Several years ago we put together this article about sewing with knits. It was from a presentation we did several years ago.
Jersey is the most common type of knit fabric. To make this textile, both knit and purl stitching are put together using a single needle. Thus, this fabric is also called the single or plain knit. Among the types of knit fabrics, this one is easy to distinguish because of its unmistakable right and wrong side of fabric.
Jersey knit fabric is a common textile used for making basic T-shirts. It is also perfect for draped garments like dresses and tops. It can come in any fiber, we stock wool, hemp, bamboo, and cotton. We also stock tencel, modal, rayon and a little polyester.
Jersey Knit Fabric Features To Remember:
- not so stretchy unless the material has an amount of spandex in it
- distinct right and wrong side of the fabric
- edges curls up easily when pulled
2. Rib Knit
Rib knit or sometimes called ribbing has raised vertical textured lines. This textile is created using a double bed knitting machine that has two needles with vertical textured lines. This type of knit fabric is also easy to identify because of its vertical ribs. There are 2 basic types of rib knit fabric based on the sequence of knit and purl stitches. The 1×1 rib has a sequence of 1 knit and 1 purl stitch, while the 2×2 rib knit has 2 knit and 2 purl stitches sequence.
Since Rib knit fabric is more stretchy crosswise and lies flat on one side, this fabric is perfect for making turtleneck clothes, bottom edges of sweaters, cuffs, and necklines on clothes. It is also excellent in making mats including rugs and other home furnishings. It can come in any fiber, we stock wool, hemp, bamboo, and cotton. We also stock tencel, modal, rayon and a little polyester.
Rib Knit Fabric Features To Remember:
- heavier compared to Jersey
- generally very stretchy among the 3 basic types of knit fabrics, but the 1×1 rib is more stretchy than the 2×2 rib
- almost identical right and wrong side of the fabric
- not so smooth unlike Jersey knit
- edges don’t curl up when pulled
3. Interlock Knit
Interlock knit is similar to rib knit. Some experts say it is a variation of ribbing because the fabric is created using 2 needles too. It also looks like 2 layers of single knit piled on top of each other. Thus, this type of knit fabric is also called double-faced rib.
When you want to sew pants, skirts, tanks, the best type of knit fabric to use is the interlock fabric. It can come in any fiber, we stock wool, hemp, bamboo, and cotton. We also stock tencel, modal, rayon and a little polyester.
Interlock Knit Fabric Features To Remember:
- heavier and thicker than jersey
- not too stretchy compared to Jersey
- reversible type of fabric, there’s no right or wrong side of the fabric
- among the 3 basic types of knit fabrics, interlock is more stable.
4. French Terry knit
French Terry fabric is a knitted terry cloth fabric that features loops and soft piles of yarn on one side, (usually the inside of a garment), and a smooth, soft surface on the other side. The result is an absorbent, light-weight, moisture-wicking material that's super comfortable to wear any day of the year. It can come in any fiber, we stock wool, hemp, bamboo, and cotton. We also stock tencel, modal, rayon and a little polyester.
5. Fleece Knits
Fleece Knit Fabric is a durable, warm, and stretch fabric with a thick, deep pile. Fleece Fabric dries quickly, making it perfect for active wear. It can come in any fiber, we stock wool, hemp, bamboo, and cotton. We also stock tencel, modal, rayon and a little polyester.
This is just a beginning to the explanation of knit styles. There are so many, they can have spandex added and that changes the fabric behavior and uses.
All Purpose - polyester or cotton wrapped polyester
• Strong with a bit of give
• Suitable for most machine and hand sewing projects
Cotton - strong with no give and has a silky finish
• Suitable for basic machine or hand sewing projects
• Not suggested for sewing knits
Hand Quilting - 100% natural mercerized cotton
• Strong with a silk-like luster for HAND quilting
• Coated so it slides easily through layers of fabric
Machine Quilting - 100% cotton thread
• Strong with a silk-like luster suitable for machine sewing
• Especially good for long arm machine quilting
Silk - fine and often used for embroidery
• Ideal for sewing silk, wool and basting all fabrics
• Does not leave holes and is very flexible
Heavy Duty / Upholstery / Strong Outdoor - 100% polyester
• Perfect for sewing upholstery, vinyl, leather, and heavyweight fabrics
• Strong Outdoor thread is UV resistant for sewing items that are used outdoors
Jeans or Top Stitch - heavy-duty polyester or cotton covered polyester
• Used for decorative seams and ornamental stitches
• Change to a topstitching needle and larger needle size to accommodate the thicker thread.
Button & Carpet – strong and heavy hand sewing thread
• Coated to prevent tangling
Machine Embroidery - either rayon or polyester, for decorative uses
• Good sheen and very smooth
• Should NOT be used for construction of garments
Invisible / Transparent - either nylon or polyester
• Strong but nylon thread is not heat resistant (a hot iron could melt it)
• Can become brittle from laundering and exposure over time
• Comes in clear and smoke colorations
• Typically used when you don’t want the thread to be noticeable
• Can be a little difficult to work with
Metallic - used for decorative stitching or embroidery
• Can be used for hand or machine sewing
• Breaks easily.
• Try using Sewer’s Aid when sewing with metallic thread
Elastic - thread with fine elastic within it.
• Used for smocking or shirring
• Thread should match the fabric in most cases. If you can’t find an exact match, select a color one or two shades darker.
• Darker shades blend in more and lighter shades stand out more
• When sewing a stretchy fabric such as a knit or spandex fabric, use polyester thread as it has some give to it.
• Do not use hand-sewing thread in the machine; it is for hand-sewing only.
• In most cases, the same thread should also be used in the bobbin. For machine embroidery, there is special bobbin thread that comes in black and white. When using top stitching thread, all-purpose thread is often used in the bobbin. But when sewing heavy duty items (canvas and upholstery) the heavier thread should be used for both the needle and the bobbin.
Sharp point needles are for use with tightly woven fabrics. They have a very slim acute point that creates beautiful top-stitching and perfectly straight stitches for quilt piecing. These needles come in varying sizes from the finest size 9 to the heaviest size 18.
Universal Point Needles
Universal needles are an all-purpose needle for sewing wovens and knits. The point is slightly rounded and the needle is tapered so that it slips through the weave of knits easily while still retaining enough sharpness to pierce woven fabrics. Universal needles typically come with all sewing machines. They come in many different sizes with the 14/90 and the 11/75 being the most popular.
Ball Point Needles
Ball point needles are made especially for sewing on knits. Its rounded point is designed to slide between the yarns of knit fabrics without snagging. They come in size 10/70 through 16/100. Choose the size that will handle the thread being used when sewing on knits.
A jeans needle has a point designed for penetrating extra thick fabrics and a reinforced blade to reduce breakage and skipped stitches. It is made for heavy duty stitching and is suitable for denim and similar fabrics.
A twin needle is actually two needles mounted on one shaft used to create two rows of stitches simultaneously. It uses two spools of thread and one bobbin thread. The package will show two numbers. One is the needle size; the other is the distance between the two needles. This distance varies from 2.0 mm to 6.0 mm. Remember that the needles must fit through the hole in the stitch plate, so if you have been using a straight stitch plate you must change it to a zig-zag stitch plate to avoid hitting the plate with the needles.
Other Specialty Needles
•Feature: Elongated eye
•Fabric Use: Metallic and other specialty threads. A “must have” for sewing with sensitive metallic threads. The elongated eye prevents shredding and breaking of metallic threads.
•Feature: Light ball point, wide eye and groove
•Fabric Use: Use with rayon, polyester and other specialty embroidery threads. The special scarf, widened groove and enlarged eye protect fragile threads and guard against excess friction allowing trouble-free embroidery and decorative stitching.
•Feature: Special taper to the slightly rounded point
•Fabric Use: Made especially for piecing and machine quilting. The special tapered design allows easier fabric penetration and helps eliminate skipped stitches.
•Feature: Extra-long eye
•Fabric Use: Topstitch, heavy, multiple or poor quality threads. Achieve perfectly straight stitch lines and even stitches when using a straight stitch plate.
•Feature: Wedge shape slightly sharp cutting point
•Fabric Use: Cuts through leather and other heavy non-woven imitation leathers and suedes without creating large holes.
- Use a new needle for each sewing project or after 8 hours of sewing
- Sergers or overlock machines, embroidery or other specialty machines may use different needles. Check your manual.
- Always replace a dull or damaged needle right away.
- For the most part all sewing machines needles work in all sewing machines. But there are a few brands that need specific needles.