The Lowdown on Jersey Fabric

The Lowdown on Jersey Fabric

Jersey fabric is fantastic for making children’s clothes because it can be used on wardrobe staples like leggings and t-shirts; it’s comfortable and stretchy for baby clothes like rompers and sleepsuits; and it has fabulous drape for twirly skirts and dresses. This knitted fabric is arguably the most popular choice for creating children’s clothes at home because it holds colour really well so is available in a vast array of fun designs. But it can be quite daunting for those new to the world of jersey fabrics. Here’s our handy guide to navigate sewing with Jersey. 

What is Jersey?

Jersey is the generic name for the kind of fabric that’s made by machines knitting yarn loops together to form textile sheets. The front, face, or right side of the fabric is the one with the pattern or print and it’s made up of tiny lines where the fabric is knitted together. On plain or yarn-dyed fabrics where the colour is the same on both sides, the front of the fabric is the one with the tiny lines and the back has rows of tiny loops. 

The front and back of a piece of ochre coloured jersey fabric
The front of jersey has small ridges (top) and the back has tiny loops (bottom)

Jersey goes by many names because there are many different kinds of fabrics that come under the heading of ‘jersey’. What makes matters more complicated is that some of those fabrics also have a few different names, so that’s when things start getting confusing.

The most common way of naming jersey knit fabrics is by its fabric content, so Cotton Jersey, Wool Jersey, Viscose Jersey, and Polyester Jersey, etc. are all named after exactly which kind of material they’re made from. Cotton Jersey is probably the most popular kind of jersey fabric when it comes to making homemade children’s clothes, but some people also refer to it as Single Knit, Standard Knit or Plain Knit. As cotton is a natural plant-based fibre, it’s breathable and kind to little people’s skin. So it’s not going to be sweaty like synthetic fabrics and is naturally absorbent so can wick any sweat away from the skin.

Composition

Cotton Jersey can refer to knit fabric that’s made totally from cotton or from mostly cotton and another kind of material. Most of our Cotton Jersey is made from cotton with an added amount of elastic to give the fabric a little extra stretch, but more importantly to ensure the fabric pings back into its original shape when it’s not being stretched. That’s why this kind of fabric is so great for children’s clothes- it’s stretchy, soft, natural and it’s not going to go all baggy at the knees and elbows or stretch out of shape at the neck from normal wear.

As this Cotton Jersey normally has 95% cotton and 5% elastic, or sometimes 92% cotton and 8% elastic, it’s often called Cotton Lycra, CL, or Cotton Lycra Jersey. The elastic part also has other names: elastane is the most often used one, but the brand names Lycra and Spandex are sometimes substituted. So the fabric can also be known as Cotton Elastane or Cotton Spandex.

Checking out the fabric composition of cotton jersey is important. The greater the elastic content of the fabric, the more stretch it’s going to have. If it is 100% Cotton Jersey that means it’s likely to have some stretch, but the recovery of the fabric or its ability to ping back after being stretched is less, but that also means it’s more stable to sew with. This kind of jersey tends to be known as Cotton Knit or Single Knit (our new Cotton Knit fabric range is coming soon). It has similar properties to Interlock fabric, the kind of fabric shop-bought sleepsuits, vests and pyjamas are made from.  They’re both 100% cotton knits, but they are manufactured in a slightly different way.

Another kind of Cotton Jersey fabric is also known as French Terry, FT, Loopback or Summer Sweat. It can have the same composition as other cotton jersey mixes, but tends to be slightly thicker and has noticeable loops on the reverse of the fabric. The stretch it has can also vary quite a lot depending on if fabric composition is 100% cotton, has added elastane or is a polyester blend. This kind of fabric is great for making joggers, jumpers, light hoodies and t-shirts.

Weight or GSM

A bundle of fabrics on top of a weighing scales
Jersey, like other fabrics, is measured by gsm or grams per metre. The higher the gsm, the heavier and thicker the fabric is and vice versa. Jersey with a weight of 180gsm or lower is lightweight jersey and great for summer projects and creating garments for layering. Jersey on the lower side of this weight spectrum is sometimes called T-shirt Jersey or Summer Jersey. 220-240gsm Jersey is a perfect all round fabric and this kind of weight makes substantial feeling clothing that is just right for changeable British weather. Weights of 240gsm and over can often be found on medium weight jerseys, things like French Terry

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