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The science of fabric weight and its importance in garment construction

The science of fabric weight and its importance in garment construction

The result of the weaving of a specific fabric is known as its fabric weight and it includes the fiber type and the finish. The weight of a fabric can be useful in determining an ideal fabric to use depending on the project you are working on.


GSM stands for grams/square meter and it is a metric measurement determining the weight of a square meter of a fabric. The higher the number, the higher the density of the fabric in question. Lightweight fabrics normally weigh between 30 GSM to 150 GSM, heavyweight fabrics at 350 GSM +, while medium weight fabrics weigh between 150 GSM and 350 GSM. Clear window PVC, for example, weighs 640 GSM but this could differ based on the fabric type.
Fabrics are typically categorized as follows:
• Heavyweight fabrics include denim, poplin, brocade, canvas, upholstery fabric, and peau de soie
• Medium weight fabrics include charmeuse, taffeta, velvet, Oxford, and sateen
• Lightweight fabrics are habutai, mesh, voile, lace, cheesecloth, organza, linen, and chiffon.

Applications of fabric weight

Fabric thickness

If a fabric is heavier, it will generally be thicker as well but the weight does not necessarily determine fabric thickness. Fabrics with varying weaves or fibers and but with similar weight might not possess equal thickness.
Quality of fabric
Fabric weight also does not ascertain the fabric quality in all cases. Different fabric yarns and weaves have varying weights each important for their end use. A good example is a heavyweight material like denim composed of cotton fiber and a twill weave making it ideal for making hardwearing jeans. Chiffon, on the other hand, is quite lightweight given its plain loose weave making it great for airy dresses and such.
Selecting the ideal fabric
Fabric weight is especially important when choosing between two of the same fabrics with different weights. If one cotton tee shirt’s fabric possesses a higher GSM compared to that of another shirt, there is a possibility it will be more durable. Selecting a certain fabric’s weight depends on what the fabric’s purpose will be or how often it will be worn. Heavier denim is more suitable for jeans while lightweight denim for shirts.

Fabric comfort

This is another factor to keep in mind particularly with heavy fabrics like denim. A heavier denim fabric will be stronger and denser making it more durable for a longer period. However, fabric stiffness for heavier ones could make a garment hard to wear until it is worn in. This stiffness will also be quite uncomfortable to move in compared to a lighter weight denim. In such a case, one would have to compromise and with an ideal medium weight fabric option.

Consider that lighter weight fabrics will be more suitable for garments to be worn in hotter temperatures. Additionally, they also drape better so you would have to apply interfacing to the fabric giving an added structure to the garment. A heavier fabric would not really require backing.

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