Choosing a Knit Fabric
Some sewers find that a knit fabric is hard to handle during sewing – but often, that’s because they are using the wrong
type of stretchable fabric
for a certain garment, or it has the wrong amount of stretch. There are several factors to consider when choosing fabric for garments that need to stretch.
The right pattern
First, choose a pattern that is designed, specifically, to stretch. Don’t try to substitute knit fabric for a pattern that suggests woven. You’ll only create fit and design problems for yourself. Most patterns for knit fabric have simple lines, different ease, and fewer details (like no zippers and interfacings).
Finding the Amount of Stretch
On the back of your pattern envelope, look at the top edge. There should be a scale to help you determine the amount of stretch needed.
Usually, the scale directions will tell you to check the crosswise stretch (that is, from selvedge to selvedge). Make sure that you pick the right direction of stretch – if the pattern calls for one-way or two-way, horizontal or vertical stretch (or both), make sure that’s the direction your chosen fabric stretches.
Don’t grab the edge of the fabric to check for amount of stretch – pinch in about 5” in from the edge. The cut edge always stretches more, and you don’t want that to be your guide.
Again, stretchable fabric patterns are designed with different ease, so if your fabric doesn’t stretch as much, the garment may not fit properly. But, it’s okay to get one that stretches more than what the pattern envelope suggests.
Knits are very elastic, maybe even more than what you need for the garment you are making. You may want to check for recovery – how well does the fabric return to its pre-stretched form. Just like elastics, some knits will immediately spring back when stretched. Try this before buying – you don’t need a saggy bottom of your skirt or new bathing suit!
Time to wash, cut and sew
Just like wovens, the fabric will have finishes that need to be washed off before laying out for pattern placement. The fabric will shrink too! So take the time to launder or steam all your fabric before cutting. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start cutting.
Here are some tips on how to cut knit fabric easily.
When you are ready to sew your stretchable fabric - here's help .
Want to know more about the different types of stretchable fabrics?