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What Is the Difference Between Knitted and Woven Fabric?

What Is the Difference Between Knitted and Woven Fabric?

In the world of activewear, the fabric choice can make or break your workout experience. While design and brand play crucial roles, the true hero lies in the fabric. Whether you’re a marathon runner, a yoga enthusiast, or a gym buff, understanding the difference between knitted and woven fabrics can help you make more informed choices for your activewear. Let's delve into the world of fabrics and explore how these two distinct types cater to your performance, comfort, and style needs.

Knitted Fabric: Flexibility and Comfort

Knitted fabrics are created by interlocking loops of yarn, which gives them a stretchy and flexible nature. This method of construction makes knitted fabrics incredibly versatile and well-suited for activewear.

What Is the Difference Between Knitted and Woven Fabric?

Stretch and Flexibility

One of the primary characteristics of knitted fabric is its stretchability. The loops of yarn allow the fabric to expand and contract, providing a snug fit that moves with your body. This elasticity is crucial for activities that require a wide range of motion, such as yoga, Pilates, and running. Imagine doing a downward dog in a stiff fabric—it's not ideal. Knitted fabrics like jersey, spandex, and Lycra are commonly used in leggings, sports bras, and fitted tops for this very reason.


Knitted fabrics are inherently soft and comfortable against the skin. The looped structure provides a plush, cushiony feel, which is essential during high-intensity workouts where your skin needs to breathe and stay irritation-free. The comfort factor is a significant reason many people prefer knitted fabrics for their activewear.


Breathability is another hallmark of knitted fabrics. The tiny gaps between the loops allow air to circulate, keeping you cool and dry. This is particularly beneficial for high-sweat activities. Fabrics like mesh and certain types of jerseys are excellent at wicking moisture away from the body, ensuring you stay comfortable even during the most intense workouts.

Versatility in Design

The flexibility of knitted fabrics allows for a variety of designs and fits. Whether it’s a form-fitting compression garment that supports your muscles or a loose, comfortable top that gives you room to move, knitted fabrics can cater to diverse needs. This versatility makes them a favorite in the activewear industry.

Woven Fabric: Structure and Durability

Woven fabrics, on the other hand, are made by interlacing two sets of yarns at right angles. This process results in a fabric that is less stretchy but offers more structure and durability. Here’s why woven fabrics hold their own in the activewear domain:

Structure and Support

The interlaced construction of woven fabrics provides a firm and stable structure. This characteristic makes them ideal for garments that need to maintain their shape, such as jackets, shorts, and outerwear. For activities like hiking, climbing, or any sport requiring protective gear, woven fabrics offer the necessary support and resilience.


Woven fabrics are renowned for their durability. The tight weave makes them resistant to wear and tear, which is essential for high-impact sports or outdoor activities where your gear needs to withstand the elements. Fabrics like nylon, polyester, and canvas are common examples of durable woven materials used in activewear.

Water Resistance and Wind Protection

Many woven fabrics are designed to be water-resistant or even waterproof, making them perfect for outdoor activities. They provide a barrier against wind and rain, keeping you dry and warm. This makes them an excellent choice for outer layers in cold or wet conditions. Think of your trusty windbreaker or rain jacket—chances are, it’s made from a woven fabric.

Less Stretch, More Stability

While the lack of stretch in woven fabrics might seem like a drawback, it’s actually an advantage in specific contexts. The stable structure prevents excessive movement, which can be beneficial in preventing injuries. For instance, in sports that require precision and control, like tennis or cycling, the stability of woven fabrics can enhance performance.

What Is the Difference Between Knitted and Woven Fabric?

Knitted vs. Woven: Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Activity

Understanding the distinct advantages of knitted and woven fabrics can help you choose the right activewear for your specific needs. Here are some guidelines to consider:

For High-Intensity, High-Movement Activities: Knitted Fabrics

If your workout involves a lot of movement, flexibility, and sweat, knitted fabrics are your best bet. Their stretchability and breathability will keep you comfortable and free to focus on your performance. Running, aerobics, yoga, and weightlifting are perfect examples of activities that benefit from the qualities of knitted fabrics. Look for leggings, sports bras, and fitted tops made from materials like spandex, Lycra, or jersey for the best experience.

For Outdoor and High-Impact Sports: Woven Fabrics

For activities that take you outdoors or involve high impact, woven fabrics are the way to go. Hiking, climbing, skiing, and sports like tennis or soccer benefit from the durability and stability of woven fabrics. Jackets, shorts, and pants made from nylon, polyester, or canvas can provide the support and protection you need in these scenarios. Additionally, for unpredictable weather, woven outer layers can offer essential water resistance and wind protection.

Combining Both: The Best of Both Worlds

In many cases, activewear designers combine both knitted and woven fabrics to create garments that take advantage of the best properties of each.

For example, a jacket might feature a knitted inner layer for comfort and breathability, paired with a woven outer layer for durability and weather resistance. Similarly, pants might use a woven fabric for the main structure but incorporate knitted panels in areas that require extra flexibility, such as the knees or waistband.

Innovations in Fabric Technology

The activewear industry is continuously evolving, with advancements in fabric technology blurring the lines between knitted and woven fabrics.

For instance, there are now knitted fabrics designed to mimic the structure and durability of woven fabrics, providing both flexibility and support. Similarly, woven fabrics are being engineered with added stretch to offer more mobility while retaining their core strengths.

Performance Blends

Performance blends combine different fibers to enhance specific properties. For instance, blending polyester with spandex can produce a fabric that offers both the durability of woven fabrics and the flexibility of knitted fabrics. These blends are particularly popular in high-performance activewear designed for elite athletes.

Smart Fabrics

Smart fabrics are an exciting innovation, incorporating technology to monitor and enhance performance. These fabrics can include features like moisture-wicking capabilities, temperature regulation, and even sensors to track biometrics. Both knitted and woven fabrics can be used in smart textiles, depending on the intended use.

Sustainable Fabrics

As sustainability becomes a more significant concern, both knitted and woven fabrics are being produced from eco-friendly materials. Recycled polyester, recycled nylon, organic cotton, and bamboo fibers are examples of sustainable options that don't compromise performance. These fabrics are designed to reduce environmental impact while providing the same benefits as traditional materials.

Practical Tips for Choosing Activewear

When shopping for activewear, it’s essential to consider the specific requirements of your activities. Here are some practical tips:

Identify your activity needs.

Consider the type of activity you’ll be engaging in and choose fabrics that align with those needs. For high-movement activities, choose knitted fabrics with good stretch. For outdoor or high-impact sports, look for durable woven fabrics.

Check the fabric composition.

Read the care label of your activewear to understand the fabric composition. Fabrics with a high percentage of spandex or Lycra indicate good stretch while those with nylon or polyester suggest durability.

Try it on.

Fit is crucial in activewear. Try on garments to ensure they offer the right balance of comfort, support, and mobility. Move around in them to see how they perform under different conditions.

Consider layering.

Think about how you can layer different fabrics to achieve the best performance. For example, base layers made from a moisture-wicking knitted fabric can keep you dry, while an outer layer of woven fabric can protect you from the elements.

Pay attention to care instructions.

Proper care can extend the life of your activewear. Knitted fabrics often require gentle washing to maintain their stretch, while woven fabrics might need specific care to preserve their structure and water-resistant properties.

Knitted Or Woven? Your Call

In the realm of activewear, the choice between knitted and woven fabrics is more than just a matter of preference; it's a crucial decision that can impact your comfort, performance, and overall workout experience.

Knitted fabrics, with their stretch, comfort, and breathability, are ideal for activities requiring flexibility and movement. On the other hand, woven fabrics, known for their durability, structure, and protective qualities, are perfect for high-impact and outdoor sports.

By understanding the unique properties of each fabric type, you can make informed choices that enhance your performance and enjoyment, whether you’re hitting the gym, the trail, or the yoga mat. Remember, the best activewear often combines the strengths of both knitted and woven fabrics, offering you the ultimate blend of comfort, support, and durability. So next time you gear up for a workout, consider the fabric and let it work as hard as you do.

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