The mode I inter-laminar fracture toughness of advanced knitted textile composites was investigated. Two complex weft-knitted glass fabrics were selected for the study: a triple rib knit and a Milano knit were impregnated with a tough epoxy resin and tested using a double cantilever beam geometry. For both knitted composites, the influence of the growth direction was studied by investigating crack propagation in both the wale and course directions. The fracture toughness was quantified by determining the critical strain energy release rate (G(IC)) using the modified beam theory. The specimens had to be stiffened with layers of glass woven composites added on top and bottom of the beams. This was necessary in order to avoid plastic deformation of the beams and crack deviation out of the inter-laminar plane. The results clearly showed that knitted fabric composites have exceptional inter-laminar fracture toughness properties, namely, more than 7000 J/m(2). The origin of the high G(IC) values, which are superior to woven or UD laminates, lies in the very complex fabric architecture. The three-dimensional loop structure induces various energy consuming mechanisms, which do not occur in other composites. Toughening mechanisms such as crack branching, friction, yam bridging and breakage were identified using scanning electron microscopy. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.