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Explaining fabric weight

Explaining fabric weight

GSM stands for “Gram per Square Metre”. It is a measure of fabric density (weight of the fabric per square metre). By looking at the fabric GSM value, we can see whether the fabric is lightweight or heavyweight.

Fabric weight is the outcome of how a fabric has been woven, its finish and sometimes the fibre type. It’s usually measured in grams per metre (gsm). A lightweight fabric is typically between 30 – 150 gsm, medium weight 150 – 350 gsm and heavyweight 350+ gsm. Fabrics with different fibres or weaves but with the same weight may not have the exact same thickness.

GSM is not always an indicator of durability in all cases, for example one indicator of high gsm is simply a heavier, thicker towel which would typically be more absorbent. The higher gsm of a towel means it will soak up more water but then it will take longer to dry. It is always advisable to check the Martindale score for durability when using for upholstery.


Type GSM Range Examples
Lightweight fabric 30-150 GSM Chiffon, organza, voile, taffeta, cotton poplin
Medium weight fabric 150 – 350 GSM Velvets, sateen, fleece, velboa, suede
Heavyweight fabric 350+ GSM Wool, denim, canvas, leatherettes


The weight of the fabric can affect how it drapes, feels and looks. For example, lightweight fabrics are often used for summer clothing because they are breathable and don’t trap heat. Heavier fabrics are often used for winter clothing and furnishings because they provide more warmth.

How do I choose what fabric to use?

The ideal weight for your project will depend largely on your intended use, and how you plan to use it. The best advise we can give, though, is to collect a range of samples to get a feel for the fabric itself.

Lightweight fabrics

Generally speaking, lightweight cloth is the most breathable and comfortable fabric available. This makes the material idea for summer clothing, lingerie, t-shirts, blouses and sheer curtains. One of the main characteristics you can expect from a lightweight fabric is a soft handle that feels gentle on the skin.

You shouldn’t expect these fabrics to retain heat very well.

Medium weight fabrics

Medium weight fabrics are incredibly versatile, striking the perfect balance between durability and comfort. You’ll find medium-weight fabrics used in everything from dresses and trousers to curtains and upholstery. These fabrics are perfect for everyday use. We normally say to our customers that unless you have a specific need for a lighter or heavier fabric, choosing a fabric in the medium weight band is a safe option.

Heavyweight fabrics

Heavyweight fabrics are perfect for drapes and outerwear, and can be used reliably in upholstery and soft furnishings. When used for apparel you’ll find that a nice, heavy fabric will provide excellent warmth in the winter months.

Are heavier fabrics more durable?

Not necessarily. The durability of a fabric can depend on many things, including the type of material (e.g. polyester, cotton, viscose, etc…), and specifically the way in which it’s woven. The best measure of a fabric’s durability isn’t its weight, but rather the Martindale abrasion score.

We’ve seen fabrics that seem thin and flimsy score extraordinarily well on the Martindale test, and equally we’ve seen heavy fabrics that look and feel the part perform poorly in laboratory tests.

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