Textile materials, including knitted fabrics, represent excellent examples of soft materials which are defined in terms of their high flexibility and characteristic hierarchical structures incorporating the polymer, fibre, yarn and fabric construction. The mechanical properties of uniaxial and biaxial extension, transverse compression and bending determine the applications and quality of knitted ... [Show full abstract] fabrics in form fitting garments, medical prostheses and three dimensional composite material performs. The principles of nonlinear large deformation theory are applied to predict the mechanisms of deformation using energy methods of analysis for the plain knitted structure. We consider the specific practical example of lightweight fabrics knitted from fine and ultrafine Merino wool fibres which are emerging as a niche market for next-to-skin wear. The tactile sensory properties of these fabrics are investigated in this paper. Seven pairs of bipolar descriptors were defined from an industrial survey as the most important tactile attributes for this target market. Furthermore, the existence of collinearity between the descriptive attributes was removed and three orthogonal tactile sensory dimensions were established by using principal component analysis. These three orthogonal tactile sensory dimensions explain 92.6 % of the total variance of the seven tactile sensory attributes. Rapid measurements using the PhabrOmeter instrument involve fabric compression, biaxial extension, bending and creasing as well as dynamic friction. Partial least squares regression analyses show that these measurements using the PhabrOmeter instrument are capable of predicting the three tactile sensory dimensions analogous to the three (X,Y,Z) tristimulus values traditionally used for colour measurement.