Print on Demand Apparel Fabrics

Ultimate Apparel Fabric Guide: Cotton, Polycotton, and More

by Gooten Editorial Team on Aug. 15, 2023

Step into the world of textiles with Gooten, where our print on demand expertise converges with the diverse realms of cotton and polyester fabrics. In this illuminating journey, we delve deep into the intricacies of fabric choices that define the essence of your brand’s custom creations. 

We’re exploring the unrivaled comfort of 100% cotton, renowned for its natural feel and breathability, juxtaposed against polyester’s durability and versatile applications. And how about the synergy of polycotton blends? Yes, we’ll touch upon their affordability and resilience and how they offer a range of options that balance comfort and practicality.

From the luxurious softness of ringspun cotton to the innovation of airlume combed cotton, Gooten presents a thoughtfully curated collection that is a testament to quality and ingenuity (check our print on demand apparel catalog). Join us as we unravel the threads of fabric possibilities, empowering entrepreneurs in print on demand to make informed choices that elevate their creations and captivate their audiences.

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Gooten's Apparel Fabric Guide: Table of Contents

Cotton Fabric

Cotton fabrics originate from fibers within the cotton plant’s seed pods. After harvesting, these fibers are cleaned, spun into yarn, and woven or knitted to create a variety of textiles. Renowned for comfort and versatility, cotton fabrics are widely used in clothing. 

Gooten’s print on demand apparel assortment is a mecca for eCommerce merchants seeking high-quality cotton garments. There are different types of cotton fabric clothing items in our catalog, and information is power when choosing (and promoting) the best pieces for your print on demand brand.

Print on Demand Cotton Fabric
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100% Cotton

100 cotton signifies fabric crafted from robust, naturally sourced fibers, merging durability and biodegradability. It endures hot washes and excels in absorbing water, drying quickly, and effective moisture-wicking, though it’s prone to wrinkles and post-wash shrinking without pre-treatment. 

100 cotton fabric is quite heat- and alkali-resistant. Alkali resistance is the capacity of a surface coating to withstand degradation caused by chemical reactions with alkaline substances.

100 cotton is a natural fiber nonwoven fabric. Nonwoven textiles unite fibers into sheets through spinning, needling, spunlace, or hot rolling. The synergy of 100 cotton fabric and nonwoven production methods yields a material of superior tactility and dermatological compatibility, devoid of chemical additives.

Although cotton lacks inherent stretchiness due to its botanical nature, weaving techniques can adjust fabric elasticity for various purposes.

Open-End Cotton Yarn

Open-end yarn is a type of yarn produced without a spindle through a process called open-end spinning. This yarn is characterized by its bulkiness while being durable and cost-effective. Notably, open-end yarn is more affordable than specialized yarns, rendering it accessible for broad commercial applications in the textile industry. 

Due to its rapid spinning, open-end yarn production is approximately five times greater than other commercial yarns. This process also consumes less power, leading to reduced production costs. Open-end spinning eliminates several manufacturing steps, simplifying and economizing production and diminishing labor costs.

Open-end yarn excels in durability and quality due to its structure, producing highly resistant fabrics to surface abrasions such as rubbing. These fabrics are considered versatile and suitable for multiple purposes, which is why open-end cotton is present heavily in the clothing industry. 

The production process for open-end yarn involves fewer steps than ringspun yarn, resulting in less waste and a higher garment yield for the same power consumption.

However, it is worth noting that open-end spinning results in a “fuzzier” feel and diminished wear resistance compared to ring-spun yarns.

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Ringspun Cotton

Among the cotton fabric variations, ringspun cotton stands out. Ringspun cotton is hailed for its superior softness, durability, and high-quality attributes stemming from a specific manufacturing process. In this process, yarn is spun to create longer, stronger strands that are notably soft and free from the coarser texture of standard raw cotton. The continuous spinning, twisting, and thinning of strands contribute to the longer, more delicate fibers. 

This type of cotton is ideal for creating fashionable and comfortable apparel, although it may be slightly more expensive. The benefits of strength and softness make ringspun cotton an attractive option for high-quality garments.

We must mention that ringspun cotton can be prone to shrinking after washing, although to a lesser extent than 100% cotton. While its advantages encompass enhanced strength, softness, and durability, the process can result in occasional snarling or intertwining. Despite potential challenges, ringspun cotton’s refined properties make it an appealing choice for premium apparel. Ring-spun cotton’s innovative spinning process produces smoother, longer fibers, creating a desirable and comfortable wear experience.

Combed Ringspun Cotton

Combing cotton significantly enhances fabric quality by eliminating short staple fibers, thereby reducing yarn hairiness and minimizing pilling on the fabric’s surface. This process produces cleaner, finer, and more robust yarns with enhanced luster and tactile appeal. Combed ring spun cotton, renowned for its refined fibers, is particularly well-suited as a base fabric for direct-to-garment printing due to its softness and uniform texture. 

Threads produced through the ringspun process demonstrate exceptional durability. After spinning, cotton fibers are meticulously combed to ensure a remarkably smooth texture while maintaining a soft touch. Combed and ring-spun cotton furthers this refinement, guaranteeing fewer impurities for an even smoother surface suitable for printing.

Airlume Combed and Ringspun Cotton

Airlume cotton is a premier variant within cotton options, characterized by a meticulous combing process that removes impurities. This top-tier quality, belonging to the combed ringspun cotton category, involves intensive preparation before yarn spinning. 

Unlike cheaper open-end cotton with smaller yarn strands prone to loose fibers, airlume cotton employs long-staple cotton strands, ensuring an incredibly smooth surface conducive to clear printing and heightened comfort. This quality is further emphasized during spinning, where the long strands eliminate unruly fibers, culminating in an incredibly soft and refined fabric. 

Recognized as a superior choice, airlume cotton surpasses combed and ringspun variants due to the removal of significantly more impurities during its extensive combing process.

Polyester Fabric

Polyester fabrics are derived from synthetic fibers made from polymer compounds. These polymers are created through a chemical reaction involving petroleum-derived substances. The resulting fibers are spun into yarn and woven or knitted to form polyester fabrics. These fabrics are known for their durability, wrinkle resistance, and quick-drying properties, making them popular for various clothing and textile applications.

According to the 2019 Preferred Fiber & Materials Report by Textile Exchange, polyester is the most extensively employed fiber globally, commanding around 50% of the overall fiber market and constituting approximately 80% of all synthetic fibers.

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Polycotton Fabric

Polycotton fabric, a blend of polyester and cotton, is recognized for its affordability and resistance to shrinkage compared to pure cotton. This lightweight fabric offers a practical compromise, combining cotton’s breathability with polyester’s durability.

Typically comprising 65% polyester and 35% cotton or a 50/50 blend, polycotton is an economical alternative to natural or synthetic fabrics. The durability of polycotton surpasses that of pure cotton, offering longer-lasting clothing items that are less susceptible to tearing. Furthermore, this fabric exhibits reduced shrinkage after washing, enhancing its longevity.

Polycotton items are notable for their ease of care, enduring multiple washes and drying cycles while maintaining their form. By integrating cotton into the blend, polycotton attains enhanced breathability, distinguishing it from 100% polyester fabrics that can cling to the skin in hot conditions.

Despite these merits, polycotton has a coarser texture compared to the softness of 100% cotton. Additionally, due to its synthetic composition, it can develop surface bobbles over time, potentially leading to a rougher feel.

Various considerations come into play when contemplating the choice between polycotton and 100% cotton. While polycotton offers benefits such as tear resistance and cost-effectiveness, 100% cotton fabric provides heightened breathability. The decision ultimately hinges on factors like work environment and personal preferences.

In essence, a polycotton blend combines the positive attributes of both fibers, resulting in breathable, tear-resistant garments that can even be fashioned into abrasion-resistant materials. Although not as economical as pure polyester, polycotton blends offer affordability and enhanced comfort, and they continue to be a versatile choice for various applications.

Fleece Fabric

Fleece, a popular synthetic fabric made primarily from polyester, possesses distinctive qualities that suit it for various applications. It is known for quick-drying and is advantageous for outdoor activities and wet conditions. Additionally, its wrinkle-resistant nature contributes to its low-maintenance appeal, making it an attractive choice for those seeking hassle-free clothing options.

Fleece’s lightweight construction is particularly beneficial when layering is required, making it an excellent choice for cold-weather endeavors. Despite its synthetic composition, fleece offers impressive breathability, allowing air and water to pass through easily. This feature, combined with its moisture-wicking properties, ensures that wearers remain comfortable even during high-intensity activities that result in sweating.


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How Did Fleece Come About?

Fleece was invented by Malden Mills, a textile manufacturer from Massachusetts, US, in 1979. The initial idea was for it to be a synthetic substitute for wool. The polyester-based fabric would start rising in popularity during the mid-80s, reaching its peak the following decade.

The fabric’s durability sets it apart from other materials. Inherently strong polyester fibers are less prone to tearing than natural fibers like cotton or wool. Furthermore, fleece’s synthetic composition makes it resistant to pests like moths, making it a reliable choice for outdoor adventures.

However, it’s important to note that fleece has some drawbacks. One of the primary issues is pilling, where the fabric forms small balls due to abrasion. Also, fleece accumulates odors, mainly used for extended periods without washing. This characteristic requires more frequent laundering to maintain freshness.

Rayon Fabric

Rayon, a versatile fiber, originates from regenerated cellulose, primarily sourced from wood pulp, with eucalyptus trees as the standard choice (although various plants like bamboo, soy, and cotton are also in play). In a nutshell, it is a semi-synthetic material extracted from plant sources. The manufacturing process involves treating plant cellulose with chemicals. Viscose, or artificial silk, represents a prevalent form of rayon produced with chemical-intensive procedures. 

The benefits of rayon encompass its softness, luxurious appearance, moisture absorption, cooling properties, wrinkle resistance, and color retention. Despite its comfort, softness, and breathability, rayon faces some limitations. Namely, It is susceptible to shrinkage, reduced fabric strength when wet, and sustainability concerns due to its manufacturing process.

It is frequently blended with other fabrics, primarily cotton, and polyester, to maximize its desired properties.

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Tri-Blend T-Shirts

A tri-blend fabric comprises three components: cotton, polyester, and rayon. Rayon, known for its silk-like texture and moisture-absorbent properties, enhances the comfort of the blend. This composition offers a soft feel and slight stretch, making tri-blend T-shirts incredibly cozy and suitable for various fits. These shirts are lightweight, perfect for a breezy feel, and as a canvas for vintage-style prints. 

When printing on tri-blends, water-based and discharge inks interact uniquely with the fabric, resulting in a naturally heathered appearance. While tri-blends don’t shrink significantly, they offer a flexible option for those seeking comfort and versatility.

Tri-blend fabrics contain 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon, contributing to their softness and stretchiness. These shirts adapt to various styles, from snug fits to loose silhouettes. Printing on tri-blend shirts showcases a retro aesthetic, with the fabric color slightly visible through the ink. 

In comparison, 100% cotton t-shirts offer a distinct look and feel, albeit less comfort and stretch. Tri-blends are easy to wash and maintain, delivering breathability like cotton fabrics. The choice between materials involves trade-offs, and tri-blends excel in providing comfort, style, and unique printing possibilities.

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Choosing the Right Apparel Fabric for Your Business

When building trust with your consumer base and establishing a lasting apparel business legacy, the choices of fabric transcend mere aesthetics; they define the very essence of your print on demand brand. Gooten’s commitment to excellence ensures that every garment is not just a canvas but a statement of quality and innovation. 

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From the timeless allure of 100% cotton to the cutting-edge finesse of airlume combed cotton, our fabrics reflect a dedication to authenticity and creativity. As you navigate the intricate landscape of textile options, remember that each thread contributes to the fabric of your vision. 

Elevate your brand, captivate your audience, and leave an indelible mark on the world of fashion and design with Gooten’s curated materials that transform imagination into tangible artistry.