I’ve heard from both beginner and intermediate level sewists that they avoid knits all together. Personally I love working with knits. Fitting is easier. They’re comfy to wear. And the prints and textures are endless. With the right know how ANYONE can work with knit fabric.
Just as diverse as their woven counterparts knits come in a variety of weights with vary degrees of stretch and drape. From scuba, to swim, to jersey, to ITY the options are truly endless. Just like their woven counterparts, all knit types have a different feel, weight and drape. Here I’ve broken down my most utilized types of knits.
- Ponte di Roma – This knit is used A TON in ready-to-wear. Ready-to-wear clothing retailer Boden LOVES to utilize this fabric in their designs. Ponte is soft, a bit stretchy and STRUCTURED. Which makes it perfect for applications where you want a tailored and/or structured look without sacrificing comfort. Ponte is also quite thick for a knit, so for pencil skirts and fitted pants it’s great for skimming over curves. I tend to gravitate towards Pontes with a higher rayon content vs. polyester content. Yes, the rayon types are far more expensive, but I have found the polyester dominant type ponte’s pill like crazy. Note that Ponte isn’t going to stretch nearly as much as a jersey or ITY, so if your pattern doesn’t specifically call for ponte, make sure to give yourself a bit of additional ease to make up for the less stretchy material. I’ve done the Colette Moneta twice in ponte (unfortunately, I chose poly ponte and they are both a disastrous mess after a few trips in the washing machine) the Seamwork Margo pencil skirt (didn’t love the drafting) and the Cashmerette Dartmouth Top, which turned out lovely in a more structured fabric.
- Scuba – Also called techno or neoprene, Scuba is a double-knit fabric (similar thickness to ponte) but much lighter in weight. It sounds strange, but it’s almost as if air is infused into the fabric, making it lightweight yet thick at the same time (I know this isn’t how it’s actually made, just how it feels to me!). This type of fabric makes a killer body con dress, which I used here! The applications really are endless. I’ve found this fabric comes in the coolest textures and prints, but be warned, it really is not breathable. So although the prints scream summertime it’s almost always made of polyester and spandex. Cute but you will sweat!
- Cotton Jersey – Cotton jersey can be used for a number of applications most notably t-shirts, comfy dresses and tanks. It’s soft, stretchy and washes well. Without a shadow of a doubt my favorite brand of cotton jersey to work with is Art Gallery. Their cotton jersey’s are 95% cotton, 5% spandex and super soft. The brand partners with print designers to feature incredibly unique and vibrant designs. This summer I have been wearing my Art Gallery brand knits on repeat and they are holding up well! Of course they aren’t as pristine as the day I bought them but I am only seeing extremely minor pilling in the armpit area (and honestly I wear some of these makes once a week!) My recent makes using Art Gallery brand cotton jersey include this t-shirt dress, this wrap dress and this tank. Be warned, Art Gallery brand cotton jerseys shrink by 10% and roll over 1.5″ on the ends. I always wash and dry my fabric first then when I am ready to use the fabric I press with a DRY iron (steam will only make the curling edges worse) and lightly spray with starch. I use pattern weights to hold down the edges of my fabric until it cools.
- Rayon Jersey – I really really really love Rayon Jersey. It drapes like magic, is far more breathable than polyester based knits and holds up incredibly well. Many ready to wear companies are incorporating rayon into their t-shirts and tanks thanks to the soft texture of rayon. Personally, I’m a huge fan of bamboo rayon, this stuff is like butter! But also on the pricer side. I love to use rayon jersey for swingy tops and wrap dresses. But take note, as a mid-weight fabric that’s super stretchy it can hang too long in projects that utilize continuous pattern pieces. I found this out the hard way when I made a wrap dress using a rayon jersey. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why the dress was so long after measuring and re-measuring my pattern pieces. The fabric stretches so much and the weight of the fabric combined made the dress appear longer than it actually was. On the bright side, rayon jersey has great recovery so although it will stretch it will definitely bounce back.
- ITY – Short for interlock twist yarns, ITY, is a soft, stretchy knit fabric with incredible recovery and great bounce. I’ve used ITY for bodysuits, wrap dresses, and jumpsuits. Some ITYs even have a nice sheen which allow for a more dressed up feel. ITY comes in solid and super-vibrant prints. I’ve found ITY pretty easy to work with as long as you pick the right needle!
- Swim/ Nylon Spandex – If you plan to make a swimsuit (trust me it’s way easier than you think!) please, please, pleaseeee use the proper fabric. You’re going to want that thing to hold up in the water (or you can flash a bunch of beachgoers, your choice! haha) Look for fabric that’s specifically marked for swim and should include nylon and spandex. The Fabric Fairy is currently my go-to for swim fabric. I’ve been very pleased with their selection and their prices and utilized their fabrics in my Sophie Swimsuit.
These are just a handful of the types of knit fabrics out there. Honestly, the list could go on for hours! And remember to always match your needle to your project. This applies to all sewing, but in particular knits. If you plan to sew with knits you must use a ballpoint/ stretch needle. Schmetz is my go-to brand. They even have this handy color-coded chart so that you can match your needle to your sewing project.
For most projects I use the Schmetz Stretch 75/11 needle and for heavier knits (scuba and ponte) I use the Stretch 90/14 needle. I find trial and error is your best bet. Grab a scrap, match a needle and give it a go. If your stitches are skipping odds are your needle isn’t matched to your knit.
If you aren’t already I hope you’ll start experimenting with knit fabrics. What’s your favorite knit to work with? Are you holding back from working with knits???
And if you’re in the Philly area (or fancy a visit to one of the world’s greatest cities) come join me on Sunday October 15th where we’ll be talking all about knits, in my new class, Conquer Your Fear of Knits!
Happy sewing and styling,