Today we have a guest post from Michelle of Happily Caffeinated. Michelle is a knit aficionado who buys lots of knit fabrics online, and she has some fantastic advice on how to make sure you get what you’re after. For most knit dresses, I use medium to heavy weight cotton jersey, but you can also use ITY jersey, wool jersey or even silk jersey if you’re feeling fancy. Big thanks to Michelle for sharing her wisdom with the CSC!
In case you’re wondering: you do need to use knit fabric for these kinds of wrap dresses: the patterns were designed for stretchy fabrics that will fit around your body. If you use a woven material, you need a lot more structural shaping (darts, tucks etc.) and so the pattern would be totally different. But don’t fear knits! They are actually pretty easy to work with and the result is quick and satisfying.
Best of all, we have partnered with two amazing fabric stores to bring you special offers! First off, Gorgeous Fabrics is offering a discount just for the Curvy Wrapalongs! During September, you can get 15% off non-sale printed jersey, using the code CurvyWrap (cannot be combined with any other offers).
Additionally, The Smuggler’s Daughter is not only offering fantastic prizes for three participants in the Wrapalong (details to come soon!), but also has a special $10 off coupon for Facebook fans to use on any order. Once you’ve liked The Smuggler’s Daughter on Facebook, head on over to check out the designer limited runs that TSD specializes in. Not only is their current knit selection amazing, but new fabrics are posted every Friday, with special sales appearing on certain Mondays.
Over to you, Michelle!
Unless you live in a “fabric mecca” city like Portland, Los Angeles, or New York, you probably buy a fair amount of your fabric online. Even in Seattle, where I have a choice of wonderful indie fabric shops for woven fabric, I still buy most of my knits online. Online stores have a huge variety of colors and prints that I just can’t find in my local brick-and-mortar stores.
In this post, we’ll look at a few online listings for knit fabrics which would work for a wrap dress. I’ll talk about a few types of knits that would be appropriate, and I’ll point out how to read between the lines of the fabric listings so that the fabric that arrives in a box on your doorstep is on par with what you’re expecting to receive. If you’re pondering an online fabric purchase, never forget that most online retailers will let you order a swatch for under $2 per sample, which can help you be more confident in your purchase.
We’ll cover the following types of knits:
- ITY jersey knits
- Cotton jersey knits
- Rayon jersey knits
Making sense of knit weights
Some web sites list a weight by oz for each fabric. Unfortunately, these numbers are meaningless if you’re new to ordering knits online. Through trial-and-error and many online purchases, I’ve developed my own categorization of knits by weight. Your mileage may vary, but this is what I go by when I see weights listed in oz on a fabric listing:
- Less than 7 oz: Anything under 7 oz is a lightweight knit. I would avoid anything in this range unless you wanted to layer or line the garment that you planned to make.
- 7-8 oz: light to medium weight, good for a top that needs a lot of drape or a flowy skirt (either lined or unlined, if the fabric is opaque). For example, a cowl top made from this weight of fabric will drape nicely. I would not personally use this weight for a wrap dress or for a simple knit top–a weight this light will be prone to showing lumps and bumps. Girl Charlee knits of this weight on a white background will be a bit sheer, as well.
- 8-10 oz: A true medium weight. I find this weight range to be the most “multi-use”. This weight works well for a variety of knit tops and dresses. I made both of my Monetas from knits in this weight range.
- 10 oz and up: Anything over 10 oz is a “beefy” knit to me. I like this weight for plain t-shirts and other tops without gathering or ruching. This weight will not cling to lumps and bumps (unless your top/dress/skirt is tight). Beefy knits also work well for the bodices of knit dresses, but if you made an entire dress out of a knit this beefy, the dress might feel a bit “heavy”.
Now, let’s go fabric shopping!
ITY Jersey Knits
Many of the fun, vibrant prints that we see in blog posts and pattern reviews are ITY (Interlock Twist Yarn) jerseys, which is a term that has to do with the way that the fabric is knitted. I’ve found that ITY jerseys typically (but not always) have the following characteristics:
- Poly-lycra blend
- Have a decent amount of stretch (but not too much)
- Typically have vibrant or geometric prints
- Don’t usually fade in the wash
- Usually mid-range on the knit stability scale (where a Ponte knit would be very stable and a lightweight rayon-lycra would be very slippery)
- Skim over lumps and bumps
ITY jerseys are great for patterns like wrap dresses, where you want a fabric with some body and some drape, and the pattern doesn’t have a ton of seam lines to break up the print. If you want to emulate a Diana Von Furstenberg-style wrap dress with a great print in an affordable fabric, ITY jersey is your go-to fabric.
Example 1: ITY jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics
To start, let’s look at a fairly typical ITY jersey listed on Gorgeous Fabrics:
- This listing is a poly-lycra blend with 6% lycra–that’s a pretty decent amount of lycra, and this fabric has 60% cross-wise stretch. You could certainly use this fabric with a pattern that called for negative ease; the print would also help camouflage any lumps and bumps revealed by said negative ease.
- For this fabric, Ann included a ruler in the main listing feature. You can see pretty easily that this print has quite a large scale.
- The last thing to consider here is the price: $12/yard, which is a bit pricey for many of us, but the price also gives you a clue that this probably isn’t going to be a flimsy, lightweight fabric.
Given the large-scale print of this fabric and the likely “heft” to it, weight-wise, I like the idea of using this fabric for a traditional wrap dress, like the Christine Jonson wrap:
Example 2: ITY jersey from FabricMart
Now, let’s look at an ITY jersey from FabricMart. FabricMart generally has lower prices than Gorgeous Fabrics, but their quality is a bit more of a crapshoot. You can score a fantastic deal from FabricMart, but you also occasionally receive fabric that has you scratching your head, wondering if you can use it for anything other than a muslin. In any case, here’s a pretty typical ITY jersey from this FabricMart:
- Right off the bat, you can see that the price for this fabric is just over half the cost of the Gorgeous Fabrics listing.
- The poly-lycra content is nearly the same as the Gorgeous Fabric listing. This listing doesn’t mention stretch percentage, but at 5% lycra, this fabric will still have pretty good stretch and recovery. You could theoretically use for a pattern with negative ease.
- Note the “weight” for this fabric. In two different fields for this fabric, we see the words “Light” and “Lightweight”. Recommended uses include scarves, among other lightweight and often floaty garments.
- Like the Gorgeous Fabrics listing, this fabric also has a fairly large scale print.
If I were to use this fabric for a wrap dress, I’d look at a pattern like McCall’s 6884, views C or D.
The lack of a waist seam on these views will work well on this fabric’s large-scale print. With the fabric being fairly lightweight, the ruching detail at the tie should look nice and not be too bulky.
Cotton Jersey Knits
In this section, we’ll specifically look at a couple of cotton jerseys from Girl Charlee, a popular source of knit fabrics for their trendy prints and colors. Most of the cotton jerseys (not counting things like French Terry) will fall into one of three categories. Note that the weights can vary slightly within these categories.
- Cotton Jersey Blend
- Cotton Spandex Knit
- Cotton Spandex Blend (usually printed fabrics)
Cotton Jersey Blend Fabric
Most of the fabrics in Girl Charlee’s Exclusive line are listed as “cotton jersey blends”. But what does that mean? This bird print is a good example of this type of fabric:
“Blend” in this case means a cotton-poly blend. If you look at the listed fabric content, this fabric is nearly half poly. This fabric contains no lycra. What that means is that any stretch in this fabric is mechanical, so this fabric probably wouldn’t be a good choice for a pattern with negative ease. 30% stretch isn’t much stretch for a knit, anyway.
If I was looking for a pattern for this fabric, I’d flat out avoid using it for a wrap dress, unless I was looking to substitute it for a lightweight woven fabric with a pattern designed for wovens. This fabric simply is too lightweight and not stretchy enough for a traditional wrap dress, in my opinion.
Solid Cotton Spandex Knit
Girl Charlee’s “solid cotton spandex knit” fabric is dyed, rather than printed, so it has a different feel from their printed cotton spandex knits.
- The biggest two differences between this fabric and the one above it is that this fabric is beefier and contains spandex but no poly.
- I like this fabric a lot for inexpensive t-shirts and knit dresses. I used this exact fabric for one of my Monetas, and while I’ve seen some slight fading in the wash (I wash my handmade clothes on cold/delicate), it hasn’t been too bad. 10oz is a nice weight for a lot of different types of garments.
- With 60% stretch horizontally (around your body) and 30% stretch vertically, if you use this fabric in a dress, note that the bodice will likely stretch and be pulled down by the weight of your skirt. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something to be aware of when figuring out where your waist seam will hit you and how long your skirt hem will be.
This fabric would be a suitable choice for just about any typical wrap dress pattern—the Christine Jonson wrap, McCall’s 6884 (perhaps staying away from the views with the ruching), or the classic Vogue 8379:
For me, rayon jerseys have required the most trial-and-error shopping out of any type of knit. If you haven’t worked with rayon jersey before, be aware that this type of jersey is generally very soft and very drapey. If you’re not used to working with drapey knits, rayons can be a bit more difficult to work with than more stable knits like ITY jerseys and cotton knits. On the other hand, rayons usually have an amazing drape and are great for garments with ruching details or things like cowl necklines.
Knit print from Emma One Sock
Hint: most fabrics described as “knit prints” from EOS are rayon jerseys. Of course, you’ll want to check the fabric description to be sure. Here’s a fairly typical knit print (i.e. “rayon jersey”) listing from EOS:
For a wrap dress, I’d look at using this fabric in a pattern with a fuller skirt and where I could take advantage of its drapey qualities, like in Simplicity 2369:With this fabric, you’re largely paying for the quality of the print. I haven’t worked with this exact fabric, but I have occasionally splurged on other rayon knit prints from EOS, and her knits are generally quite a bit lighter weight and drapier than the solid-colored 11oz jersey. This listing describes this fabric as medium-lightweight, and from the similar knits that I’ve worked with, I would agree.
Fabric.com rayon jerseys
I won’t post individual listing examples for fabric.com because I haven’t ordered a rayon jersey from here in a while, generally having been disappointed with their weights. I mention them because I know that they’re a popular source for inexpensive rayon jerseys. I can offer some general guidelines, though, if you’re interested in ordering rayon jersey from fabric.com.
- “Tissue“: You’ll see a lot of fabric.com jerseys use this word in their description. Tissue weight jersey is EXTREMELY lightweight. I avoid anything of this weight like the plague.
- “Lightweight“: When fabric.com says that something is lightweight, they mean it. “Lightweight” generally isn’t as lightweight as “tissue” weight, but it’s still a weight that I avoid.
- “Slub“: The word “slub” refers to little runs and “flaws” intentionally knitted into the fabric. Slub doesn’t mean anything weight-wise. Pay attention to the fabric description for that.
- “Dakota“: Dakota is a manufacturer brand name. I’ve seen the Dakota line fabrics on other sites listed for significantly more than what fabric.com charges. If I were going to order a rayon jersey from fabric.com, I’d look for the Dakota name and stick with that. In my experience, when fabric.com mentions a manufacturer’s brand name, it’s nearly always a fabric of at least decent quality.
And of course, if you’re in doubt, remember that you can always order swatches!
If you’re not completely online-fabric-shopped out, you can read my entire series about shopping online for knits on my blog: