Different Types of Fabric and Their Uses

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Promo Expert

Fabrics are woven into our everyday lives and are used to create a number of popular products. Each has different chemical properties and can be used for everything from raincoats to power belting. The most popular include:

The seven types of fabric include:

  • • Polyester
  • • Nylon
  • • Polypropylene
  • • Cotton
  • • Denim
  • • Fleece
  • • Jute
  • • Canvas
  • • Leather

You don’t have to be a tailor or fashion designer to appreciate a good fabric. From fuzzy socks to the throw pillows on our couch, these materials are used to create just about everything. It’s no exception when it comes to your favorite promotional products. Some of the best, like tote bags and t-shirts, are made with a variety of fabrics.

What are the different types of fabric? How are they used? It’s time to learn more about these popular materials!

Guide to Different Fabric Materials

There are many different types of fabric, but we are going to focus on the ones that are often found in promotional products. These power players are used in everything from custom tote bags to promotional t-shirts.

Fun Fact!

Polyester was advertised as a miracle fabric that could be worn for 68 days straight without ironing.

Nylon

Promo Items: tote bags, flying discs, drawstring backpacks, lanyards, cooler bags, golf umbrellas, folding chairs

Wallace Carothers at DuPoint Chemical led a team of scientists in researching commercial applications for polymers. It took over five years for the end result, nylon, to become available to the public as stockings.

Fun Fact!

Nylons were enormously popular when they first hit shelves, earning DuPont nearly $9 million in the first year alone.

Fun Fact!

Before this fabric was called polypropylene, it was marketed under the name “Moplen.”

Cotton

Promo Items: t-shirts, tote bags, rally towels, baseball caps, visors, aprons, hoodies, sweaters, oven mitts

This popular fabric has roots in ancient civilizations, but its origins are somewhat of a mystery. Archeologists found the oldest discovery of cotton in a Mexican cave, though cloth fragments have also been traced back to the Middle East.

Fun Fact!

In 18th century England, it was considered illegal to either import or manufacture cloth from cotton.

Denim

Promo Items: tote bags, jackets, company shirts, aprons, koozies, baseball hats, coin pouches, duffel bags

People in Nimes, France tried to find a sturdy Italian fabric called surge and ended up creating “surge de nimes” or as it’s come to be known, “denim.” This fabric was extremely popular with miners as it was extremely durable in tough conditions.

Fun Fact!

Levi Strauss changed fashion forever when he brought denim to America in 1853.

Fleece

Promo Items: tote bags, jackets, company shirts, aprons, koozies, baseball hats, coin pouches, duffel bags

A team of engineers at Malden Mills experimented with polyester yarn, creating a lighter fabric. The first fleece, called Synchilla, was used in pullovers and became a huge hit for family ski trips.

Fun Fact!

The same polymer that makes up soda bottles is used to create soft fleece material.

Jute

Promo Items: tote bags, jackets wine bags, lunch bags, coin pouches

Known as the Golden fiber of Bangladesh, jute is a natural fiber obtained from the skin of a plant’s stem. This versatile material is widely used in textiles, packaging, construction, and agriculture.

Fun Fact!

The best source of jute in the world is the Bengal Delta Plain in Bangladesh.

Canvas

Promo Items: tote bags, drawstring backpacks, duffel bags, oven mitts, messenger bags, folding chairs, aprons

Canvas has been around for centuries and was primarily used to create shelters and sails. The material is durable enough to be used in a wide range of industries.

Fun Fact!

Canvas is used in tents since it can withstand winds of 50 miles per hour or higher.

Fun Fact!

The average person wears about four pieces of leather during their day.

Breakdown of Different Fabric Types

Do you confuse jute from canvas? How about polyester from polypropylene? There are many different fabrics out there, but we’re here to shine a light on the most popular. Take a look at the year invented, the uses, and the properties of each type of fabric.

Polyester

Year Invented 1941

Primary Uses: activewear, raincoats, swimwear, ropes, sails, suits, Hoses, laundry bags, underwear pajamas, curtains, sheets, umbrellas, towels, rugs, power belting, lanyards, visors, hats

Properties: absorbs some water, more uv resistant, resistant to stretching and shrinking, doesn’t pill, mildew resistant, affordable, lightweight material, retains color, doesn’t crease

Nylon

Year Invented 1935

Primary Uses: Stockings, parachutes, circuit boards cookware, backpacks, wedding gowns, bridal veils, athletic shoes, ponchos, umbrellas, camera cases, swimsuits, gloves, hats, luggage, bedspreads, combat uniforms

Properties: absorbs the most water, somewhat UV resistant, stretches without breaking, shrink resistant, mildew resistant

Polypropylene

Year Invented 1954

Primary Uses: stress balls, car batteries, colanders, food storage containers, cutting boards, outdoor rugs, car parts, toys, carpeting, paper, loudspeakers, laboratory equipment, rope, housewares, condiment lids, shampoo bottles, tumblers, water bottles, tote bags, backpacks, cooler bags

Properties: does not absorb water, less uv resistant, moderately resistant to shrinking and stretching, mildew resistant, great insulator, doesn’t tear easily

Cotton

Year Invented 800AD

Primary Uses: t-shirts, underwear, pajamas, towels, fishnets, coffee filters, book bindings, socks, bed sheets, coats, pillowcases, medical supplies, industrial thread, tarpaulins, hats, gloves, scarves

Properties: comfortable, good absorbency, retains colors, machine-washable, strong material resistant to breaking, easy to sew

Denim

Year Invented 1873

Primary Uses: jeans, overalls, bags, vests, jackets, curtains, seat covers, phone cases, hats, insulation, shoes

Properties: doesn’t tear easily, sturdy and durable, versatile, simple to use, stretches, retains colors, machine-washable

Fleece

Year Invented 1979

Primary Uses: sweaters, sweat suits, hats, gloves, blankets, jackets, underwear, deep-sea diving suits, ear-warmers, scarves, pillows, bed sheets, socks

Properties: lightweight, warm, soft, weighs less than wool, flexible material, comfortable, resists soaps and detergents, but not bacteria

Jute

Year Invented 1856

Primary Uses: bags, wrapping bales, curtains, chair coverings, carpets, area rugs, linoleum backings, sacks, mats, prayer rugs, furniture

Properties: high tenacity, bulkiness, sound insulator, heat insulator, low thermal conductivity, strong and durable, bio-degradable, organic

Canvas

Year Invented 3000 BC

Primary Uses: bags, paintings, canoes, trading cards, tents, tarpaulins, backpacks, martial arts uniforms, sails, canopies, auto covers, trampolines

Properties: heavy, resistant to tearing, water absorbent, susceptible to mildew and mold, flammable, wrinkles easily, lightweight, retains color

Leather

Year Invented 1858

Primary Uses: jackets, vests, car seats, couches, chairs, furniture, upholstery, baseball gloves, book bindings, body armor, saddles, footwear, watches, bags, luggage, holsters, belts

Properties: high tensile strength, resistant to tearing and stretching, doesn’t get damaged easily, heavy and durable, good heat insulator, water resistant, warm, flexible; molded into new shapes, resistant to flames, mildew resistant

Material Year Invented Primary Uses Properties
Polyester 1941
  • • Activewear
  • • Raincoats
  • • Swimwear
  • • Ropes
  • • Sails
  • • Suits
  • • Hoses
  • • Laundry bags
  • • Underwear pajamas
  • • Curtains
  • • Sheets
  • • Umbrellas
  • • Towels
  • • Rugs
  • • Power belting
  • • Lanyards
  • • Visors
  • • Hats
  • • Absorbs some water
  • • More uv resistant
  • • Resistant to stretching and shrinking
  • • Doesn’t pill
  • • Mildew resistant
  • • Affordable, lightweight material
  • • Retains color
  • • Doesn’t crease
Nylon 1935
  • • Stockings
  • • Parachutes
  • • Circuit boards cookware
  • • Backpacks
  • • Wedding gowns
  • • Bridal veils
  • • Athletic shoes
  • • Ponchos
  • • Umbrellas
  • • Camera cases
  • • Swimsuits
  • • Gloves
  • • Hats
  • • Luggage
  • • Bedspreads
  • • Combat uniforms
  • • Absorbs the most water
  • • Somewhat UV resistant
  • • Stretches without breaking
  • • Shrink resistant
  • • Mildew resistant
Polypropylene 1954
  • • Stress balls
  • • Car batteries
  • • Colanders
  • • Food storage containers
  • • Cutting boards
  • • Outdoor rugs
  • • Car parts
  • • Toys
  • • Carpeting
  • • Paper
  • • Loudspeakers
  • • Laboratory equipment
  • • Rope
  • • Housewares
  • • Condiment lids
  • • Shampoo bottles
  • • Tumblers
  • • Water bottles
  • • Tote bags
  • • Backpacks
  • • Cooler bags
  • • Does not absorb water
  • • Less uv resistant
  • • Moderately resistant to shrinking and stretching
  • • Mildew resistant
  • • Great insulator
  • • Doesn’t tear easily
Cotton 800 AD
  • • T-shirts
  • • Underwear
  • • Pajamas
  • • Towels
  • • Fishnets
  • • Coffee filters
  • • Book bindings
  • • Socks
  • • Bed sheets
  • • Coats
  • • Pillowcases
  • • Medical supplies
  • • Industrial thread
  • • Tarpaulins
  • • Hats
  • • Gloves
  • • Scarves
  • • Comfortable
  • • Good absorbency
  • • Retains colors
  • • Machine-washable
  • • Strong material resistant to breaking
  • • Easy to sew
Denim 1873
  • • Jeans
  • • Overalls
  • • Bags
  • • Vests
  • • Jackets
  • • Curtains
  • • Seat covers
  • • Phone cases
  • • Hats
  • • Insulation
  • • Shoes
  • • Doesn’t tear easily
  • • Sturdy and durable
  • • Versatile
  • • Simple to use
  • • Stretches
  • • Retains colors
  • • Machine-washable
Fleece 1979
  • • Sweaters
  • • Sweat suits
  • • Hats
  • • Gloves
  • • Blankets
  • • Jackets
  • • Underwear
  • • Deep-sea diving suits
  • • Ear-warmers
  • • Scarves
  • • Pillows
  • • Bed sheets
  • • Socks
  • • Lightweight
  • • Warm
  • • Soft
  • • Weighs less than wool
  • • Flexible material
  • • Comfortable
  • • Resists soaps and detergents, but not bacteria
Jute 1856
  • • Bags
  • • Wrapping bales
  • • Curtains
  • • Chair coverings
  • • Carpets
  • • Area rugs
  • • Linoleum backings
  • • Sacks
  • • Mats
  • • Prayer rugs
  • • Furniture
  • • High tenacity
  • • Bulkiness
  • • Sound insulator
  • • Heat insulator
  • • Low thermal conductivity
  • • Strong and durable
  • • Bio-degradable
  • • Organic
Canvas 3000 BC
  • • Bags
  • • Paintings
  • • Canoes
  • • Trading cards
  • • Tents
  • • Tarpaulins
  • • Backpacks
  • • Martial arts uniforms
  • • Sails
  • • Canopies
  • • Auto covers
  • • Trampolines
  • • Heavy
  • • Resistant to tearing
  • • Water absorbent
  • • Susceptible to mildew and mold
  • • Flammable
  • • Wrinkles easily
  • • Lightweight
  • • Retains color
Leather 1858
  • • Jackets
  • • Vests
  • • Car seats
  • • Couches
  • • Chairs
  • • Furniture
  • • Upholstery
  • • Baseball gloves
  • • Book bindings
  • • Body armor
  • • Saddles
  • • Footwear
  • • Watches
  • • Bags
  • • Luggage
  • • Holsters
  • • Belts
  • • High tensile strength
  • • Resistant to tearing and stretching
  • • Doesn’t get damaged easily
  • • Heavy and durable
  • • Good heat insulator
  • • Water resistant
  • • Warm
  • • Flexible; molded into new shapes
  • • Resistant to flames
  • • Mildew resistant

Fabric Comparisons in Promotional Products

Of course, the best way to understand your fabrics is by seeing them in action. Let’s take a look at the materials as they’re used in custom tote bags, one of the most popular promos on the planet!

See just how strong tote bags are in this exclusive video:

Polyester:

These totes are durable and water resistant, making them great choices for beach trips or vacations. Plus, since they won’t crease, they’re easy to store without destroying the fabric.

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Nylon:

Pantyhose aren’t the only products that benefit from nylon. Tote bags made from this fabric stretch without breaking and won’t shrink. You can throw them right into the dryer without worrying about your bag being the size of a pea.

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Polypropylene

You don’t have to worry about storing too much in a polypropylene tote bag. This material is not only durable, but extremely affordable and can hold even an adult human without tearing!

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Cotton

Busy parents and professionals should turn to cotton tote bags to get through the day. These bags are machine-washable and made from a strong material that’s resistant to breaking!

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Denim

If you want your bags to have a fashionable flair, you can’t go wrong with classic denim. Pass these out when you just want to do a little turn on the catwalk.

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Fleece

This lightweight material is perfect for quick trips to the grocery store. Carry your wallet, phone, car keys, and a few other small items in comfortable fleece bags.

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Jute

Jute tote bags are strong enough to carry groceries and are made from completely organic materials. Trendy and eco-friendly, these are great giveaways for farmers markets or green causes.

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Canvas

This fabric is great at retaining bright, bold colors. If you want trade show giveaways in your corporate colors, you can’t go wrong with canvas tote bags!

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Leather

Bring out the leather when you want to increase your cool factor. This material is a warm weather favorite since it’s a good insulator and doesn’t damage easily.

Source: qualitylogoproducts.com

Glossary of Fabric Terms

Unless you’re a tailor or fabric expert , you probably don’t know a natural fiber from a hole in the ground. Luckily, we’re here to eliminate confusion and break down the common terms used in the fabric world.

Acetate – A synthetic fiber used in luxurious fabrics like silk, satin, and taffeta

Acrylic – Another name for synthetic fibers derived from the chemical polyacrylonitrile; used as a substitute for wool

Denier – A unit of weight indicating the density of a specific fabric. The lower the number, the more lightweight the fabric.

GSM – Short for “grams per square meter,” this refers to a fabric’s weight is a good measure of density; the higher the GSM the more resistant the fabric is to tearing.

Loom – A hand-operated or electrical device for weaving fabrics; the art or process of weaving.

Natural Fiber – Any textile fiber made from an animal, plant, or vegetable source.

Pill – A fuzzy ball caused by rolling up fabrics; this is commonly found in fleece.

Polymer – A compound of high molecular weight derived from smaller molecules; found in the chemical makeup of fabric.

Rayon – The generic name for a cellulose-based fiber; Rayon is similar to cotton or linen.

Screen Printing – A printing process which uses a screen to apply a design or pattern to fabric.

Selvage – The edge of woven fabric finished in a way that prevents raveling.

Thread Count – Represented by a “T,” the thread count measures the amount of warp and weft thread per square inch. This is a good indicator of a fabric’s thickness and strength.

Twill – A fabric that shows a distinct diagonal stripe; this design is often found in denim.

Warp & Weft (Fill) – Refers to the threads that make up a loomed or woven fabric; warp threads run parallel to the edge, while weft run side to side.

Woven – Fabric with yarns placed at right angles; threads are woven over and under each other. Nonwoven fabrics are usually more affordable because they are faster to manufacture.

Why Are Fabrics Important?

Back in the day, our primitive ancestors simply used the land around them to create clothing and shelters. Today, we rely on fabric to progress forward. We put on suits for important meetings, wipe the sweat from our faces with towels after building a new invention, and go to sleep in warm beds after a long day.

Stats for Success

The total annual revenue from all textile industries is over $2 trillion!

American households spend an average of $1,700 a year on apparel.

US exports of textiles increased 31% between 2009 and 2015.

The US textile industry suppliers more than 8,000 different products to the military.

The average garment has a lifespan of 3 years.

The Bottom Line

From the time we wake up to when we go to bed, we’re interacting with many different fabrics. You don’t have to be into cross-stitching to appreciate a good piece of fabric. These materials make up many of our daily essentials from t-shirts to towels and everything in between. Some people even go as far as to describe life as the fabric of society or material world. It just goes to show we are all woven together like the best canvas bag!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a super cool Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. She’s a fan of diving into the history of some of the earliest promos on the planet. If you need her, you’ll find her buried in research, in the middle of a phone interview, or singing way off-tune in her office.

References

Inviya. (2016, July 21). Interesting Facts About Polyester Fabric. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://inviya.blogspot.com/2016/07/interesting-facts-about-polyester-fabric_21.html

Cotton’s Journey. (2018). Story of Cotton: Cotton’s Journey. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://www.cottonsjourney.com/storyofcotton/page2.asp

American Chemical Society. (1999, November 12). Discovery of Polypropylene and the Development of a New High-Density Polyethylene. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from https://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/education/whatischemistry/landmarks/polypropylene/discovery-of-polypropylene-and-development-of-high-density-polyethylene-commemorative-booklet.pdf

Carr, K. (2017, June 8). Polyester Fabric – World War II and the Invention of Polyester. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from https://quatr.us/modern-europe/where-did-polyester-come-from.htm

Gargulinski, R. (2017, September 28). The History of Polyester Fabric. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from https://oureverydaylife.com/the-history-of-polyester-fabric-12303326.html

Hill, J. (2015, March 8). A Brief History of Nylon. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://mentalfloss.com/article/61845/brief-history-nylon

Wright, J. (2015, February 27). The Complete History of Blue Jeans, From Miners to Marilyn Monroe. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from https://www.racked.com/2015/2/27/8116465/the-complete-history-of-blue-jeans-from-miners-to-marilyn-monroe

Greenbaum, Hilary. (2011, November 25). The Evolution of Fleece, From Scratchy to Snuggie. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/magazine/fleece-scratchy-to-snuggie.html

International Wool Textile Organization. (2018). History of Wool. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://www.iwto.org/history-wool

Asia Jute. (2011, April 5). History of Jute. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from https://asiajute.com/history-of-jute/