Unravelling jersey knits

Unravelling jersey knits

Hello – it’s Alice here – with what I hope is a useful guide to some different types of jersey fabric. If like me, you’ve spent most of your sewing life working with woven fabrics, jersey can be a bit of a mystery. Now, obviously I’ve learned a lot about them over the last few years but as with most things, my learning is an ongoing process. I’ll hold my hand up to having chosen the wrong jersey for a top or a dress on more than one occasion – and I’ve had conversations with lots of you who’ve done the same.

Matching the right jersey to a particular project can be a tricky one. We thought then, that it might be helpful to pull some jerseys from our collections (including some new ones due in the next week or two!) and show how the construction and composition of each one, affects their drape and therefore what you might use them for. 

Before we start though, it’s worth saying that as with any fabric, there are few ‘absolutes’ in terms of your choices. Personal preference plays a role; also two jerseys might look very similar on paper or in an image – and yet behave quite differently for a number of reasons. It’s why we offer our free sample service and also why we always encourage you call or email if you need to check on a fabric. I’d also suggest talking to your sewing chums – in person or on social media. I’ve learned a huge amount from other people – and I’ve never met anyone yet who didn’t want to talk about a garment they’d created 😉 so do ask around!

Introducing jersey knits

Jersey fabrics are fabrics that are knitted (on amazing machines) rather than woven on looms. Like anything knitted, they have a natural ability to stretch and change shape due to their knitted structure. Jerseys are at the heart of our collections during the transitional months, more so in autumn than at any other time of the year. We love layering them – and they’re easy to take off or pull on quickly if the day turns out to be warmer (or colder) than expected.

However not all jerseys are the same. Some are single-knits,with a simple knit structure. Others may have more complex knit structures; heavier and warmer. Most have some elastane content to help them fit and move with ease as well as to make them easier to pull on and off. And of course the yarn (or more often, the blend of yarn) they’ve been knitted from, will affect their behaviour and use.

Knitted fabrics don’t fray when cut – and provided their knit structure is reasonably tight, you have often get away with leaving a raw edge, especially with a more casual garment.

Here are some of the more common types of jersey, based on our collections. There are many more we could choose – especially more technical fabrics used for sports – however the following are among those you’re most likely to encounter when planning a project.

(NOTE: At the time of posting we’re in the process of building up our jersey stocks as it’s the very beginning of autumn. I’ve linked to in-stock examples where possible and we’ll update this blog as new jerseys arrive).

1. Micromodal single-knit

This jersey is knitted with a very fine, soft micromodal yarn (similar to viscose) with a little elastane. You can see how it has a very fluid drape with very little in the way of shape-holding capacity. We use these jerseys for loungewear and lingerie, as well as draping tops and tunics. It could also be used for t-shirts or t-shirt and wrap-style dresses.

Micromodal single knit jersey

Micromodal jersey is beautifully soft – I made my yoga top using the Isla Top pattern from Tessuti.

2. Viscose single knit

This is a medium-weight viscose jersey, also with some elastane. Although not quite as fine as the micromodal, it’s still a very draping fabric. Again, we’d use this type of jersey for tops and dresses that have some drape and movement; these types of jersey are great for designs with ruches ruffles and gathers.

Viscose single knit jersey

If you’re a fan of classic wrap knit dresses (I’m not – they really don’t work on me, however much I’d like them to!) then viscose jersey is perfect – using patterns like the ‘Olivia’ Dress from Named Clothing.

‘Olivia’ Dress pattern from Named Clothing

3. Bamboo/cotton single knit (coming very soon!)

The cotton content in this jersey helps give it a little more shape, although it’s knitted from fine yarns. Tops and dresses that have movement are going to work well with this fabric too.

Bamboo/cotton mix single knit

This is another fabric that would work for a classic wrap dress – it has enough drape and movement.

4. Cotton single knit (Autumn stock due very soon!)

As with the other jerseys, this cotton knit has some elastane content. The cotton yarns are slightly heavier and don’t have the drape of the cellulose-based fibres. It’s great for t-shirts, leggings, relaxed trousers and casual dresses.

If you’re a leggings fan then this is the perfect fabric – look for good opacity and a lively stretch-and-return without too much bulk. The (free!) Leggings pattern from Peg Legs is a great place to start.

5. Cotton french terry

The looped texture on the reverse of this stretch cotton jersey helps give it more structure than the regular cotton jersey, and more opacity too. It’s beautifully comfortable to wear and a good ’starter’ jersey to work with as it’s very stable. Hoodies, casual trousers, tunics – this is a fabric made for activity and lounging alike.

Cotton french terry

If you like your loungewear, then this combined hoodie and sweatshirt pattern from Seamwork would be perfect for a cotton french terry.

6. Medium-weight ponte Roma jersey

This is a doubleknit jersey with an interlocking knit structure that gives it opacity and reslience. Most ponte Roma jerseys are a blend of polyester, viscose and elastane but they can vary a great deal in terms of weight, feel and drape. This is a soft and draping ponte Roma – we use it for coatigans, sweaters, lounging trousers and dresses. Like all these jerseys it washes well and is easy to wear.

Medium-weight draping ponte Roma jersey

We’ve used our ponte Roma range for lots of our kits including our Toaster Sweater Kit. They wear and wash well and are really easy to work with.

Our Toaster Sweater kit in ‘Columbus’ navy ponte Roma jersey

7. Structured ponte Roma jersey (stocks due later this month)

This is an example of one of our more structured doubleknits. It’s a variation on the same knit structure and composition and we love using these doubleknits for cigarette-style trousers, more fitted jackets and dresses and pencil skirts too. 

Structured ponte Roma jersey

Structured ponte Roma jerseys are great for smartening up a jersey look. The ‘Wallis’ Pant from Style Arc is a classic jodhpur style, perfect for this type of fabric.

‘Wallis’ Pant from Style Arc

Any more for any more?

I hope this is a helpful resource – if you’ve anything to add (there’s always more!) then please do post in the comments below. Likewise if there’s a type of jersey knit that you’d like us to consider stocking then let us know too – we love to have your suggestions

Finally – don’t forget, it’s always worth checking the videos in our fabric descriptions if you want to see how a jersey fabric moves and whether it might be suitable for your project. If you’re not sure, then we’re always happy to advise!

6 thoughts on “Unravelling jersey knits

  1. Tracey says:

    Thanks Alice. This info is sooooo helpful. Although I’ve been sewing for more years than I care to remember 😉, I’ve only just ventured into the world of Jersey fabrics having recently invested in an overlocker. Having this level of advice gives you the confidence to attempt projects with fabrics you might otherwise have shied away from.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Tracey – I’m so pleased it hit the spot! I will confess that when my overlocker first arrived a few years ago I eyed it balefully in its box for longer than I care to admit. As with you I suspect, the market stalls and school lessons of my childhood never offered anything in the way of jersey fabrics and so they had to be learned about relatively recently. I feel like a ‘jersey tamer’ sometimes! But I’m loving learning about them and as with all things, a bit of patience and practice go a long way. Thank you for letting us know we’re on the right track – and don’t forget we’re always happy to send out samples 😉

  2. Diane Collins says:

    Awesome Post! Thanks so much Alice. Now I believe I can sew Jersey Knits and have a better understanding about their various characteristics and what I can make with them for my wardrobe.

    Diane Collins

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Diane – I’m so pleased this is useful for you! I know you have some samples on the way so hopefully you’ll be able to feel the jerseys and have a benchmark to work from. Have a good weekend!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Felicity – yes, absolutely! French terry fabrics do vary – we’d suggest a cotton version (rather than a modal or drapier french terry that might not stand up to as much buffeting). Don’t forget to pre-wash before cutting. Our cotton french terry fabrics come in from the EU so there’s a break in our supply at the moment but we very much hope that won’t be the case for too long… 🤞

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