Welcome to the Jersey Room! A guide to stretch fabrics.

You may or may not have noticed that we have a great selection of stretch fabrics at Ray Stitch, in fact our move has provided us with the luxury of having a whole room to dedicate to them, we like to call it 'The Jersey Room'!

Stretch fabrics are a hugely popular choice because they’re great for making clothes, particularly less tailored, modern garments which are comfortable to wear. Some people are slightly nervous, fearing that the dreaded overlocker is the only way to deal with knits. Not true! Once you’ve got used to sewing with stretch you can very quickly knock up garments on your standard domestic sewing machine. And not having to sew darts or put in zips is always a bonus.

But with so many different types it can be hard to know which fabric is right for your project so here’s a few pointers...

Jersey is a term for knitted fabric, named after the a knitted wool fabric made on the island of Jersey - it is now available in wool, cotton, bamboo and an endless array of synthetic fibres. Jersey fabric differs from most other fabric types which are woven and is generally designed not to stretch. There are two main categories of stretch fabric: jersey or single knit, and interlock or double knit.

Single knit fabrics have a right side and a wrong side, just like a piece of stockinette knitting, and if you look very closely you will see little v's on the front and wiggly lines on the back. It has a tendency to curl at the edges which can make it tricky to work with. Most commonly used for t-shirts and leggings and can often be a spandex or viscose blend to increase the stretch. Jersey comes in various weights and can be as thin as mesh or as heavy as sweatshirt. Our single knit fabrics include bamboo stretch fabric, sweatshirt and fleece fabric and cotton melange jersey.

Double knit fabrics are knitted with two stitches directly behind each other and usually have a smooth face on both front and back. Interlock is thicker than jersey, is more stable and doesn't curl at the edges. However, interlock fabrics can have more stretch than a cotton jersey. Double knit fabrics include Ponte di Roma and French Terry Knit, and are very good for more structured items such as dresses, lounge pants and sweaters.

Sewing with stretch fabrics can be a bit daunting so here are some things to remember:

  • Remember to use a shallow zig-zag stitch instead of a standard straight stitch on your machine, so that the stitches can stretch with the fabric.
  • You will get the best results using a ballpoint needle in your sewing machine.
  • If you are using a sewing machine to sew jersey, a walking foot can make life easier, but for the best results use an overlocker.
  • Hemming jersey can be tricky but the good news is it doesn't fray so you can leave edges raw.
  • Because of the stretch, jersey can be more forgiving to use than a woven fabric. For example, you won't need to construct button fastenings or darts, as the material can skim over the body.

Another consideration when choosing your jersey, is both the amount of stretch and the amount of recovery, as well as which direction most of the stretch is in (or if it is two-way). Recovery refers to how well the fabric springs back when you pull it to full stretch. We use this handy guide from Stitch 'n' Smile in the shop as it measures how much stretch a jersey fabric has and determines which direction the fabric stretches most. No one wants baggy knees on a pair of leggings, or a drapey t-shirt when really you wanted something with a tighter fit, so consider all of these elements before you choose fabric!

Dressmaking patterns for jersey garments should indicate the recommended stretch, but not necessarily what the recovery rate of the fabric should be. If a fabric has a spandex/elastane content, it is more likely to have a higher recovery rate, whereas knit fabrics such as interlock that are usually 100% cotton will have less ability to spring back. It is always worth testing the stretch and recovery rate, because jersey fabric without spandex will still have a natural stretch due to the knit construction, but will often require washing again to return them to their non-baggy state. You will find that we have handily included the recovery and stretch of all our jersey and knit fabrics online, but feel free to ask for our suggestions on how to use them!

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You can see our full range of stretch fabrics here. We hold a permanent collection of plains in various types and weights and we also stock current printed collections from Art Gallery FabricsCloud 9, and Birch Organic. New in this week are these organic cotton jerseys, we absolutely can’t wait to get sewing with them!

Clockwise L - R: Oatmeal FleeceDouble Layered SpotCream PointelleWhite Stripe FleeceCream FleeceBlack Stripe Fleece

If you fancy having a go with some of that lovely fleece, we have a good selection of patterns here. How about the Named Clothing Sloane Sweatshirt or New Look’s snuggly throw-on poncho?

The pretty Cream Pointelle and the Double Layered Spot would work beautifully for the Deer and Doe Ondee Sweater or the Named Clothing Augusta Hoodie

We also have some lovely fluffy and textured knits (pictured above) great for spring sweatshirts & jumpers or even as a snuggly backing for a quilt. Try making a snuggly Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt - a fabulous wardrobe staple.

If you are wanting to make some garments with more drape and flow, then these bamboo/viscose stretch would work well. Ideal for dresses and tops such as the Simplicity 1716 Drapey Necked Dress or Simplicity 1720 Slinky Loungewear 

If you are making something that requires more structure (New Look 6298 Raglan Dress or the Deer and Doe Zephyr Skater Dress) then check out our range of heavier and more stable knits, particularly our Ponte di Roma (pictured above) which is now available in an expanded range of colours.

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As always, if you are in any doubt about the best type of fabric to use, would like a pattern suggestion, or just want to know a bit more before you start a project, then please let us know. Our staff are all super experienced and will be happy to discuss and advise - you can pop in, call, email or use social media to get our attention.

Happy Sewing!

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