Rae’s Quick Guide to Knit Fabric

One question I get quite frequently is where to buy knit fabrics (actually: any apparel fabric — but let’s stick to knits for now). Lacking a local fabric shop that carries apparel fabrics is a common issue for many of you, but I think another issue is figuring out what the difference is between all of the types of knit fabrics.

In this post I want to go over some of the knit fabrics that I recommend (ones I have tried and liked) for Flashback, Isla, or Jade, my knit sewing patterns.

I’ve tried to include as many types of commonly-found knits as possible, to help you to become more familiar with the verbiage of knit fabric. Most of the time, the name includes information about the weave (jersey, interlock, rib knit – this describes how it’s woven) and/or the content (cotton, modal, rayon, bamboo, lycra — this describes what it’s made of) of the knit fabric.

I’ve also included some links to where to buy them online and locally.  Here are the swatches, so you can have a visual. Some additional closeups are shown below the descriptions.

how to find knit fabric

TOP LEFT: Dana cotton modal jersey (“Dana” by Robert Kaufman)
description: light weight jersey, 55% cotton, 45% modal rayon, a bit of stretch (not super stretchy), soft and light. Modal is a semi-synthetic cellulose fiber made from cellulose that is often derived from beech trees.
notes: this one doesn’t have lycra so it doesn’t have much stretch,, but it’s nice and soft and light and has a nice drape. I’d recommend for Jade but probably not for Isla (due to stretch)
see it in action: the main shop image for Jade (the green tee)
source: Imagine Gnats

TOP CENTER: Striped tencel jersey
description: silky, light weight, super stretchy (4-way stretch), tons of drape
notes: Tencel is an eco-friendly form of rayon, so it has the silky and super-stretchy properties that bamboo rayon and other rayon jersey would have, without the possible horrific processing chemical by-products
source: La Mercerie

TOP RIGHT: Cotton-lycra jersey (“Laguna” by Robert Kaufman)
description: light weight, usually has a 95/5 cotton to lycra ratio (also called cotton-spandex, same thing), good stretch and strong recovery, curls at edges
notes: Allie of Indie-Sew once described C/L as the quilting cotton of knits; it’s easy to work with and easy to find because manufacturers like Robert Kaufman (“Laguna knit“), Art Gallery, and Cotton and Steel all print their knits on C/L blends.
see it in action: the top half of this Isla dress is Laguna
source: Pink Castle Fabrics

MIDDLE LEFT & RIGHT: Double brushed poly spandex Jersey
description: suuuuper stretchy (4-way stretch), medium weight, thicker than tencel jersey but with similar drape and stretch, very soft (“brushed”)
notes: this stuff really feels like secret pajamas, and it’s very forgiving to work with; I will add the caveat that it’s unlikely to be the most eco-friendly material out there.
see it in action: my Grid Jade+Isla dress
source: Raspberry Creek &  Imagine Gnats

MIDDLE CENTER: Indigo cotton-lycra jersey
description: medium weight, lycra gives it nice stretch  curl at edges
notes: when I found this indigo slub knit at Fancy Tiger (see below) it was like spotting a unicorn in the wild; I am always on the look out for slub knits but haven’t been able to find very many out there despite slub being pretty popular in ready-to-wear garments (my favorite JCrew tees are slub knit). Let me know in comments if you have a favorite slub source!!!
sourceFancy Tiger Crafts

BOTTOM LEFT: Stretch bamboo rayon jersey (Telio)
description: light weight but somewhat heavy (I know that sounds like a weird combo but it’s true), super stretchy (4-way stretch), somewhat shiny, silky
notes: While I did not love the solid Telio bamboo jerseys (I made a ton of Jade samples out of various solid colors) because they showed every wrinkle and line from my body and undergarments and were impossible to photograph, I did like the heather gray one shown above (I’m wearing it here). I really love the softness and stretchiness of bamboo knits, but I try to source them from places that sell overstock or deadstock, due to the horrific environmental impacts of the manufacturing process for bamboo rayons.
see it in action: Heather Grey Jade tee

BOTTOM CENTER: Striped organic interlock (by Cloud9)
description: 100% organic cotton, medium weight, stretchy, soft
notes: so lovely and soft, due to the lack of lycra, this knit has less recovery and is less suited for leggings, for example, as it tends to grow a bit as you wear it until you throw it back in the wash, however, I couldn’t miss a chance to toot the Cloud9 horn a bit as I LOVE this new striped knit they have out, and it’s the same interlock that my Sidewalk knits are printed on (note: NO ATTEMPT TO BE UNBIASED HERE!). See yesterday’s Flamingo tee post as well.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Organic striped baby rib knit
description: 100% organic cotton rib knit, medium weight, stretchy, soft
notes: similar to organic interlock, above, but even more stretchy due to the 1×1 rib weave (2×2 ribs are also nice!). Again, not suited for leggings, but have a nice comfortable ease
see it in action: the navy striped Jade in this post
source: Organic Cotton Plus

Ready for a closeup?

Double brushed poly jersey:

double brushed poly jersey

These Art Gallery jerseys weren’t shown in the swatch section, but this Isla Dress was made with the bottom one, and the photo gives you a good idea of the curl you get with Cotton/lycra jersey:

Art Gallery cotton-lycra jersey

Organic baby rib knit:

organic cotton baby rib knit

Indigo Cotton/lycra jersey:

Striped Tencel Jersey:

More knit sources
In addition to the sources listed above, a few more places I like to hunt for knits:*
Hawthorne Threads (big selection, cotton lycra and cotton modal jersey, interlock)
Indie Sew (great curated source for overstocks! rayon spandex jerseys, rib knits)
Simplifi (all organic!! interlock, cotton lycra jersey, hemp lycra jerseys)
Stone Mountain and Daughter (huge selection of every kind of knit you could imagine)

*Please note that this list is nowhere near comprehensive NOR is it unbiased as some of these shops were previous sponsors of this blog and/or carry my patterns and/or Cloud9 knits which is the company that licenses my designs. However, I think the best way to do posts like this is probably to keep them simple and do them frequently, rather than try to maintain a current comprehensive resource list.

Learn more
If you’re not that familiar with knit fabric or shopping online, consider taking my Creativebug Trace and Make Tee and Leggings class where I dive into knit fabrics, stretch, and how to sew knits, or check out this “Rae talks about shopping for knits online” post, which covers some basic online shopping tips and information about types, weights, and swatches you might find helpful.

I also like these two posts from Oliver+S: types of knits and where to find knits, and this article all about jersey from IndieSew.

5 thoughts on “Rae’s Quick Guide to Knit Fabric

  1. I want to make a school-uniform jumper (to wear over a polo shirt) by enlarging the armholes and neckhole of a Geranium. Do you have any suggestions where I could find a heavy enough knit to survive a seven-year-old’s frequent wear?

    PS- she’s also getting a Geranium with fitted sleeves and a collar out of Kona cotton that is going to be so adorable. Thank you for making the expansion pack!

    • Hi Kate!
      I really don’t know about heavy knits; I’m sorry. I have been sticking mainly to tees and Islas, which are really light or maybe medium at the heaviest!
      Love the idea of a Kona Geranium with sleeves and collar!! Share pics when you’re finished, OK?

      xo
      Rae

      • What about a ponte? They’re pretty stable. The ones with rayon in them are nicer than those with polyester. Fabric Mart has frequent sales on ponte.

  2. This is so helpful! I’ve been avoiding knits, but this might just help me take the plunge. Thanks!

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