Fabric weight: a beginner's guide

Fabric weight: a beginner's guide

One of the most important factors when deciding which blank garment you want to use for your brand, is determining what you want the weight of the fabric to be. This will inform how light or heavy, thin or thick, breathable or cozy, your garment will be.  

Understanding fabric weights can be a bit confusing at first. Different brands and suppliers will use different measurement systems (standard vs. metric) as well as methods (square yard vs. linear yard vs. square meter). Knowing the differences is key to selecting the right fabric. 

Let’s start with method: 

The most popular form of measuring fabric weight in the U.S. is ounces per square yard. This means the weight provided by the supplier is how much a square yard (36” x 36”) of fabric weighs. This contrasts from a linear yard, which is more commonly used among fabric suppliers. A linear yard is one yard long by however wide the fabric roll is. Fabric rolls can be anywhere from 48” - 70” wide. The result may be a piece of fabric that is 70” x 36”. If measuring the same fabric, linear yard weight will always be greater than square yard weight.  

Why do fabric suppliers insist on using linear yard? We’re not sure. It’s almost certainly easier for them to measure than square yard. But it is incredibly inconsistent, and makes comparing fabrics even more challenging. For this reason, you will want to learn to use a fabric weight converter so that you can always compare apples to apples. 

The converter will also come in handy when trying to compare garments measured in grams per square meter (GSM). Using the metric system, the idea is the same as ounces per square yard. It is common to find this measurement used by Canadian or European suppliers, and is becoming more popular among U.S. suppliers as well. At Soft Goods we list both ounces per square yard and grams per square meter, to avoid any confusion. 

Now that you understand the different forms of measuring fabric weight, and how to compare apples to apples, you will be able to select the right weight for you. 

So let’s talk garment weights:  

For blank t-shirts, many popular styles will range anywhere from 5-6oz per square yard (170-200 GSM). This is generally viewed as a standard mid-weight garment, and is a good starting point to decide if you want to go lighter or heavier.  

Sweatshirt or sweatpant fleece is similar. Popular mid-weight blank sweatshirts typically have a weight of 9-10oz per square yard (305-340 GSM). A lot of heavyweight options weigh around 12oz per square yard (400 GSM). Again, these can be used as starting places before deciding to go lighter or heavier. 

This information should give you a strong start place for deciding which blank garments to use for your brand. If information is ever unclear, don’t hesitate to ask the supplier directly, or order a sample. Sometimes you just don’t know until you feel it.

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