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Taipei - As the global obesity epidemic escalates, consumers are placing more emphasis on health and wellness, which is contributing to growing demand for athletic-inspired apparel and footwear. To satiate this demand, manufacturers are turning towards spacer fabric — a double-knit fabric whereby monofilament yarn connects two layers of single-knit fabric, leaving a “space” between the two layers. This sandwich-structure makes spacer one of the most breathable fabrics available on the market, while also offering excellent impact resistance — music to the ears of athletes looking to stay cool and injury-free.

Due to rising demand for apparel and footwear that is both comfortable and stylish, manufacturers are looking for spacer fabric that is soft, breathable, and also allows for plenty of creative leeway. As such, spacer jacquard is quickly becoming the go-to fabric for athleisure.

Spacer Jacquard

Until recently, spacer fabric was notoriously stiff, heavy, and rough — three words athletes would most certainly not like to have associated with their athletic wear — and could only be knit in monochrome. While designers could add unique patterns or designs to the fabric, they could only do so through time-intensive post-production dyeing processes.

This is all changing with a recent breakthrough in circular knitting machines, whereby the
exterior layer of spacer fabric can be knit using a jacquard pattern — combining design-rich jacquard with the comfortable, moisture-wicking nature of weft-knitted spacer. As athleisure exists at the intersection of comfort and design, it’s not surprising that many big names in athleisure — including Nike, Adidas, Lululemon, and Puma — have quickly implemented spacer jacquard into their product lines.

Warp Knitting vs. Circular Knitting: Which knits better spacer jacquard?

 The following list outlines four key ways in which weft machines — circular machines, in particular — are better able to meet future market needs:

 2. Comfort

While warp-knitted spacer fabric is undeniably sturdy and durable, it is also uncomfortably stiff and rough, and thus completely ill-suited for athletic wear designed for comfort and ease of motion.

In contrast, circular machines knit spacer fabric that is soft, plushy, and feels incredible against bare skin — with a natural drape that offers excellent range of motion for athletes. Whether wearers are running errands, laying around the house, or running a marathon, they are bound
to appreciate the delicate feel of smooth, weft-knitted fabric that both enhances comfort and
also wicks away heat and moisture.

2. Unrestricted patterns

Although warp machines can also create spacer jacquard, the patterns are mostly just limited to repetitive or lace-like patterns, and designers can only create patterns of a certain width — the more complicated or irregular the pattern, the narrower the width. With a limited range in design possibilities and a coarse texture, warp-knitted fabric is ideal for home textile or automotive applications that generally don’t require elaborate patterns or a soft touch.

For athleisure applications, on the other hand, consumers are looking for unique designs and patterns that match their personal style. To meet this demand, circular machines are able to knit spacer jacquard without any pattern restrictions, giving designers free rein to let their creativity roam.

3. More colours 

When modern consumers look for athletic-inspired apparel and footwear, they’re looking for styles that fit their individual tastes. As such, manufacturers need to be able to easily switch between multiple colors and patterns.

Spacer jacquard is a knitting technique that offers designers completely free range in combining different colors, while also embedding clothing and footwear with the high heat- and moisture-wicking functionalities of spacer. Furthermore, circular knitting machines can easily knit fabrics in up to four different colors, while their warp machine counterparts can only simultaneously knit two different colors.

Moreover, circular machines can immediately begin knitting fabrics without lengthy pre-production preparations – and are thus better suited to modern consumers, who demand abundant style choices in shorter periods of time. As this trend continues to unfold, warp machines – and the tedious pre-production warping process they require – are becoming less and less favorable to meeting market needs.

4. Agile, low-input production

Modern consumers are no longer content with the lumbering, 18-month concept-to-market cycles of retail giants, as indicated by the rise of fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara that can bring new products to market in just one to five weeks. The consumer wants new, fresh – and they want it faster than traditional models can provide.

Combining abundant design possibilities with heat- and moisture-wicking functions, spacer jacquard fills the demand for “new and fresh” – and using a circular machine to knit spacer jacquard is adding nimbleness to the manufacturing process.

Not only are circular machines much more agile — with an ability to rapidly switch between different colors and styles — they are also a mere fifteenth of the cost of a warp machine, less labor intensive, and occupy minimal floor space. For manufacturers looking to quickly knit apparel and footwear in spacer jacquard, circular machines offer simpler production at a competitive cost.

Spacer jacquard is launching athleisure to new heights

Today’s athleisure enthusiasts demand apparel and footwear that is comfortable and functional, and they are demanding fresh new styles faster than traditional production models can keep up with.

Right at the intersection of function, comfort, and agile manufacturing lies circular-knitted spacer jacquard. This new technology will enable brands and companies to bring innovative new products to market before their competitors, instead of scrambling to adapt outdated production models to modern consumer demands. Circular-knitted spacer jacquard is perfectly poised to launch athleisure to new heights and streamline production – the only question that remains is which companies will be quickest to adapt.

Pailung, an internationally renowned knitting machinery company, is continuously innovating in order to further broaden spacer’s potential. In the last few years alone, Pailung has released several proprietary technologies that are pushing spacer fabrics to new limits. Most notably, the knitted eyelet spacer and the sculpted spacer. Furthermore, Pailung offers circular knitting machines that can knit spacer jacquard – giving manufacturers a competitive edge in the athleisure market.

For further details go to http://www.pailung.com.tw

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