When I release a pattern the first question I get is ‘what kind of knit fabric is best?’
I always include fabric recommendations in every pattern but sometimes you need a little more hand holding or even a resource or two. It can be hard to find quality knit fabric in person in stores like Joann’s or Hobby Lobby (although, their knit fabric selection HAS gotten a lot better recently). So here is my personal list of places I like to shop online. And bonus! Some of these shops are offering my readers a discount!
- Cali Fabrics– great source for stretch wovens (needed for patterns like the Sabrina Slims). They also have a nice selection of double knits, ponte roma and novelty knits.
- Fabric Mart Fabrics– designer closeouts from the likes of Maggie London and Ralph Lauren. Sign up for their newsletter, they have awesome sales regularly. They do a great job of showing the fabric’s drape and opacity and usually list the stretch percentage which is great when you have to have a specific amount.
- Hawthorne Threads– my personal favorite shop for Art Gallery knits. They ship lighting fast! Which is a HUGE bonus point in my book. I also really like that you can link up your own projects created with their fabric on their site.
- Imagine Gnats– gorgeous collection of chambray (perfect for Summer Caye pants!) and just about everything else.
BONUS: Imagine Gnats is offering Love Notions readers 10% everything except gift certificates through the end of October. Use code LOVE10 at checkout.
- Knitpop– have you gotten on the brushed poly bandwagon? If not, start here! She ships lightning fast. She also carries a nice selection of Liverpool, french terry and rayon blends.
- LDG Textiles– this shop gets Lularoe closeouts which is super fun. They also have cotton/lycra, french terry and sweater knits.
- Phat Quarters– this shop carries everything from trendy quilting cottons to knits from the likes of Art Gallery, Kokka (these French bulldogs are adorable!!) & Cloud 9.
BONUS: Phat Quarters is offering Love Notions readers 25% with code Love25 through the 10/21/16.
- Pretty Posh Prints– be sure to join her Facebook group for her stockings. She gets lots of gorgeous floral prints in knits like liverpool (which is basically a textured poly double knit- perfect Sybil skirts and Tessa sheath’s!) and jersey blends and brushed poly.
- Raspberry Creek Fabrics– french terry & cotton/lycra are my favorite things to buy here. Plus, they have their our club lines printed in really cool patterns.
BONUS: Raspberry Creek is offering Love Notions readers 15% of their order through the end of October. Use code LOVENOTIONS15 at checkout.
- So Sew English– another great source for those trendy brushed poly knits. They get awesome prints but be aware the shipping times can be very long. That just tells you how popular they are. Hopefully that will improve as they grow.
- Stylish Fabrics– are you looking for sweater knits for a Boyfriend Cardigan or a Canyon Cardigan? This is my favorite place for that. They also have an excellent selection of rayon jersey spandex blends that are perfect for Laundry Day Tee’s. And at less than $5, that’s hard to beat!
- Sincerely Riley– more gorgeous french terry (those florals are stunning!) and cotton/lycra.
- Vinegar & Honey– this is a fairly new shop offering cotton/lycra, rayon blends and the popular brushed poly.
Now, about that stretch…
An important thing to consider when purchasing knit fabric is how much stretch it has. Some patterns have specific stretch needs such as the Sabrina Slims and Leggin’s. With looser fitting patterns the stretch percentage isn’t nearly as important. Often times these fabric sources will list the amount of stretch the fabric has both horizontally and vertically (if any). Fabric Mart Fabrics does this as well as Cali Fabrics. And if you need a specific amount of stretch most of these sources are more than happy to answer a quick email asking that. Never hesitate to reach out if you have a question.
Back when I released the Sabrina Slims and then did a sewalong, I created this stretch guide you can download and use to check your fabrics with.
It’s all about the drape
Another important factor when considering knit fabric is the drape. Drape describes how well the fabric flows over your body. Knit fabrics will have some degree of drape that could be describe any where from fluid to stiff. The image below show the difference in drape for liverpool, scuba, cotton/lyrca, brushed poly and rayon. I draped each of these fabrics over my child-size mannequin. You can see how the different fabrics naturally fall away or cling to the mannequin depending on the kind of drape it has.
The rayon blend has the most drape, you can actually see the shoulders of the mannequin and how the fabric sits closely to the body. Brushed poly has a lot of drape too but not quite as much as the rayon. The liverpool and scuba have well defined cones of fabric coming off and you can’t tell at all what’s underneath. The cotton/lycra has more drape than the liverpool or scuba but not as much as the brushed poly or rayon.
Definitions and descriptions
Here is a quick glossary of the many different types of knits Love Notions patterns most commonly use.
- Jersey- this knit fabric has a definite right and wrong side. Usually a lighter weight with no recovery.
- Interlock- a stable knit, usually on the heavier side. Usually, interlock knits don’t have lycra or spandex, so while this fabric does stretch, it doesn’t have good recovery. This is a good first-timer fabric because it doesn’t curl while you’re working with it.
- Cotton/lycra (c/l)- this is probably the easiest to find knit these days. If you are in the custom fabric world you’ll find that most customs are printed on some blend of this. The face of the fabric is smooth and it contains some amount of lycra (or spandex) to give it good recovery. This knit is ideal for a huge range of styles, everything from leggings to dresses. Most c/l I’ve found has four-way stretch (it stretches both vertically and horizontally) which is critical for close fitting garments like leggings.
Sewcialist (soh-shuh-list) n.– One who would just rather be sewing… all the time.
- French terry- usually a medium to heavy weight knit that is perfect for outerwear like hoodies, joggers and cardigans. This fabric type is smooth on the right side and has loops on the wrong side. Stretch and recovery can vary greatly. When I find a french terry that has spandex I almost always buy it, I love that combo!
- Ponte di roma- another stable, medium weight double knit fabric similar to interlock. The difference is ponte is some blend of rayon plus polyester. Because this is a stable, firm knit it’s a great choice for bottoms (like the Sabrina Slims) and other pieces that need structure (such as the Tessa Sheath dress).
- Scuba- this is a fun knit. Scuba is also a double knit that is ‘lofty’ and made from polyester. It’s very smooth and has a sheen. Scuba has a full-bodied/stiff drape that can be fun to play with. This type of knit is good for garments that need structure such as the Sybil pencil skirt. Because it’s 100% poly it will get hot and doesn’t breath so be sure to take that into account.
- Liverpool- This is an old fabric by a new name. Liverpool is a textured double knit. 100% polyester with good drape (not as full-bodied/stiff as scuba but more so than ponte). I like this knit for dresses and skirts.
There’s no such thing as too much knit fabric! Here are few more types to look out for.
- Brushed poly- this is the new kid on the block. Made popular by the pop-up boutique Lularoe and often described as ‘magical’ and ‘butter soft’. This knit is 100% polyester and is usually somewhere around light to medium weight. It has excellent drape (perfect for Laundry Day Tee’s.) and at least one side has a brushed face which gives it that soft as butter feeling. It can even be found as double brushed where BOTH sides are brushed!
- Jersey rayon spandex- this knit fabric is my *favorite* for Laundry Day Tee’s. It has a nice silky feeling, is usually a lighter weight and has a very flowy drape. Stylishfabric.com is my go-to place for this knit. They have a great selection of colors and it’s a really nice weight. They describe it as heavy weight but it’s more medium weight in my book.
- Sweater knit- this is a very broad term but it’s worth mentioning here since I have several patterns that recommend this such as the Boyfriend Cardigan and the Canyon Cardigan. Sweater knit is soft and is usually a light weight, a lot are sheer or not completely opaque. Most sweater knits that I’ve come across have good stretch but not very much, if any, recovery so the garment you’re sewing may ‘grow’. My favorite type of sweater knit is labeled as Hacci. I’ve even found brushed Hacci which is just heaven in a knit.
It can be frustrating to sew knits solely on a sewing machine. There are a few things you can try to make the process more enjoyable:
- Be sure you’re using the appropriate needle. Ballpoint needles are ideal for knit fabrics.
- Lengthen your stitches. When I turn my machine on it defaults to a 2 stitch length. That is way too short when working with knit fabrics. I increase mine to at least 3.5. If I’m working with a knit that is loosely woven (such as a sweater knit) I bump it up to a 4. Get to know your machine’s stitch lengths on a scrap to find that sweet spot.
- Reduce your presser foot pressure. On my machine there is a wheel that I can use to adjust this. Check your manual to see how to adjust yours.
- I’ve often seen a walking foot recommended to help with knit fabric sewing. I’ve never needed to use one myself but if you’ve tried the above tips and didn’t get good results, it might be worth investing in a new foot.
- When sewing areas that will be stretched, such as when a neckline is stretched to go over the head, use the stretch stitch. This will let the stitching stretch without popping. This stitch looks like a lightening bolt.
Whew, that was a lot of info! I hope it’s helpful, feel free to share this on Pinterest to help out your sewing friends.
Today is our first day of the Love Notions Spectacular! Are you a member of the Pattern Support Group? If not, be sure to join in on the fun! We have contests and games running all week with some awesome prizes! We’ll have over 25 winners once the week is over!