Guide to Understanding Activewear Fabrics

Athletic knit. That term is so broad and covers such a variety of fabrics it can be so overwhelming picking the right type of fabric for your project. We hope to clear up some of the confusion in this post so that next time you are deciding, you can have the confidence to pick the right fabric for your project!

We’ve got lots of information for you in this post and so we created this quick reference chart for the basics if you need to reference back (or just don’t feel like reading it all!).

Understanding Fabric Weight 

If you have shopped with us before you know that we take great pride in providing you with as many details as possible about each and every fabric.  We provide weight as one of our standard details on every fabric.  Understanding what that number means can be tricky.

One of the most common misconceptions about weight is that the higher weight directly correlates to a thicker fabric. Unfortunately it is not always this simple! Take French Terry as an example, typically French Terry is a lower weight fabric but it is a thicker fabric due to the loops on the back. The same holds true with athletic fabrics, sometimes the way it was made means it is thicker or thinner.

There are two standard ways of describing weight, GSM and OZ/Linear YD. GSM refers to grams per square meter. Typically if you see this listed on our website it means we received this information directly from our supplier.  Since we do not sell by the meter we will calculate OZ/ Linear YD, or ounces per linear yard, if we do not receive GSM information from our supplier. This weight is what you would get if you weighed one cut yard of fabric. This conversion calculator will help you convert between the two if needed.

Our athletic brushed poly (ABP) comes in three different weights, a lighter weight perfect for workout tops and two heavier weights that are perfect for leggings. Don’t let the “brushed poly” name throw you off from trying this fabric for workout gear; this fabric is much different than standard brushed poly. It is moisture wicking, anti-microbial and quick drying which obviously makes it the perfect workout fabric! 

As I mentioned there are three different weights of this fabric, the top weight (125 GSM) is my husband’s current favorite t-shirt material, as it feels nice and cool when wearing. I have found it holds up great in the wash, his shirts all still look brand new! The two heavier weights (265 and 280 GSM) are perfect for workout leggings and sports bras. Again, different than regular BP the ABP offers great compression for workout gear. The 265 GSM is our heathered ABP and the 280 GSM is primarily our solid ABP. This is one of those times that the heavier weight can be a little misleading as the 265 GSM actually feels thicker and more compressive than the 280 GSM.

The few athletic jerseys we carry are a medium-weight fabric that works great for workout tops. It has quite a bit of stretch and very nice recovery.  It actually feels very similar to our ABP fabrics but since they were not termed that with the supplier, we are referring to them as athletic jersey. This fabric is moisture wicking as well.

Circular knit refers to the way a fabric is constructed, in a circular knitting motion versus rows back and forth.  This method usually creates a tube of fabric but many manufacturers will separate the tube to create the selvedge edge we are accustomed to. We carry several different types of circular knits ranging from top weight to bottom weight. 

One of the most popular styles we carry is the ATY Nylon. ATY Nylon is the generic brand of Invista's Supplex.  It has the same soft cotton feel with the strength of nylon.  This fabric is perfect for athletic leggings and sports bras. The other styles are limited overstocks from active-wear companies and vary quite a bit from each other, so please take note of the product description ad stretch information.  The circular knit interlock, is one that doesn't quite fit into the generalizations of CK.  It is a great top weight, ideal for loose fitting tanks and tops as it is not very stretchy.  

Dri-Fit was developed by a large athletic wear company as a high-performance fabric with moisture wicking, anti-microbial and quick drying properties. It has small loops on the backside, similar to French Terry, with a smooth front.  We carry it in two weights, medium and heavy. Medium is perfect for workout tops and hoodies and the heavy is perfect for leggings, sports bras, jackets etc.

Most athletic wear is a type of nylon spandex,. It is extremely soft, moisture wicking, and has excellent stretch and recovery. Nylon spandex may be coined with other names such as supplex, tactel, etc as the names are certain blends that have been trademarked. The fabrics we place in this category are often designer overstocks that do not want their brand name released so we cannot advertise it as such. It is always important to check the weight of the fabric to ensure you are buying the correct weight for your project. We have light-medium weight ideal for shirts and tank tops and medium-heavy weight that can be used for leggings as well as tops.  

The premium athletic is one of my personal favorites, it is a soft, durable, heavyweight athletic knit. It has moisture wicking, is breathable and offers 50+ UV protection. This fabric is ideal for athletic wear such as leggings, sports bras, etc. I find it smooths out all my lumps and bumps.

Our space dyed jerseys are made from polyester and spandex.  They are made dyed yarns which create a fun and unique multi-color appearance.  These are a medium-heavy weight fabric and can be used for leggings as well as tops based on your preference.  

Supplex is Invista's trademarked nylon fiber.  It is very popular right now in the athletic sewing community as it is a great fabric for leggings and sports bras. It is known for its soft cotton feel. It is moisture wicking, quick drying and has a higher resistance to abrasion. ATY Nylon Spandex is basically the same thing without the trademark.

Tactel is another one of Invista's trademarks for their nylon fiber.  It is known for its strength, softness, moisture wicking and quick dry properties. Also it feels light and cool to the touch. It is a great fabric for performance underwear (this is what a lot of active wear underwear is made from). It can also be used for tops and leggings (depending on the color choice).

Our textured athletic knits are a one-time offer.  Most of these are produced in Brazil where some of the most unique and exotic athletic textiles are created.  They are known well in the industry for their exceptional quality. Many of our Nylon Spandex prints are created in Brazil as well. These textured styles are truly unique.  The fabric is literally textured.  You can feel the curves and grooves of the design.  The back of these fabrics have a soft smooth surfaces which creates the ultimate comfort without impeding on style.

Our Under Armour collection features several types of fabric which were all made for Under Armour Athletics. We have an athletic jersey fabric as well as a poly lycra athletic fabric. The jersey is a medium weight fabric suitable for shirts and tank tops.  The fabric features moisture wicking, making it perfect for those hot and sweaty workouts. The poly lycra is a mid to heavy weight fabric, the right side has a smooth jersey face with loop texture back.  This fabric also wicks away moisture from the skin making it suitable for athletic wear.  Use it for pants, leggings, jackets, hoodies and more.

***** All photos in this post are courtesy of our awesome team, please check out their Instagram accounts for more of their gorgeous creations *****

Amanda  Christina  Darcy  Erin  Kayla  Kyema

8 comments
Emilie March 25, 2019

Thank you soooo much! I was having trouble understanding and deciding what I needed. This article is perfect!

Annette Gerlich March 25, 2019

Phew! Finally some clarity in all the confusing titles and names around. Thank you very much for making the effort to help us choose ! Much appreciated!!

Kaylinne March 25, 2019

Thanks so much for making something that is a little overwhelming and confusing seem a bit simpler to understand.

Maria April 22, 2019

Your fabric range is perfect for us who need functional fabric that we can also sew!!!!

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