What is a stretch fabric?

The objective of this article is to give you some basics to understand what a stretch textile is, how to identify it, understand its characteristics; to ultimately choose them better.

The specificity of making lingerie or swimwear is to work with this type of textile. Also to make your underwear, it is important to know the properties and compositions of the fabrics used as well as the behavior of each in relation to the other. In this article we will only discuss the subject of stretch fabrics. The so-called non-stretch textiles will be covered in another article.

The article, even if it remains predominantly ”theoretical”, will then be supported by concrete examples which will be easier to understand. It is not intended to give a course in chemistry, .. nor data on the origin of textiles, … These points will not be addressed.

This article is also a preamble to another article “How to choose stretch fabrics thanks to their description”.

To start: But where does the power of extensibility of a fabric come from?

The extensibility of a fabric comes from either:

– its composition

– the type of “knitting”.


The extensibility comes from a component elastane (EA) or spandex (SP*) or lycra (LY*) that the textile contains.

You can therefore easily identify the extensibility on the labels or in the technical descriptions provided in the product sheets.

*SP, LY are brands in comparison to elastane which is a generic name.


In this case we speak of mechanical stretch – for example: the mesh lining, tulle, … Mechanical stretch cannot be recognized in its composition, you will only see it by touching and handling the fabric. This is an indication that you will find in the descriptions of the items in our shop.

Many times it is not specified by the sellers, I know it having also paid the price…

This mechanical stretch can be more or less important even if it is often limited as for the knit lining.

Who says extensibility says rebound

When we talk about the extensibility of a fabric, we must also talk about the rebound of the fabric. These are two different but complementary characteristics.

Rebound is the ability of a fabric to spring back into place after stretching. The greater the rebound, the more force is needed to stretch it; it’s the fabric’s shrinking power – We can say that it’s a bit like the “sheathing” power of the fabric.

This is an important characteristic in the making of your panties, bras, bodysuits, …

But how do you know if a fabric has more or less rebound ?

For a fabric of the same composition and the same weight per m2 , the higher the elastane content, the greater the rebound effect.

A concrete example :

Consider two pieces of fabric of identical composition, each with a different elastane content.

I take a polyamide fabric of 160-180 g/m2 (Lycra type) one with 8% elastane and the second 20%.

The first will be “soft”, “supple” while the second will be more “sheathing”. The first will be perfect for making panties while the second can be considered for making swimsuits for example.

For a fabric of the same composition and with the same elastane content, the higher the weight per m2 of the fabric, the greater the rebound effect.

A concrete example :

I take a fabric with 10% elastane, one with a weight per m2 of 110g/m2 and the second 250g/m2.

The first will have less rebound than the second.

As a summary and in order to guide you in the choice of your textiles, you can refer to the table below.

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