For the layman, a knit fabric is what the t-shirts are made of. For me, knit is a stretchy fabric that makes beautiful clothes, comes in a variety of vivid colors and prints and hides a multitude of faults in my body by virtue of its elasticity. For the expert, jersey knit, rib knit and all those different types of knit fabric names make sense- but for you and me the beauty and ease of the collective knit fabrics are usually enough.
How is a knit fabric different from the woven fabric ?
A woven fabric is made by weaving one fiber with another in a criss-cross pattern but Knit fabrics are made by looping together long lengths of a single yarn. You see only one-way yarn all going in one direction on the surface of the knit fabric. This special type of construction makes the knit fabric stretch ( its most characteristic feature). You can see for yourself the ribs or visible vertical columns of loops on the surface of the fabric.
There are different types of knit fabrics which might confuse you when you reach a retail shop for buying fabric – because most of them look the same. But when you look carefully there are distinct features that differentiate these knit fabrics. Some of the most common knit fabric names that you will find in shops when you go fabric shopping are as below
1 Jersey knit
This is a light to medium weight single knit fabric. This is the most preferred knit fabric for making dresses and tshirts. It has a beautiful drape. It is also made in different types of fibers like, wool jersey, silk jersey etc.
You can see that the two sides of the fabric are different. One side of the fabric has only knit stitches ( which looks like chain stitches) and the other side has purl stitches. It has a fair amount of stretch as well.
Cotton jersey fabric is the most preferred of jersey fabric. It is a medium weight 4 way stretch knit fabric. T-shirt jersey is a cotton jersey with a 2 way stretch. T- shirt jersey doesnot have the soft drape of a rayon jersey fabric or silk jersey
Rayon jersey is a great fabric for sewing clothes as well because of its softness. It usually has a 4-way stretch . Interlock twist jersey, Matte Jersey, metallic jersey are other available variations
Spun Poly Jersey has a matte finish without too much stretch. Cotton-poly-rayon Jersey has all the fibers blended to form a superior fabric with a very soft feel and great drape
Jersey knit slub fabric – in this type of fabric slub yarns are added to the single jersey fabric for added thickness and better appearance. This results in horizontal lines throughout the fabric. But this fabric doesnot have much stretch.
Silk Jersey is a very soft almost see through, lightweight and shiny fabric with a very good drape and stretch. It is the best fabric for making tops and blouses and dresses
Burntout Jersey and Tissue Jersey are specialty Jersey fabrics with a seethrough look. The Burntout Jersey has burntout designs throughout.
2 Elastane knit
You take 10 tops in your cupboard and you will find that 8 of them is in this fabric.It has the comfort of cotton or at times polyester and stretchiness and ease of knit. These are lycra or spandex knit blend fabrics ( elastane) . It is soft but if you want to sew with them you may find it difficult. It is a great fabric for making sleepwear because of its comfort level.
Learn more about spandex/elastane/lycra here
3 Rib knit
Rib knits are fabrics with visible distinct vertical ribs on both sides of the fabric. It is a double-faced reversible fabric
It is usually used to make bands on turtlenecks, t-shirt neckband etc but you can make whole garments with this fabric as well. It has a crosswise stretch and a very soft feel. You can make drapey flattering clothes with this. Cardigans, sweaters, camisoles etc are usually made with rib knit fabric
Depending on the size of the rib, rib knits are available as 1*1 rib kit , 2*2 rib knit and 3* 3 rib knit and even 6* 6 knit.1*1 Rib is used for making tshirt collars ; 2*2 Rib is used for cuffs and neckbands. 1*3 rib knit is an uneven rib knit
Double knit is a medium weight knit fabric which usually looks the same on both sides and has less stretch than a single knit fabric. It looks on first glance as if two knit fabric is kept together ( hence the name). Usually, it looks same on both sides ( this is not always true, but mostly it is the same). It is thick and fluffy because of its special two needle construction. Many different fibers are used to make double knits. – cotton, rayon, wool etc, even synthetic fibers are used
Double knit with rayon is the most preferred double knit fabric because it is very soft.Ponte di Roma is a popular double knit fabric. Double pique, Double Jacquard are all double knits
This is a reversible knit fabric with very fine lengthwise ribs; You might confuse this fabric with a jersey knit but on closer reverse side look you will see that the fabric looks the same on both sides, unlike in jersey. The smooth surface of interlock knit fabric makes it suitable for design works, like fabric painting, embroidery etc.
It is thicker than other knits ( almost double the thickness of jersey knits) and hence you will find it easier to sew with. It is the stabler of all knits and keeps its shape to a degree and is great for making fitting dresses and even tailored clothes.
6 Lace knits
This is a beautiful fabric to make clothes with because this fabric combines the beauty of lace with the elasticity of knit- but the problem is in maintaining it; below is the photo of a lace knit after some over-enthusiastic washing – maybe I did pop it into the washing machine -ouch.
7 Mesh Knits
This is a durable open work knit which has the look of tulle fabric.It is sheer, lightweight and has a good stretch with good strength. It is available in very pretty prints.
Sequins are stitched with machine on this fabric to make beautiful sequined fabric
8 Piled knit
Eyelash Knit is knit fabric with a pile. It looks almost like faux fur because of the pile. It is usually used to make sweaters and for making trims.
Terrycloth Knit is a knit fabric which mimics the look of the toweling fabric. One side will be flat but the other side will be super piled with loops all over the surface.
Fleece knit is a piled knit with a knit look on the backside but with a very fuzzy top surface.
Stretch Velvet looks just like any velvet with lots of pile on the surface but has a knit backing It has a good 2 way stretch, which makes it suitable for making figure-hugging gowns.
Velour is a super soft piled knit with a 4 way stretch
9 Sweater knits
These are knits which are specially used for making sweaters. They are available in many types. They usually are firmly / closely knit and has a stable strong feel. It is very comfortable to wear ; some sweater knits have texture build on them, some have open weave with open holes between knitting resulting in an almost sheer look ( Loose weave sweater knits)
10 Purl knit
Purl knit is a bulky knit fabric with 2 way stretch. It is about 2-3 times the thickness of jersey knit. It has the same look on both sides of the fabric -with knit stitches and purl stitches appearing in the same column along the length on the surface of the fabric. It has a crosswise as well as lengthwise stretch. It is usually used to make sweaters
This is a smooth fabric with lengthwise ribs on one side and crosswise ribs on the other. It is soft and thin fabric. A Half Tricot knit fabric has a single bar warp knit construction and is usually used for making lining and lingerie; Full tricot has a multibar warp knit construction- it is used making lingerie, as well as dresses and blouses.You can also make swimwear with tricot.
12 Handmade knit fabric
Knitting is a hobby to countless men and women all across the world. With the help of knitting needles and yarn and countless hours of patient hand labour beautiful fabric is knitted and made into clothes – more beautiful than any machine can conjure up – because of the love and effort that goes into each piece.