Fabric Structures: A Close Look

Big picture

Fabric is the medium of the fashion designer. It is important for a designer to understand fabric structure in order to select fabrics that will behave as needed for a particular design.

What’s the goal?

To help young designers understand that there are different textile structures..


Designers work individually.


Precut fabric into 2” squares.

Let’s get started!

  1. Introduce the activity by asking if they can name some ways to create fabrics.
  2. Distribute fabric swatches, handouts, and magnifiers
  1. Have the young designers examine each of the three fabric swatches using the magnifier and record observations on the handout.
  2. Show the PowerPoint.
  3. Have designers try stretching their swatches in different directions.  Have the mold the swatches up to a light to see if and where light shines through the fabric. This can make it easier to see the structure of a non-woven in particular.



Show the Presentation (PowerPoint), and have designers try stretching their swatches in different directions.  Hold the swatches up to a light to see where light shines through.

  • ASK: What kind of clothing is usually made of woven fabric? What do you think makes woven fabric best for these uses?
    • Answer: Pants and jeans, jackets, suits, dresses are all often made of woven fabrics.  Woven fabrics are often heavier, more wind and water
      resistant, and more durable than knit fabrics.
  • ASK: What kind of clothing is usually made of knit fabric? Why would you choose knit fabric for these uses?
    • Answer: Knit fabric is flexible and comfortable. T-shirts, underwear,athletic clothes and pajamas are examples of clothing made from knit fabric.
  • ASK: Where have you seen non-wovens used for clothing? Why would you usenon-woven for clothing?
    • Answer: Disposable coveralls for work clothing are non-woven, as are many interfacings used inside garments, as well as felt.  Non-wovens are
      inexpensive and quick to manufacture.

Handout Answers

non woven

Non Woven





Which fabric structure looks like loops? Knit

Which fabric structure looks different vertically and horizontally?  Knit

Which fabric structure has interlacing at right angles?  Woven

Which fabric structure looks the same in any direction? Non-woven

Which fabric is made of individual fibers instead of twisted yarns?  Non-woven

Background Information

The most common fabric structures are woven, knit, or non-woven:


Weaving interlaces yarns at right angles. Making a potholder on a loop frame is weaving. Different patterns can be created by varying the number of vertical yarns a horizontal yarn crosses over or under during the weaving process. Different patterns of woven may look different front to back (e.g. twill weave such as denim, satin weave, or napped fabrics like velvet). 


Knits are formed by looping yarns into one another. Hand knitting generally creates what is called a weft knit, in which one yarn builds layers of loops one after another. T-shirt jersey is also looped this way. Knits can have a very open structure like lace or athletic mesh, too.  Not all knits are stretchy, but most are more flexible than woven fabrics.


Non-wovens are made with randomly placed fibers (not spun into yarns). They may be glued, melted, or entangled to hold them together. Sometimes they have an embossed pattern on the surface that may look like a  woven grid, but is  really areas where fibers are melted together. Felt is a common non-woven construction. Others you may be familiar with are interfacing inside collars and lapels, and Tyvek®, used for disposable coveralls, mailing envelopes, and house wrap.  Non-wovens are very inexpensive to manufacture.

Take it Further

Explore the many different weave and knit patterns by examining additional fabrics under a lens. Even the clothes you are wearing are worth a look!
Graph the over and under yarn interlacing pattern of a woven fabric on graph paper.Try this for plain weave and twill (denim).
Look at fabrics under a microscope so that young designers can see individual yarns. Find fabrics with larger yarns (wool can be a good choice). Tease a yarn out of the fabric and untwist it until you can see the individual fibers to observe that yarns are made up of many fibers.


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