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Hand of Fabric

What does fabric hand mean in the textile and apparel industry?

Do you know what people mean when they say something like, “that t-shirt fabric has a wonderful hand?"  They are most definitely not implying that the t-shirt has hands.

The hand of fabric is the “feel" of the fabric.  The way the fabric feels when it is touched. Terms like softness, crispness, dryness, silkiness are all terms that come to mind when describing the hand of the fabric.  The textile hand is everything you can tell about a fabric by touching it with your hands: texture, drapability, stretch, wrinkle resistance, etc.

Hand of the fabric is also occasionally referenced as the "drape" of the material.  A soft hand is a soft drape and is fluid, like a piece of silk charmeuse or a fine worsted woolen.

What is fabric with a soft hand?

Generally members of the apparel industry will refer to fabric as having a soft hand if it is smooth to the touch and something that they would imagine to be a comfortable cloth to wear.  Smooth or fine to the touch: a soft fabric.  This can also be reference as a fine hand.

What is a hard hand fabric?

The exact opposite of “soft".  This fabric is rough to the touch and typically less comfortable for the wearer.  Coarse, harsh, not smooth, unpleasantly stern.

It is a consumer’s instinct to use the sense of touch when choosing a garment.  Depending on what sort of garment you are wearing, will determine the importance of the hand.  For example, if you are purchasing underwear, you will most likely want a soft hand.  If you are purchasing outwear, you can probably get away with utilizing fabric with a harder hand feel.

The cost and quality of fabric varies greatly.  The fabric hand is only one aspect of importance to the fashion industry and consumers.   It is important to keep in mind that a fine hand does not necessarily mean that the garment is going to cost more money.  For example, some wool sweaters are very itchy, but more be more costly then a softer cotton sweater.

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You may also have interest in learning about different fabric classifications in our textile industry education section.

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