For some, the name of the material means very little, unless they happen to be a fashion designer. For others, the name represents beautiful clothing while for still others, the names of fabrics tell them exactly what the material is all about and how to use it.
Jersey, rib, elastane, and many more names are placed on different types of knit fabrics. While they share the same construction style, each knit title tells you more about the material. For example, elastane lets you know it stretches well but is very hard to work with
To learn more about the different types of knits out there, just continue to read our article. it brings you as much information about as many knit types as it can. Sometimes the same fabric will be found under different names like spandex, lycra, and elastane.
You can’t always go to color, texture, stretch, and other common identifying characteristics to discover which material or clothing item is knit or woven. A lot of fabrics look exactly the same and the only way to tell them apart is to look for minute details that are different.
To qualify as a knit fabric, the material has to be constructed in a manner that loops long lengths of a single fiber together. The yarn is made to go one way and when you look at the surface of the material there is only one direction the fibers go in.
What this technique does is help the fibers and the fabric stretch and that is what knit fabrics are known for. There will be those times where you will be thankful that you were wearing knit clothing.
That is usually when you have to stretch more than you are ready to. You can avoid some embarrassing moments when you wear knit clothing items. Other qualities like durability and comfort come in a close second to the ability to stretch.
Those three elements make knit fabrics very popular. They are the keys to being able to go about your day worry-free.
Well, that is according to some sewers anyways. We think the above three elements are as important as knowing the percentage of stretch in any given knit fabric. The percentage is important to know as it helps you design your sewing project better and helps make fabric selection a lot easier.
To figure out the stretch percentage all you will need will be a ruler, the material, and a couple of pins. Also, the following instructions will work for both directions on a given fabric piece.
1. Fold the fabric in half
2. Mark of a 5-inch section in a straight line. You can use pins to make this mark.
3. Hold the fabric against the ruler and line up your markings.
4. Holding the fabric firmly on one end, pull the other to see how far it will go along the ruler. Record the total and do the other direction repeating this process.
Every 1/2 inch equals 10% stretch. So if the fabric stretches an inch and a half, then you have 30% stretch in the material, no matter the direction. Then once you know how much stretch is in the fabric, you can compare it with how much stretch you need or want in the clothing item.
You just keep checking fabrics till you find the right one in the right color. When you find the right one, you make your purchase and your sewing project stands to look and respond better.
The exact number tends to vary depending on who you talk to and which websites you visit. Some say 12, others say 5 and on it goes. Of course, under the common knit fabric categories are many sub knit fabrics. If you include those names then you have a fairly long list.
You are free to add more to the numbers included in this list if you want to. We may miss one or two that you know as knits but that is expected as different people classify fabrics in different ways or know those fabrics under different names.
Some generic categories that knits fall into are as follows:
1. Super-stretch knits- these fabrics have 100% stretch in both directions. That means your fabric test should reach 10 inches when you pull on the material. These fabrics need negative ease.
2. Stable knit- the stretch percentage in these materials only reach 15 to 20% in the width direction. They are often treated like woven materials. A little extra ease is needed with these materials.
3. Moderate stretch knits- the stretch factor is a little higher in these fabrics, reaching 25 to 30% in the width. usually, the materials in this category are used for loose-fitting sportswear.
4. Stretchy knit- both the length and the width stretch about 50% and still have great drape. These materials are great for tight-fitting clothing items and work well with athletic wear, dresses, and tops.
5. Rib knits- there is 100% stretch in this knit option but their use is limited somewhat. While used for tops rib knits are used in waistbands, cuffs, and bindings.
In this section, we will name and describe 11 and there may be more. Everyone seems to have a different number.
1. Jersey knit- the most common and probably the most well-known knit fabric you can buy. This is the style that is used most often for T-shirts and dresses and that is because it has a good drape.
2. Elastane- this material is soft as cotton but it is very difficult to work with. You will find that elastane is used instead of spandex or lycra labels but they are all the same material.
3. Rib knits- this material has distinct vertical ribs and those ribs are found on both sides of the fabric. You will find this reversible material in turtleneck sweaters, hems, cuffs, and similar uses. Figure flattering clothes can be made from this material
4. Double knit- there is less stretch in these fabrics but the material looks the same on both sides. It fits the stable category of knits mentioned above. Its best characteristics are its fluffy nature and it can be a very thick material.
5. Interlock- Some people confuse this knit style with jersey knit but unlike that competitor, this material looks the same on both sides. It's about double the thickness of jersey knit as well and great for making dresses and some tailored clothing items.
6. Lace knits- while it is a very attractive fabric to turn into special clothing items, it is a very hard material to maintain. Its other key feature is that it does stretch well but just be careful how you clean it.
7. Mesh knits- transparent, lightweight, and has good stretch with the look of tulle materials. That is a good combination to have when your outfit requires a unique romantic look. You can add sequins to the material and enhance its look.
8. Piled knit- this category of knits also includes eyelash, terry cloth, stretch velvet, velour, and fleece knit styles. They all come with a piled look with eyelash mimicking fur and terry mimicking towels. These materials come with either a 2 way or 4-way stretch.
9. Sweater knits- as the name says, this material is reserved for making sweaters. Another name for this fabric is raschel knits and it comes with a close-knit style with a stable strong feel to it. Can also come with an open weave.
10. Purl knit- this is bulky material for when you want to feel really warm It comes with a 2-way stretch and looks the same on both sides of the fabric. This material makes sweaters as well
11. Tricot knits- the ribs on these fabrics go both ways. On one side they are crossways and on the other, they are lengthwise. This material is usually thin and very soft. The stretch is found greater in the crossways direction than the lengthwise direction.
Honorable mention- Hand-made knit fabrics- these are those fabrics you knit yourself using knitting needles. According to some people, this option produces the best-looking knit fabrics you can find.
Creating these fabrics does take a lot of time and a lot of patience. But the love the person has for knitting and who the project is intended make that effort worthwhile and the fabric all the more beautiful.
There are lots of examples of knit fabrics under the different categories. The difference between them will be the fabric fibers used in their construction. For example, there is cotton jersey and cotton spandex. Two different knit types using one of the same fibers.
Jersey knits can use cotton but the other fibers that can be used are polyester and rayon. The latter two usually have an excellent drape to them and add a nice stretch element to their overall construction.
Cotton spandex is a blend of spandex and cotton. When you need stretch as well as comfort, this may be the best combination you can get. Ribbed knits are generally made from cotton as well but often spandex is used to make sure there is enough stretch in the material
That stretch is needed when this material is used for areas on clothing that need extra reach like waistlines. Then there is the French terry knit which has a smooth jersey top and different looping styles on the back. This type is more of a pile knit than anything else.
Sweatshirt fleece is exactly as it says. It comes with a smooth top with a brushed fleece wrong side. The material is used for hoodies and other sweatshirt styles. but they also can be used for sweat pants or jogging bottoms.
Hacci sweater knits or just sweater knits have a very loopy style to them and it is an open-knit texture. More than what is found in cotton knits. This material is made mostly from blending fibers, both natural and synthetic ones.
Then there is the lycra spandex knits which are often used for swimwear and other activewear clothing. Those items need lots of stretch and these fibers are the ones to provide that stretch. These fibers are often blended with nylon, rayon and have a 4-way stretch.
Ponte de Roma knits are an example of a good double knit fabric. They are usually made from cotton and rayon fibers but many have been found with different fibers blended. These materials are also very stable and easy to sew.
Some of the knit types we did not mention are found in what is called the specialty knit category. This category covers a lot of knit styles and fibers including vegan leather, lace, techno scuba and stretch knit denim, and so on.
The fabrics in this section tend to be used for jackets, jeans, and specialty clothing like scuba outfits and so on. Just make sure to test the stretch before buying to make sure it has the amount you need.
We know that the following structures fit regular knitting methods but they can be found in machine knitted fabrics also. The structure of knitted fabrics depends on the knitting method used to create them. The knit structure terms refer to how fabrics are formed through the interlocking of loops whether done by hand or machine.
There are two methods used, one is the warp and the other is the weft method. The latter method produces both single and double knit fabrics which include- single jersey, lacoste, rib, purl, interlock, cable bird’s eye, cardigans, milano ribs, and pointelle.
Then there are specialized weft knits like - intarsia, jacquard jersey, knitted terry, knitted velour, sliver knit, fleece, and French terry. The warp method produces knits like- tricot and raschel.
4 basic stitches are used in the weft method of filling knits. The first is the jersey stitch or the plain stitch; the second is the purl stitch, the third, rib stitch, and finally, the interlock stitch, and the last one is used for both single and double knit fabrics.
There will be some differing opinions here and one reason for that is people may only mention the knits they know most about. For example, they may say jersey knit made with cotton fibers is the softest because that is what they are most familiar with.
The softest knit will be the one you like the most and made from the fabric you like. There are some good soft knits made from polyester but they do not compare to those styles made from natural materials.
Cotton and the right kind of wool usually make up the softest material you can find in a knit fabric. Double knits may be the softest knit type as it is a fluffy and thick material. That always feels good next to the body.
Sweater knits will also be nice and soft when made from the right materials. In the end, it will be the style and fiber that feels good to you. many knits feel good and soft once they are broken in and worn for some time.
Jersey is very lightweight as any T-shirt wearer can attest. Then there are the mesh knits which are sheer and very lightweight in nature. It would be pretty hard to top those as the lightest knits you can find.
A lot will depend on the style of knitting done to the fibers as you can make lightweight fibers out of cotton, wool, rayon, viscose, and synthetics. Pile and double knit are certainly not lightweight materials.
In the Jersey type, you will find a lot of lightweight fibers including silk. Rib knits are not that lightweight as they need to be durable to handle the stress that comes from their placement on clothing items.
Lace knits will compete with mesh knits for the title of the lightest knit fabric. It is just harder to care for this material which may be why you do not see it as often.
There are lots of different types of knits. Any one of them can meet your sewing project needs. The key will be to find them in the fibers you want to wear. The different knits do have different purposes so you can wear them all at one time or another.
Just find the right color and don’t forget to do the stretch test to find the perfect fabric for the project you want to do.