Stretch Fabrics and Their Uses in Textiles

Last Updated on 14/03/2021

Stretch Fabrics and Their Uses in Textiles

Amrita Govekar
B. Tech in Fibers and Textile Processing,
Masters in Textile Technology


‘Textile’ originally applied to only woven fabrics, but now includes fibers and filaments and yarns made from natural and synthetic materials. All textiles are polymers but all polymers are not textiles. Textiles can be woven or knitted. One way to find out if it’s knit or woven is to test how it stretches. Knit fabric is made from one continuous thread (much like the one continuous yarn in hand knitting), it stretches all over. Woven fabrics, on the other hand, will only stretch diagonally or as a sewer might say, on the bias.

Knitted Garments

Knitted Garments
Fig: Knitted garments

Woven Garments

Woven Garments
Fig: Woven garments

Stretch Fabrics

  • Stretch fabric is a synthetic fabric which stretches. Stretch can be either unidirectional or bi directional.
  • Unidirectional stretchable fabrics stretch in one direction, usually from selvedge to selvedge (but can be in other directions depending on the knit).
  • Bi stretch fabrics, such as spandex, stretch in both directions, crosswise and lengthwise.


  • The name “spandex” is an anagram of the word “expands”.
  • It is polyurethane – polyurea copolymer that was invented in 1959 by chemists C. L. Sandquist and Joseph Shivers at DuPont’s Benger Laboratory in Waynesboro, Virginia.
  • Spandex is the preferred name in Asia, North and South America.
  • In the UK, Ireland, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zeal and primarily as Lycra. In continental Europe it is referred to by variants of “elastane”, i.e. elasthanne (France), elastan (Germany), elastano (Spain and Portugal), elastam (Italy) and Elasthaan (Holland).
  • Spandex yarn increases the elongation of the stretch fabrics depending on the direction of the elasticity in the fabric and also enhances the crease recovery of the cotton and blend stretch fabrics.
  • Spandex yarn can be stretched four to seven times its initial length [elongate up to 500% – 800%], yet springs back to its original length once tension is released [recovery rate is over 95%]. Thus this fiber is known for its exceptional elasticity.
  • It is also lighter in weight. Spandex fiber appears to be a single, continuous thread; it is in reality a bundle of tiny filaments. It is a composed of “soft”, flexible, segments bonded together with “hard”, or rigid, segments. This gives the fiber its built-in lasting elasticity.
  • Brand names for spandex include Lycra (made by Koch susdidiary Invista, previously part of DuPont), Elaspan (also Invista), Acepora ( Taekwang), Creora (Hyosung), ROICA and Dorlastan (Asahi Kasei), Linel (Fillattice), and ESPA (Toyobo).

Spandex and Its Blends

  • Spandex is a highly versatile fiber. It can be readily blended with either synthetic or natural fibers, ranging from nylon, polyester, cotton, wool, viscose, rayon and silk to obtain fabrics and apparel with outstanding function and quality.
  • For clothing, spandex is usually mixed with cotton or polyester, and accounts for a small percentage of the final fabric, which therefore retains most of the look and feel of the other fibers. An estimated 80% of clothing sold in the United States contained spandex in 2010.
  • The main types of spandex yarns that are used in weaving and knitting machines together with other yarns are bare, single-covered, double-covered, core-spun, and core plies yarns.
  • Each form of spandex properly used, provides a high elasticity in fabric.

Use of Spandex (Lycra) in Textiles

  1. LYCRA® dualFX® fabrics is one example of stretch brand of Lycra created by the integration of LYCRA® fiber and LYCRA® T400 ® fiber by Invista within a single fabric for extra stretch and extra recovery. It is made with composite yarns such as core-spun, air-jet covered or single-covered yarns and in a variety of ways.
  2. The benefits of LYCRA® dualFX® fabrics are – High stretch, High recovery, Low growth and Excellent dimensional stability.
  3. Similarly Spandura is another newly developed Lycra which combines durability of Cordura nylon and stretch of Lycra. The result is a hi-tech high performance nylon/lycra knit that works where abrasion resistance and endurance are critical.
  4. Thus there are many other blend of spandex (Lycra/Elastane) fabrics used worlwide.
  5. Important characteristics of these blend fabrics, are raw material properties, weave structure, yarn count, warp and weft densities, and weight of fabric.

Stretch Fabrics with Polyester
Like Spandex there are few other yarns in market which provided stretch properties in fabric but properties will not be same as in spandex blend fabrics. Recron® Easy Stretch is one brand in family of polyesters developed specially by Reliance to bring mechanical stretch to fabrics with enhanced performance, style, and comfort in the continuously changing market.

Recron® Easy Stretch may be used like polyester yarn to achieve stretch in the knitted and woven fabrics. This can also be combined with most other fibers also to produce a variety of fabrics.

Application of Stretch Fabrics in Apparel and Clothing
Apparel and clothing articles where stretch is desired, generally for comfort and fit, such as underwear, compression garments, active wear, sportswear, athletic, aerobic and exercise apparel, belts, straps and side panels, competitive swimwear, cycling shorts, jerseys, dance belts, gloves, hosiery, leggings, bodysuits, rowing suits, ski pants, skinny jeans, slacks, miniskirts, socks, tights, wet suits, etc. all use stretchable fabrics.

Stretch Fabrics in Fashion

Stretch Fabrics in Fashion
Fig: Stretch Fabrics in Fashion

Stretch Garments Help to Make Fashion Beautiful

Stretch Garments help to make Fashion Beautiful
Fig: Stretch garments help to make fashion beautiful

Stretch Fabrics Make Fashion Comfortable for All

Stretch Fabrics make Fashion Comfortable
Fig: Stretch Fabrics make Fashion Comfortable

Stretch Fabrics in Technical Textiles and Other Applications
Stretch fabrics are used in Sportswear, Active wear, as Narrow fabrics in medical textiles such as Medical bandages, Head bandages, Wrist bands and so on.

Stretch Garments in Active Wear

Stretch Garments in Active wear
Fig: Stretch Garments in Active wear

Stretch Garments in Sportswear

Stretch Garments in Sportswear
Fig: Stretch Garments in Sportswear

Stretch Fabrics – other applications

Stretch Fabrics – other applications
Fig: Stretch Fabrics – other applications

About Author:
Amrita Govekar is working in Technical Textile firm. By profession She is a qualified textile postgraduate (B.Tech in Fibers and Textile Processing and Masters in Textile Technology) with professional experience in Quality Control, Marketing, Business Development and Technical Sales Support departments. She is expertise mainly into Textile Processing, Technical Textiles, Quality Control, Textile Chemistry, Sustainable Textiles, Durable Surface Coating Technologies and Leather Technology. Worked on woven, non woven and knitted textiles (fabric and garments) and leather composite textiles in India and UK.

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