Our simplest explanation, leggings are knit (and stretchy) – dress shirts are woven (and not).  Primarily we sew with knit fabrics, so it’s one of the first questions we’ll ask new clients with a non-legging project.  The fabric is a key factor in any sewn product, so let’s see if you can guess knit or woven.

Maybe this will help with your education. 


Woven fabrics are made on a loom with a warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) thread.  How the threads are intertwined, or woven, depends on the type of fabric.  They do not have much stretch because of the tightness of the yarns in the fabric. Woven fabrics are often used in apparel production but are treated a bit differently than knit fabrics. While knits contours the body, wovens are great to use when creating pleats and clothes that require dimensional stability (you wouldn’t make a ball gown with just knits). Some you’ll easily be able to find in your closet.

woven garments

Knit fabrics are interlaced just like you do with knitting needles but on a grander scale.  Some machines create circular knits, where they are made in a tube.  Others are flat knit with a salvage on either side similar to a woven.  Here are some examples of knit fabrics. 

knit examples

Jersey: front of fabric has V shapes while back has interlocking loops.  A jersey can be seen in a chunky sweater and a fine t-shirt knit.  This is done a circular knitting machine.  Some garments are knit to size in a tube, then cut to length.   When we purchase this type of fabric, it’s split and laid flat before shipping.

tricot mesh knit examples
Lavender Tricot – Variety of Mesh

Tricot Warp Knit Fabric is most easily identified with a vertical rib line on one side and a horizontal on the other.  It’s made on flat knit machines. We often use this in sublimation printing because the fabric shows less grin through when printed on the side with horizontal lines. Mesh can be knit on either type of machine and depends on the style. 

Some of the reasons why we love knit fabrics are because, it molds and fits the contours of the body better (perfect for leggings), wrinkle resistant, cool and breathable, and provides extensive stretch. We love using knit fabrics to create and print custom leggings with our sublimation printer.

Hopefully next time you contact a factory it will be a little easier to answer- Knit or Woven?