I bet everyone in the U.S. has knit fabric in their wardrobe. From t-shirts to swimsuits to sweaters – the fabric is easy to care for, comes in a variety of weights, weaves and fibers, and makes the most comfortable, easy to care for garments (no ironing). I wouldn’t go on vacation without them!
Think stretch fabrics are easier to buy then to sew?
There's no mystery in sewing fabric that stretches - and we can help!)
Knit Manufacturing -vs- Hand knitting
Manufactured knit fabric is not made in the same way that hand knits are made. Hand knitting needles are either straight and used in pairs, circular with needle tips on both ends, or short and double pointed to make a smaller circle, like a sock.
Manufactured knits have one needle for every loop. All manufactured knit fabric is either a weft/filling knit, or a warp knit. The machine needles have latches that open and close (for weft knitting), or compound or spring board needles (for warp knitting). These needles allow much speedier production of fabric!
Weft knits are made using a single yarn that interlocks in a series of loops, horizontally. They can be made using different stitches (i.e. plain stitch, rib stitch) – to produce jerseys, interlocks, ribbed, or double knits, among others.
Warp knits usually use a different yarn for each needle and are created by vertical loops that zig-zag along the length of the fabric.
Knit fabrics have wales (parallel to the selvedges) and courses (across the width) rather than grain and crosswise threads (like in wovens). Some are produced on a circular machine, which creates a tube of fabric rather than a flat piece.
The Fabic that stretches
Knit fabrics have different amounts of stretch, from stable one way stretch to very stretchy vertical and horizontal knits used in underwear. This is due to the weave, fiber and finish process – not the addition of spandex. So you might find a woven denim fabric that stretches because of the spandex fiber (thank goodness they came up with that fabric!), but stretch denim is not a knit. However, there is a fabric currently on the market, called “slinky knit”, which is knitted with synthetic fibers and does have spandex added to it.
So Many Choices for sewers!
While you are in the fabric store, check the bolt end of the fabric for a description of the type of fiber and the name of the manufacturing process. Some of the favorite types for sewers are listed below - there truly are so many choices!
Single knits are a good choice for lingerie, underwear and nightgowns. They stretch from side to side, rather than up and down. On the right side of the fabric you can usually see ribs that are vertical, but on the backside, you will see the loops are horizontal. (Kind of like hand knitted stockinette stitch on sweaters).
Single knit fabrics often have the “problem” of edge curling. But to me this is an advantage – because the edges only curl to the fashion side, which helps when trying to identify which sides go together when sewing seams.
Double knits can be recognized by the ribs on both back and front sides. The fabric is not two layered, rather it is a type of fabric that is usually quite stable, with little stretch and a heavier drape. They are great for suits and winter garments.
Pile fabrics (like fake fur) are made by applying loose fibers that get caught in the base fabric while being made. Finishes and prints can then be applied – with the advantages of looking and feeling like fur, but totally fake!
Stretchable terry fabrics are produced with two yarns in each needle – one yarn for the back of the fabric and one yarn for the front. On one side of the fabric, loops are pulled out to make the familiar fabric we use for robes – the fabric is very absorbent and soft against the skin.
Velours are made the same way as stretchable terry, except the loops are cut and brushed to create the soft, squishy, feel. Even though velours have developed quite a reputation (as in ewh! A velour sweatsuit!), the right color velour fabric would make a fabulous dress – and it’s not as stiff as a woven velveteen.
Interlocks are lightweight, but usually heavier than single knits. The edges don’t curl when they are stretched, and the fabric drapes well, making it very popular to sew. It may be difficult to tell right from wrong side because the fabric has ribs on both sides (unless it’s got a print, then you know which side is which).
Ribbing fabrics are used on the edges of tshirts and as cuffs on sweatshirts because of the extra stretchiness.
Jerseys can be made from wool, cotton (like t-shirt fabric) silk (luxurious!), or polyester and blends.
Tricot is a warp-knit fabric that is used extensively in the lingerie industry. Most tricot is produced using chemically produced yarns that are smooth (i.e. polyester, nylon). Tricot can be used for dresses, nightgowns (especially the kind that has a brushed side), blouses and shirts.
Raschel knits are also warp-knits. This fabric is usually easy to recognize – it looks most often like a sweater, or a “waffle” weave (like in thermal underwear).
Knits are very distinctive – and are usually in a separate area of most fabric stores. They drape and are easy to fit because they have that extra stretch to “ease” over and around body parts. They don’t wrinkle, but may shrink more than woven fabrics (make sure and wash before cutting!) Most knits do not ravel, so seam finishes are not always necessary. Interfacings, zippers, and linings are not usually necessary either, so the sewing of a garment can be completed quickly.
Here are our tips on how to choose knit fabrics to get the fit and look you want.
Here is the help you need to pin and cut your non-woven fabric.
How to sew knit fabric - not as difficult as it seems!