Fabric Files: Jersey
Allie is the co-founder of Indiesew and creator of all things pretty on the site. Follow Allie and receive other Indiesew updates by subscribing to the blog.
Today’s fabric files post is one I’ve been itching to write for weeks now. Jersey is a ubiquitous fabric in the sewing world. Most sewists likely have a few yards sitting in their stash right now. It’s easy to shop for and relatively easy to sew with. Plus, sewing with jersey results in comfortable garments that wash and wear well. Jersey is easy. Plain and simple. Let’s see why.
Jersey is a knit fabric used for a wide array of garments. It tends to be mid to light-weight with a considerable amount of stretch. Jersey is often made from wool, cotton, or polyester. Jerseys made of natural materials like cotton and wool are breathable and suitable for year round wear.
Interlock fabric is also considered a jersey, but is much heavier than a typical cotton jersey fabric. For this post, we’ll be referring to non-interlock jersey fabric.
Jersey fabric can be found in 100% cotton and also in blends that include polyester, rayon, lycra or spandex. Both lycra and spandex give jersey more stretch and better recovery than a 100% cotton jersey. Rayon jersey blends are softer to the touch than typical cotton jerseys. They also have more drape and pliability.
Below a 95% cotton, 5% spandex jersey is pictured. Notice how the knitted texture of the fabric is visible.
How to Sew with Jersey
Though not the hardest knit fabric to sew with, jersey requires a few extra considerations before you saddle up to your sewing machine. The first rule of thumb is to use a ballpoint or stretch sewing needle. Using this special kind of needle will ensure that your fabric doesn’t snag as you sew. Also, using a ballpoint needle reduces the number of skipped stitches you might see when sewing.
Jersey (excluding interlock) tends to roll at the edges when cut and handled. Often, a little spray starch and a hot iron will help smooth out rolled edges, but it can be hard to eliminate them completely. If you don’t already own one, consider investing in a serger
to whip up jersey garments in a snap. The serger will force the seam allowances to stay flat while finishing them at the same time.
If you’re not sewing your jersey with a serger, be sure to use a stretch stitch when sewing with this knit fabric. A simple zig zag stitch works great for hems and knit bound necklines. If you don’t like the look of a zig zag stitch on your seams, you can use the lightening bolt stitch (leftmost stitch below) if your machine includes that feature.
Some jerseys are super lightweight and semi sheer (often called tissue knits). These fabrics very drapey and delicate. Often a serger will handle tissue knits with no problem at all, but this is not always the case with a sewing machine. Tissue knits can get sucked into the bobbin case of your sewing machine if you don’t take a few special precautions. If you’re sewing with a lightweight jersey you might consider placing a layer of tissue paper underneath and on top of your two pieces of fabric. This will help the delicate fabric feed through the sewing machine evenly. Carefully rip off the tissue paper when you’re finished.
Regardless of what kind of fabric you're sewing with, we recommend you sew some sample stitches on a scrap of the fabric before you get started on your project.
How to Buy Jersey
Jersey tends to be a fabric of varying quality. One 100% cotton jersey can be completely different from another with the same fiber breakdown. This can be due to variations in the density of the knit or the quality of the fiber. I recommend visiting your local independent fabric store and seeing what types of jersey they have in stock. It helps to touch the fabric and read the labels to understand how the blends and brands differ.
There are a few jersey fabrics that I know are always a home run for me. Robert Kaufman Laguna Jerseys
are a dream to sew with. They’re mid-weight, completely opaque, and have great stretch. Laguna Jerseys are 95% cotton and 5% spandex. The Out and About Dress
pictured below was sewn in the navy colorway of this jersey. It was purchased from Imagine Gnats
Art Gallery Fabrics
also prints their designs on high-quality jersey fabrics. Though softer and lighter in weight than Robert Kaufman Laguna Jerseys, Art Gallery jerseys have the same fiber breakdown. These fabrics are also opaque and very stretchy. The Marianne Dress
pictured below was sewn in Art Gallery Fabric jersey from the Recollection collection
. I also used a grey Robert Kaufman Laguna Jersey on this dress. The two fabrics paired perfectly. Both were purchased from Imagine Gnats.
How to Care for Jersey
Luckily, jersey fabric is easy to care for and keep looking great. Pay attention to the fiber breakdown of your jersey to decide what sort of wash cycle your fabric requires. Jerseys with a majority of cotton will shrink. Be sure to prewash your fabrics on a warm wash cycle and medium tumble dry cycle before sewing.
Cotton jerseys can withstand a medium heat steam iron. I set my steam iron to the wool setting when working with jersey.
After your garment is sewn up, you can continue to launder it on a cold wash cycle and medium tumble dry cycle. I’ve found that an iron isn’t needed, as long as I hang the items as soon as it comes out of a warm dryer.
Garments Best Suited For Jersey
The best part of sewing with jersey is that it works well for most sewing patterns intended for knit fabrics. It’s the all-star in the family of knits, if you ask me, because it’s so versatile. We have several items in the Indiesew shop sewn up in jersey, both in prints and in solids. The Julia Cardigan
and Ballet Dress
below are both sewn in rayon jersey blends. The Cowl Neck Top
is sewn in a lightweight, tissue jersey.
You can see all creations that were sewn in jersey here
Have you sewn one of our patterns in jersey? Upload your creation
now and provide some inspiration to the sewing world! Also, we’d love to know any tips or tricks you have for working with jersey. Feel free to leave those in the comments below.