What Is the Difference Between a Flat Weave 100% Cotton Fabric & a 100% Knit Fabric?

Updated April 17, 2017

Woven and knit fabrics comprise the vast majority of fabrics in use in modern daily life. Their uses, however, can vary dramatically, and are not easily interchangeable for one another. The fibres from which they are constructed also differ a great deal, with cotton being one of the most popular.

Fibre Description

Cotton, a natural fibre, is constructed from the seedpod of the cotton plant. Close-up, cotton fibres look like twisted threads. Cotton is the most popular fabric in the world, and is used to create a wide variety of fabrics, including both woven fabrics and knit fabrics. Both woven and knit fabrics can be made of other fibres as well, such as polyester, nylon and wool.

Flat Weave Fabric Description

A flat weave fabric is generally constructed in the most basic manner of woven fabrics, consisting of a single warp thread crossing over and under subsequent individual weft threads. Flat weave fabrics do not have any stretch to them, except on the bias, or diagonal, of the fabric. Because of the simple construction of flat weave fabrics, they do not have a pile or nap, but can be somewhat nubby, if the threads used are uneven in size. Examples of flat weave fabrics are shantung, satin, twill and tweed.

Knit Fabric Description

A knit fabric is constructed as a series of interlocking loops. The particular construction of knit fabric gives it a degree of stretch, with a greater amount of stretch crosswise than lengthwise. Examples of knit fabrics are tricot, double knit, interlock and jersey.

Flat Weave Fabric Uses

Flat weave fabrics are popular choices for items that do not benefit from stretch in the fabric. One example is clothing items that are tailored, such as bridal gowns and business suits. These items, if constructed of a knit fabric, would be unable to hold their proper shape and fit. Home decor and upholstered items, such as sofas, vehicle seats and curtains are often upholstered in thicker flat weave fabrics, again for their ability to maintain their shape.

Knit Fabric Uses

Knit fabrics are very popular for clothing items, particularly close-fitting garments such as T-shirts, bathing suits and socks. These garments require stretch to fit properly, and are suitable for knit fabrics. When designed and constructed, makers of these garments must take into consideration the amount of an individual fabric's stretch.

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About the Author

Kelli Nottingham has been a freelance writer for more than five years, with published works on topics ranging from international travel to home decor DIY projects. A graduate of Duke University and the University of Colorado, Nottingham holds degrees in anthropology of religion, with a focus on religious ritual. She is also a recognized professional speaker with national experience.