Jersey fabric is a type of knit textile made from cotton or a cotton and synthetic blend. Some common uses for jersey fabric include t-shirts and winter bedding. The fabric is warm, flexible, stretchy, and very insulating, making it a popular choice for the layer worn closest to the body. Jersey also tends to be soft, making it very comfortable.
The textile is named for the island of Jersey. Jersey is the largest of a group of islands known as the Channel Islands, located between England and France. The island has a long history of human occupation, and is also well known for Jersey cows, typically raised for their rich, creamy milk.
A knitting machine is used to make jersey, since it can create the small, even, close grained stitches associated with jersey fabric. Like many other knit fabrics, jersey fabric has a right side and a wrong side. The right side of the material is marked by a series of very small lines which run vertically, and the wrong side has a horizontal grain. In most cases, a garment made from jersey fabric is sewn with the right side facing out, unless the seamstress is making a deliberate stylistic choice.
One of the reasons many people like to wear jersey fabric is the stretch factor. The fabric can stretch up to 25% percent along its grain. Garments made from the material have plenty of give as their wearers move, and also tend to cling to the body, since the fabric contracts as well as expanding. Knit dresses are usually made from jersey fabric, exploiting the clingy characteristic of the fabric. Jersey fabric is also available in a large assortment of colors and patterns to suit all tastes.
Care directions for jersey fabric vary, depending on whether the fabric is entirely natural or partially synthetic. As a general rule, jersey fabric can be washed in warm water with like colors, and tumble dried on a medium setting. Bright colors will stay brighter longer if they are washed on a cold setting and dried on low. Try to avoid mixing bright colors and whites in the wash, as the colors may bleed.
When sewing jersey fabric, it is recommended that the fabric be washed first, especially if it is cotton. All knits tend to shrink when they are washed, and washing beforehand eliminates shrinkage issues. It is also important to use a pattern specifically designed for knit fabrics, as the pattern will account for the stretch factor of the material. Most seamstresses also use a double layer of stitching or an overlock stitch on jersey fabric, to prevent unraveling.