Fabrics are to printers what canvases are to artists. A bad canvas can ruin a beautiful painting and the same can be said about a T-shirt made out of a poor-quality material.
So what to look for in a t-shirt?
The main types of cotton found in garments are regular (also referred to as carded and open end cotton), ring-spun and combed cotton.
We are not even mentioning polyester content which is essentially plastic. Whilst it can be a useful material for sportswear, it is absolutely not necessary for casual wear and should be avoided wherever possible, unless it is of the recycled type.
The processes for creating regular cotton and ring-spun cotton are completely different. Regular cotton, is made from soft vegetable fibers that are twisted together to make yarn, which is then woven to make material. Regular cotton is less expensive and quicker to make, which means it’s a big seller with the great majority of other retailers whose main focus is profit.
Ring-spun yarn is made by twisting and thinning the cotton strands to make a very fine, strong, soft rope of cotton fibers. Ring-spun cotton T-shirts are more durable and last longer than their regular counterparts, but will also be more expensive, particularly if made from responsibly sourced organic cotton (visit our sustainability page for more on the benefits of organic cotton).
Combed cotton goes through some extra refining processes before the yarn is made. 'Combing' brings all the fibres parallel to each other which removes the shorter fibres and impurities. By removing these short fibres the combed cotton is created with only the longest finest remaining fibres which gives the combed cotton it’s lovely feel and high sheen. Also because the fibres are longer they are stronger and less likely to break leading to a longer life of the product. If the cotton is organic then the fibres are even longer (due to them being picked by hand rather than machine) and this again leads to an increase in the quality and life span of the clothing. It might sound simple, but any extra processing costs more... However the added expense will be worth it when you feel the smooth texture on your skin.
Last but not least the weight of the garment determines the cotton content. The higher the gsm reading (GSM is short for grams per square meter), the more dense and the higher cotton content the garment will have the thicker it will feel. Furthermore, the more cotton the T-shirt has, the more vibrant the end print will be and the longer it will last.