What is this mystery fabric?
October 27, 2010 8:49 PM   Subscribe

What type of fabric is this shirt made from? Nobody at the fabric stores can give me an answer.

Can anyone help me identify what type of fabric this shirt is made from? I've tried asking at fabric stores, but no luck.


The best I could get from six fabric stores was "It looks like some kind of blend". My background in science tells me that there's got to be a more complete answer, yes?

I've taken the best pics I could without a macro lens. I can try to take more if something else would be helpful.

Possible helpful facts:
-- It was purchased in about 2002-2003 or so
-- It's pretty stretchy. It stretches from 28" to 32" in the vertical ("parallel to the zipper" in the pics) direction and 21" to 27" in the horizontal (perpendicular) direction
-- One has shrunken considerably over the years, presumably from repeated launderings (the others were laundered more gently and always air-dried)
-- Back is much smoother-feeling and -looking than the front; front side is quite coarsely textured
-- It feels "thick" like canvas, but it's as flowing as any cotton t-shirt

posted by scrowdid to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Looks like polyester-rayon. Is it vintage?
posted by patronuscharms at 8:57 PM on October 27, 2010

It looks like polyester to me. The "back" photo does, at least.
posted by interrobang at 8:58 PM on October 27, 2010

Oh, never mind, you said you bought it in 2002-2003.
posted by patronuscharms at 9:00 PM on October 27, 2010

Response by poster: Dunno if it's vintage, it was just taken off the floor at a local Field's Fabrics in the early 2000s, according to the person who grabbed it.
posted by scrowdid at 9:02 PM on October 27, 2010

The construction of the fabric probably has a lot to do with how it feels. It looks like a warp knit - an industrial-process looped fabric that has a yarn end for every needle, probably a ribbed raschel knit or a simplex. The stretch and drapey hand are almost certainly more informed by that than the actual fibers.

As for fiber, it's hard to say without feeling it. I would guess a poly-cotton blend from the sheen. If you have a few threads you don't mind sacrificing, you can do a burn test.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:07 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

There probably is a more complete answer, but I'm not sure how you'd get one. Once a blend is created, it can be difficult to differentiate the components

I'm somewhat surprised that no-one at any of these stores suggested a burn test. (You did go to at least one Fields, right?) [Burn test tables here, here, and here, among others.] If the fabric is a blend, however, a burn test will be only somewhat useful -- it won't tell you the exact proportions.

Is the fabric shiny?

It's a double knit of some sort. Dunno the fabric content, though. I'd say it's probably got some polyester in it, and maybe some acetate. It looks kind of like a fabric called Dazzle -- it was used frequently in casual tops and warmup gear, but wasn't easy to find by the yard. Most of the Dazzle I saw was 100% poly, but some was poly/acetate blend, which might explain why the one shrank and the others didn't.
posted by jlkr at 9:07 PM on October 27, 2010

Response by poster: Aaaa-HA! "Burn test"! I *knew* there had to be some sort of science around this. I went to three different Field's-es and nobody mentioned it at all. I guess I just happened across the wrong folks.

It does seem like I might be more after the construction of it rather than the actual fibers, now that you mention it. It is quite shiny on the "back" side (which, it now occurs to me, may have been the intended "front"?), but the sheen is lost on the front, probably due to the texture.

Also, supposing I do find a similar knit and/or fabric, how does anyone go about color-matching fabrics? Is that even in the realm of possibility?
posted by scrowdid at 9:23 PM on October 27, 2010

If you don't get a certain enough answer here, you might try patternreview.com's message boards. There are several current posts from others who also have fabric identification questions.
posted by katemonster at 9:25 PM on October 27, 2010

what are you trying to do? Repair one? Make another similar one?

It is going to be very, very difficult to find a fabric that matches in both texture and color. If you just need a little bit, you could take it from somewhere the hole (or a patch) won't show - a seam allowance, a self pocket lining, etc.

If you need yardage...you'll just have to look, and look, and look. Emma One Sock sells a lot of fashion knits. Trim Fabric does, too.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:30 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Trying to make another similar one, or a new complete matching set. I realize that a perfect match might not happen, but I'd certainly like to get as close to this color & texture as I can.
posted by scrowdid at 9:38 PM on October 27, 2010

Response by poster: Inspired by this talk of different knits, I've thrown my shirt onto a scanner and taken some detail scans of the knit pattern.
posted by scrowdid at 9:58 PM on October 27, 2010

OK, this is a complete wild-ass guess, but based on that scan:

I think it's probably a blend of polyester, acetate, and spandex. The spandex and the acetate (which is rayon, a cellulose fiber) are contributing to the hand, and the polyester to the body. The structure of the knit reeeeeally looks to me like a double-knit.

If you're trying to match it, you're sadly probably SOL. Fabrics like these are often produced on a one-off basis; they'll make enough for the run of the shirts, and then no more. Textile trends cycle so rapidly that there's just no point. And this type of fabric (a polymer, a cellulose fiber, and an elastic) is not going to take dye uniformly or well at all.

If I'm right, you can find other similar fabrics here, though. I think they have a swatch program, so you can spend a couple of bucks and get your hands on some actual samples of the material.
posted by KathrynT at 7:35 AM on October 28, 2010

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