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KNIT FABRIC – 12 main types to make clothes with

Learn more about the different types of knit fabrics available for making clothes.
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For a layman, knit fabric is what the t-shirts are made of. For me, knit fabric is a stretchy one that makes beautiful clothes, comes in various vivid colors and prints, and hides a multitude of faults in my body by virtue of its elasticity. 

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For the expert, jersey knit, rib knit and all those different types of knit fabric names make sense- but for you and me, the beauty and ease of the collective knit fabrics are usually enough. But it makes sense to know the different varieties of knit fabrics on offer.

What is a knit fabric?

This is a fabric made by interloping a series of loops of
one or more yarns. It can be machine-knitted or hand knitted. The two main ways of making knit fabrics are warp knitting and weft knitting.

How is knit fabric different from woven fabric ?

A woven fabric is made by weaving one fiber with another in a criss-cross pattern, but Knit fabrics are made by looping together long lengths of a single yarn. You see only one-way yarn, all going in one direction on the surface of the knit fabric. This special construction makes the knit fabric stretch ( its most characteristic feature). You can see the ribs or visible vertical columns of loops on the fabric’s surface.

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There are different types of knit fabrics that might confuse you when you reach a retail shop to buy fabric – because most of them look the same. But when you look carefully, distinct features differentiate these knit fabrics. Below are some of the most common knit fabric names you will find in shops when you go fabric shopping.

Different types of Knit fabrics

1. Jersey knit

This is a light to medium weight single knit fabric,made by the weft knitting process. This is the most preferred knit fabric for making dresses and t-shirts. It has a good drape. It is also made in different fibers like, wool, silk, etc.

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You can see that the two sides of the fabric are different. One side of the fabric has only knit stitches (which look like chain stitches or v-shaped ones), and the other has purl stitches. It has a fair amount of stretch as well.  

Cotton jersey fabric is the most preferred of jersey fabric. It is a medium weight 4 way stretch knit fabric. T-shirt jersey is a cotton jersey with a 2 way stretch. T- shirt jersey does not have the soft drape of a rayon jersey fabric or silk jersey. It rolls at the cut edges. This fabric can be used to sew cardigans, tank tops.

Rayon jersey is a great fabric for sewing clothes because of its softness. It usually has a 4-way stretch. Interlock twist jersey, Matte Jersey, and metallic jersey are other available variations. A Cotton, Poly, and Rayon blend makes a very lightweight fabric.

Spun Poly Jersey has a matte finish without too much stretch. Cotton-poly-rayon Jersey has all the fibers blended to form a superior fabric with a very soft feel and great drape

Jersey knit slub fabric – in this type of fabric slub yarns are added to the single jersey fabric for added thickness and better appearance. This results in horizontal lines throughout the fabric. But this fabric does not have much stretch – it has a 2 way stretch. It is generally a lightweight fabric made of cotton-poly fibers.

Silk Jersey is a very soft, almost see-through, lightweight, and shiny fabric with a very good drape and stretch. It is the best fabric for making tops and blouses, and dresses.

Burntout Jersey and Tissue Jersey are specialty Jersey fabrics with a see-through look. The Burnout Jersey has burnt-out designs throughout.

2. Elastane knit

You take 10 tops in your cupboard, and you will find that 8 of them is in this fabric. It has the comfort of cotton or, at times, polyester and stretchiness and ease of knit. These are lycra or spandex knit blend fabrics (elastane). It is soft, but if you want to sew with them, you may find it difficult. It is a great fabric for making sleepwear because of its comfort level.

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Scuba Knits are knit fabrics that have the slick surface of scuba diving outfits, along with spectacular stretch and recovery. Nylon Lycra, also known as swimwear knit, is a semi-opaque knit fabric used to make activewear and swimwear.

Rayon Spandex is a soft 4 way stretch lightweight fabric with a good drape and nice feel

Slinky knit is a knit fabric made as a combination of Acetate and elastane fibers.

Learn more about spandex/elastane/lycra here

3. Rib knit

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Rib knits are fabrics with visible distinct vertical ribs on both sides of the fabric. It is a double-faced reversible fabric. It is made of alternating knit and purl stitches on the same row with a weft knitting process. 

It is usually used to make bands on turtlenecks, t-shirt neckbands, cuffs, hems, etc., but you can also make whole garments with this fabric. It has a crosswise stretch and a very soft feel. You can make drapey flattering clothes with this. Cardigans, sweaters, camisoles etc are usually made with rib knit fabric.

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Depending on the size of the rib, rib knits are available as 1*1 rib kit , 2*2 rib knit and 3* 3 rib knit and even 6* 6 knit (also called Poor Boy Rib Knit with a wide wale ribbing). 1*1 Rib is used for making t-shirt collars; 2*2 Rib is used for cuffs and neckbands. 1*3 rib knit is an uneven rib knit.

Ribbed knit with spandex has great stretch.

4. Doubleknit

Double knit is a medium-weight knit fabric (almost double the thickness of single knit) that usually looks the same on both sides and has less stretch than a single knit fabric. It looks as if two knit fabric is kept together (hence the name). Usually, it seems the same on both sides (this is not always true, but mostly it is the same).

This fabric is considered more stable and less stretchy than most other knits.

It is thick and fluffy because of its special two-needle construction. Many different fibers are used to make double knits. – cotton, rayon, wool etc, and even synthetic fibers are used.

Double jersey is a popular fabric used to make coats, dresses.

Double knit with rayon is the most preferred double knit fabric because it is very soft. Ponte di Roma (Ponte knit) is a popular double knit fabric. It has a fine crosswise rib texture and is used to make pants and dresses. Double pique, Double Jacquard are all double knits

5. Interlock

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This is a reversible knit fabric with very fine lengthwise ribs; You might confuse this fabric with a jersey knit but on a closer reverse side look, you will see that the fabric looks the same on both sides, unlike in a jersey. It is also thicker than single-knit fabric. The smooth surface of interlock knit fabric makes it suitable for design works, like fabric painting, embroidery, etc.

It is thicker than other knits ( almost double the thickness of jersey knits) and hence you will find it easier to sew with. It is the stabler of all knits and keeps its shape to a degree and is great for making fitting dresses and even tailored clothes.

6. Lace knits

This is a beautiful fabric to make clothes with because this fabric combines the beauty of lace with the elasticity of knit- but the problem is in maintaining it; below is the photo of a lace knit after some over-enthusiastic washing – maybe I did pop it into the washing machine -ouch.

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7. Mesh Knits

This is a durable open-work knit that has the look of tulle fabric. It is sheer, lightweight, and has a good stretch with good strength. It is available in very pretty prints.

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Sequins are stitched with machine on this fabric to make beautiful sequined fabric

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8. Piled knit

Eyelash Knit is knit fabric with a pile. It looks almost like faux fur because of the pile. It is usually used to make sweaters and for making trims. 

Terrycloth Knit is a knit fabric that mimics the look of the toweling fabric. One side will be flat, but the other side will be super piled with loops all over the surface.

Fleece knit is a piled knit with a knit look on the backside but with a very fuzzy top surface.

Stretch Velvet looks just like any velvet with lots of pile on the surface but has a knit backing It has a good 2 way stretch, which makes it suitable for making figure-hugging gowns.

Velour is a super soft piled knit with a 4 way stretch

9. Sweater knits

Sweater knits are knits that are specially used for making sweaters (come under the category of raschel knits). They are available in many types.

They usually are firmly / closely knit and have a stable, strong feel. It is very comfortable to wear; some sweater knits have texture built on them, and some have open weave with open holes between knitting resulting in an almost sheer look (Loose weave sweater knits).

10. Purl knit

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Purl knit is a bulky knit fabric with 2 way stretch. It is about 2-3 times the thickness of jersey knit. It has the same look on both sides of the fabric -with knit stitches and purl stitches appearing in the same column along the length on the surface of the fabric. It has a crosswise as well as lengthwise stretch. It is usually used to make sweaters

11. Tricot knits

This is a smooth fabric with lengthwise ribs on one side and crosswise ribs on the other. It is a soft and thin fabric. A Half Tricot knit fabric has a single-bar warp knit construction and is usually used for making lining and lingerie; a Full tricot has a multi-bar warp knit construction- it is used for making lingerie, as well as dresses and blouses. You can also make swimwear with tricot.

Tricot knits stretch more in the crosswise direction. 

12. Handmade knit fabric

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Knitting is a hobby for countless men and women all across the world. With the help of knitting needles and yarn and countless hours of patient hand labor, the beautiful fabric is knitted and made into clothes – more beautiful than any machine can conjure up – because of the love and effort that goes into each piece. 

You can categorize knit fabrics according to the yarn they are made. Checkout this post on the different types of yarns used for knitting. 

Knit fabrics according to fabric weight

Light-Medium Weight Knits

Cotton Knits & Blends, Jersey Knits, Tricot, Lycra & Swimwear Fabric, Spandex, Stretch Velour & Stretch Velvet

Medium- Heavy Weight Knits
Double Knits, Stretch Terry, Sweater Knits, Sweatshirt Fabric, and Spandex

Learn more about fabric weight here.

Related posts : How to sew knits on an ordinary sewing machine; Different names for stretchy fabric; Blended fiber fabrics; Buying tips for T-shirts : 10 important considerations ; Knit vs woven

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Author: Sarina Tariq
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
21 thoughts on “KNIT FABRIC – 12 main types to make clothes with”
  1. Anonymous
    Good for the garment industry’s class. Reply
  2. Anonymous
    Thanks a lot Sarina for wonderful efforts and valuable time you spent for us,nice information thanks again Reply
  3. Nabongo
    I new sewing and I use my hands and hook but I want to know how to make good material Reply
    • jagadish
      Nice nice guidelines thank you so much
  4. Sharron
    Which knit would you recommend to make pants. I would like a medium (+) weight. I would be wearing them every day and possible when I am running errands. Reply
    • Jelna MACKLIN
      Great info
  5. Jewel Barua
    It’s good but it would have been better if here was a discussion about fleece fabric here. Reply
  6. Christel
    Hi, which type of knit would you say is best for baby grow/swaddle sacks? From newborn to say toddler size? Would appreciate the advice. Reply
  7. Melinda Ingersoll
    Why is cotton single knit not included here? I have been searching for single knit cotton fabric to make sleep wear. Cannot find anything I like. Reply
    • Sarina
      The jersey knit is a single knit fabric
  8. Md Haider Ali
    Thanks so much! for your post, I really like your post. Reply
  9. Claire Earley
    Hiya I found this very informative but, I’m looking for a fabric to make my 3 year old grandson some soft play trousers, I’ve been told to use fabric with some stretch but I don’t know which is the best to use for durability, softness & comfort. Please can you help at all? Reply
    • Sarina

      Hi Claire
      Interlock knit is usually the preferred knit fabric for clothes – it is soft and has a nice stretch.

    • sujan
  10. Md. Asaduzzaman
    good……… Reply
  11. Sami khan
    I liked this Reply
  12. Rokib
    Nice Reply
  13. miklesh yadav
    good Reply
  14. Sanaulla

    Thanks so much! I really like your post.
    I want to collect it
    Can i copy your text?

  15. Jamie L Bennett
    I’m new to sewing with knits, and this is very helpful! Thanks so much! Reply
    • Sarina
      Happy you found it helpful
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