On a recent trip to my local fabric store, I came across power mesh fabric. It looks and feels soft and floaty with an excellent drape. The fabric is incredibly lightweight and transparent. But what can I use it for? What is power mesh fabric?
Power mesh is a soft, lightweight fabric with a four-way stretch. It looks like a stretchy netting. Uses include lingerie, activewear, swimwear, and even industrial applications. A sheer, breathable material, power mesh is extremely comfortable next to the skin. Also known as compression fabric, power mesh is a popular material for shapewear.
Now you know what power mesh is, can you use it in your next project? Read on to find out more about this versatile fabric. Discover its pros and cons and find out how easy it is to work with.
What Is Power Mesh Fabric?
Power mesh is a synthetic fabric with the appearance of soft, sheer netting. It’s made from a nylon/spandex blend which gives it lots of elasticity. There is a selection of different weights ranging from extremely lightweight to heavy. Also known as compression mesh, this fabric can contour to the shape of your body, helping to disguise any lumpy bits.Depending on the weight of the fabric, the overall fit of a garment containing power mesh will change. A lightweight, loose-knit option will give a comfortable fit and be fairly close to your size. While a heavier weight or densely-knit version will give a tighter fit.
Lining your garment with a heavyweight power mesh will reduce the size, pulling you in and smoothing your curves. This is one of the reasons this fabric is so popular in shapewear.
Another name for power mesh is stretch mesh. Not only is it super stretchy, but it has excellent recovery, meaning it can bounce back to its original shape. So much so, it has also become a firm favorite for activewear and swimwear.
It’s not the only mesh fabric available, though. There are others that sometimes get confused with power mesh. Let’s take a look at some of them, so you know how to tell the difference.
Types of Power Mesh Fabric
1. Metallic MeshPower mesh can be purchased in shiny metallic options that look like the chain mail medieval knights used to wear under their armor. Metallic mesh is a statement piece and can make an outfit pop when used as a decoration or feature.
Be careful when you order it, though. Especially online where you can’t see it before you make a purchase. There is another form of metallic mesh you don’t want to make your clothes from. Also called metallic or metal mesh, it’s the netting that makes screen doors or window screens.
To add to the confusion, it’s sometimes referred to as cloth. The good news, this type of mesh is made out of thin steel, so it should be easy to spot as soon as you look closely at it. Great for keeping the bugs out, not so great for garments. Double-check it’s the right metallic mesh before clicking the “buy now” button!
2. Power NetIf you come across this one at your local fabric store, then chances are you are looking at a power mesh but with a denser knit. Power net and power mesh are interchangeable terms used to describe the same fabric. The main difference between the two is the weight and density of the mesh.
While the lighter weight power mesh can be used for activewear, power net is used to make bras and control wear like girdles and corsets. The tightness of the knit reduces the size of the holes in the net. Which in turn reduces its elasticity. Being less stretchy than power mesh, power net gives a breathable garment that controls and shapes your body while offering comfort and support.
3. TulleTulle is the netting used to create veils and ballet costumes. You can even use it to make fairy wings on costumes for little girls. This net fabric creates volume in prom dresses and ball gowns.
It’s a fine, lightweight fabric normally made from synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester. You can also find it in silk and rayon. Like power mesh, it is knitted into a mesh to create the netting effect. Unlike power mesh, tulle, pronounced tool, doesn’t stretch.
This fabric is known for its stiffness and ability to hold its shape. Used to create structure in a garment, tulle can be used in layers to create voluminous petticoats to make long skirts poof out. Or, it can be used to add a hint of mystery to a fascinator or a hat.
4. Polyester Mesh
Although you can find polyester mesh in activewear and sportswear, it tends to wear out faster than nylon. Because of this, polyester mesh is found more often in screen printing. It provides precision and accuracy to the application of the ink.
Teamed with spandex, polyester mesh can be used in similar projects to power mesh. However, this option isn’t as stretchy as spandex blended with nylon.
5. Nylon MeshA mesh made from 100% nylon can be used for industrial purposes. It’s also used for filtration in chemical processing or as an overwrap for mesh tubes. Probably the best-known use for nylon mesh is bee-keeping masks.
Nylon mesh is used when durability, strength, and versatility are important to a project’s success. Teamed with spandex, nylon mesh is the most popular form of power mesh.
Power Mesh: A Brief History
Mesh fabric in one form or another has been around for generations. Originally used as part of the protective clothing for knights, it didn’t start appearing as apparel until the late 19th century. Even then, it didn’t gain popularity as a fashion fabric until the 1980s.
Power mesh was founded by a British company called Aertex. The owner, Lewis Haslam began looking into the benefits of fabrics made with a loose-knit. By the mid-1980s, clothing made from Aertex mesh had been adopted by Popstars and sportswear companies. Ensuring its entrenchment into fashion culture.
These days, Aertex isn’t the only maker of the mesh. Now known by the generic name of power mesh, or power net, the mesh is made by different companies across the globe. Although still produced in the UK, the largest producer of power mesh is now China, closely followed by India and Pakistan.
Power Mesh Fabric: Key Points
From fishing nets to sportswear, power mesh is a versatile material. Let’s take a look at some of the key characteristics of the fabric and identify its pros and cons.
The cost of power mesh can vary depending on several factors. To begin with, you’re looking at the fiber content and thickness of the mesh. Natural fiber will set you back more than a synthetic version. The more densely knit the fabric is, the more fiber will be in it, so the cost will be higher.
Then there is the quality of the fabric and the location you are purchasing it from. A brand name shop or high-end department store will charge a higher price than a lesser-known retail outlet.
Overall, the fabric is relatively inexpensive. Power mesh is normally used as lingerie, or a lining, or a feature on a garment. This means only a small amount is needed. A yard is likely to go a long way.
One area power mesh scores badly is the environmental impact. Although it can be made from natural fibers like silk, or semi- synthetics like rayon, power mesh is more likely to be made from a nylon/spandex mix.
It’s an ugly truth, but power mesh tends to be produced from synthetic fibers, which means it’s petroleum-based. A reliance on fossil fuels is considered unsustainable. Not only that, but the production process is resource and labor-intensive.
Even the natural options aren’t that great when it comes to sustainability. The production of silk on a commercial scale results in the demise of the silkworms. Rayon uses natural resources to convert its wood pulp base into a usable substance.
Power mesh is a product made from fibers already being produced. Nylon and polyester, for instance, are both fibers being produced for domestic, medical, and commercial reasons. Using them to make power mesh for clothing, bags, fishing nets, or bee-keeping equipment could be seen to offset the negatives of fossil fuel usage.
Power mesh is sheer netting. It’s not designed to keep you warm in the same way as wool or fleece. Although it comes in different thicknesses, its main function is shaping and support.
You can use power mesh to make shawls which can be used to cover up bare shoulders on a cool summer evening. However, the heat retention properties are low, so you will soon start to feel the chill.
Power mesh can keep you cool. One of the reasons it’s a good fabric for sportswear is it can wick away moisture. This helps take heat away from your body and helps you cool down.
Unlike many synthetic fabrics, power mesh is breathable. The mesh allows heat to escape and any moisture can evaporate through the holes. This means you won’t feel clammy like you do with polyester fabric.
Not only is the breathable nature of power mesh good for activewear, but it can also help you keep cool in warm weather. A bra or lingerie made from this fabric will feel much more comfortable when it’s hot than any other type of synthetic underwear.
Ease of Care
Even though you can put power mesh through its paces when working out, it’s a delicate fabric. It can snag easily if you wash it with other garments that have zippers or buttons. Wash power net garments separately or with other delicate items.
If your power mesh is a synthetic blend, it won’t tolerate too much heat. Avoid the dryer and make sure you allow your clothing to air dry. It dries quickly, so it will be ready to wear in no time.
Another way to keep your athletic wear away from hot temperatures is to make sure you hand wash your sports gear. Using a mild detergent will also help protect the delicate fibers.
One of the best things about power mesh is you don’t need to iron it. The fabric retains its shape and doesn’t wrinkle easily. If you need your lingerie to be washed and go, power mesh could be just what you are looking for.
How Is Power Mesh Fabric Made?
Power mesh is usually a nylon and spandex blend. Sometimes it can be polyester and spandex. It can also be made from silk or rayon, but those are less common.
The first step in the process is to make nylon or polyester fibers. Polyamide monomers are taken from petroleum and combined with an acid. This forms polymers which are then melted and spun to form strands. These strands are then sent to a power mesh manufacturer to be knitted into a mesh fabric.
Before knitting the fibers together, dye is added to the strands to create a range of threads in different colors. These colors are combined to make a knitted fabric, either in one solid color or in a multicolored style. The knit will either be loose or tight, depending on the power mesh and what it will be used for.
How Strong Is Power Mesh?Most net or mesh fabrics have an inbuilt tensile strength due to how the net is knitted together. The material used to make the net adds to the level of strength the fabric has.
With power mesh, you have a choice of fibers that go into its production. Nylon and polyester are the top two as they are synthetic and relatively cheap to produce.
As both are known for durability and strength, any power mesh fabric made from nylon or polyester will have the same qualities as the fiber. Therefore, power mesh is both strong and incredibly durable.
A nylon-based power mesh has a higher elasticity than polyester. This means nylon will outlast its polyester cousin, giving you better longevity in your power mesh garments.
You do have to be careful with the fabric though. It may be durable and able to stretch to extremes, but even nylon power mesh has its achilles heel. All forms of power mesh are delicate and can’t take rough handling in the laundry room. Rub them the wrong way against another garment; you could end up with a mesh full of pulls and snags.
How Is Power Mesh Fabric Used?Power mesh has several uses. From fishing nets to bee-keeping masks, you’ll find power mesh in different weights in all sorts of places. That’s the key with power mesh. The weight of the fabric and the size of the knitted mesh determine what it can be used for.
Lightweight mesh is an ideal lining for tops, skirts, and dresses. It gently pulls the garment closer to your skin and smooths out your curves. A heavier weight mesh can be used for controlling garments like girdles. With fewer holes per inch, heavy power mesh gives firm support, concealing lumps and bumps you’d rather keep hidden.
There’s a long list of items that power mesh is a top choice for. Its impressive elasticity and famous compression properties make it unbeatable for shapewear and figure-hugging apparel.
Power Mesh Fabric by the Yard
The cost of power mesh fabric by the yard depends on where you purchase it from. It can range in value from $5 – $12 per yard. Obviously, the more you pay for the power mesh, the better quality the fabric will be.
You may also find the number of yards you purchase will alter the cost. There are several online retailers that offer a discount if you buy in bulk.
How to Sew With Power Mesh Fabric
Sewing with power mesh is relatively simple. It is synthetic though so it can be a bit tricky to work with sometimes. Here are a few tips to help make the process go smoothly.
Cutting Out the Pattern
There are two methods you can use to simplify cutting your pattern out of power mesh. The first is to use a tailor’s chalk or a fabric marker pen to trace around the pattern piece directly onto the mesh. If you are going to use this method, make sure the fabric marker will wash out. You can use either pins or pattern weights to hold the pattern still while you draw around it.
Method number two is to use a rotary cutter and a cutting mat. Place the fabric on top of the cutting mat. Use pattern weights and your hand to hold the pattern piece still on top of the fabric. Then, carefully cut around the pattern piece with a rotary cutter. You will need to go slowly with this method to make sure you cut out curves and corners accurately.
It’s best to avoid scissors when cutting power mesh. Scissors lift the fabric from the table and can cause it to move while you cut. You may end up with an uneven or jagged edge.
Sewing the Fabric
Power mesh is a stretchy knit fabric, so the usual rules for sewing a stretch knit apply. An overlocker or serger will give you the best results on seams for power mesh. They are designed to be used with knit fabrics, so will make your life easy.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a serger, you can sew power mesh on a normal sewing machine. You will need a ball-point or a stretch needle and you’ll need to use a zigzag stitch. Some sewing machines have a 3-step zigzag which will give you a cleaner, stronger finish, especially on lingerie.
As power mesh is a synthetic blend, you should use a synthetic thread to sew it with. A polyester thread is ideal as it will stretch with the fabric. Using a natural fiber thread like cotton will hamper the stretch of the fabric and cause the thread to break.
Power mesh fabric is a versatile stretchy fabric suitable for a whole host of projects. Soft, smooth, and super stretchy, it’s comfortable and easy to wear. Add some power mesh to your wardrobe for durable style and a touch of elegance.
Let me know in the comments if you liked the article. Have you worked with power mesh? How did you get on? What garment did you make?