Twill:

Twill shirt fabricwill’s diagonal parallel ribs make it one of the easiest weaves to recognize. These diagonal lines - also known as wales - are created during the weaving process. The horizontal weft yarn crosses over two vertical warp yarns and then under one. This is repeated over and over and thus the diagonal lines are created. If the wales run to the right, this is referred to as the Z direction, or if they run to the left, it’s called the S direction. If you want to show off a little, there is a subset of twill called “twillette” that is characterized by a dominant horizontal weft yarn.

While plain weaves have identical front and back sides, twill’s front and back are different. The front of the fabric (or the face) has more pronounced wales. Using yarns of different colors gives the fabric’s face more shine. Twill can come in striking colors created by combining bright weft yarn with white warp yarn which serves to accentuate the color.

Twill is a heavy, sturdy fabric often used for outerwear, trousers and shirts. Every time you put on a pair of jeans, you’re wearing twill. They do have some natural stretch in them though less when 100% cotton, but still more than a plain weave. This is one explanation of their durability. A twill dress shirt will have a longer life span than a plain woven shirt. Moreover, they are easier to clean and are almost always machine washable but make sure to check the label just in case.

Brushed twill:

Brushed twill’s name refers to a finishing process called brushing. Brushing raises some of the yarn fibers and gives the face of the fabric a fuzzy feel. In addition to affecting the texture, brushing also deepens colors, especially when done with earth tones like brown and green.

Herringbone:

Herringbone shirt fabricHerringbone, an ancient European twill weave, was present as early as 600BC and used by the Celtic people in what are now Austria and Ireland. It is characterized by a distinctive V shaped wale. It’s zigzagging wale gives the fabric the appearance of a fish skeleton - hence the name Herring (the fish) Bone. In addition to adding a little bit of style to a shirt, herringbone’s zigzag construction also adds strength and durability. With a shinier face, it can be very elegant and formal.


Poplin & Broadcloth:

Poplin shirt fabricPoplin is a plain weave that emphasizes more tightly packed warp yarn, often double that of the weft yarn. Fabrics that are considered “plain weaves” are usually constructed with equal size warp and weft thread, so, the yarns from the side and from the top are equal in size. That is why poplins usually weigh 110-140 gram per square meter of fabric.

Poplin - Tabinet in French - was originally intended to be a holy fabric. It received its name in the French city of Avignon. At that time (in the 15th century) Avignon was a particularly good place for fabric mills for two reasons: an abundance of fresh water and the Papal seat – which created and sustained a high demand for fine fabric. At that time it was named Papelino to honor the Pope, which then evolved into poplin in English.

The main difference between broadcloth and poplin is historic. Broadcloth was invented in England a few centuries before the French invented poplin. Essentially it is the same one over, one under weave. Broadcloth tends to be slightly heavier, 120-160 grams per square meter, but this difference is really semantic.

Poplin is lightweight fabric with a fine smooth weave and a light texture. Broadcloth, a close cousin – has a somewhat coarser texture, softer feel and may be a bit thicker. Both are commonly used for men’s dress shirts – hence our discussion of them here. They are comparable in sturdiness, so your choice depends on textural preference. Poplin may feel somewhat cooler than the broadcloth, but if they are both 100% cotton even that might not be a significant difference.

OXFORD

Oxford shirt fabricOxford fabric was originally created as one of four innovative fabrics named after famous universities – Oxford, Cambridge, Yale & Harvard – in a Scottish fabric mill in the 19th century. Unfortunately for the other three only the Oxford pattern stood the test of time. Oxford is a type of fabric called a basket weave. The heavier warp thread passes over 2 finer warp threads and then under one. This two over, one under pattern repeats itself and results in slightly thicker (usually 160-210 grams per square meter) cloth with an obvious texture. In many oxford weaves, the weft thread is un-dyed, creating an end-on-end color texture throughout the weave. Its versatility is one of its strongest selling points as it is suitable for both formal and casual wear. Because this kind of traps a lot of air, it also has great insulating properties and thus – depending on its thickness – can be a great choice for winter. Oxford is so distinguished and comfortable that Polo players wore long sleeve Oxford shirts until Mr. Rene Lacoste invented his polo shirt in the 1930’s.

Pinpoint Oxford is a step above typical Oxford cloth as it is is woven from finer and lighter threads. It is a smoother, more formal cloth that is still good for everyday, but for someone who’s looking for a bit more polish. When wearing Oxford cloth – particularly the finer ones – it’s important to be careful around sharp edges as basket weaves tend to snag and tear easily.

Royal Oxford is the most refined of the Oxford weaves. It uses extremely fine threads of a lighter weight – such as fine Egyptian cotton with a staple length of 140 or above. As a result, it is lighter and finer to the touch than Oxford and Pinpoint Oxford fabric. The finer thread also lends the texture an extremely smooth hand feel. Royal Oxford is best worn for dressy occasions.

END-ON-END / FIL-A-FIL -

End on end shirt fabricEnd-on-end is a plain weave, meaning it is not that different from poplins of broadcloth. The main distinction between them is that fil-a-fil is usually woven by mixing colored and white yarns together. That’s why these fabrics tend to have a heathered feel to them. When two colors are used the fabric is called 'Crosshatched' end-on-end. From afar, it is hard for an untrained eye to differentiate between a poplin and a fil-a-fil but up close the color saturation difference is clear.


CHAMBRAY

End-on-end fabric is said to originate from the Cambrai, a city in Northern France. Chambray, the only variation named for its birthplace, combines navy and white thread. Chambray shirts are soft and very manly due to their faded looks their similarity to denim shirts. Mind you though, this fabric was first used to create women’s sun bonnets, those frilly hats tied under the chin. Oh, how times have changed.

In some cases Chambray is woven using an Oxford pattern but with blue and white thread. In this case – quite naturally – it is called Oxford Chambray.

FLANNEL

Flannel shirt fabricFlannel is a twill weave made from loosely spun yarn, which leaves large amounts of air trapped in them. That provides the insulation properties for which flannel is so famous. It’s also why they feel fuzzy and are used traditionally for winter fabrics. When woven for summer, they have less air in the weave and therefore retain less heat.


GINGHAM

The name originates from an adjective in the Malay language, “genggang”, which actually means striped. Gingham is said to have been named in Malaysia, brought to Europe by Dutch merchants in the 17th century and then adopted by English weavers. That may explain why today it actually refers to checks. Gingham is made of combed cotton – threads combed in much the same way that you would comb your hair. The purpose of the combing is to make sure that all yarn is running in the same direction and to remove the short fibers (10-20% of total) to keep only the longest, strongest fibers. After the fabric is combed (usually middle weight of 110-140 grams per square meter) it is woven very much like a plain weave with the color along the warp. All of this makes a soft, strong check perfect for daily wear; as a rule of thumb, the smaller the check the more formal the fabric.

DOBBY, JACQUARD

Dobby shirt fabricDobby and Jacquard are two different but related types of fabric – both complex weaving techniques that create patterns in the weave itself often by way of color. Using both of these weaves is one way to avoid printing on fabric as printing doesn’t trap color nearly as well and will likely fade over time.

The Jacquard Loom, invented in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard in Lyon. At the time it was considered a technological wonder capable of using thousands of different yarns to weave extremely complex designs. It was the first loom depend on primitive mechanics – a series of punch cards to control the loom – to determine the arrangement of warp thread and as the weft passes through. It resulted in very complex repeating designs typically woven in fine fabrics for the upper classes.

The Dobby loom is actually an expansion on Jacquard’s technology - a mechanism that controls up to 32 different harnesses on the loom. It is generally used to create simple geometric textures and is not as high-end as jacquard.

GENERAL Shirt Fabric TERMS:

YARN

Yarn is the generic term for a thin, long, continuous strand of textile fiber before it is woven into cloth.

YARN COUNT

Otherwise known as "Thread Count", this consists of the number of yarns-per-inch. The yarn count will determine whether the cloth is loosely or tightly woven and the higher the number the higher the quality. In shirting, a benchmark of 80-100 marks high quality. Above 140 is considered extremely high quality.

BALANCE

The balance of a fabric refers to its specific proportion of vertical warp yarn to horizontal weft yarn as it relates to the weight of the yarn. So for example, a high quality broadcloth with a count of warp 140 X weft 70, has twice the amount of warp yarns as weft yarns. Then, in order to maintain the balance of the fabric, the size of each weft yarn is doubled to ensure a comparable amount of cotton fiber in each direction. So, even though there are technically twice as many warp yarns as weft, ultimately the fabric fiber is balanced.

PLY

One way to improve fabric fiber quality and longevity is to weave your fabric using yarn that has been twisted together. When two fibers are combined this way, the result is known as Two-Ply Yarn. Two-ply yarns resist the fibers’ normal tendency to shed, or 'pill'. Therefore, fabric woven of this two-ply yarn will have a much greater durability and longevity than fabric woven of single yarn.

THE FINISHING

Simply constructing cloth does not actually prepare it to be cut and sewn. There are a variety of processes that must occur before the cloth is considered “finished.” These processes are logically referred to as “finishing.” They can include dying, sizing, sanforization and pre-shrinking, to name just a few common ones. Each of these processes has a direct effect not only on the appearance of the cloth, but also on how it performs.

Sanforization is the most important finishing process of which to be aware. It is a treatment mainly used for cotton fabrics. It is a method of stretching and shrinking fabric before it is cut to prevent shrinkage in the final garment. This process was named after its inventor - a lovely English guy named Sanford Lockwood Cluett who patented over 200 inventions while working for his uncle’s weaving company between the two world wars.
It is a very safe process simply using steam and stretching the fabric on a rubber bobbin.