What are T-shirts, vests, jumpers, pyjamas, dresses and a multitude of other everyday garments usually made from?
Jersey. A textile that is not woven on a loom, but knitted on a special machine.
This guide to jersey fabric looks at:
- What is a fabric?
- What is jersey fabric?
- Where does the name come from?
- Yarns used to produce jersey fabric
- How do you sew jersey fabric?
- Types of jersey
What is a fabric?
A textile or fabric is produced by intertwining yarns at right angles, resulting in a piece of cloth.
A bolt is a commercial unit of length used to measure finished cloth. The length and width of a bolt may vary, depending on various factors; the most common standard widths are 90 cm and 140/150 cm.
Each bolt is rolled onto a cylindrical cardboard or plastic core for safe storage and handling.
The threads running down to the length of the fabric are called 'warp threads', while those running across the fabric are the 'weft threads'.
Two thin strips of thicker fabric run down either side of the length of the fabric. These are the selvedges, needed to secure the ends of the weft threads. The distance between the two selvedges is the "useful width" of the fabric.
The yarns and method of intertwining these make for different fabrics: hence we have woollen, cotton, linen and man-made or synthetic fabrics, to name but a few. The intertwining of the weft and warp is called 'shedding' and the different methods give rise to a huge variety of fabric types (canvas, twill, satin, gauze, honeycomb, etc.).
What is jersey fabric?
Jersey fabric is not actually woven on a loom. It is a knitted fabric: needles, hooks or knitting machines intertwine a single yarn to form loops, one next to another, in a single row.
A bit of history
Towards the end of the 16th century, the invention of the knitting machine revolutionised the production of knitted fabric. William Lee was an Anglican clergyman, born in Calverton, Nottinghamshire. By studying how the fingers of some local hand knitters moved, he came up with a ground-breaking mechanical device (the stocking frame knitting machine).
Modern knitwear factories can produce items of exceptional quality and elegance. Industrial concerns based on traditional craftsmanship, and continuous innovation.
The machines belong to many different classes, depending on the techniques used to produce each item of knitwear.
Jersey stitch, also known as "plain knit" or "garter stitch", is the simplest technique.
Where does the name 'jersey' come from?
In the late 19th century, the fishermen of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, used to wear clothing made from a heavy, yet soft and naturally stretchy knitted fabric.
This fabric was called "jersey", after the island, however it was not immediately adopted for outer wear and fashion.
Coco Chanel was the first to start using jersey fabric to produce fashion items for women in 1916.
She did so initially because it was a cheap fabric, but she continued to use it even once she had become a major fashion designer owing to its special characteristics and the way it allowed her to create comfortable, easy to wear clothes.
"I make fashion women can live in, breathe in, feel comfortable in and look younger in," said Chanel, famously.
What materials can be used to create jersey fabric?
Jersey can be knitted using any yarn:
- cotton: for an opaque, soft and elastic fabric. Widely used for T-shirts, pyjamas, sweatshirts, dresses and bedlinen.
- wool: used for cardigans, winter clothing, sweatshirts and baby clothes. Has the same characteristics as cotton jersey, but is more suited to colder climes.
- viscose (rayon): looks like silk and drapes well. Mainly used for women's dresses.
- polyester and polyamide: brilliant colours and very elastic, especially if a certain amount of elastane is used.
WAVE Futura jersey garments are made from a polyamide/elastane microfibre. Each item is extremely wearable and comfortable, colour-fast, in brilliant shades, breathable, anti-odour, non crease and non iron. The fabric is produced using the very latest processing and finishing technology.
The special properties of this jersey fabric make it ideal for:
- Leisure activities
- On holiday (are you about to set off on a sailing holiday?)
Dress elegantly or casually without compromising on comfort or the hi-tech benefits of sportswear.
No matter what yarn is used, jersey fabric has a natural elasticity on account of it being a knitted fabric.
Its elasticity is enhanced when a certain percentage of elastane is added to the yarn blend. The resulting fabric is particularly suited for sportswear, where comfort and ease of movement are key requirements during all kinds of physical activity.
Very soft to the touch, non crease, and stretches to hug the body.
Jersey fabric can be produced using yarns of varying thickness to get different weights and characteristics, making it suitable for diverse uses and applications.
If produced using special technologies, jersey fabric can also be "non-laddering". This means that a hole or tear in the fabric will not get bigger or cause the fabric to unravel.
WAVE Futura items are made from non-laddering fabrics..
Types of jersey
The name "jersey" refers to the way the fabric is produced: knitted on a special circular knitting machine.
Different processes make for many different types of jersey fabric.
Single jersey (Tricot)
Classic single jersey fabric has a right side (face) and a wrong side (reverse). It is knitted using one set of needles on a single bed. It is often produced with a touch of elastane for increased elasticity. Single jersey is a bi-elastic fabric. This means that it has a four-way stretch (lengthwise and crosswise).
Double Jersey (Ponte di Roma)
Double jersey fabric is knitted using two sets of needles on two needle beds. A reversible fabric, it can be either double-face or double-reverse. Ponte di Roma jersey is more stable than single jersey, but only stretches in one direction (crosswise). Thanks to its two layers, double jersey drapes better than single jersey and has a more constructed look. It is used for blazers, classic trousers, skirts and suits.
Interlock jersey fabric is a double-face fabric with knit stitching on both sides. The stitches are normally very tight and the yarn fine, giving this fabric a particularly compact appearance. Interlock is stronger than single jersey and its raw/cut edges do not curl. It is particularly popular for baby clothes.
Jacquard jersey fabric is another double-face fabric. Special stitches are used to create Jacquard designs (patterns, relief, etc.) that are knitted in the cloth, not printed. Jacquard jersey fabric has less stretch than other types of jersey, but has a fantastic drape, as well as detailed working.
This name is given to jersey fabrics made from cotton or other fibre yarns to which a small percentage of elastane has been added. This fabric has more stretch and recovery, and so is especially suited to sportswear.
How do you sew jersey fabric?
Special needles must be used to sew jersey fabric. These may be Jersey (ball-point) needles or Stretch needles, and have a blunt rounded tip to avoid damaging the fabric. A stretch stitch is best to retain the elasticity and stretch of jersey fabric. Suitable machine stitches are:
- zigzag - narrow and short
- triple zigzag
- stretch straight stitch
- false overlock (overedge) stitch
To stop the fabric from puckering, reduce the presser foot pressure and avoid pulling the fabric as you sew.
A walking foot or dual feed foot can make the process easier.
- Is jersey fabric a natural or synthetic fabric?
- Is jersey fabric best for summer or winter?
- Will jersey fabric keep me warm?
We hope this article has already answered these questions: The term 'jersey' simply means the way the fabric is produced.
- it is suitable for summer or winter wear, depending on the yarn (e.g., cotton or wool).
- Jersey fabric is classed as a synthetic fabric if made from a filament like polyester, natural if made from a natural yarn like cotton, or man-made if made from an artificial yarn like viscose.
- Its weight, elasticity and texture will depend on the knitting process.
- Jersey fabric made from polyamide micro-fibre is breathable, non odour, cool, moisture wicking and comfortable to wear.