id you know that fabric weight is one of the main reasons a “one-style-fits-all” approach to screen printing just doesn’t cut it anymore? The weight of a t-shirt or other garment is very important when you’re choosing the right fabric to print on.
A printing method that works on basic 6 ounce, 100% cotton tees won't necessarily work the same way on lighter-weight fashion fabrics, like 3.7 ounce blended fabric or 4.2 ounce 100% ringspun cotton.
We’re going to break down what you should know about how fabric weight matters to your decorated-apparel customers, by answering the five most common questions we hear from distributors and decorators.
1. What Exactly Does ‘Fabric Weight’ Mean?
The weight of any apparel fabric is the mass of the textile over a specific length-times-width area. Depending on the system of measurement you use, it’s how much one square yard or meter of fabric weighs on a scale. You’ll usually see fabric weight listed as ounces per square yard (oz.) or grams per square meter (gsm).
Different factors, such as the thickness and types of the yarns, impact the fabric weight. One thing to keep in mind when working with clients is that, in general, lightweight fabrics are more flexible on a wearer’s body (and easier to fold) than heavier fabrics. But, does weight affect the printing process?
2. Does Fabric Weight Really Matter for Printing?
In a single word, yes. Here’s a simple way to look at t-shirt fabric weight: A basic 6 ounce t-shirt is like a thick paper towel vs. a 3.7 ounce blended tee that’s more like a sheer piece of tissue paper. If we were dealing with paper, you’d never expect the tissue paper to absorb as much ink as a paper towel. The key takeaway here is that a thick, opaque plastisol print is best suited for heavier-weight t-shirts.
If you’re working with lightweight 4 ounce and below fashion tees, your decorator should adjust the ink deposit to make it thin enough to match the shirt’s hand. If you (or your decorator) had to print the same design with plastisol ink.
For example, you may need to use a 110 screen mesh on the 6 ounce basic t-shirt and a mesh count, like 156 or higher, on the 4.3 ounce ringspun shirt. It’s really a matter of working with the fabric weight, rather than against it.
3. Should I Talk About Fabric Weight With My Customers?
Yes, without a doubt! Start by asking your client how the t-shirt or hoodie will be used. Then, you can delve into specific fabrications and review the fabric weights based on their needs.
Let’s say your buyer is interested in 100% cotton non-ringspun t-shirts. Our 100% cotton midweight shirts may be best suited for a giveaway event for budgetary reasons. Something around 5 ounces, like a Gildan 5.3 ounce Heavy Cotton™ T-Shirt or Hanes Essential-T Shirt, would work well for that.
For heavier-weight options, which are ideal for a streetwear brand or construction company, try the 6 ounce American Apparel Unisex Heavyweight Cotton T-Shirt or Hanes Authentic T-Shirt.
Fabric weight is also an important component when you’re offering heathered color fashion t-shirts. The CVC blends are 50% cotton or higher and are slightly heavier in the mid 4.0 ounce range, such as the BELLA + CANVAS Unisex CVC Jersey Tee or the Next Level Unisex CVC T-Shirt.
Poly-rich shirts like the 3.6 ounce Tultex Unisex Poly-Rich T-Shirt or the 3.5 ounce Next Level Unisex Festival T-Shirt come with lower fabric weights. That means lighter colors in these styles might be too sheer for some customers vs. a heavier CVC blend. However, a gym or yoga studio may prefer the lighter weight, poly rich fabric.
4. Can Fabric Get ‘Too Heavy’?
The biggest issue we’ve seen with heavier-weight fabrics is the limitations on yarn spinning. That means, once you get over 6 ounce your highest single is usually 20/1 on heavyweight ringspun shirts. Therefore, much of the fashion-forward printing you see on t-shirts is done on fabric weights in the 4 ounce range, since this category offers the most options for 30/1 to 40/1 ringspun cotton.
Singles is a term that describes the diameter of a yarn, depending on how many times the manufacturer twists the fiber. So, the higher the single, the finer the yarn, and the softer the garment is. shirts are usually made from 18 or 20 singles. Ringspun cotton in 30 to 40 singles will be smoother, softer and of higher quality.
A 100% cotton fleece fabric with a weight over 10 ounce can feel too heavy, as it weighs wearers down and lacks flexibility for many end-users. That’s why fleece over 10 ounce is usually blended with polyester, to make it more comfortable and flexible. However, you can definitely find 100% cotton options that go up to 16 ounce but it’s a very limited category.
5. Does Fabric Weight Really Matter for Sales Presentations?
Of course it does! It’s a great idea to include a brief discussion of fabric weight in your sales presentations to show why you’re making certain product recommendations. It also helps you look like more an expert in your field to your customers, which is great for business and building a client base.
For example, many construction companies prefer heavyweight fleeces for their employees to wear in place of outerwear – specifically for outside roadwork or paving. This style of heavy workwear fleece has also become very popular for streetwear brands and band merch. In these cases, show your buyer the 11 ounce thermal-lined DRI DUCK Crossfire Heavyweight Power Fleece Hooded Jacket with Thermal Lining.
When you’re selecting a t-shirt, its weight will factor in depending on how often employees will wear and wash it.While the majority of your customers who want hoodies will be happy with fabric weights in the 8.5 ounce range, others will want a style that’s less bulky.
Hospitality markets like restaurants are often amazed when you show them unisex lightweight full-zip options, such as the 4.5 ounce Independent Lightweight Jersey Full-Zip Hooded T-Shirt.
This is a perfect uniform piece for the waitstaff to wear inside. The hooded t-shirt also provides just the right amount of comfort as exterior doors open and close during the colder months, while the lightweight fabric also functions well on cooler summer nights and sells well in beach and resort categories.
It’s All About Perception and Longevity
When you’re selling to customers or choosing a piece of apparel for a clothing line, all of the small details, like fabric weight and type, play into its perceived value. Based on your customer’s needs, you might choose a specific style because it feels softer, more comfortable or has a flattering drape. Or, you may go with something that feels more durable.
Fabric weight is a big part of that, which is why understanding it can help you pick the best product for your decorations, client’s needs and apparel lines. So, next time you’re working with a clients, make sure to ask them lots of questions and teach them all benefits that fabric weight has to offer them.