Tuesday, November 1, 2011

T&T Tuesday: Knits

t and t tuesday

Knit fabrics are my favorite to sew with.

knits 1

Up until recently, all my knits were bought at Joann’s with the exception of a few from the stash from my MIL. I would see adorable shirts made from cute knits both in stores and out in blog land, and wondered why Joann’s just couldn’t carry such cute fabric. So when I had some inspiration for greater variety in the scarves for my shop, I finally ventured into online fabric shopping.


I love to be able to feel fabric before I buy it, so buying a material sight unfelt was a little scary. I didn’t want to throw my money away into something that would feel awful. So I did some googling. And a lot of reading. And finally took a leap and bought some knit. And I was very pleased with my purchases.

I’ve found three things to understand as you’re looking at knits both online and in store: Type of Knit, Fabric Content and Stretch.
(Please note: All the information provided here was from my basic research on the internet and personal experience. I don’t have any formal education in textiles, so I’m not going to be very technical here.)

Types of Knit
There are so many different types of knits, but I found a few specific types kept coming up.
Jersey—I LOVE jersey knit. It’s lightweight, smooth, and so soft. I find myself only really just looking at jersey knits these days because anything else just won’t make me happy. Jersey, in my opinion, has the absolute best drape to it, which means it will lay nicely for clothes.
Ribbed—Like it sounds, ribbed knit will have raised rows in it where you can see the stitching. Like a micro version of what you’d knit with yarn and needles. I don’t use ribbed much at all—I think the only project I’ve really liked it for was a pair of leggings and a onesie for a little girl.
Interlock—This is the kind of knit I typically buy at Joann’s. It’s nice and smooth, but not as much as jersey. If you look closely, you can see the knit stitches in the material.
Sweater—A thicker knit, picture a light weight sweater.

If you’re unsure of whether or not the knit you’re selecting will work for your project, take a look at the fabric’s description in the online listing, like in this one from fabric.com

fabric description

In the description it suggests what types of projects the fabric is perfect for. In this listing, the fabric is" “…perfect for tops, T-shirts, loungewear and children’s apparel.” Don’t feel locked into just those items. If the project you have in mind would be made from the same types of fabrics as those listed, then you’re on the right track.

Fabric Content
I don’t know about you, but when I hear certain names, I have stereotypes for them. When I hear polyester, I envision the nasty cheerleading uniform I wore in high school. Rayon reminds me of a teal dress I made for my aunt’s wedding back in 7th grade. Neither seem like suitable fabrics for the soft scarves I would want to wrap around my neck. But it turns out they’re perfect!

Polyester adds stability to a fabric and helps prevent shrinking. Too much polyester will reduce the comfort/softness of a fabric, so pay attention to the ratio of cotton to polyester. The fabrics I’ve bought that are 80% cotton, 20% polyester are very soft and flexible. The 50/50 blend is still soft, but has some stiffness to it.

Rayon is like cotton in that it is breathable and absorbent.

If you’re looking for a very soft, light weight fabric, look for a cotton/rayon content. If you’d like a little more structure to your material, keep an eye out for a polyester blend. Not sure what you’re working with? See how quickly your fabric absorbs water. Cotton and rayon will absorb quickly, polyester slowly.

This has been one of the most helpful aspects of a fabric’s description.


This chart helps give you an idea of what their percentage descriptions move. When you pull on your fabric, how much it flexes and stretches is the stretch. For a top to comfortably slip over your head and arms yet not be huge or with a zipper, stretch is what makes it happen. I like stretch in my infinity scarves because then a person can wrap it around more times. I like a top to have stretch because I don’t want to feel like I’ll be busting stitches as I pull it on and off. A more formal top that I want to have structure to it will have less stretch.

So now that you know a little more about how to read through fabric descriptions, are you feeling better about shopping online? I love the variety of options on fabric.com, but I also can find some more unique fabrics in random boutiques and smaller stores that have just started making their inventory available online. Just start using google. Etsy is also a great place for finding fabric, but I find most of the prices are higher (for knits, at least) than the other online stores I’ve looked at. Some of my favorite knit pieces have come from Etsy vendors who don’t necessarily sell fabric, but have a large piece they’re willing to part with in order to reduce their stash size.

And if you’re ready to start sewing with knits but are unsure about the how, check out this post on how to sew with knits.

What questions do you still have? Is there anything key you think I’ve left out?

Thanks for stopping by!

Parties I Like to Link Up With:


  1. This is such a great comprehensive tutorial. Thanks for sharing it!! I would Love it if you'd link up to my tuesday linky {totally tutorials tuesday} http://measuredbytheheart.com/2011/11/totally-tutorials-tuesday-111.html

  2. Denver Fabrics will mail you a sample for a small fee if you want to check out the fabric before you buy. They typically have reasonable prices on their fabrics & also offer specials & close outs at good prices.

  3. Thank you so much for this tutorial Jill! It's so helpful to have all this information in one place, and from someone that has been working with knits for a while :)

  4. Great article. I love working with knits and I love the fact that you detailed the stretch amounts!

  5. I have just started sewing with knits, and this is very helpful. Thanks!

  6. This is helpful. I've been wanting to try my hand at sewing knits. Thanks

  7. Sewing with knits has always made me nervous. But sooner or later I'm going to have to do it. This will be a big help when I take the plunge! Thanks so much :)

  8. Thanks for the info. I rarely sew with knits for the same reasons you listed. Joann's has a limited supply, and I am not sure what to buy online. I also worry about color - if the color will actually be what you see on the monitor. I m pinning your information for reference. Thanks!!!


I appreciate comments so much! I'll do my best to reply to you here in the comments section, especially if there is a question so future readers can see the answer.