T-shirt Fabrics 101

T-shirt Fabrics 101

T-shirt Fabrics 101


How to Pick the Right T-Shirt For Your Project


Picking the right shirts starts with the fabric. But, oy, the fabric choices can be so overwhelming. It is important to know what you are getting. The quality fabrics will cost you more but they are far more likely to be worn if they are fashionable and soft. Stick with us, in this T-Shirt Fabrics 101 post, we’ll cover 1. Fabric types 2. Brands 3. Sizes

T-shirt Fabrics 101- The Fabrics:


Cotton T-shirts

Your basic cotton t-shirt that is slightly scratchy is made of 100% Cotton that is not combed or ring spun for added softness and price. Cotton is a natural fiber that grows in the seedpod of the cotton plant. Fibers are typically 1/2 inch to 2 inches long. The longer the better for durability and softness. The longest staple fibers, longer than 1-1/2 inch (including the Pima and Egyptian varieties) produce the highest quality cotton fabrics.


Combed Cotton 

is a cotton yarn that goes through an additional combing process so that only the longer fibers remain. This improves the softness and strength of the yarn. Combed cotton tees cost more than cotton shirts that do not go through the combing process.


 Ring Spun cotton

These fibers are tightly twisted together to make a stronger, smoother and finer thread. The process makes the fibers longer and straighter which results in a softer and finer feel. In addition, ring spun shirts are better for screen printing because the fibers are smooth. Shirts that are not ring spun are rough and uneven so the ink does not lay down as well on them.


Ring Spun, Combed Cotton

This process is spun and, you guessed it, combed to get rid of impurities. The result is a soft and more luxurious feel to the shirt.
When a shirt is described as 20’s, 30’s or even 50’s singles that is referring to the gauge of the yarn used in producing the shirt. The gauge refers to the thickness of the yarn, not the weight of the t-shirt. The higher the number, the softer the shirts is. It is similar to bedsheets, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets.

When a shirt is described as 20’s, 30’s or even 50’s singles that is referring to the gauge of the yarn used in producing the shirt. The gauge refers to the thickness of the yarn, not the weight of the t-shirt. The higher the number, the softer the shirts is. It is similar to bedsheets, the higher the thread count, the softer the sheets.

Cotton is one of the most common t-shirt fabrics because it holds the ink longer than other fabrics. There are many different processes that go into refining the cotton that can be used to manufacture apparel.


Polyester T-shirts

T-shirts made of 100% polyester are resistant to shrinking and stretching. They are easy to wash and dry and are wrinkle resistant. The polyester fibers used to make the shirts are extremely strong and durable. Polyester is also quick drying so it is used in most PERFORMANCE T-SHIRTS. Polyester is not breathable which makes it unappealing to some people. 100% Polyester is not the best for screen printing since they are prone to dye migration which alters the look of the printed colors


50/50 T-shirts

50/50 shirts are a blend of cotton and polyester. As such, they are breathable and durable. And, they do not have the tendency to shrink as much as cotton shirts do. There is still a tendency for deep dyes to bleed through lighter inks. 50/50 shirts are softer than your basic ring spun cotton shirts.


Triblend T-shirts

Triblend shirts are made of cotton, polyester and rayon. Rayon is a breathable man made product made from the cellulose of trees. Rayon gives the shirt a little stretch to it and also increases the softness. Synthetic fibers tend to be softer and drape better than all cotton products. The triblend shirt is the softest and most luxurious feeling t-shirt we sell and as such is one of our best sellers. It is also the most expensive. One exception to this would be the 50’s singles t-shirt but those are expensive and hard to come by.


Organic Cotton and Bamboo T-shirts

Did you know that 25% of all of pesticides produced worldwide are used in the production of conventional cotton products like t-shirts? It takes 12 pounds of pesticides and fertilizer to produce the 36 t-shirts we use in our minimum screen print order. What’s even more scary is 7 out of the 15 pesticides used on cotton are considered by the EPA to be “possible,” “likely,” “probable,” or “known” human carcinogens. The associated health consequences range from asthma to cancer. In addition, conventional cotton is harvested using TOXIC chemicals that can injure animals, people and the very land that we are dependent on to grow the cotton. Thousands of acres of land lays follow every year, to destroyed by these destructive farming habits to produce anything. This is why organic cotton is such a good choice, if you can afford it. Ask us about our organic cotton options and sustainable bamboo t-shirts.


T-shirt Fabrics 101- The Brands & Sizing:


T-Shirt Brands

Basic t-shirts like Gildan or Hanes are made from 100% cotton, varying from 5.4 ounces to 6.1 ounces in weight. Anvil also has a basic t-shirt comparable to a basic Gildan or Hanes tee. In addition, Anvil carries a combed cotton version in its line. Despite being only 4.5 ounces, these tees are softer and stronger than their basic counterparts. Premium cotton shirts such as American Apparel are ring spun combed cotton which accounts for their superior feel and strength. Alternative Apparel takes the manufacturing process a step further, adding an enzyme wash on their fabric. This makes the fabric feel “vintage soft” and has very little shrink- age. The less expensive fashion t-shirt lines include Delta and Tultex. These are the least expen- sive combed cotton versions but are not finished as well as some of the other brands.


T-Shirt Sizing

Basic tees are traditional in cut, taking on a boxier and bulkier fit. Basic tees are unisex and run in Youth and Adult sizing. Fashion tees have a “junior” cut, running smaller than your average basic shirt. Available for men and women, these tees are form-fitting: tight and narrow down the torso to accentuate the natural curves of your body.


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