Promo University

What is Fabric Weight & How is it Measured?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: January 21st, 2021

You weigh apples at the grocery store and yourself after you've had one too many donuts. Few people realize, though, that you can also measure the weight of fabric.

The clothes you wear and the curtains that hang on your window are measured in grams or ounces. Here's how that happens and why it matters!

What is Fabric Weight?

Fabric weight is a way to measure different textiles like cotton, silk, polyester, and canvas. This measurement is determined by the thickness of the threads that make up the material.

Most fabric items will fall into one of these categories:

  • Lightweight fabrics
    • 1gsm - 150gsm
    • 0.3 oz. - 5 oz
    • Examples: linen, lace, mesh, chiffon, silk, cotton, PVC, neoprene, felt
  • Medium weight fabrics
    • 150gsm - 350gsm
    • 5.29 oz. - 12 oz.
    • Examples: velvet, taffeta, charmeuse, sateen, chambray, polyester, chino, nylon, jersey cloth
  • Heavy weight fabrics
    • 350gsm+
    • 12.34oz.+
    • Examples: canvas, denim, suede, corduroy, polyester fleece, wool, flannel, tweed

Fabric weight matters when it comes to achieving a certain look. For instance, if you want a soft, breathable t-shirt, you should look for something with less weight of fabric per yard. On the other hand, if you want a jacket for the winter, you're better off with a heavy weight fabric.

Did you know?

Dying the fabric and using a specific type of weaving or knitting can also affect the weight of the material.

What is Fabric Weight Used to Measure?

Fabric weight is used to measure textiles like clothes, bags, and home décor. This would include all of the following items:

  • Pants
  • Shirts & blouses
  • Face masks
  • Blankets & quilts
  • Curtains & throw pillows
  • Scrubs
  • Dresses & skirts
  • Jackets & sweaters
  • Cushions
  • Suits
  • Bags

Pants

Sweatpants and harem pants are typically more lightweight, while jeans or corduroys are heavier. You'll be comfier wearing the lighter fabrics, but warmer in the heavy ones.

Pants

Shirts & Blouses

If you want something to work out in, look for shirts or tank tops made from pure cotton, mesh, or jersey cloth. Save the heavier fabrics for date nights or casual Fridays!

Shirts Blouses

Face Masks

COVID-19 made face masks an absolute must for public use. These are made from lightweight fabrics like cotton to ensure you can still breathe while wearing one.

Face Masks

Blankets & Quilts

Cozy up on the couch with your favorite blanket or quilt. Throw blankets are usually lightweight, while the covers on your bed are made from medium or heavy weight fabrics like fleece, polyester, or flannel.

Blankets

Curtains

Stylish curtains can really pull together the look of a room. You can get something flowy that will move around with the breeze from an open window, or splurge on heavier curtains that won't budge!

Curtains

Scrubs

Nurses and doctors are always on the move, which means they need the most comfortable scrubs. Light to medium weight fabrics like linen, cotton, or polyester are all excellent choices.

Scrubs

Dresses & Skirts

The material can make all the difference in how a dress or skirt fits on your body. Sundresses, for instance, are made from lightweight fabrics and have more drape. Wedding gowns and miniskirts, on the other hand, are usually heavier and more form fitting.

Dresses skirts

Jackets & Sweaters

Brr... it's starting to get cold outside! Put your light windbreakers and hoodies away for the season and start wearing a heavier jacket made from flannel, wool, or fleece.

Jackets & Sweaters

Cushions & Throw Pillows

Cushions are meant to give your butt a comfy place to rest, which is why they're usually made with light to medium weight fabrics. The same can be said for the throw pillows sitting on your couch.

Cushions & Throw Pillows

Suits

You'll look extra powerful wearing a medium or heavy weight suit. These are more structured and professional, which makes them well-suited (pun intended) for formal industries like law, politics, or management.

Suits

Bags

The type of bag you choose ultimately depends on how much you carry throughout the day. If you're just running errands, you can get away with a light bag. Parents, on the other hand, should look for medium or heavy weight bags that can hold all those diapers, lotions, and toys.

Blankets

How is Fabric Weight Measured?

Fabric weight is measured per surface area. A section of the fabric is taken at a time and then weighed in either grams or ounces. This will look like this:

Fabric Measured in Grams: g/m2 or gsm

Fabric Measured in Ounces: oz./y2 or oz.

To see this in action, let's take a look at a tote bag:

Belair 20 Oz. Cotton Canvas Tote

Here's the tricky thing about fabric weight. "Ounce" isn't referring to the weight of the bag, it's referring to the weight of the cotton that's used to make the bag.

The proper unit for measuring fabric weight in this case isn't an ounce, but an ounce per square yard. It simply gets shortened to "ounce" for convenience sake since 20 oz. is a lot more digestible than 20 oz./yd2.

How is Fabric GSM Calculated?

When manufacturers calculate fabric weight, they take a standard-sized piece of material (often a square yard) and weigh that on a scale. This will then yield the GSM, or grams per square yard, of the fabric.

How Much Does Each Type of Fabric Weigh?

Each item, from t-shirts to curtains, will have a different weight depending on a number of factors. Still, you can get a general idea of how many ounces by looking at the fabric used to make that item. This has been calculated for you below!

These fabrics are listed from lightweight to heavy weight:

Neoprene

Estimated weight: 1gsm to 5gsm
0.03oz. to 0.17 oz.

Neoprene

Silk

Estimated weight: 20gsm to 28 gsm
0.7 oz. to 1 oz.

Silk

Cotton

Estimated weight: 85gsm to 170gsm
3 oz. to 6 oz.

Cotton

Polyester

Estimated weight: 60gsm to 300gsm
2 oz. to 10.5 oz.

Polyester

Jersey Cloth

Estimated weight:\ 140gsm to 280gsm
5 oz. to 10 oz.

Jersey Cloth

Canvas

Estimated weight: 110gsm to 340gsm
4 oz. to 12 oz.

Canvas

Fleece

Estimated weight: 198gsm to 397gsm
7 oz. to 14 oz.

Fleece

Velvet

Estimated weight: 255gsm to 567gsm
9 oz. to 20 oz.

Velvet

Wool

Estimated weight: 340gsm to 600gsm
12 oz. to 21 oz.

Wool

Denim

Estimated weight: 141gsm to 907gsm
5 oz. to 32 oz.

Denim

What is the Lightest Weight Cotton Fabric?

Cotton is a very popular material for t-shirts, socks, dresses, and many other pieces of apparel. If you want something that's extra breezy, it's all about choosing the lightest types of cotton!

The most lightweight cotton fabrics include:

  • Voile
  • Batiste
  • Lawn
  • Dotted Swiss
  • Gingham
  • Double Gauze
  • Silk & Cotton Blend
Voile

Voile

Voile is the French word for "veil," and it's the perfect name. This material has excellent drape and can be used to create flowing dresses, blouses, and tunics.

Batiste

Batiste

Batiste is a type of cloth that's made from a cotton, wool, and polyester blend. With its natural white or cream color, it's the perfect material for christening gowns and wedding dresses.

Lawn

Lawn

Lawn is a type of cotton that's lightweight and loose. It's made using combed or carded yarns, which means the fibers are straight and parallel. This yields a stronger piece of fabric that can be used for button-down shirts or lined skirts.

Dotted Swiss

Dotted Swiss

Dotted Swiss, or Swiss Dot, is a sheer fabric that's made with a bunch of tiny dots. You'll often see this type of cotton used to make cute baby clothes and ornate throw pillows.

Gingham

Gingham

Gingham cotton creates a rural look, which is why it's often used for picnic blankets and bandanas. It looks very similar to plaid, only the pattern is more uniform and the checkers are white with one other color.

Double Gauze

Double Gauze

Double gauze is a soft, airy type of cotton. It is sewn in a way that the stitches are visible. The end result is a trendy pattern that looks great on dresses and sweatshirts.

Silk & Cotton Blend

Silk & Cotton Blend

A silk and cotton blend is one of the most lightweight materials you can find. By mixing the two fibers together, you achieve a silky, sturdy drape that looks great in curtains or cocktail dresses.

Cotton weight is usually very light, whether you go with one of these types or some other material. It's definitely a great fabric to have in your wardrobe!

Did you know?

Check the tag if you want a soft, cozy t-shirt! 100% cotton is usually way softer than a cotton blend, also known as 50/50 cotton.

Fabric Weight Calculator

The United States, Liberia, and Myanmar are the only three countries that use the imperial system for measurement. So fabric is weighed by ounces in these areas. Everyone else uses the metric system, which is why most fabric is weighed in grams.

Luckily, it's super easy for you to convert between the two systems. Simply use this handy fabric weight conversion calculator to get an exact number!

Fabric weight calculator

You can always use this calculator to switch between ounces and grams. This makes it easy for you to always know the weight of your fabric.

Is Fabric Weight the Same Thing as Thread Count?

Thread count refers to the number of threads in a given area and how tightly they're woven together. Fabric weight, on the other hand, is a different measurement indicating the strength or thickness of the threads. Think of it in terms of quantity vs. heft.

Is Fabric Weight the Same Thing as Thread Count?

How Much Does a Roll of Fabric Weigh?

A roll of fabric will weigh different amounts depending on the material. However, on average, you can expect a roll to weigh about 25 kilograms, or 55 pounds.

This means lifting rolls of fabric can be a serious workout! The good news is there is specific equipment you can purchase that can lift up to 300 pounds. Keep that in mind if you work in fabrics manufacturing.

How much does a roll of fabric weigh?

Why is Fabric Weight Important?

Fabric weight is important both for manufacturers and consumers. On the manufacturing side, fabric weight can make all the difference when it comes to sales. After all, a customer might not buy a t-shirt if it's too heavy or coarse.

Consumers, on the other hand, should also be mindful of fabric weight. It can determine the quality, and ultimately your enjoyment, of the clothes and pieces of home décor you buy. So don't just ignore those grams and ounces!

Why is Fabric Weight Important?

The Bottom Line

You probably don't work a ton with fabric weight unless you're a seamstress, tailor, or if you like to make crafts. Still, it doesn't hurt to learn a little more about this system and what it all means. Knowledge is power!

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.

References

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