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How to Identify Knit Fabrics

Weft knit fabric sampling: interlock
Warp knit fabric sampling: tricot
Nylon/lycra metallic rib knit
Weft knit fabric sampling: interlock

Weft knit fabric sampling: interlock

by Sarah Veblen
From Threads #97, pp. 59-63

A sampling of weft knit fabrics

All weft knits fall into three basic categories: rib knits, which are a combination of knit and purl stitches; purl knits, which are made with purl stitches alone, and jersey knits, which are made with knits stitches on the front and purl stitches on the reverse (see the drawings above). 

knits More on Knits:

• Knits & Wovens: What's the Difference
• A Primer on Sewing Knits
• 15 Ways to Sew with Knits
• Know Your Knits

Double knit

Double knit
: Made with two sets of yarns, this double-constructed fabric has fine ribs running lengthwise on both sides. Usually looks same on fabric's face and reverse, making it reversible. Fancy double knits may have novelty stitch on fabric's face and fine ribs on reverse.
Properties: Heavy, firm; usually has almost no stretch in either direction. Good shape retention; cut edges don't curl.
Best use: Tailored garments, like jackets, suits, or sheath dresses. If particular double knit has some crosswise stretch, adjusting pattern (by cutting it slightly smaller in body girth) may be necessary.


Description: Compound fabric made by "inter-knitting," or interlocking, two simple ribbed fabrics, each made with single yarn. Has fine ribs running lengthwise. Fabric's face and reverse look same, making it reversible.
Properties: Almost no lengthwise stretch; more crosswise stretch than double knits or jerseys; fairly good shape retention. Raw or cut edges don't curl; unravels only from end last knitted.
Best use: Wonderful for T-shirts, turtlenecks, casual skirts and dresses, and children's wear. Because of its crosswise stretch, use pattern designed for interlock knits, or be prepared to adjust pattern.

Jersey knit

Jersey knit
: Also referred to as plain knit or single knit. Has distinct right and wrong sides, with fine ribs running lengthwise on fabric's face, and semicircular loops running across reverse. Many variations of stitches and fibers create wide variety of single knits, ranging from delicate openwork to heavy, thick piled fabric.
Properties: Little or no lengthwise stretch, varying amounts of crosswise stretch. Curls to fabric's right side; cut edges unravel only from end knitted last. Best use: Jersey with little or no crosswise or lengthwise stretch (like most wool jerseys) can be used for skirts, blouses, and dresses without pattern adjustments. Jersey with crosswise stretch requires pattern adjustments or pattern designed for crosswise stretch.

Purl knit

Purl knit
Description: Double-faced, reversible fabric produced by intermeshed rows of knit and purl stitches, which appear as loops in crosswise direction. Sometimes called "Links-Links," from the German word links ("left"), since knitting machine's mechanism always moves to left.
Properties: Usually heavy and bulky; stretches in both directions. Cut edges do not curl.
Best use: Sweater-type garments, outerwear.

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Comments (7)

Natasha1 Natasha1 writes: amazing.
Posted: 1:19 am on September 11th

evacaroll evacaroll writes: wow really good
Posted: 11:59 pm on September 10th

RosaWallace RosaWallace writes: i like this......
Posted: 5:07 am on September 10th

LunaOpal LunaOpal writes: nice color cloths.
Posted: 4:05 am on September 10th

10860 10860 writes: nice information......
Posted: 1:23 am on September 10th

raymondo9 raymondo9 writes: Which one of these fabrics absorbs water the best? If you put a drop of water on the fabric, which one would pull the drop through the fabric, as opposed to let the drop sit on the surface?

Thank you!!
Posted: 10:20 am on March 12th

Tricia214 Tricia214 writes: Hi Sarah

I've taken several classes from you on pattern review. When I read the info in this article, I knew that you had to be the author. Although knits is one class that I haven't taken, I could tell who the author was by the vast amount of information in the article. Now I really can't wait to take the "Sewing with Knits" class.

Tricia P
Posted: 2:05 am on December 5th

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