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What is Mesh Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

by Sewport Support Team  • July 18, 2024 • 9 min read

Fabric name Mesh
Fabric also known as Power mesh, tulle, powernet
Fabric composition A variety of different synthetic fiber types
Fabric possible HPI variations 6-16 holes per inch
Fabric breathability Very breathable
Moisture-wicking abilities Medium
Heat retention abilities Low
Stretch ability (give) High
Prone to pilling/bubbling None
Country where fabric was first produced England
Biggest exporting/producing country today China
Recommended washing temperatures Cold or hand wash
Commonly used in Athletic jerseys, athletic shorts, lingerie, shapewear, workout apparel, screens for screen printing, net

Power Mesh FabricPower Mesh Fabric

What Is Mesh Fabric?

There are a few different versions of mesh fabric, but this type of fabric is typified by its lightweight heft and permeable texture. Unlike most types of fabric, which feature closely-woven textures, mesh is woven loosely, which results in thousands of tiny holes being present in each mesh garment.

The idea of mesh has been around for thousands of years; for instance, every type of net in existence is made from mesh, and this material has also been used to make items like hammocks. However, it wasn't until the end of the 19th century that textile innovators started using mesh for apparel.

British mill owner Lewis Haslam came up with the idea to use mesh for fabric when he was out for a walk with his aunt in cold weather. He noticed that her gloves were riddled with holes, but when he questioned her about them, she maintained that her hands were still warm.

Spray color blocking - mesh fabricationSpray color blocking - mesh fabrication

Intrigued, Haslam started experimenting with loosely-knit fabrics, and he went on to found a textile company called Aertex, which was the world's first producer of mesh fabric. Aertex is no longer the sole supplier of mesh fabric, but by the mid-1980s, textiles made by this company had become so popular that they was frequently worn by popular culture icons on MTV.

This surge of popularity was partially fueled by the adoption of Aertex mesh fabric as the primary sportswear material for the international shoe and apparel company Adidas. Starting in the 1980s, a variety of other companies started making mesh, and in the ensuing years, a number of subtypes of this fabric have emerged.

In almost every case, mesh is made from synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. Some fabric experts contend that the weave style used in Polo shirts by popular brands like Lacoste is also a type of mesh, but since there is significant disagreement regarding this designation, in this article, we'll only touch on traditional mesh fabric and its variants such as power mesh and powernet.

How Is Mesh Fabric Made?

how is mesh fabric made

Mesh fabric is made with a variety of different techniques depending on the type of fiber from which it is composed. While nylon and polyester are very similar in a number of ways, polyester was developed a few decades after nylon, which means that the production of this synthetic material follows significantly more advanced manufacturing processes.

Though the processes used to make these two types of fabric fibers differ, for each type of fiber, the process begins with the refining of petroleum oil. Polyamide monomers are then extracted from this oil, and these monomers are then reacted with various forms of acid to make polymers.

These polymers are usually solid after they are reacted, and they are then melted and forced through spinnerets to make polymer strands. Once these strands have cooled, they can be loaded onto spools and shipped to textile manufacturing facilities to be made into mesh fabric.

In most cases, manufacturers of mesh fabric will dye their polyester or nylon fibers before they weave them into fabric. Textile manufacturers can then weave these fibers in a number of different ways to create various forms of mesh. Many types of mesh, for instance, follow a basic square pattern that has proven itself effective over thousands of years. More contemporary forms of mesh, however, such as Tulle, may be woven with a hexagonal structure.

How Is Mesh Fabric Used?

how is mesh fabric used

If you like to fish, you may have used a fishing net made from mesh, and this fabric is also used to make net bags and a variety of other net products. While a bolt of mesh fabric resembles a net no matter how many holes per inch (HPI) it features, the denser that mesh fabric becomes, the less transparent it is, which makes it more suitable for various types of apparel.

The use of mesh as a fabric was originally popularized by its utilization in sportswear. From shorts to shirts to sports bras, this fabric took the sporting world by storm in the mid-1980s, and it has remained popular ever since. This material is particularly popular in sports jerseys; whether they are used in football, rugby, basketball, or wrestling, the majority of sports jerseys on the market today are made from some form of synthetic mesh fabric.

Casual Mesh Fabric Breathable Bowknot Embellished SandalsCasual Mesh Fabric Breathable Bowknot Embellished Sandals

This fabric's high breathability also makes it a top pick outside of the world of team sports. It's common to see people wearing synthetic mesh clothing to the gym, and these garments are often branded by leading athletic wear corporations like Nike and Adidas. Due to its elasticity, however, mesh fabric is also commonly used to make a type of apparel called shapewear.

This type of apparel is commonly used by women to alter the shapes of their bodies. It can be used to conceal fat, for instance, and it can also raise breasts or tighten abdomens. In addition, this type of fabric is used in various types of lingerie, and it is also popular for industrial applications such as netting and screen printing tools.

Where Is Mesh Fabric Produced?

mesh fabric in the world

This type of fabric was originally produced in Aertex production facilities in the United Kingdom. As this fabric became more popular in the mid-1980s, other production facilities were opened in the United States and other nations, and the USA and UK remained the main producers of this fabric until the waning decades of the 20th century.

During the last few decades, China has supplanted the Western nations as the preeminent supplier of most types of textiles. Whether it's silk, cotton, rayon, or polyester, companies in China contribute more fabrics to the global consumer economy than the factories of any other nation. At the same time, other Asian nations, such as India, Pakistan, and Indonesia, have also become significant textile suppliers.

Diane von Furstenberg Long-Sleeve Fitted Mesh T-ShirtDiane von Furstenberg Long-Sleeve Fitted Mesh T-Shirt

Most of the world's polyester and nylon, which are the two fabrics most commonly used to make mesh, is produced in China, but a booming economy and relaxed regulations have recently driven the return of textile manufacturing to the United States. While it's likely that China will remain the world's leading supplier of mesh fabric for the foreseeable future, the polyester and nylon production arena is becoming increasingly competitive.

How Much Does Mesh Fabric Cost?

The price of mesh fabric depends both on the type of material that is used and the style of mesh that is woven. For instance, undyed mesh that is woven in a simple square pattern is relatively inexpensive, but brightly-dyed mesh that is woven in a hexagonal Tulle pattern costs more to make, so it is more expensive to garment producers and the end consumer.

If a certain type of mesh, such as Tulle, is made from silk, it will cost more than mesh fabric made from a synthetic material. However, nylon and polyester are roughly equal in price. It's also important to remember that purchasing mesh fabric from a factory in a Western nation may cost more than buying mesh from China, India, Pakistan, or Indonesia.

What Different Types of Mesh Fabric Are There?

different types of mesh fabric

There are a few different types of mesh fabric, and there are also multiple terms that are used to refer to the same mesh fabric variant:

• Polyester mesh: Most types of meshes used in sportswear and athletic apparel are made from polyester. This type of fabric is incredibly lightweight, and it has a noticeable ability to wick moisture. Unlike other types of fabric, polyester mesh does not get bogged down with sweat, and it is highly breathable.

• Nylon mesh: One of the most iconic applications of nylon mesh is in beekeeping veils. This type of mesh is less commonly used to make apparel, and it is more frequently used to make items like tent screens and laundry bags. However, nylon mesh is sometimes used to make lightweight garments like evening dresses.

• Tulle: This type of mesh is most frequently used in brightly-colored dance garments as an accent. In some cases, tulle may be made from silk, which mitigates the environmental impact of this type of mesh fabric. However, it's far more common to find tulle made from polyester or nylon, and this fabric is commonly bunched to generate a textured appearance.

Camouflage Mesh Fabric Board ShortsCamouflage Mesh Fabric Board Shorts

• Power mesh: Power mesh is known for its compression abilities, and it is commonly used in a variety of sportswear and shapewear garments. This type of fabric is also sometimes used in home decor due to its almost entirely sheer appearance. Power mesh is not a trademark of any corporation; on the contrary, it is simply a name given to a type of mesh that is more elastic and more suited for shapewear than normal nylon or polyester mesh.

• Powernet: This type of mesh fabric features a relatively dense weave. Powernet is commonly used in shaping apparel such as top tights, bras, and control slips, and in some cases, the term "powernet" may be used interchangeably with "power mesh."

How Does Mesh Fabric Impact the Environment?

The environmental impact of mesh fabric depends, to a degree, on the materials from which it is made. However, since this fabric is almost always made from synthetic materials, it's easy to say that mesh has a notably negative impact on the environment.

Both nylon and polyester are fully synthetic materials that are derived from petroleum oil. This natural resource is called a fossil fuel because it is composed of decomposed animal matter from millions of years ago, and the world's stores of petroleum oil are not being regenerated. It is, therefore, an unsustainable resource, and since petroleum is also used to make important commodities like gasoline and engine oil, the wisdom of its use for fabric has been disputed by commentators at all ends of the political spectrum.

It takes a great deal of energy and labor to procure petroleum oil, and once this material is obtained, more energy and labor are expended to render it into fabric filaments. In the process of making both nylon and polyester, large volumes of water are used to cool these materials while they are in their molten form, and this contaminated water inevitably reenters the hydrosphere.

River Island Mesh fabric Sequin and bead embellishment KimonoRiver Island Mesh fabric Sequin and bead embellishment Kimono

In addition, the production of nylon requires a substance called adipic acid, and the manufacture of this chemical releases nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, which scientists have identified as being 300 times worse for the environment than CO2.

The environmental issues associated with the production of petroleum-based fabrics are only one half of the story. Once these fabrics are sold on the consumer market, the only place where they can end up is in the ecosystem. Neither polyester or nylon biodegrade, which means that garments made from these fabrics could continue gumming up waterways and harming animals for thousands or millions of years.

Even if these fabrics are disposed of properly, they will eventually reenter the ecosystem. There is no way to stop this pollution from occurring once polyester or nylon fabrics are made; the only way to reduce this effect is to produce fewer garments made with these fabrics.

Mesh Fabric Certifications Available

mesh fabric certifications

There are a variety of different certifications offered for variants of mesh fabric. For instance, if it can be established that this type of fabric is made from 100 percent recycled materials, it's possible to receive certification from the Global Recycle Standard (GRS), which is a global certification organization that oversees the production of recycled textiles and other forms of consumer products.

There are also a few regulatory certifications offered for mesh fabric that isn't recycled. For instance, you may notice certain bulk mesh fabric producers labeling their products as "ISO 9001," which is a certification provided by the International Organization for Standardization. This organization provides a number of regulatory rules for the production of synthetic textiles to assure that businesses and consumers receive items that are of standard quality no matter where they are sourced.

An organization called the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) takes things one step further by providing American companies with certification that integrates ISO requirements and also lays down a number of other standardization principles. Since mesh fabric is almost always made from synthetic materials, it is not usually eligible for organic certification from the United States Department of Agriculture or a similar organization.


About the author:

Sewport Support Team is the founder and CEO of Sewport - an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former founder of various clothing manufacturing services. He is passionate about e-commerce, marketing and production digitisation. Connect with Boris on LinkedIn.