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15 Textile Terms Towel Buyers Should Know

We’ve put together a list of 15 textile terms towel buyers should know that are used in the daily communication of textile manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and buyers. The textile industry has a unique language, and these words and expressions can sound foreign to non-industry folk who may be familiar with retail terminology only. This introduction to basic textile terminology will give new towel buyers a quick overview of the language of the industry.

1. Textile Terms: GSM

GSM or “Grams per Square Meter” measures how thick the terry is on your towel. You can calculate the GSM of a towel if you know the weight of the towel and the size dimensions. You can also find the weight of a towel if you know the GSM and the size. Here are a couple of examples of towel GSM measurements. A 350 GSM towel like our Arctic collection is considered an institutional textile and would be used in prison while a 650 GSM towel like our Magellan Towel is used in upscale hotels.

To determine GSM you can use a GSM calculator like this one.

GSM calculator

2. Textile Terms: Yarn Count

Yarn Count is one of the common textile terms that describe how fine or coarse yarn is. A typical yarn count for good quality bath towels is high and correlates to a finer yarn, while a lower yarn count correlates to a more coarse yarn. You can expect textiles made with high yarn counts, like our Magellan bath towels, to be thicker and softer than textiles made with low-count yarns.

Magellan Towel Collection

3. Textile Terms: Single-Ply Yarn

How does single vs. double affect yarn count? A single strand of yarn is straightforward math when determining yarn count. One strand of yarn is written as 1S. Sometimes yarn strands are wrapped together to create a heavier yarn. Twenty yarn strands wound together will create one new yarn with different characteristics. This new yarn is notated as 20/1 or 20S for 20 fibers that make a single yarn.

4. Textile Terms: Double-Ply Yarn

In the previous example, we learned that twenty single yarn strands wound together make one new yarn with different characteristics. This new single-ply yarn would be notated as 20/1 or 20S for 20 strands that make a single yarn. Two strands of 20S yarn spun together would be considered 20D yarn. A simpler example would be two strands of 1S yarn spun together would be considered 1D yarn.

5. Textile Terms: Warp and Weft

Warp and weft are textile weaving terms that are usually used together as they relate to each other very closely. The warp and weft make up the ground or flat surface of the fabric. Yarn is woven in two directions to create the flat material. Warp yarn is vertical and weft yarn is horizontal — each yarn strand alternating above then below the other. Many fabrics for apparel and home decor are flat and only have warp and weft, whereas towels have a third component that creates the weight or “plushness” of the fabric called the pile. The pile yarn creates the thickness and weight of the towel.

6. Textile Terms: Pile

Flat fabrics have warp and weft, but other fabrics like textured upholstery fabrics, textures decorative fabrics, and of course, towels have a third component that creates the weight or “plushness” of the fabric called the pile. The pile yarn is woven through the warp and weft yarn at a perpendicular angle. The end “feel” of the pile depends on the density of the pile weave, the height from the ground, and the characteristics of the yarn. Some blended towels use polyester yarn for the warp and weft (or warp or weft) and cotton yarn for the pile to change the characteristics of the product for cost, laundering, efficiency, longevity, etc.

8. Textile Terms: Ring Spun Yarn

Ring spun yarn is made exclusively from long-staple cotton fibers and is produced with extra processes known as “combing” and “carding” to separate out the shorter staple fibers. Long fibers can be stretched by combing and carding, and when spun together are softer and more durable. Textiles that are made with ring spun yarns are more expensive than open-end yarn products — a result of the additional machinery and labor needed to produce the cotton.

7. Textile Terms: Open End Yarn

Open end yarn uses short cotton fibers, either from natural cotton that grows short or from the combing or carding processes that separate long cotton fibers for spun cotton yarns. Open end yarn is more coarse and not as strong as long fiber cotton yarns. The shorter fibers poke out and some shed from the yarn during laundering. Open end yarn is less expensive to process as the carding or combing steps are eliminated, hence it is not used for the finest quality textiles.

9. Textile Terms: Spun Polyester

Spun poly is a premium yarn made with a polyester filament using a spinning process like long-staple cotton yarns. The resulting fiber is stain resistant, colorful, and soft. Spun Poly fabrics and cotton blends with spun polyester launder easily and are wrinkle-resistant saving hospitality and laundry operators time and money. It is often found in hospitality table linens like our Mariposa brand poly spun napkins and tablecloths. Blended towels like our Elite Pearl and Plus Crescent Collections combine cotton and spun polyester for high performance and efficiency in institutional towels.

10. Textile Terms: Zero Twist

Zero-twist or low-twist towels use cotton yarns made from long-staple cotton. To create a plush pile in zero twist towels, manufacturers use long-staple yarns because the stronger, longer yarn can be easily looped through the fabric ground (warp and weft) instead of twisting it through the ground like with open-end yarns. The longer loops are soft with more air between them so more cotton surface is exposed. This makes zero twist towels much more absorbent. Short-staple twisted yarns create stubby pile which harder and rougher on the skin. Because the open-end yarn is twisted, less water can reach the yarn’s hidden side, making it less absorbent whereas a zero-twist towel has longer open loops that are more absorbent and softer — perfect for newborn babies or those with sensitive skin.

11. Textile Terms: Yarn-dyed

Yarn-dyed is a process of dunking large spools of yarn in dyeing vats to create consistent colored yarns. The dying process is done on a large scale with huge vats of dye. Many large spools of yarn (sometimes 100 or more) are placed on an apparatus that then lowers into a pressure cooker, literally, where it will sit in the super-hot dye for nine hours or so until all spools are the proper color. It is a very scientific process as some colors must be available for years for a particular product and consistency across batches is very important. Our Cabana towels are yarn-dyed for vibrant color and longevity.

Group of Cabana Beach Towels - stacked

12. Textile Terms: Dobby

Dobby is a design term that refers to towel border styles that are more decorative than the simpler cam borders found on inexpensive institutional towels. A dobby border is an end band that often includes stripes in the same color or a complementary color. Dobby borders can be simple or incredibly complicated with multiple colors, weaves, stripes, and patterns. Our Magellan collection has a dobby chevron border.


13. Textile Terms: Cam

Cam border styles are simple unadorned woven bands that look different than the body of the towel with subtle, minimal weaves. Cam borders are usually found on inexpensive or institutional towels for hospitals, elder care facilities, and prisons. Our institutional towels like the Elite Pearl, and Plus Crescent collections sport cam borders.


14. Textile Terms: “Run of the Mill”

The expression, “Run of the Mill” is often used in conversation, but do you know where it came from? It origin comes from textile mills and refers to the extra textiles made after an order has been filled. There are various reasons to continue a run like using the excess yarn on a running loom or finishing up an odd color run. These pieces are called “Run of Mill” products. Products like bar mops that often go unnoticed by restaurant and bar patrons can be purchased at a savings in bundles. See our Run of Mill bar mops.

Route Ready Bar Mops

15. Textile Terms: Microfiber

Microfiber is a “Renaissance” fabric. As one of the first ultra-fine synthetic fibers, microfiber is finer than 0.7 deniers or approximately one-fifth the size of human hair. It first appeared in the late 1950s and was used predominantly in an industrial capacity for years. When trademarked Ultrasuede arrived on the market in the 70s, the apparel and home decor industries quickly co-opted it as a funky faux suede. Widely appreciated for its moisture-wicking properties, one can now find it in countless products, including apparel, accessories, sporting products, and insulation. The NBA even introduced a regulation basketball with microfiber skin during the 2006 to 2007 seasons. Alas, the purists eventually canceled it.

With moisture-wicking properties and strong resistance to bacteria growth, the appeal of microfiber fabrics is obvious, but the reason it is so effective for cleaning is fascinating. Developers realized that splicing the 0.7 denier microfiber threads created microscopic “hooks” and enhanced its ability to attract dirt, dust, and grime. Splicing also imbued the microfiber with a positive charge which attracts negatively charged dirt. Not many cleaning cloths can boast that incredible magnetic feature!

Microfiber cloths come in many weights and textures for multiple cleaning applications, including terry-style cloths, glass cloths in waffle, suede, and smooth, shiny finishes for glass cleaning and smooth surface polishing. Microfiber mop pads and wall-washing tools are also popular categories for microfiber buyers.

As if that isn’t enough… “pre-spliced” microfiber cloths are extraordinarily soft, making them perfect for bath towels, beach towels, and especially facial cloths. The beauty industry has embraced microfiber towels for salons where bacterial growth puts clients at risk of infection and increases salon owners’ potential for liability.

If you haven’t discovered the value of adding lucrative microfiber to your sales presentation yet, visit our extensive collection of microfiber products here. Don’t miss out on this remunerative market. Monarch Brands can help you set up your complete microfiber program today.

Microfiber vs. Cotton cross section diagram
Group of microfiber cloths stacked
Bleach Safe Stylist Towels
Learn more about how towels are made.

Blog Post: What is yarn count in textiles?


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