Net fabric is an umbrella term used for describing open mesh fabrics. In net fabric, yarns are knitted, knotted, looped or twisted at intersections forming a piece of fabric with lots of open spaces /holes. These holes are formed in many geometric shapes ( maybe four-sided, six-sided or more). The shape can be square, hexagonal or octagonal.
Most of the net fabric today is knitted. The three types of construction methods used in net fabric manufacturing are Tricot, Raschel, and Bobbinet and this determines the shape of the holes. Raschel Knitting is the most common method of making netting. In this netting geometric shaped holes are formed by knitting yarns. The fabric is formed by a combination of a pillar and tricot stitches.
The size of the holes varies greatly in size depending on the function of the net fabric. The type and size of the yarn, finishing given also determines the type of netting fabric. The finishes applied on net include starch or resin type finish.
The net fabric can be made of different fibers like silk, polyester rayon, dacron, acetate or nylon. This composition determines a lot about the feel of the fabric. It can be fine or coarse or stiff. A silk net fabric is super soft whereas the nylon netting is somewhat stiff. Polyester netting can be coarse to even very soft. Most of the net you get in fabric shops is usually Nylon net.
In dressmaking net fabric is a big boon. Lingerie, dresses, hosiery, bodysuits, and bodystockings – there are so many applications for the net fabric in garment making. Net is usually used to make veils, underskirts, interlining, to make overlays on evening gowns. It is used as trimmings and edging as ruffles and frills. It can change the silhouette of a dress.
It is a very useful fabric in millinery. A net fabric with large holes is usually used for hat veils. A net fabric with medium holes is preferred for overlays for skirts etc. On bridal veils, a net fabric with tiny holes is preferred.
Different types of net fabrics
The most famous netting fabric, Tulle is a very fine net fabric made by tricot method of construction. The holes have a hexagonal shape and are very small in size. Tulle & illusion are lightweight nettings made with finer yarns and small hole sizes. Tulle fabric has a very low denier and this makes it very fine and soft than any other netting fabric.
The best tulle is made with silk fibers. It is the best fabric for making overskirts, ruffles and trims and evening dresses. An illusion net is used for bridal veils. Learn more about What is Tulle and other details here.
This is a net fabric made in England/France . This net was first developed by John Heathcoat in Nottingham, England in 1808. It is usually a very thin net fabric that is made like a lace but when it is made with cotton yarn the bobbinet fabric is a little heavier. The holes are hexagonal in shape and hence very distinctive. The fabric though very fine is quite strong. Good quality bobbinet fabric is quite expensive.
This is a slightly coarse netting. It is made by knotting yarn similar to a fisherman’s knot. It is made of polyester or nylon yarn and usually has a little bit of elastane fibers added in for stretchiness. It is used to make hosiery, bodysuits, body stockings and other clothing.
Net fabric with diamond-shaped holes. The fabric is very fine
This is a coarse net with large six-sided (diamond shaped) holes. This open mesh fabric is used to make Birdcage veils.
This is similar to french net but with even larger holes. English Merry Widow is a similar netting.
This is Nylon or polyester filament net and is used to make underskirts (Petticoat) with lots of ruffles that will give a full skirt silhouette to the gowns on top. They are usually designed in tiered layers with lots of gathers to give a voluminous look.
This is a special type of netting fabric with dots embroidered or flocks printed to the netting surface. It is used in millinery veil designs.
This net fabric is used mostly to make hosiery (stockings) and has spandex added to it to make it stretchy. Usually has large holes.
Net fabric with holes larger than that of regular fishnet and smaller than fence net – the strands are thick.
This is a tulle fabric which is made of cotton fibers. The netting holes are fine but the fabric is stronger than other tulle fabrics. It is popular as a fabric for making veils.
Designing & Sewing with net fabric
The design possibilities with net fabric are enormous. You can change the silhouette easily with netting added in appropriate places.
Netting fabric edges do not ravel. But this doesn’t make it easier to cut and sew. One major problem in sewing net fabric is “what do you sew?” – it has more holes than the surface!.
Starting to sew the seams with a solid piece of fabric and then proceeding on to sew the net helps. It is see-through so when you sew seams you will have to ensure that it is well trimmed (Trim to a narrow seam allowance) and finished. A bound finish looks neat even when it is visible from the outside.A thin fabric like chiffon is used to bind the seam allowance of net.
Everything you do with the net fabric, the beads you affix, the embroidery you do etc has to take into consideration the fact that the net is completely see through.
Marking the pattern on the net is another problem. You can keep the pattern over the fabric and cut. Use Tailor’s tack stitches to mark details like darts etc.
The fine net-like tulle tears easily so you have to handle them with care. Net is usually used as a background for fine embroidery and care should be taken with appropriate stabilizers to maintain the net fabric as it is. Ironing should be done carefully lest you burn up the yarn.
Net is probably the most ancient of all fabrics. Prehistoric men made nets for making snares for wild animals. The net fabric has since been used for mundane things like fishing purposes and not so mundane like this startling and thought-provoking artistic installation by UK artist Sue Williamson (Installation – Messages from the Atlantic Passage)