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Everything you need to know about stretch in knitwear

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Knit fabrics are among the most avoided fabrics in the sewing community, but sewing with knitwear is actually very easy and extremely rewarding. Knitwear is a staple in every woman’s wardrobe. Because they’re so easy to carry and maintain, they’re available in a variety of patterns, styles, and weights. Take a look in a closet and you are sure to find at least one item of clothing made from a knitted fabric.

Sewing with knitwear was considered scary by many. Knitwear is sometimes unpredictable. If the thread tension is incorrect, the fabric will curl. If the wrong needle is used, cracks will appear in the fibers.

While these problems often occur when working with knitwear, there are many ways to avoid them and sew a nice piece of clothing. Most of these problems arise because little is known about the stretch of the knitwear, how the fibers are woven together, and what type of thread, needle or tension level should be used. To avoid some of the most common dangers when working with knit fabrics, you should first learn about the stretch of the fabric. Before starting a project, first take a sample of the fabric and try out different stitches, thread tension levels and sewing speed to see how the fabric reacts. Here are some important things to keep in mind about certain stretch knitwear and how you can work with them.


There are basically four different types of stretch for knitwear: firm, medium, two-way and super.

Fixed stretch

Solid stretch knitwear is the least stretchable fabric and has an elongation of up to 20% across the grain. As a rule of thumb, it’s the easiest to work with because the stretch is so small. Most fabrics are medium to heavy in weight and include double knit, sweatshirt knit and boiled wool.

Double knit: Double-knit consists of tiny knitted and ribbed fibers that look the same on both sides of the fabric. The rib and heavyweight quality makes it a little thicker, so ribbed knit fabrics are perfect for skirts, dresses, jackets and coats.

Knit sweatshirt: Also known as sweatshirt fleece, sweatshirt knitwear should not be confused with cotton fleece, which is more stretchy. The sweater knit consists of smooth, vertical ribs on the right side and a soft, fluffy surface on the wrong side. It is extremely easy to work with and perfect for sportswear, jackets and of course sweatshirts in cool weather.

Boiled wool: Boiled wool is knitted mechanically and washed to shrink. It is very soft and is often used for scarves, hats, jackets and other clothing in cold weather. Boiled wool is also most common in clothing fabrics.

Moderate stretch

Moderately stretchy knits are the most commonly used knitwear, and it is probably what you imagine when you think of knitwear. An example of moderate stretch is fabric that T-shirts are made of. Moderately stretchy fabrics are made from simple knits, resulting in a comfortable, light to medium weight fabric that stretches from 25% to 50% of the grain. The moderate stretch includes cotton jersey knit, leotard, cotton fleece with double nap, interlocking knitwear, velor and stretch velvet.

Single knit or cotton jersey: Lightweight cotton jersey knitwear is most commonly used in t-shirts and tops. The ribbed knitwear appears vertical on the front and horizontal on the wrong side. This knitwear are easy to process and are often used for casual wear, e.g. B. for tops, dresses, skirts, pants with elastic waist, shorts and pajamas. Some knitwear is so soft that it can be used in baby clothes.

shirt: These extremely thin knitwear does not come loose and is therefore ideal for underwear and lingerie. Unlike single knit, jersey knit is a warp knit, which means that the ribs in the front and back are parallel and not vertical.

Double-napped cotton fleece: The double nap of this versatile fabric makes it soft and thick enough for winter on both sides. The fabric makes warm pajamas, sportswear, blankets, scarves, hats, gloves, sweatshirts, dresses, jackets and vests.

Interlocking knitwear: These light knitwear fall beautifully and can be sewn into dresses, tops, pants, shorts, skirts, socks, hats, gloves and pajamas as well as baby clothes and diapers. While it doesn’t curl along the edges, the finely knitted ribs can unravel on both sides and require special attention when running on the cross grain.

Velor and stretch velvet: Both knitwear are available in different weights and have a soft, brushed nap on the right side. With a moderate stretch, they can be sewn into more elegant clothing, skirts and dresses.

Two-way stretch

These stretchy knitwear are best when you want to make a swimsuit, leotard, or figure-hugging garment. Typically, the stretch percentage in a two-way stretch fabric is between 50 and 75% in both the longitudinal and transverse directions.

Knitted sweater: Knitted sweaters are available in various weights, textures, fibers and elongation percentages. Knitted sweaters are ideal for the production of winter clothing such as sweaters, cardigans, vests, dresses, ponchos, tunics, underwear and even accessories.

Cotton lycra: One of the most popular types of two-way stretch material is Lycra. Lycra is the brand name for the synthetic fiber spandex invented by DuPont in 1958, and refers to fabrics in which synthetic fibers are woven into fabrics for extra stretch and flexibility. The more Lycra there is in a fabric, the more stretchy the fabric is. This synthetic material has revolutionized the sewing and fashion industry, as it is more stretchy than most fabrics, but it also recovers well so that clothing can keep its shape.

Four way super stretch

Four-way stretch fabrics are one of the more difficult fabrics to sew because they are 100% stretchable in any direction. Swimsuits and sportswear are some of the most common examples of four-way stretch fabrics. Other types were rib knit, swimsuit knit and action knit.

Rib knit: Made from any type of fiber, rib knit that does not always contain or depend on synthetic materials to achieve stretch. The stretch comes from the way the fibers are knitted. The stretch is 100% across the grain, creating a versatile finishing material for cutouts, waist bands, cuffs, arholes and hem. The edges of rib knit do not curl, so these fabrics are very popular for use on edges of clothing.

swimsuit: Swimsuit knitwear is usually made from a nylon-spandex blend, but stretch depends on the percentage of spandex built into the nylon. This fabric has more longitudinal stretch.

Knit action: These knitwear are similar to some cotton lycra and offer more flexibility and stretch. They are normally used for the production of sports clothing, e.g. B. biker shorts, running pants, sports bras and training tops. Action knitwear is a blend of nylon, cotton, polyester with spandex, or latex for added flexibility. Most sports brands like Nike, Adidas and Reebok have developed their own versions of action knits for their apparel.

Practice knitting with knitting

There are many websites available online where you can read product descriptions and research the content before making purchases. When working on a sewing project, it is extremely important that you choose the perfect type of fabric for your project. The best way to do knitting with knitting is to just get started. Practice knitting and testing the fabrics until you find out what works for you. You will be surprised at how rewarding knitting can be.

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