Mesh fabric is an extremely versatile material used in a wide variety of applications from clothing to industrial uses. But what exactly is mesh fabric and what makes it so useful? In this ultimate guide, we will take an in-depth look at everything you need to know about mesh fabrics.
What is Mesh Fabric?
Mesh fabric is defined as a material made up of a grid-like structure with a series of spaced holes. The holes can vary in size from small barely visible openings to large gaps depending on the intended purpose. Mesh gets its name from the net-like appearance the holes create.
The key characteristics of mesh fabric include:
- Grid or net-like structure
- Holes that allow air flow and breathability
- Flexible and stretchy material
- Available in a range of weights and densities
- Made from various materials including nylon, polyester, metal, and natural fibers
Mesh has been used for thousands of years in applications like fishing nets and primitive fabrics. Today, advancements in textiles and knitting technologies have allowed mesh to be constructed from synthetic materials like nylon and polyester for more versatile uses.
How is Mesh Fabric Made?
The manufacturing process used to create mesh fabric depends on the material:
Most mesh used in clothing and textiles is made through a knitting process. Synthetic yarns like nylon or polyester are knitted into a loose structure with open holes using knitting machines. The stitches are spaced out to control the size of the holes.
Tighter stitches create smaller holes while wider stitches make larger openings. The knitting machines allow manufacturers to adjust the hole size to meet the needs of the end use.
Metal mesh starts as wire that is welded together in a grid pattern. The intersections where the wires cross are welded together. The holes can be adjusted by spacing the wires farther apart before welding.
Metal mesh made this way can use various metals like stainless steel, copper, bronze, or aluminum. It is commonly used for rigid structures and screens.
Some mesh is constructed by weaving flexible materials like plastic or fabric strips. The over-and-under weaving pattern leaves open spaces between the strips to form the mesh holes. Materials like vinyl coated fiberglass are often used to create mesh through weaving.
Key Properties of Mesh Fabrics
Mesh can be engineered with different properties and characteristics to suit various purposes:
The holes in mesh fabrics allow air flow which makes them extremely breathable. This property makes mesh well-suited for athleticwear and apparel where ventilation is needed to keep cool.
Mesh stretches and flexes easily thanks to its open structure. This flexibility allows it to bend and move with the body or application.
Despite the holes, mesh fabrics like nylon mesh are remarkably strong and durable. The knitted structure makes mesh resistant to runs and tears.
Mesh materials are lightweight and open for the amount of fabric used. This reduces the overall weight of any end product made with mesh.
The holes create a see-through effect in mesh fabrics. This allows visibility and breathability in uses like protective face masks.
Dense mesh materials with small holes can provide protection from wind while still allowing some airflow. This makes mesh suitable for outdoor gear.
Types of Mesh Fabric
Mesh comes in many variations to suit specific purposes. Some of the most common types of mesh fabric include:
Nylon mesh is a popular choice for its strength, stretch, and breathability. It is often blended with spandex to create power mesh with exceptional stretch and recovery. Nylon provides flexibility and comfort in athletic apparel.
Polyester mesh has high durability and UV resistance which makes it ideal for outdoor applications. It provides structure while resisting environmental factors. Polyester mesh is also used extensively in screen printing.
Plastic mesh sheets made from materials like vinyl or polyethylene are versatile for industrial uses like safety fences or concrete reinforcement. Plastic mesh is economical while still being robust.
Stainless steel, copper, bronze, and aluminum mesh offer rigid structures. Metal mesh is primarily used in filters, screens, and protective covers since it is durable and allows airflow.
Cotton mesh provides breathability with natural moisture-wicking abilities. It is used in sportswear and casual fashion. The grid structure comes from the knitting method used.
A nylon/spandex blend, power mesh has intense stretch and recovery power. It is the go-to choice shapewear and athletic compression garments. The stretchy construction slimming.
Tulle is a stiff but delicate hexagonal netting used for bridal veils, tutus, decoration, and costume flair. The fine mesh provides elegant airy fullness.
Weight and Density of Mesh Fabrics
Mesh comes in a wide range of weights, densities, and hole sizes for different needs:
|Mesh Type||Weight/Density||Hole Size||Uses|
|Ultra-fine tulle||Sheer, lightweight||Tiny holes||Veiling, decoration|
|Stretch power mesh||Medium-weight||Small holes||Shapewear, athleticwear|
|Plastic mesh fencing||Heavy, dense||Larger holes||Construction sites, events|
|Metal hardware mesh||Varies||Medium to large holes||Screens, filters, covers|
|Sports mesh jersey||Light/medium||Pinholes||Athletics, activewear|
Lighter, finer mesh like chiffon mesh or netting provides an elegant transparent effect. Heavier mesh with smaller holes is more opaque and offers greater protection or reinforcement. Hole size ranges from barely visible pinholes to large openings of 1 inch or more.
Uses for Mesh Fabric
The versatility of mesh makes it useful across many industries:
- Athleticwear – Provides ventilation and breathability. Used in jerseys, sports bras, swimsuits.
- Shapewear – Power mesh slims and smooths silhouettes under clothing.
- Fashion – Adds visual interest and layers. Used in see-through panels, pockets, etc.
- Protective gear like masks use mesh for breathability and visibility.
- Netting on goals and around fields is weather resistant while allowing air flow.
- Plastic mesh for fencing, barriers, reinforcement, grating
- Stainless steel mesh for filters, guards, screens
- Fiberglass screen mesh keeps bugs out of windows and doors.
- Mesh nets and bags allow airflow and draining.
- Mesh pads for scrubbing dishes.
- Hernia repair using surgical mesh as reinforcement
- Cooling vests lined with moisture-wicking mesh
- Tulle for decorations, costumes, veils, flowers
- Plastic canvas mesh for needlework and embroidery
Advantages of Mesh Fabrics
There are many benefits that make mesh a top choice for a wide array of uses:
- Breathability – The airy open structure allows ventilation and airflow. This helps regulate body temperature and moisture.
- Flexibility – Mesh fabric stretches and moves easily with the body. This makes it comfortable for activewear.
- Lightweight – The openness of mesh reduces weight without compromising strength. Products remain light and airy.
- Strength – Mesh maintains integrity despite holes thanks to the knit construction. This allows very fine sheer meshes.
- Versatility – Mesh can be engineered for uses ranging from delicate veils to industrial barriers. It serves many purposes.
- ** visibility** – The ability to see through mesh makes it useful for visibility in masks, screens, nets, etc.
- Comfort – Mesh is cool, breathable and stretchy against the skin for excellent comfort.
- Sustainability – Mesh uses less material than solid fabrics. It also facilitates air circulation which can reduce energy consumption.
How to Sew with Mesh Fabric
Working with mesh fabric is slightly different than regular woven or knit fabrics. Here are some tips for sewing mesh successfully:
- Use a new sharp needle to avoid snagging the mesh fibers. Ballpoint needles work well.
- Set your machine to a zigzag stitch to provide the stretch needed for the knit mesh construction.
- Reduce tension slightly to allow the stitches to move with the fabric.
- Use polyester or poly-blend thread. Avoid 100% cotton thread which is too inelastic.
- Wash mesh garments in a lingerie bag to prevent damage from hooks, velcro, etc in the washer.
- Air dry mesh instead of machine drying to prevent overheating the synthetic material.
- Interface fine meshes with lightweight interfacing to add stability for sewing.
- Use wash away stabilizer when embroidering on mesh to support the open weave.
- Serge mesh seams with an overlock stitch if possible for stretchy durable seams.
With the right tools and techniques, sewing with mesh fabric is easy. The mesh structure lends itself nicely to stretch stitches and creates spectacular sheer overlays and textural interest.
Can You Make Mesh Fabric?
While large-scale mesh production uses industrial knitting machines and technologies, it is possible to create mesh fabrics at home using simple techniques. Here are some ways to make DIY mesh:
Plastic Canvas – Use a needlepoint tool to remove strands in the woven plastic sheets to create holes. The remaining mesh can be used for needlework, craft flowers, etc.
Macrame – Knottedmacrame techniques allow large holes and intricate mesh patterns for wall hangings and home decor.
Peg Loom Weaving – Weave scraps of fabric, ribbon, or rope across a small peg loom. Leaving gaps makes mesh-like fabrics for bags, placemats, etc.
Crochet – Crocheting mesh stitch patterns is an easy way to make lightweight lacy fabrics for scarves, shawls, sweaters with intentional holes.
Hardware Cloth – Mesh metal sheets with larger holes for screen doors can be cut to size and applied to projects with wire cutters.
Paper Weaving – Strips of paper woven together and spaced out creates an open paper mesh that can be decorated.
While these methods allow you to make mesh-like fabrics at home, the materials and techniques can’t replicate the fine uniform meshes produced commercially for clothing and industrial uses. But DIY mesh is perfect for crafters, hobbyists, and art projects on a budget.
Mesh Fabric vs Muslin, Tulle, and Other Sheers
Mesh is sometimes confused with other sheer lightweight fabrics like muslin and chiffon. While these fabrics share some qualities with mesh, there are differences:
Muslin – A lightweight cotton fabric with an open loose weave that shares mesh’s sheer qualities. But muslin lacks the stretch and structured holes of mesh fabrics.
Tulle – A very fine nylon or polyester mesh with a hexagonal hole pattern popular for veils and costumes. Tulle has more structure than many other meshes.
Organza – A crisp sheer material that appears mesh-like but is actually a woven fabric without the draped hole effect of true mesh.
Chiffon – An ultra lightweight, gauzy, see-through fabric with a plain weave construction rather than a knit mesh.
Lace – Features intricate patterns with holes but is created through stitching and embroidery rather than knitted mesh construction.
While all share a delicate, sheer appearance, only true mesh fabrics have the knitted open hole structure that defines the category. This technical difference gives mesh special properties.
Mesh fabric offers an amazing combination of strength, breathability, visibility, and flexibility. As a result, it has become an essential material for everything from medical uses to your favorite t-shirt. Understanding what mesh is, how it’s made, and its key properties allows you to choose the right mesh for your particular needs. With proper care mesh will provide cool comfort and visual interest for athleticwear, shapewear, crafts, decor, and industrial applications alike. The holey grail of fabrics, mesh delivers functionality with style.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mesh Fabric
Mesh fabric is utilized in a wide range of applications, which leads many people to have questions about its properties and uses. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about mesh fabric:
What is mesh fabric made of?
Mesh can be knitted from synthetic yarns like polyester and nylon for clothing applications. Metal mesh uses materials like steel, copper, or aluminum. Mesh can also be made from natural fibers like cotton, though these are less common.
How stretchy is mesh fabric?
Mesh stretchiness depends on the material and construction. Spandex-blend power mesh has exceptional stretch and recovery. Mesh without spandex, like polyester tulle, has less give. Stretch also depends on the density of the knit.
Is all mesh see-through?
Finer meshes have more visible holes, creating see-through effects. Dense mesh with tiny holes can be more opaque while still retaining breathability. Mesh transparency ranges from totally sheer to obscuring while allowing airflow.
Can mesh fabric be dyed?
Synthetic mesh fabrics accept dye fairly well. Be sure to use the appropriate dye method for the fiber content. Natural fiber meshes like cotton can be readily dyed as well. Metal mesh cannot be dyed.
How do you finish mesh fabric edges?
Edges can be finished with narrow hems, elastic casing, bindings, or by using liquid seam sealant for synthetics. Enclosing edges in bias tape or fold-over elastic helps prevent unraveling. Zigzag stitching the raw edges also works.
Is mesh fabric good for making bags?
Mesh is ideal for bags that need ventilation and airflow. Gym bags, washing bags, produce bags all benefit from being made of breathable mesh. Sturdier polyester or nylon mesh can make more durable totes and cases.
Can mesh go in the dryer?
It’s best to air dry mesh fabrics to prevent damage from excessive heat. If machine drying, use low heat. Tumble drying without heat can help remove wrinkles in mesh clothing like jerseys. Avoid high heat in dryers.
How do you repair a snag in mesh?
Apply a small dot of clear nail polish to seal the hole and prevent further unraveling. For larger holes, hand stitching closed with monofilament fishing line or polyester thread will mend the snag.
What does mesh fabric feel like?
Mesh can feel smooth, crisp, stiff, stretchy, scratchy, or lacy depending on the type. Tulle feels different from plastic mesh from athletic mesh. Hand feel ranges from gauzy to stiff depending on density.
Knowing more about the properties and capabilities of the many types of mesh allows you to select the right mesh for your particular project needs. With its versatility and usefulness, mesh fabric will continue to be a go-to material across many industries.