Common examples of apparel utilizing weft knitted fabric are socks. Knitting is a more versatile manufacturing process, as entire garments can be manufactured on a single knitting machine, and it is much faster than weaving. However, due to the looping, more yarn is required to manufacture a knitted garment than a comparable woven garment. Thus any cost savings gained in manufacturing speed are offset by the higher materials cost.
Knits are comfortable fabrics, as they adapt to body movement. The loop structure contributes to elasticity beyond what is capable of the yarns or fibers alone. A knit fabric is prone to snagging, and has a higher potential shrinkage than a woven fabric. The loop structure also provides many cells to trap air, and thus provides good insulation in still air. Knits are not typically very wind- or water-repellent.
Knit fabrics are composed of intermeshing loops of yarns. There are two major types of knits: weft knits and warp knits, as illustrated in Fig. 4.7. In weft knits, each weft yarn lies more or less at right angles to the direction in which the fabric is produced, and the intermeshing yarn traverses the fabric crosswise. In warp knits, each warp yarn is more or less in line with the direction in which the fabric is produced, and the intermeshing yarn traverses the fabric lengthwise. Similar to the way that woven fabrics have warps and wefts, knit fabrics have courses and wales, which lie in the crosswise and lengthwise direction, respectively. However, unlike woven fabrics, courses and wales are not composed of different sets of yarns; rather are formed by a single yarn.
Weft blend knitted fabrics are produced predominantly on circular knitting machines. The simplest of the two major weft knitting machines is a jersey machine. Generally, the terms circular knit and plain knit refer to jersey goods. The loops are formed by knitting needles and the jersey machine has one set of needles. Typical fabrics are hosiery, T-shirts, and sweaters.
Rib knitting machines have a second set of needles at approximately right angles to the set found in a jersey machine. They are used for the production of double-knit fabrics. In weft knits, design effects can be produced by altering needle movements to form tuck and miss stitches for texture and color patterns, respectively. Instead of a single yarn, several yarns can be used in the production of these structures. This increases the design possibilities.
‘Loop’ is the basic unit of knit fabric. As illustrated in Fig, 4.7a, in weft knits, a loop, called a needle loop, consists of a head and two legs, and the section of yarn connecting two adjacent needle loops is called the sinker. In warp knits, the needle loop is divided into overlap and underlap, as illustrated in Fig. 4.7b. Each loop in a printed fabric is a stitch. Alternative to fabric count for woven fabrics, cut (or gauge) and stitch density are used to represent the closeness of the intermeshing loops. Cut or gauge indicates the number of knitting needles per unit length along the crosswise or lengthwise direction. The greater the number, the closer together the loops are to each other. Stitch density is the number of stitches per unit area, obtained by multiplying the number of courses per inch (25 mm) by the number of wales per inch (25 mm). Like woven fabrics, a knit fabric also has a technical face and a technical back and can differ in appearance on each side. The technical face is the side where the loops are pulled toward the viewer. Knit fabric also has an effect side, which is intended to be used outermost on a garment or other textile product. In some cases, the technical face and the effect side are the same; but in others, they are opposite.