Have you noticed more t-shirts with a textured look and uneven hues but can’t figure out exactly what the fabric is? You are probably looking at slub knit fabric.
Slub knit fabric is getting more recognition and acceptance now than it did many years ago. Some of the trendiest casual clothing in fashion is made from slub knit fabric.
What is slub knit fabric? Slub knit fabric is usually made from yarn that is not of uniform thickness. It looks heathered due to fabric slubs, or sections of the yarn that are thicker than the rest of the strand, thus appearing as lumps when knit into fabric.
In addition to being raised, the bumps also accept color differently than the thin areas of the thread, accentuating them even more. The result is a pattern of raised specks or lines with tonal variation.
If you’ve been wondering what all the fuss over slub fabric is about, here’s your chance to learn. In this post is everything you need to know about slub fabric, from how it is made to how it feels, its main characteristics, uses, and so on.
The Making Of Slub Knit Fabric
Slub knit fabric is usually made from yarn or thread that is not of uniform thickness. The random chunky parts are known as slubs. But there’s a little backstory.
Long ago, way before yarn and fabric making was industrialized, fibers used to be handspun into yarn. This yarn was then hand knit into fabrics for garment construction.
Cotton and wool were the predominant fibers then. Unlike now, where machine spinning standardized everything, the handspun yarn came with many defects, or slubs.
Slubs were the more thickly twisted parts of the yarn, and fabrics made with slub yarn were considered ugly and of inferior quality. The slubs were either picked out or discarded altogether.
However, eventually more people began shifting their mindset on slub fabric and started viewing it from a different fashion perspective. Therefore, slubs took on the status of a design feature instead of an imperfection, hence the growing hype over slub knit fabric.
Then came machine spinning, which produced perfectly even threads and yarn. But even better, it opened up an opportunity to now create slubs deliberately with a predetermined spacing.
When knit into fabric, the equally spaced slubs in the yarn create a less messy, more aesthetically pleasant pattern than the handspun version.
It was done by feeding extra fibers or lint into the thread during spinning at regular intervals. And that is how the textured fabric that was once shunned became coveted, and big brands hopped into the trend.
Characteristics Of Slub Knit Fabric
Before buying a garment or even fabric for sewing, you want to know the properties of the fabric. Is it light or heavy? Stretchy or stiff? Does it shrink with wetness or heat? How do you care for it?
These are the numerous questions that run through our minds when we encounter a new fabric. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of slub knit fabric.
A common question about slub knit fabric is whether it’s always made from cotton. From its history, you can tell it was initially made from 100% cotton, probably because it was the chief clothing fiber then.
Cotton is also easier to wield into a slub by hand and even by machine. Today, a significant percentage of slub knit fabric produced is still made of cotton.
But manufacturers couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room, and that is polyester. Polyester is one of the most ubiquitous fibers, seemingly overtaking cotton in production and demand quickly.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to produce slubs with synthetic fibers. They go through an entirely different spinning process from their natural fiber counterparts.
The spinning process of synthetics makes the creation of slubs in threads very costly. But one of the reasons polyester is attractive is because of its low cost of production. Therefore, it would not make sense to make slubs and increase the production costs and final fabric price.
To achieve a win-win situation, cotton is often blended with polyester or other synthetic fibers to lower the production cost and make slub fabric with synthetic components. Today, you can find slub knit fabric in not just cotton but poly-cotton blends as well. There’s also elastane cotton, acrylic cotton, and other cotton blends.
Woolen slub knit fabric is also available for heavier clothing for the cold seasons. However, woven slub fabric is more common with wool because it has a heavier thread and is best woven.
Similarly, silk and linen, which are predominantly weave fabrics, are rarely slub knit.
2. Weight And Texture
The thickness of slub knit fabric is dependent on the weight of the slub yarn. Therefore, it can range from see-through thin to very thick fabric.
When it comes to the feel, do not let the textured look deceive you into thinking that the fabric is coarse. Cotton slub knit fabric, for example, is as soft as standard cotton.
The higher the quality of the fibers, the better it feels on the skin. Slub knit fabric is generally lightweight and breathable, too, which is a bonus.
Slub knit fabric is a stretchable fabric. Stretching is an inherent feature in all knit fabrics. They will usually stretch in all directions, but mostly horizontally. How the threads interlock naturally allows this to happen.
The stretch of slub knit fabric also depends on the fiber content. If the material used is naturally stretchy, it adds to the stretchiness of the slub knit fabric.
Synthetic fibers like polyester are known to be relatively rigid; therefore, you can expect a poly-cotton blend slub knit fabric to have less give than one made from pure cotton.
Elastane and cotton-blend slub knit fabric will stretch even more extensively because of the superelasticity of elastane. The type of construction also plays a role in the amount of give slub knit fabric has. A good example is slub Jersey knit fabric.
Jersey is a typically stretchy knit because it is a single yarn knit. It is pretty popular with manufacturers of slub knit fabric due to its multidirectional stretch.
If you’d like your slub knit fabric not to have that much of a stretch, opt for a double yarn knit constructed fabric, also known as interlock knit. It is more rigid because there are two single yarn knits interlocked instead of one.
How Do You Care For Slub Knit Fabric?
You care for slub knit fabric like you would any other fabric. The first step is to acknowledge the type of fibers and familiarize yourself with the special care instructions.
Cotton slub knit fabric is cared for like any other cotton fabric. You’ll wash it in warm or cool temperatures and a gentle cycle. Avoid the hot tumble dry if you can, and instead air dry it.
If the slub knit fabric is a blend of two or more fibers, then the fussiest fiber is King. You would generally treat the fabric as though it is entirely made of that fussy fabric.
Slub knit fabric is not the wrinkly kind of fabric and usually doesn’t need any pressing. Ironing it will eventually flatten out the ridges marring the knobbled texture and losing dimension.
Hanging or folding it nicely in your closet is enough to keep it crease-free.
Whatever you do, always use a delicate treatment and a gentle hand because slub fabric is not as strong as regular fabric. Remember, the yarn has thin and thick areas. The thin areas can wear out pretty quickly and are susceptible to holes if the fabric is handled harshly.
Does Slub Knit Fabric Shrink?
Slub knit fabric may or may not shrink. It depends on the fibers and whether they naturally shrink or not.
If the slub knit fabric is made from 100% cotton or wool that has not been pre-shrunk, it is likely to shrink with exposure to high heat. However, if the slub knit fabric is partly synthetic like polyester cotton blend, it will not shrink.
If unsure of the fabric you have, use a gentle and cool cycle and air-dry to prevent shrinkage.
Uses For Slub Knit Fabric
The heathered look of slub knit fabric is the main muse of the fabric. Therefore, it doesn’t need any other elaborate design patterns or many colors that draw attention away from the beauty of the slubs, which is the visual interest.
For that reason, slub knit fabric usually is the choice of fabric for plain clothes. T-shirts are the most popular. You’ll also find sweatshirts and sweatpants, hoodies, shirt dresses, loungewear, and pajamas made from slub knit fabric.
Slub knit fabric is never an option for formal clothing, towels, household furnishings, beddings, and upholstery due to the stretch of the knit construction. However, woven slub fabrics have a place in those sectors since they are more robust and hold shape better.
That’s everything you need to know about slub knit fabric. So you are now equipped to craft with it or sew with it. You can even buy slub yarn and knit it yourself.
Whichever way you choose to use your slub knit fabric, the first thing is to ensure you check the fiber content, quality, and weight before purchase. Organic cotton and cotton blends are the best options.