I get asked all the time what types of knit fabric (also called stretch fabric) to buy for my stretch sewing patterns so I thought I’d put together a bit of information for you. Knits are classified by the amount they stretch and their fabric composition.
Types of Knit Fabric – Composition
They can be made from a variety of materials including cotton, bamboo, rayon, polyester, and linen. Often these will be blended with Lycra or Spandex to give an extra stretch to your fabric and to stop the garment going out of shape as it is worn. This is called recovery!
Types of Knit Fabric – Stretch Factor
It is important to not only choose the correct fabric composition but also the correct stretch factor to get the best results in your stretch garments.
As a general rule, the more stretch a piece of fabric has, the larger the garment will appear on your body.
This means you need to choose a sewing pattern designed for your fabric’s particular stretch factor.
Further Reading: How to determine stretch factor with printable chart
Here is I have divided the types of stretch fabric into 4 common categories.
Stable Knit Fabric
- Generally, stretch between 18-25%.
- This is the best kind of knit for beginners to use for many patterns as they are easiest to sew and don’t over stretch underneath your sewing machine foot.
- Examples of stable knits include polar fleece and sweatshirt fabrics. Also, look for jersey and t-shirt fabrics with 25% stretch
- Great for the Elke, Sally, Bluebell, Colorblock and Charlotte patterns
Moderate Knit Fabric
- Generally, stretch between 26-50%
- Examples of moderate knits include t-shirt fabric, interlocks and jerseys
- Great for the Willow pattern, Elise and leggings sewing patterns
Stretchy Knit Fabric
- Generall,y stretch between 51-75%
- Examples include stretch velour, stretch terry and some t-shirt fabrics
Super Stretchy Knits (Also known as 2-way or 4-way stretch)
- Generally, stretch between 76-100%
- These stretches are best used for really tight fitting clothing such as bodysuits, leotards and swimwear.
- They include spandex and lycra.
- Great for my leotard sewing patterns and swimwear sewing patterns.
MORE ABOUT STRETCH FABRIC
- How to Sew Stretch Fabric without a Serger
- Types of Knit Fabric
- Stretch Factor of Fabrics
- How to Gather Knit Fabric
- Sewing Stretch Fabric Hems
- How to Sew Fold over Elastic
- How to use a Serger
- How to Sew with a Twin Needle
- Lettuce Hems
Types of Knit Fabric
Another consideration in buying knit fabric is the type of weave it uses in construction
Often used in t-shirt necks and cuffs, it is very soft and stretchy. The front and the back both look the same.
My preferred rib knit is made from cotton with a 5% Lycra content to give better recovery when stretched.
While you can use rib knit for kids clothing and t-shirts, it tends to look unflattering and a bit cheap in women’s clothing. Stick to using this for necks and cuffs.
This is a medium to heavy weight stretch that looks similar on the front and back. It generally has a lower amount of stretch and more body than thinner knits. It makes great skirts and dresses where you want more shape.
This is often used for t-shirts and you will notice that the front is a knit and the back is a purl knit. It does tend you curl a lot so you will need extra pins when sewing. Look for a small percentage of Lycra or Spandex combined with cotton to give good recovery to clothing.
Is is quite similar to a jersey knit except the back and front of the fabric are both the same.
Sweatshirt knit is knitted on the front and fluffy on the back so makes amazing Winter dresses and sweaters. It is normally quite stable and has a low stretch factor so is one of the easiest knits for beginners to sew.
Online Shops for Buying kNit Fabric
- Denver Fabrics have a good selection of sweatshirt fleece
- https://www.joann.com has a good selection of polar fleece
- www.fabric.com – assorted brands. My favorites are Riley Blake and Robert Kaufman knits.
- Eurogirls Boutique – find them on Etsy. They are my favorite stretch shop for spots and stripes in a nice thickness. When I first started sewing, these were the knits I used as they are thicker and more stable than a lot of other brands.
- Riley Blake Designs
- Robert Kaufman – Laguna jersey
- www.fabric.com – Large US site that ships internationally.
- www.lyddi-grace.co.uk Lydia is a UK based designer that ships to all of Europe.
Further Reading – Places to buy spandex and lycra for leotards and swimwear.
If you know of any other great places you buy stretch online please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.