Put simply, French Terry refers to a type of comfortably soft fabric that is primarily made with cotton. While many French Terry items are 100 percent cotton, many others are made from blends of cotton with a relatively small amount of other fabrics, such as polyester, rayon, lycra or spandex.
Not all French Terry fabric is made with cotton and/or chemically produced fabric. Many such fabrics are made with organic soy fibers, as well.
The History of French Terry Fabric
French Terry fabric was first used in the 1980s. From that point, it proliferated to the point that most Americans have at least several articles of French terry clothing hanging in their closets, even without realizing it. French terry is a knit fabric with smooth piles of yarn on one side, with small, soft loops on the other side, making it like jersey fabric.
Most people tend to recognize French terry cloth from the material used in their sweatshirts, which tend to be really soft on the inside, but soft and smoother on the outside.
French Terry fabric is enormously comfortable – it is the type of cloth made for those who prefer loungewear, like sweatshirts and sweatpants, who expert a lot of comfort. It is considered to be a midweight fabric, which means its cotton tends to be heavier than an average t-shirt, but lighter than sweats made for cold weather.
In addition, French Terry fabric usually comes with a moderate rate of absorption, and it is moisture-wicking to the point that it will absorb sweat, making it great for use during exercise or sport. Overall, French terry will keep you warm when it’s cool and cool when it’s warm.
How Do Knit Fabrics Compare to Woven Fabrics?
Most fabrics we buy to wear every day are woven. The difference between woven and knit fabrics has to do with how the straight threads of yarn are connected during the manufacturing process. Woven fabrics are made by weaving straight threads together, while knits feature interconnecting loops. This method provides more stretchability.
Knit fabrics are also less likely to fray than woven fabrics. There is a multitude of types of knit fabrics available, each of which comes with its own unique set of qualities. Among the most popular knit fabrics include French terry fabric, terry cloth, and sweatshirt fleece.
By the way, double knits contain two levels of single knits that are knitted together in a way that creates an intermeshing pattern. Sweatshirt fleece, terry cloth, and French terry are all single knit fabrics, which means they are made with a single yarn that is knitted together.
So, What’s the Difference Between Terry Cloth and French Terry?
Because so many different fabrics have similar names, it can often seem confusing to tell the difference. This is common, so don’t feel bad if you get them confused. That said, it is unlikely that you’ll want to wear a sweatshirt made of terry cloth, which is the cloth used in most towels and bathrobes.
Meanwhile, French terry fabric is primarily used to make sweatshirts, sweatpants, and all sorts of other casual clothing. French terry is sifter and smoother than terry cloth, and while both have a similar soft pile, you will probably be far more comfortable wearing French terry for long periods of time, especially if you’re exercising.
French terry is softer and smoother than terry cloth. Also, terry cloth is far more absorbent (hence its use in towels), which means it would be less useful and a lot heavier on a rainy day. Terry cloth is simply less comfortable to wear and more useful for drying yourself.