Knit or woven
‘Knit’ is the collective name of fabrics that are knitted, as opposed to woven. Through the knitting process, the threads are interlocked and looped which gives the fabric elasticity. If the fabric also has elastane / lycra in it, the fabric has good stretch and recovery. Recovery means that if you stretch the fabric and then release, it will go back to its original width.
Knit fabrics can be made of for example cotton or linen (natural materials), or viscose and polyester (synthetic materials), or other fibers and various blends.
Woven fabric is produced through weaving two sets of yarn. They are made up of a weft (going across the fabric) and a warp (going down the length of the fabric). Woven fabrics only stretch diagonally on the bias (diagonally), between the warp and weft directions, unless the threads used are elastic.
Always check if your pattern calls for a knit or woven fabric.
You can easily evaluate the fabric’s stretch using the stretch guide in our patterns or on our website. How much stretch the fabric has is very useful to know and a stretch percentage is often recommended in the pattern.
If a fabric is bi-elastic, that means it stretches both vertically and horizontally.
Drape vs. body
Does the fabric need drape? That depends on your pattern. Typically you'd need a drapey fabric for a flowy dress, while you'd instead be looking for a fabric with body if you're sewing a pencil skirt.
If you do your fabric shopping online it’s hard to evaluate drape/body but some stores describe the fabrics’ characteristics. If not, contact them and ask. This goes for stretch too.
Often, but not always, light-weight fabrics have more drape than heavy-weight fabrics.
Do you keep a sewing journal? If you do, write a few lines about the fabric you use; its composition, stretch, drape and weight. And any other characteristics. The more you note and evaluate this in the fabrics you use, the more you’ll learn. You’ll build experience and confidence when it comes to choosing fabrics.
Sometimes the pattern specifies which weight category you should be looking for when choosing a fabric. Here's a categorisation we use:
- Very light: up to 135 gr/m2
- Light: 135-200 gr/m2
- Medium: 200-270 gr/m2
- Medium-heavy: 270-340 gr/m2
- Heavy: 340-400 gr/m2
- Very heavy: More than 400 gr/m2
Some fabrics we like
Ponte, Ponte di roma, Courtelle jersey, Romanit jersey... A fabric known by many names. Often times medium-heavy in weight, soft with body. A perfect fabric to use for our pencil skirt Sofia.
Pictured above: A Sofia skirt sewn in jacquard jersey.
A fabric that’s similar to ponte is Scuba. The weight varies, but the fabric is often sturdy but with some drape. It has a bit shiny surface and good stretch.
Another fabric with a bit shiny surface and soft drape is Ottoman. It’s a knit fabric with a ribbed surface. Often medium-heavy with good stretch and recovery. Looks great on sweaters (for example Linnéa for women or Lilly & Liam for kids), tops, dresses, skirts.
College, Sweat fabric, Jogging, or French terry often has medium weight, seldom drape. Suitable for sweatshirts, pants, etc. Perfect for our bomber jacket for kids, Billy & Betty.
Pictured above: A Billy & Betty bomber jacket sewn in college fabrics.
A fabric that’s often heavy to very heavy is knit Jacquard / Jacquard jersey. Some have elastane added, others don’t. Jacquard is the name of a fabric that’s woven or knitted with a certain technique, often with detailed patterns.
Viscose jersey, Tencel jersey, Modal jersey and Bambu jersey are examples of fabrics that are often light weight with lovely drape. Our pattern Emma for women, or Kids' Emma is designed for these types of fabric.
Cotton jersey (also called CL or cotton/lycra) is a fabric many are familiar with. Its weight is often light or medium. Cotton jersey rarely has drape. Very common to use with children's clothes and easy to use for beginners. How about sewing an Amelie dress, Lo leggings or Sigge & Siri beanie?
Pictured above: Lo leggings sewn in cotton jersey fabric.
Last but not least, there are many fabrics that are named just Knitted fabric or knits. They can be made from various fibers. Weight, stretch and drape can be very different. Know that if it doesn’t have elastane, the stretch and recovery might be a bit poor, but not necessarily. Evaluate the stretch and drape, or ask the store to do it for you.
This is not an comprehensive list of fabric types, just the ones you are most likely to come across when sewing clothes for children and women.