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Stretch Fabric: What It Is, What It Is Used For, Features And More

One of the main characteristics we look for when choosing any garment is, of course, the comfort it provides. The last thing we want is for a fabric to be uncomfortable, to stick or not leave room for movement, among other discomforts, and that is why it is of vital importance to know the properties of the fabric we are going to use to create or wear a piece of clothing. Stretch fabric, for example, is one of the most widely used, especially in sportswear, due to its elasticity and comfort. But there are several things to keep in mind when choosing this type of fabric, and that is why we are going to explain to you in this blog article the most essential about this very practical fabric.

What is Stretch fabric? Definition and types

Stretch fabric is a fabric that has the ability to stretch, that is, its fibers can stretch to a certain degree and then return to their original size.

Stretch fabrics are expressed as “2-way” or “4-way”. The 2-way stretch is horizontal and runs through the tissue from selvage to selvage. The 4-way stretch is both horizontal and vertical, going through the tissue and up/down the tissue. However, the type of stretch is not the only variation. The fibers that go into the final result can come from a variety of elastic materials. Some common types of stretch fabrics that can be found are:

Elastane and blends with Elastane

Elastane is also known as Lycra or Spandex, although the first Elastane fibers reached the U.S. market in 1959 being called K-fibers. Spandex is an anagram of the word “expand”. This fiber name is common in Asia, North and South America. Elastane, on the other hand, is a predominant name in European countries.

On its own, spandex can stretch up to 400% of its size, but once mixed with other materials, it can still lend up to 20% of its elasticity to the coupled fiber. Polyester, cotton-spandex (found widely in denim), nylon and stretch velvet are some of the most common spandex blends found on the market, but there are many other adaptations.

Too much elastane can make work pants and T-shirts or blouses uncomfortable and even deform. Stretch fabrics generally contain between 3% and 7% elastane, depending on the type of garment, but usually do not exceed this amount. Part of the elastane is made of polyurethane which allows a special elasticity while maintaining the original shape. Moreover, in order to be called elastane, a fabric must have at least 85% polyurethane.

Knitted fabrics

Knitted fabrics owe their elasticity to the way they are produced, using interwoven fibers in loops. The “knit” or loops give the fabric some of its elasticity, although they may be blended with elastic fibers such as elastane, viscose or polyester to increase their elasticity. Knitted fabrics tend to be bidirectional, but are still widely used for sewing clothing. Knitted fabrics can be found in everyday garments such as sweaters, socks and hats.


Latex comes from the sap of rubber trees and can be applied to other materials for its elasticity and water resistance. However, pure rubber is not usually applied to clothing because of its lack of breathability and because it can cause skin irritation.

Neoprene rubber

This synthetic polymer resembles some of the stretch and water-resistant qualities of rubber, while reducing the limitations of the pure material. This material is available in various thicknesses and is increasingly used in suits and fashion apparel.


What is Stretch fabric used for? Uses and applications

Initially, Stretch fabric was used exclusively in women’s swimwear and bras. However, its knit design, coupled with naturally stretchy fibers, led to Stretch knit beginning to be used in athletic sportswear for athletes. In the mid-1980s, a major shift occurred when designers began to incorporate stretch knits into the modal world. From then on, they began to be used mainly in T-shirts and jackets until it even made its way into work pants, since, as a fabric that stretches in all directions, it allows for greater agility and flexibility in movement. Today, Stretch fabrics can be found in countless products, from tights to jeans. If you go running, chances are that all your clothes are made of stretch fabrics, even your running shoes or even your Pilates equipment. At home, your sweatshirts and pajamas probably have stretchy parts, so elastane is more present than you might think. In general, Stretch fabrics are perfect for women’s clothing, sportswear, stage costumes, underwear and home textiles.

Characteristics of stretch fabrics

Stretch fabrics exhibit multiple positive properties. From their ability to stretch, a characteristic revealed in their very name, to their ability to return to their original shape after enlarging.

Stretch fabrics are highly tear-resistant and dimensionally stable. On the other hand, those garments made with a small percentage of elastane are characterized by being wrinkle-free, a fact that favors aesthetically and also facilitates maintenance and comfort in washing and care. On the other hand, elastane has anti-pilling properties that prevent the formation of “pilling” in the fabric, although, mixed with cotton, it could present this situation in the long term.

Last but not least, the low moisture absorption is another positive feature, as it is also a quick-drying material.

Stretch fabric simplifies sewing, as it is a figure-flattering material. Elastane increases the wear resistance of the product, but does not neutralize the advantages of other materials. For example, cotton stretch fabric retains all the positive properties of cotton fabric: breathability, water absorption function, hypoallergenic, non-irritability to the skin, etc. Due to its numerous advantages, Stretch fabric is a must in your closet.

Are you looking for Stretch fabrics? In Recovo you will find this type of fabrics in a thousand ways, from knit to spandex blends, to create your next collection with elastic properties and also with a plus of sustainability, since our fabrics come from excess textile ready to receive a second life and contribute to the circularity of fabrics.

Find stretch fabrics in our category for Elastic fabrics.


About Recovo

Recovo creates circular solutions for the fashion industry. We cover various aspects of the circular economy for brands:

Based in Barcelona, we have a global mission with our websites in Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, French, dutch, German

If you want to know more, please contact us