Fabric Weights Explained: Measuring the Quality of Your Cotton Cloth

Promotional Totes, Fabric Weights, Cotton Weights & GSM Cotton: All Explained in One Friendly Place

(P.S. Converting Ounces to GSM Is a Snap!)

If you’re looking for a cotton tote and trying to figure out how strong the fabric is, you may be toting some frustration. You might be saying to yourself: Why all the acronyms, abbreviations, and pesky fabric weight references? What’s GSM and what does it have to do with weight? And do I really need a degree in textile design to figure this stuff out? The answer is…. NO! Because we’ve done the deep diving for you. Read on for all the 411 on fabric weights, types of cotton cloth, GSM cotton, and cotton weights.       

What Does GSM Stand for?

GSM stands for Grams per Square Meter (g/m2). 

Okay, That Helps (a Little). But What Does GSM Mean for Fabric?

Got it.  For fabric, like the promotional cotton tote bag you’re looking to put your logo on, GSM is an objective, industry-standard measure of fabric weight. It’s used in the production process to maintain quality control and consistency. The higher the GSM, the heavier the fabric.  

What Does Weight Mean for Fabric? Is a Higher GSM Always Better?

Mostly, yes. And in terms of the custom cotton tote bag you’re looking for, definitely. If you’re shopping for shopping bags and totes, a higher GSM cotton means a sturdier bag.  

If you’re shopping for a pair of linen slacks or a beach coverup for a hot summer day, a lower GSM would mean a lighter, thinner material, perhaps a looser weave, and might be exactly what you’re after. If you’re doing thorny yardwork in cold weather you may want a heavy GSM fabric like stiff cotton jeans and a thick sweatshirt, whereas if yoga is your pastime, you’ll want a lower GSM fabric like single jersey or nylon for vinyasa flow mode.  

Apples, Oranges, Sweet Tangerines! How Do I Compare GSMs of Different Fabrics?

Easy! If you look at a nylon and polyester bag of the same GSM, the nylon bag will be stronger than the polyester. Nylon fabric is made differently, resulting in more strength and flexibility. If your primary objective is waterproofing rather than strength, polyester will outperform nylon, and either one will outperform cotton.   

Can You Give Examples of Different Totes in a Cotton Fabric Weight Chart?

Of course! Below are the GSM ranges of the most popular types of cotton totes: 

GSM RangeFabric Sample
170-230 GSMLightweight craft bags and small capacity shopping totes
230-340 GSMMore structured craft bags and shopping totes
340-450 GSMTough denim bags and stiff canvas boat totes
450-above GSMSuitable for upholstery, rugs, and tents, bags at this GSM are built to go the distance

What If the Tote Has a Cotton Weight Explained in Ounces, not in GSM?

Not hard! Multiple the ounces by 33.91 to convert ounces to GSM (grams per square meter). For instance, our lightweight color me cotton tote is described as having a five-ounce fabric weight. Multiply five ounces by 33.91 and you get a 170 GSM fabric weight. To go the other way, divide the GSM by 33.91 to get ounces. Let’s try another: Our Heavy Cotton Tote Bag with Pocket is a 12-ounce fabric, meaning 407 GSM (12 X 33.91). Reference the cheat sheet above and you’ll see how sturdy this one is!  

Please Suggest Some Custom Totes in Fabric Weights You Recommend

Color Me Cotton Tote Bag: Our lightest cotton tote, weighing in at only five ounces or 170 GSM.   

Christa Natural Cotton Drawstring Backpack: 5 ounces, or 170 GSM, makes this one super lightweight and super budget-friendly, too.  

Medium Tacoma Cotton Canvas Tote Bag: 10-ounce fabric weight means a sturdy 339 GSM. Shopping? Groceries? You’re good to go.   

Heavy Cotton Tote Bag with Pocket: 12 ounces or 407 GSM, this tote’s built to last for years. 

Cotton Gusset Accent Box Tote: This 14-ounce or 475 GSM tote has the toughness you need for customers to carry your brand all around town.   

Large Cotton Canvas Yacht Tote: 24 ounces or 814 GSM means this tote’s as tough as they come. 

Custom Totes and Cotton Weights: Clear as Mud?

If your only takeaway is that a higher GSM means a stronger tote, you’re good to go. You’re ready to make an informed decision about the promotional tote that’s right for your budget, occasion, and intended use. Add your logo and advertise everywhere.  

For more on cotton totes, check out our blog, Why Personalized Canvas Tote Bags Are Your Best Bet for Branding. 

Karleen Wise Andersen

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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