08 Apr 2021 • • by Amy

Understanding Knit Fabrics

Plateau Joggers | Lounge pants and shorts pattern by Closet Core Patterns

Hi all. Amy here. Our latest mini collection of patterns is designed for knits, and the Mile End Sweatshirt and Plateau Joggers can be made with a variety of fabrics with a minimum of 15% crosswise stretch; we prefer the structure of beefier knits like sweatshirt fleece, french terry, ponte and double knits. For joggers, you can also use medium to heavyweight jersey knits, but because of the details and proportions of the sweatshirt, we think it looks better using those more structured, thicker knits. 

In this post, we thought it might be fun to get a bit educational about knits, since they are often viewed with some trepidation, especially by newer sewists. There are a lot of terms used when describing these fabrics, so hopefully, this will help you source your knit fabrics with confidence!

UNDERSTANDING KNITS

First, let’s talk about the structure of knits. Knit fabrics are naturally stretchy due to the way they are produced. Unlike wovens, which are woven together using stable weft and warp threads, knit fabrics are actually knit together. That construction creates a natural “mechanical” stretch.

JERSEY

Jersey is a stretchy woven fabric that gets its name from the place in the Channel Islands of the UK where it was originally knit from wool. Today jersey is most likely knit from cotton and synthetic fibres and is the fabric most consumed in the textile industry in things like t-shirts, underwear and other RTW staples. The mechanical stretch is often helped by the use of spandex or lycra which also provides fibre stretch. It can be very drapey and depending on the fibre used, varies in both quality and price.

SOURCE IT HERE: Organic Cotton Jersey Knit, Organic Cotton + Tencel Stretch Knit Jersey, Silk Jersey

USE IT FOR: T-shirts, dresses, kids’ clothes, leggings, body suits, and underwear.

INTERLOCK

Interlock knits are a variation of rib-knit construction with an identical look on both sides. The fabric will have the appearance of little Vs on both sides of the fabric and this allows it to drape and stretch very easily on the body. It is both soft, firm and absorbent, making it perfect for activewear. The fabrics have great stretch and good recovery.

SOURCE IT HERE: Organic Cotton Bamboo Interlock Knit

USE IT FOR: T-shirts, leggings, and shorts.

RIB KNITS

Rib knits use both a knit stitch and a purl stitch when being knit together giving this fabric the appearance of being cabled or having ribs. It has a lot of sideways and crossway stretch making it ideal for cuffs and collar bands that need both stretch and recovery. You can usually find a matching (or contrasting!) fabric to trim your garment.

SOURCE IT HERE: Organic Cotton Baby Rib Knit, Tencel Modal Rib Knit, 2×2 Baby Rib

USE IT FOR: Cuffs, neckbands, turtlenecks.

FLEECE

Fleece is a soft, cozy fabric with a smooth side as well as a napped, fuzzy side. It can be made from a variety of natural and manmade fibres and was originally produced to mimic animal fleece (think goat or sheep) but these days there are tons of different types of fleece available and it can be used in many different ways. Fleece fabrics are warm and very comfortable to wear and are economical too. Fleece’s weight is measured in gms per square meter/yard to determine the thickness of the fabric. Look for descriptions like grams per square meter or ounces per square yard. 300 – 400 grams per square meter and 10 – 14 oz per square yard are considered heavy-weight winter fleece. Summer weight fleece will range from 220-280 grams per square meter or 7-10 oz. per square yard.

SOURCE IT HERE: Bamboo Cotton Stretch Fleece

USE FOR: Sweatsuits!

POLAR FLEECE

Traditionally made from polyester, polar fleece fabrics come in different thicknesses: micro, 100, 200, and 300, with 300 being the thickest and least flexible. It is hydrophobic, holding less than 1% of its weight in water. It retains much of its insulating quality even when wet. It can also be made out of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles or even recycled fleece. It is napped on both sides making it look fuzzy all over.

USE FOR: Sweatsuits, outerwear.

FRENCH TERRY

French terry is a fabric similar to jersey with loops on one side and smooth fabric on the other. It is a mid-weight knit, heavier than a typical t-shirt but not as heavy as regular fleece. It is moisture-wicking and keeps you cool making it perfect for spring/ summer weight sweats and activewear.

USE IT FOR: Sweats, shorts, dresses.

PURL KNIT

Double-faced, reversible fabric produced by intermeshed rows of knit and purl stitches, which appear as loops in the crosswise direction. Sometimes called “Links-Links,” from the German word links (“left”), since the knitting machine’s mechanism always moves to the left. Usually heavy and bulky; stretches in both directions. Cut edges do not curl.

SOURCE IT HERE: Cotton Sweater Knit

USE IT FOR: Sweaters, jackets.

DOUBLE KNITS

Made with two sets of yarns, this double-constructed fabric has fine ribs running lengthwise on both sides. Usually looks the same on the fabric’s face and reverse, making it reversible. Fancy double knits may have novelty stitches on the fabric’s face and fine ribs on the reverse. Heavy, firm; usually has almost no stretch in either direction. Good shape retention; cut edges don’t curl.

USE IT FOR: Jackets, outerwear, oversized tops.

PONTE

Ponte is a thick, double-knit fabric design produced on double jersey knitting machines. It is one of the firm, stable structures of knits with a subtle sheen. This fabric is heavier and thicker than a regular jersey. As with most of the other double-knit designs, Ponte is reversible. The fabric is also known as ”Ponte di Roma.”

SOURCE IT HERE: Viscose Ponte Knit

USE IT FOR: Jackets, and structured sweatshirts with plenty of ease.

Now go forth and make all the cozy clothes!

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