An Introduction To Loopwheeled Sweatshirts

Of all the clothing associated with raw denim it normally shakes down to boots, chambrays, flannels, and sweatshirts. Many of the most revered brands in the raw denim world like Samurai, Studio D’ArtisanThe Real McCoys, and The Strike Gold are also known for their amazing heavy terry and fleece sweaters.

A Studio D'Artisan loopwheeled sweatshirt.

A Studio D’Artisan loopwheeled sweatshirt.

These sweats can tip the scales and set back your wallet just as much as a high end pair of jeans and the manufacturing process for loopwheeled fleece is almost as labor intensive and historied as that of selvedge denim. So stick around to learn all about loopwheeling and the creation of some of the world’s best sweats.

On most knit garments today you’ll notice seams running from the armholes down to the hem where the front and back sides were stitched together. Older sweats and those made by high end reproduction brands don’t have those seams, or any really seams at all, because the fabric is created as one whole tube in a process known as “loopwheeling”.

A loopwheeling machine in action.

A loopwheeling machine in action.

Loopwheeling is done on machines that knit in a circle, stacking layer upon layer of cotton into a giant cylinder. That cylinder becomes the body of the sweatshirt so manufacturers need different machines to produce fabric for each size of sweat.

The machines are also incredibly slow. Most of them can only perform 24 rotations per minute, which is so slow you can count them and adds up to around one meter of fabric per hour. The snail’s pace is essential, however, as the machines places no tension on the cotton yarns as they knit to create a softer and denser fabric than pretty much anything else around.

Images from Guiseppe Negra's 1926 loopwheel patent.

Images from Guiseppe Negra’s 1926 loopwheel patent.

Italian inventor Guiseppe Negra patented the process in 1926 and then licensed its use to American sportswear manufacturers like Champion and LL Bean. Hundreds of thousands of those iconic heather grey crewnecks we all know and love out of loopwheeled fleece were produced during the middle of the 20th century.

A 1940s crew team wearing crew neck loopwheeled sweatshirts.

A 1940s crew team wearing crew neck loopwheeled sweatshirts.

But as great as loopwheeled fleece is, it’s inefficiency led manufacturers to trade in their machines for modern knitters in the 1950s. No one has produced any more loopwheelers, so all 200 of the operational machines left are pushing 70 years of service or more. The only two loopwheeling operations left in the world are Loopwheeler in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture and Merz B. Schwanen’s factory in Germany.

The garments made from loopwheeled fabric are quite expensive, usually around $200, but that’s understandable as one of only 200 machines left in the world has to work an hour and a half just to make the raw material. Below are some examples of loop wheeled sweats produced today:

Crew Neck Sweat by Strike Gold

Crew Neck Sweat by Strike Gold

Crew Neck Sweat by Studio D'Artisan

Crew Neck Sweat by Studio D’Artisan

Baseball Sweat by The Real McCoys

Baseball Sweat by The Real McCoys

David Shuck

David is the Managing Editor of Rawr Denim. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado.

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  • Francisco

    Great article, that Studio D’Artisan sweatshirt is amazing. If you’re looking for some more affordable loopwheeled sweatshirts, have a look at Buzz Ricksons Sportswear. You can find one for around 150$ and they’re amazing (100% heavy 13 oz. cotton).

  • guest

    is there a reason why i can’t see new articles while i’m logged in? i have to go incognito mode to see new stuff on rawrdenim.

    • Sindri

      I have the same problem, I can’t view new articles on my laptop but everything is fine on y iPhone.


        used to happen to me a lot too, where the page would never update and I had to click on old articles to see on the “recent article” side links if there was anything new.

    • Boung

      while we are at that, if any of the mod comes by then i would like to ask them how come the post i started on the evo of my RC400 hasn’t shown up after almost 3 weeks now. when i posted it just said pending approval from mod, but it looks like it’s taking forever!

  • santosbear

    i still don‘t understand what the difference between loopwheeled sweatshirt and the normal so called “mass production” sweatshirt. the article didn’t show the comparison of the actual fabrics. i have loopwheeled sweatshirt produced by UES, but i am not sure whether it is true. it just gives a super soft feel.

    • Young

      from what i understand, it’s in the longevity of the fabric. with loop wheeled fabrics, because there is no stress or tension within the fabric the shirt/sweatshirt will keep its shape longer while remaining soft through multiple washes.

      • some guy

        the body is one whole solid piece. Where as on a “mass produced” item there is a seam running down the sides. Just pick up any t shirt in your closet and look under the armpit theres a seam running from the waits to underneath the armpit. That isnt there on loop wheeled fabrics

  • Foxy

    Would be great to be a bit more specific about circular knitting machines and tube constructed tees/sweats and not just equate this with Loopwheel machine knitted…

    LoopWheeler does not own the machines they have their garments produced on – the machines in Wakayama are actually owned and operated by at least 3 independently run factories.

  • Sindri

    Okay so my question is are these shirts worth the price tag? I personally love wearing plain T-shirts, usually white, black, grey, olive, etc. I would buy shirts from H&M for $7 each or so (I’m comparing 2 ends of the spectrum I know) and I would usually get a Medium fit which offered a nice snug fit with out being to tight. Upon first couple of weeks it would fit perfectly but as I wore it the shirt would stretch into awkward shapes and then when I would wash them try would shirink substantially and they would be almost unwearable because of how short they wore. I’ve had this problem with Hanes shirts as well but they lasted much longer the H&M shirts. My question is do these last longer, fit better, etc? Or are you paying most of the extra $$$ for the lack of availability. Thanks cheers guys!

    PS I plan to buy my next t shirts from American Apperal, if you guys know any brands that fit nicely and have a decent weight to them please tell me!

    • Sindri

      Oh I forgot to mention I have incredibly broad shoulders, so the shirt would have to have an athletic fit to it, this is why it’s so difficult buying shirts. :(

  • discuss

    yet another Unicorn… the loopwheeled fabrics!!!!!

  • Nathan Smith

    The amount of buzzwords in this article is atrocious.