To get stretchy fabric or non-stretchy fabric? What is the difference?
The video above demonstrates three classic categories of fabric used for the art of aerial silks. There is “non-stretch,” which isn’t completely devoid of stretch. Second, we have what is typically considered “stretchy” or “medium stretch.” And third, the fun one, we have the “super-stretchy” category, for those aerialists who can brave the down, down, down action of the stretch.
Disclaimer: The amount of stretch in your fabric will vary by vendor. This is simply a helpful gauge so that you can learn and compare the various degrees of stretch. When you go to purchase your own fabric, you will be that much more knowledgeable about what you are buying.
For beginning climbers and for aerial yoga, non-stretch is the way to go. It is much easier to climb and it is more predictable in terms of height from the ground. This latter fact comes in handy when you are setting up a hammock for aerial yoga. Most vendors automatically sell the non-stretch fabric when they are advertising its use for aerial yoga.
Another characteristic of non-stretch fabric is that it is typically wider, making it awesome for the hammock positions of aerial yoga, or aerial hammock. It can encompass your entire body from head to toe (great if you are especially tall). The down-side to this is that the fabric is thick and can be hard to wrap your hands around. Some people like to have their non-stretch cut down, but keep in mind that this also decreases the strength of the fabric.
So, why would you choose a stretchier fabric? Good question! The two most compelling reasons to go stretchy is for comfort for drops and fluidity of movement. When you do a big drop, non-stretch fabric is not able to provide a comfortable level of bounce. Often, you’ll land feeling like you just got the wind knocked out of you with the fabric uncomfortable as heck, and perhaps a bruise or two to go along with the pinching.
I am not a big drop person myself. I like to move and flow and twist and twirl more than anything. For this movement, I like to have super-stretch. This is what I performed on in my piece, Gone Away, which you can view here on youtube. The super-stretch allows me to move with more freedom and fluidity. It is more exhausting and challenging, but at the end of the day, it is worth it. Because it is so challenging, I like to use the super-stretch for training purposes. After spending some time on super-stretch, I head over to (medium) stretch or non-stretch and it is so much easier! This is great when getting ready for performances, etc.
Stretchy fabrics tend to be thinner, which is easier for your hands to wrap around, but the stretch factor does make it harder to keep a good grip. Your hands will get tired, yet stronger with the stretchier fabric. Feel free check out our article on spray rosin. Using rosin can help save your hands from overuse. I recommend using it sometimes, especially if you are having a low-energy day, but then try to have days where you do not use it so that you can build up strength in your hands.
The fabrics in the video came from the following vendors:
Non-stretch: Fabric Depot
Stretchy: Nimble Arts
Super-Stretchy: Aircat Aerial Arts