• 100% cotton is "the fabric of our lives," and the fabric first used for t-shirts in the early 20th century. Cotton fabric may shrink when washed and dried.
• 50/50 cotton-poly blend is less apt to shrink in the washing machine than 100 percent cotton. It can also wick moisture away from the body, keeping you cool and dry.
• 100% polyester is idea for dye sublimation, an alternative to screen printing. The moisture-management potential is very high.
• 50/25/25 tri-blend fabric includes cotton, polyester, and rayon. American Apparel brought this fabric into popularity. It looks great on the body, draping and stretching nicely.
• Some cotton is "carded" while other cotton is "combed." This describes the method by which the cotton is readied for being spun. All cotton is carded, and this ensures the fibers are tangle-free, but it does not line the fibers up in the identical direction. Some cotton takes an additional step with combing. This lines the fibers up. Thus, the thread is smoother and the fabric is softer. Screen printing works better on a smoother fabric.
• Another factor is the way the fibers are spun. Open-ended spinning is an inexpensive method that yields a somewhat strong and smooth fabric. On the other hand, thread that is ring-spun more tightly wound, and ends up softer and smoother.
• You may also see the term "singles." This measures the thread's gauge. Just like knitting needles, a bigger number means a thinner thread. Thick thread goes into 18-singles cotton fabric. Very thin thread goes into 40-singles cotton fabric. Once again, an exceptionally soft and smooth fabric results from a high-singles fabric.
• 1 oz. shirts are the thickest t-shirts. They tend to be fairly boxy on the body, not draping much. A classic example of a 6.1 oz. tee is the Hanes Beefy T.
• 5 oz. shirts are midweight. The Gildan Heavy Cotton t-shirt is an example of this weight. Is it a little lighter than the 6.1 oz. shirt and has a little more drape.
• 5 oz. shirts are very popular at retail right now. American Apparel's standard fine jersey t-shirt is this weight.
• 3 or 4 oz. t-shirts may be sheer. This "tissue jersey" is popular in ladies' styles, and is usually worn layered.
• Many screen printers choose t-shirts made of organic cotton. Farmed without harmful persistent pesticides just like organic foods, these shirts have a gentler impact on the environment.
• Another option is recycled cotton. T-shirt manufacturers take the leftover scraps from the process of making garments and shred it until it is cotton fiber once again. They turn around and put it back through the carding and spinning process to produce new fabric.
• Eco blends are an emerging choice. These t-shirts combine recycled or organic cotton thread with thread made from recycled polyester. Some t-shirts used to be a plastic water bottle!
With this information, you can choose the best t-shirt for your screenprinting project.