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What Is a Jersey Knit?

Jersey fabric.
T-shirts are commonly made of jersey fabric.
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  • Written By: Christine Hudson
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2014
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Jersey knit is a fabric type made of natural, synthetic cotton blends and sometimes wool. It is usually characterized as loose, soft, warm and durable. This fabric is typically used in T-shirts, but can also be used in dresses, skirts, sleepwear and bed linens. The fabric style was named after Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands in the English Channel near the French coast, where it originated.

To make a jersey knit fabric, a knitting machine is used. This is to get the very small and close-knit stitches jersey knit is known for. Like most knitted fabrics, jersey fabric has two sides. The side with tiny, vertical lines is considered the right side, while the side with horizontal lines which are not as smooth is considered the wrong side. Yarn used to make jersey fabric tends to be light and delicate to achieve an end result of loose, draping fabric.

Sewing or working with knit fabrics, including jersey knit, generally requires special care from the seamstress. Many recommend using a ballpoint or stretch needle on the sewing machine and a zigzag stitch, which will stretch with the fabric. Cutting the fabric properly may be made easier by first pinning it to tissue paper and then laying out the pattern and cutting the necessary pieces.

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It is not uncommon to find this textile in fabric stores in many areas of the world. As it is so widely available, it is generally fairly inexpensive. Those with the proper knitting machines may also wish to make the fabric, but as it is intricate, it is not normally recommended for beginning knitters to attempt. Knitters might take advantage of knitting clubs to gather tips and instructions before deciding to make their own jersey fabric.

Pre-made jersey knit fabric is usually available in many different colors and prints. In 1916, the French fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel made what was considered a very bold move by using jersey knit for loose and casual outer garments. At this time, the fabric was typically only used for underwear. She is generally credited as being the designer who made jersey knit popular.

Jersey knit can be washed in warm water with like colors and dried on medium heat. Care may vary depending on the knit's material, so it is typically recommended that individuals read and follow directions carefully. If made of 100% cotton or wool, the fabric tends to shrink slightly after the first wash— therefore, seamstresses and knitters alike normally create their garments about 15% larger than they need to be.

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