility self flex, resistance flex, maintenance flex and reflex
  8. Resilience
  9. Gravity drape, gravity sag and gravity elongation

Thickness compressibility is the degree to which a fabric thickness can be compressed with a given pressure. Plane compressibility refers to the amount to which a given area of the fabric can be compressed into the lowest volume with a given spherical compression. Elongation refers to the extent to which the fabric can be stretched without breaking the fabric. Stretch and extensibility are other terms used for this concept. Elasticity is the extent to which the fabric can be extended and still have the capacity to come back to its original length after the stretching force is removed.

Torsion is the degree to which the groups of fabric yarns can be displaced in the fabric plane by exerting opposing force vectors parallel to the fabric plane when the fabric is on a horizontal surface. Malleability is the degree with which a fabric can be moulded into a surface by moving more than one straight line element through space.

Flexibility has four dimensions: self flex, resistance flex, maintenance flex and reflex. Self flex refers to the ability of cloth to support its own weight in each of two positions. In vertical self flex, the fabric supports its weight vertically from the bottom. In horizontal self flex, the fabric supports its weight horizontally. Horizontal self flex is commonly tested with the cantilever bending method. The less the fabric can support its own weight, the greater the capacity to drape softly. A soft drape is a drape with small folds that have minute amplitudes on each fold. Resistance flex is the degree with which the fabric plane can be bent in one direction with an outside force other than the gravity of its own weight. Maintenance flex is the degree with which the fabric maintains a flexed form with outside support or force. Reflex is the ability required to turn a flexed form into another flexed form.

Gravity drape has two facets: gravity sag and gravity elongation. There are two kinds of gravity elongation: straight line support and curved line support. Gravity sag usually has a different value for each of the three basic grains. It is the degree to which a given size of fabric sags and forms diagonal and horizontal ripples (or folds) when it is suspended vertically from the upper end of the fabric. Resilience is the degree to which a flexed or compressed fabric returns to its original flat plane after the flexing or compressing force is removed.

C. Visual Characteristics:
Visual characteristics are the changes in color values when either the fabric or light is moved. Visual characteristics can be measured in all its aspects with instruments such as the Cary or Farrand spectrophotometers used for measuring static visual values. This includes measuring color change due to either fabric or light movement.

D. Utility Characteristics:
Utility characteristics refer to the comfort, fit and wearing characteristics of a garment while the fabric experiences mechanical, thermal or chemical conditions during the usage of the garment. The transmission and transformation are the two main types in this category. A transmission characteristic transmits mass or energy through the fabric. It alters physical properties of the fabric without obliterating the fabric.

a) Transmission characteristics:

  1. Weight
  2. Thickness
  3. Elongation
  4. Moisture transmission
  5. Radioactivity transmission
  6. Air permiability
  7. Water permeability

b) Transformation characteristics:

  1. Color fastness
  2. Crease resistance
  3. Crease retention
  4. Crack resistance
  5. Dimensional stability
  6. Felting (matting)
  7. Fusing
  8. Mildew resistance
  9. Moisture absorption
  10. Moisture retention (drying)
  11. Pilling
  12. Scorching
  13. Soiling
  14. Shrinkage
  15. Static electricity
  16. Yarn slippage

Air permeability of a fabric is a measure of how well it allows the passage of air through it when the air is impacted with air at a given pressure. The ease or otherwise of passage of air is of importance for a number of fabric end uses such as industrial filters, tents, sail-cloths, parachutes, raincoat materials, shirt, down-proof fabrics and airbags.

Thermal conductivity of fabric is the rate at which heat passes through a given area of fabric. Fabric weight is the product of fabric thickness times fabric density.

Water permeability of a fabric is a measure of how well it allows the passage of air through it.

Light permeability is the amount of illumination that passes through a given area of fabric.

Moisture transmission is the rate with which moisture travels throughout the fabric when water contacts the fabric without an impact force, gravity or otherwise. This is a measure of the fabric’s ability to diffuse moisture.

Radioactivity transmission is the degree with which radioactive energy, such as X-ray and gamma rays, can penetrate fabrics. This is important only for special types of clothing.

Abrasion resistance is the ability of a fabric to resist surface wear caused by flat rubbing contact with another material.

Color fastness is the capability of a fabric to maintain its original value under given conditions. Wet crocking is color transference by a wet fabric; dry crocking is color transference by a dry fabric.

Dimensional stability is the capacity with which fabric can resist changes in physical dimensions.

Shrinkage is reduction in the size of textiles after washing, soaking, or treatment with moist heat; the articles may be reduced in linear dimensions, area, or volume. Shrinkage may be due to a variety of factors: a loss of elasticity in the material itself or in its constituent fibers and threads, which have been stretched during spinning, weaving, or finishing.

Fusing is the degree with which the fabric yarns or fibers melt and weld together. This characteristic applies only to thermoplastic finishes or synthetic or manufactured fibers. Pilling is the degree with which the fabric fibers are formed into minute fiber balls on the fabric surface during wear.

Soiling is the degree with which a fabric gathers and retains gases, liquids or solids in a manner that changes the original color, odor or weight of the fabric.

Creases are a fold in a fabric introduced unintentionally. Crease resistance is the ability of a material to resist, or recover from, creasing. Crease recovery is a specific measurement of crease resistance that determines the crease recovery angle. It is therefore a quantitative method of analysis.

GSM of fabric is one kind of specification of fabric which is very important for a textile engineer for understanding and production of fabric. ‘GSM’ means ‘Gram per square meter’ that is the weight of fabric in gram per one square meter. By this we can compare the fabrics in unit area which is heavier and which is lighter.

Cover factor is defined as the area covered by the yarn when compared with the total area covered by the fabric. Cover factor is a number that indicates the extent to which the area of a fabric is covered by one set of threads. For any woven fabric, there are two cover factors: a warp cover factor and a weft cover factor.

Ends per Inch or Picks per Inch It is a measure of thread density. The normal method used to determine thread density is to use a pick glass. Ends per inch (EPI) is the number of warp threads per inch of woven fabric. Picks per inch (PPI) is the number of weft threads per inch of woven fabric. A fabric is said to be well balanced if the number of warp yarns and weft yarns per inch are almost equal.

E. Durability Characteristics:
Durability characteristics are the ability of a fabric to retain the utility and style characteristics during wear. It is an indirect measure of stress, which destroys the fabric or its capability to retain the required style or utility characteristics.

The durability characteristics are:

  1. Tearing strength
  2. Tensile strength
  3. Abrasive strength
  4. Bursting strength
  5. Corrosive strength
  6. Dry cleaning durability
  7. Fire resistance
  8. Launder ability
  9. Moth resistance
  10. Radiation absorption strength
  11. Yarn severance

Tensile strength is a measurement of the force required to pull something such as rope, wire, or a structural beam to the point where it breaks. The tensile strength of a material the maximum amount of tensile stress that it can take before failure, for example breaking.

Tear resistance (or tear strength) is a measure of how well a material can withstand the effects of tearing. More specifically however it is how well a material (normally rubber) resists the growth of any cuts when under tension, it is usually measured in 5N/m.

Abrasive strength is the measure of rubbing action necessary to disintegrate the fabric.

Bursting strength is the measure of vertical pressure, against a fabric area secured in space, necessary to rupture the fabric.

Corrosive strength is the measure of chemical action, acid or alkaline, necessary to disintegrate a fabric. Dry cleaning durability is the measure of dry cleaning performance that disintegrates the fabric.

Fire resistance has two parameters – the ignition point and the rate with which the fabric burns. The flame size is an important dimension in each of these two parameters.

Launder ability is the measure of washings that disintegrate the fabric. Laundering is an integration of mechanical, thermal and chemical action.

Moth resistance is the extent to which a fabric is disintegrated by moths and larvae.

Radiation absorption strength is the rate with which radiation energy either disintegrates a fabric or destroys the utility characteristic.

F. Garment Manufacturing Working Characteristics:
Garment production working characteristics affect the quality of product as well as cost of production. An example of this is the difficulty entailed in sewing some fabrics with certain types of ornamentation. Some working characteristics, such as seam strength, are measured by durability limits.

They are classified as working characteristics because the characteristics are either the reaction to, or the vital part of, an apparel production process. The working characteristics of a fabric are

  1. Coefficient of friction (cutting, sewing, pressing and packaging)
  2. Sewed seam strength
  3. Sewed seam slippage (yarn slippage)
  4. Sewing distortions
  5. Yarn severage
  6. Bondability strength (fused, cemented and heat-sealed seams)
  7. Die mouldability
  8. Pressing mouldability

The first five characteristics stated above are vital parameters for evaluating fabric sewability potential.

Characteristics of Woven Fabric:

  • Two or more sets of yarns interlaced to form the fabric structure. Yarns interlace at right angles.
  • Can be ravelled from any cut edge.
  • May be bowed or skewed.
  • Usually lighter in weight because less yarn is used.
  • Possess limited stretch and adaptability to body movement.
  • Bulkiness and recovery from wrinkle depend on weave structure.
  • Stable to stress, less air permeable, especially with dense fabric.
  • Provide maximum hiding power and cover.
  • More stable in use and care.
  • May shrink less than 2%.

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Characteristics of Knitted Fabric:

  • Series of interconnected loops made with one or more sets of yarns.
  • Can be ravelled from top to bottom. Warp knits cannot ravel.
  • Fabric can snag and run, bowed or skewed.
  • Usually heavier because more yarn is used.
  • Possess stretch and elasticity, adapts to body movement.
  • Good recovery from wrinkles; air permeable.
  • Possess open spaces between yarns and bulky.
  • Porous and less opaque.
  • Less stable in use and care.
  • Higher shrinkage unless heat-set.


  1. Apparel Manufacturing Technology By T. Karthik, P. Ganesan and D. Gopalakrishnan
  2. Clothing: Fashion, Fabrics and Construction, Fifth Edition by Jeanette Weber
  3. Fundamentals and Advances in Knitting Technology by Sadhan C. Ray
  4. Garment Manufacturing Technology Edited by Rajkishore Nayak and Rajiv Padhye
  5. Materials and Technology for Sportswear and Performance Apparel Edited by Steven George Hayes, Praburaj Venkatraman

Author of This Article:
Jahanara Akter
Fashion Designer & Ex-Lecturer,
Dept. of Fashion Design
KCC Women’s College (Affiliated by Khulna University)
Khulna, Bangladesh

You may also like:

  1. Analysis of Plain Woven Fabric Specification
  2. Specification of Various Knitted Fabric Structure
  3. Theory and Calculation of Cover Factor of Woven Fabric
  4. Importance of Fabric Specification and Performance in Garment Manufacturing

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