T-Shirtology: Understanding T-Shirt Fabric Anatomy for Screen Printing

T-shirts have a long and interesting history, dating back to the early 20th century when they were first worn as undershirts by U.S. Navy personnel. Today, t-shirts are a staple in wardrobes around the world, and are worn for a wide variety of occasions, from casual everyday wear to athletic activities to formal events.

As a screen printer, it's important to understand the various factors that go into the construction of t-shirt fabric in order to choose the best blank apparel for your printing needs. Here are some key things to consider:

  1. Fabric weight: The weight of the fabric refers to how heavy or light it is. Fabric weight is usually measured in ounces per square yard, with lighter fabrics generally being more comfortable to wear in warmer weather. When selecting t-shirts for screen printing, it's important to choose a fabric weight that is appropriate for the intended use of the garment and the desired level of comfort.
Differences between Carded and Combed Cotton
  1. Cotton types: There are two main types of cotton that can be used in t-shirt fabric: combed cotton and carded cotton. Combed cotton is made from longer fibers that have been combed to remove impurities, resulting in a softer and stronger fabric. Carded cotton, on the other hand, is made from shorter fibers that have not been combed, resulting in a coarser and less durable fabric. While carded cotton is generally less expensive than combed cotton, t-shirts made from combed cotton may be more comfortable and longer-lasting.
  2. Open-ended vs. ringspun cotton: Another factor to consider when selecting t-shirts for screen printing is the type of cotton yarn used in the fabric. Open-ended cotton yarn is made by simply stretching the fibers and joining them together, while ringspun cotton yarn is made by twisting the fibers together before they are spun into yarn. In general, ringspun cotton yarn produces a softer and more durable fabric than open-ended cotton yarn.
Illustration of open-ended and ring spun cotton

Most t-shirts are made from a jersey knit, which is a type of single knit fabric made from interlocking loops of yarn on both sides of the fabric. Jersey knit is known for its stretchy and comfortable feel, making it a popular choice for t-shirts.

In addition to the basic construction of t-shirt fabric, there are also several different styles and shapes of t-shirts to consider. Some common styles include crew neck, v-neck, and scoop neck, which refer to the shape of the neckline. T-shirts can also come in a variety of fits, including classic, relaxed, and fitted.

Overall, understanding the various factors that go into the construction of t-shirt fabric can help you choose the best blank apparel for your screen printing needs. By considering factors such as fabric weight, cotton type, and the type of cotton yarn used, as well as the style and shape of the t-shirt, you can ensure that you are selecting garments that will produce high quality prints and meet the specific needs and preferences of your customers.

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