What Is Jersey Fabric And How Easy Is It To Work With?

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What is jersey fabric, anyway? Is it what athletic jerseys are made from? Yes, but the name goes back a lot farther than that. Modern jersey fabric is one of the most loved and most used clothing fabrics on the market. It’s also great for a variety of projects. Want to know more? Check it out.

What is Jersey Fabric?

jersey fabric close up

Jersey fabric is a knit fabric that’s used primarily in garments. The name has a complicated history. You’ve probably heard of sports jerseys — that is, knit tops that some athletes wear. No doubt you’ve also heard of the isle of Jersey in the Channel Islands. So, how does the fabric name fit in?

The name actually comes from the island, where people first produced the fabric in the Middle Ages. At that time, manufacturers made jersey fabric from wool. They used it exclusively for making underwear and men’s clothing. But jersey fabric had a larger destiny to fill.

In 1916 revolutionary designer Coco Chanel introduced jersey to women’s wear. She used it to create attractive, and, most importantly, comfortable coats and dresses for women. Since then, the fabric has only increased in popularity. [1]

You might know modern jersey fabric by another name: t-shirt material. But t-shirts are only part of the story. Today’s jersey is made from a variety of fibers. The most common is a combination of cotton and a synthetic fabric like polyester. Today you’ll find jersey in an extensive range of garments, housewares, and other items.

There are two primary types of jersey fabric, as well as a few subtypes. We’ll have a look at these below.

The Two Main Types of Jersey Fabric

Modern jersey fabric comes in two types: standard and double knit.

Standard jersey, sometimes called single knit or plain knit, is smooth on one side and piled, or textured, on the other. The texture comes from a raised nap, that is, raised loops of thread, like the pile of a carpet. Standard jersey is made using one set of needles, as in the video below.

Double knit jersey is smooth on both sides, and thicker. This is because double knit jersey is two pieces of standard jersey knit together, with the pile on the inside. Double knit jersey is also called interlock because of the interlocking loops on the inside. Double knit jersey is created with two sets of needles: one to knit the layers, and another to knit them together.

The different types have different purposes. You’ll find standard jersey in athletic and athleisure wear, t-shirts, underwear, and bedding. Double knit jersey is more stable and less stretchy than standard jersey. This makes it better for more structured garments, like blazers, coats, and trousers.

You may also encounter a few subtypes of jersey fabric.

Jacquard jersey is a patterned double knit jersey fabric with designs woven in different colours using the jacquard technique. [2]

Cloque jersey is a textured jersey fabric, with a specific design, such as cabling, knit into the fabric.

A wide range of fibers can be used to make jersey, including:

  • Wool
  • Cotton
  • Polyester
  • Hemp
  • Silk
  • Spandex
  • Modal
  • Rayon
  • Viscose
  • And more

Common Uses for Jersey Fabric

man dancing in yellow jersey fabric sweatshirt

Jersey is an incredibly versatile fabric. You’ll find it in a huge variety of products. You’ll probably recognize most of them, but some of them may surprise you.

Single Knit Jersey

Single knit jersey is a light, stretchy, absorbent material that you’ll find most often in garments. It drapes nicely, so it’s popular for women’s tops and dresses. You will also find it in light housewares. Here are some of the more common uses.

  • T-shirts
  • Sweatshirts and sweatpants
  • Dresses
  • Women’s tops
  • Leggings
  • Underwear
  • Spring and summer sports uniforms, especially tops
  • Sheets and bedding

Double Knit Jersey

Double knit jersey is also popular for garments. But because of its greater weight and firmer structure, you’ll find it in different types of garments and products. These include:

  • Blazers
  • Jackets
  • Trousers
  • Polo shirts

Jersey Fabric Characteristics

jersey fabric sweatshirt

What does jersey feel like? Is jersey fabric stretchy? And is jersey fabric good for summer? Once you’ve felt that jersey fabric texture, it’s hard to forget it. 

Smooth

All jersey fabric is smooth. Single knit jersey is smooth on one side and piled on the other. Double knit jersey is smooth on both sides.

Soft

Jersey is soft and comfortable.

Piled on One Side

Single knit jersey is piled on one side. This can make one size fuzzy, like the inside of a sweatshirt.

Stretchy

Jersey fabric is a knit fabric, which means that all varieties have some stretch. The amount of stretch depends upon the fiber content. Cotton jersey fabric will have less stretch than cotton mixed with synthetic fibers. Double knit jersey is also less stretchy than standard jersey.

Opaque

Jersey fabric is opaque. That is, you can’t see through it. A single knit jersey made from fine fibers will allow some light through, however.

Absorbent

Jersey fabric tends to be highly absorbent, which makes it excellent for athletic wear. This quality, too, depends upon the fiber content.

Range of Firmness

Jersey fabric is soft and stretchy. However, double knit jersey has a firmer shape than single knit, and is better suited to structured types of garments. Fiber content will affect firmness as well.

The Pros and Cons of Jersey Fabric 

woman wearing jersey sweatshirt

What’s so great about jersey? A lot of things! But it’s not perfect for every project, and sewing jersey fabric can present some challenges. Let’s have a look.

Advantages of Jersey

Here are some of the reasons people love to wear and work with jersey:

Versatile 👍🏻

Jersey fabric is incredibly versatile. Its unique qualities lend themselves to a wide range of applications, from garments to crafts to housewares and beyond.

Soft 👍🏻

Coco Chanel was really on to something when she introduced jersey fabric to women’s fashion. Jersey fabric is so soft and wearable. Once you put it on, you might wonder why you’d ever want to take it off.

Absorbent 👍🏻

The pile on the reverse side of jersey fabric (or on the inside of double knit jersey) makes it highly absorbent. This is why it’s such an excellent material for athletic wear — and also why, when you’re finished with a jersey garment, it recycles so well into cleaning rags.

Stretchy 👍🏻

Jersey’s built-in stretch means that the fabric moves with you, cradling, rather than restricting your body. Another reason it works so well for casual and athleisure wear.

Drapes Well 👍🏻

Lighter weight jersey drapes beautifully and skims the figure, making it a natural for women’s tops and dresses.

Wrinkle Resistant 👍🏻

Many types of jersey are wrinkle resistant, especially if the fiber content includes synthetic fibers.

Durable 👍🏻

Many types of jersey are hard-wearing, which is yet another reason that this fabric is well suited to athletic wear.

Comfortable 👍🏻

Is it any wonder that t-shirts are many people’s weekend uniform? Not a lot of fabrics can boast the all-day comfort of jersey.

Easy to Care For 👍🏻

Most jersey garments are super easy to care for. Just pop them in the wash and go.

Disadvantages of Jersey

Are there any disadvantages to such a versatile and useful fabric? Not many. Still, they can make a difference to your project:

It Can be Tricky to Sew 👎🏻

Because it’s a knit fabric, jersey has a stretch. And stretchy fabrics can be tricky to sew. Make sure to check out our tips and tricks for working with jersey, in order to make the most of your project.

Prone to Pilling 👎🏻

Abrasion can cause little balls of fiber, or “pills” to form on the surface of jersey. This can make your garment start to look shabby after a while.

Holes, Snags, and Runs 👎🏻

Jersey is also susceptible to holes, snags, and runs, which can easily ruin the look of a garment.

Not Ideal for All Types of Garments 👎🏻

Jersey tends to work best for items that drape and skim the figure, or which are made to move with you. Double knit jersey fabric can be used for more structured garments, but single knit doesn’t hold its shape well enough to be used for rigid items.

How to Sew Jersey Fabric

Is jersey fabric easy to sew? There’s the rub, or so to speak. Like any knit fabric, jersey can fray easily, and many types don’t hold their shape well. But don’t worry! There are tips and tricks for working with jersey. 

Use a Fabric Stabilizer

If you’re using a lighter jersey type and worried that it might not hold its shape while you sew, try stabilising it.

For washable fabrics, you can use a spray-on fabric stabilizer. You could also use a wash-away stabilizer, a tear-away stabilizer or tissue paper. 

Choose the Right Needle

Yes, choosing the correct needle can make a world of difference to any sewing project. For knits like jersey fabric, choose a ballpoint needle. This comparatively blunt needle can pass through knit fabrics like jersey without damaging them. 

Use the Right Thread

Stretchy fabrics need a thread that also has a bit of stretch. That means polyester thread rather than 100 percent cotton thread. Polyester thread will stretch with your jersey fabric, rather than puckering it.

Sew With a Walking Foot

Quilters may already be familiar with the walking foot, which enables layers of fabric to stay in place as they travel through the sewing machine. But a walking foot can also help with sewing stretchy fabrics like jersey. A walking foot helps your fabric to move through the sewing machine evenly so that you don’t get randomly stretched-out spots in your sewing.

Use Zigzag Stitch

The zigzag stitch on your sewing machine is made for sewing stretchy knits like jersey. If you use a straight stitch, the fabric may stretch while the stitches remain straight. This will cause puckering and possibly even ripped stitches. Using a zigzag stitch will keep your stitches even.

A Twin Needle for Hems

When hemming your jersey, a twin needle can accommodate the stretch in a fabric. It also gives it a pretty, professional-looking finish. 

Looking After Jersey Fabric

Fortunately, most jersey fabric is pretty easy to care for. Here’s how.

Follow the Care Instructions

With any garment or fabric, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions. This is especially true for fabrics like jersey, which come in many different varieties, each of which may require a slightly different type of care.

Be Mindful of Fiber Content

The fiber content of various jersey fabrics can differ, from cotton jersey fabric to wool to synthetics and synthetic blends. Check the fiber content of your fabric or garment carefully and wash it accordingly.

Pre-Wash

Some jersey types, especially cotton, are prone to shrinkage. To be safe, pre-wash your jersey fabric before sewing with it.

Machine Wash

Many types of jersey fabric are machine washable. Always check the care instructions first, though. Failing this, it’s generally safe to machine wash your jersey fabric in cool water and tumble it dry.

Ironing?

Because jersey is wrinkle-resistant, you often don’t have to iron it if you remove it from the dryer right away. If you do want to iron it, make sure to use the proper setting for your fabric’s fiber content. [3]

Wonderful Jersey

Jersey is an incredibly versatile fabric with a wide range of applications. Soft, absorbent, breathable, and stretchy, jersey is at the heart of many of our favorite garment types.

Although it’s easy to care for, jersey, like most knit fabrics, can be challenging to work with. But you can meet those challenges with a few well-planned techniques.

Do you enjoy sewing jersey? Do you have any tips or tricks to share with our readers? Please tell us about them in the comments.

how easy is jersey fabric to sew

REFERENCES

  1. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica | Coco Chanel | https://www.britannica.com/biography/Coco-Chanel
  2. wikiHow Staff | How to Use an Iron | https://www.wikihow.com/Use-an-Iron
  3. The Free Dictionary | Jacquard | https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Jacquard

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