Design, Photography, & Fashion

What Is Jersey Fabric? Types of Jersey Fabric and How to Sew With Jersey

Written by MasterClass

Aug 26, 2019 • 5 min read

You’ve probably heard of sports jerseys, but did you know the athletic uniforms were named for pullover sweaters for fishermen from the island of Jersey in the English Channel? The knit fabric has become a staple of wardrobes over the years, and the soft, stretchy fabric is ideal for everything from t-shirts to bed sheets.

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What Is Jersey?

Jersey is a soft stretchy, knit fabric that was originally made from wool. Today, jersey is also made from cotton, cotton blends, and synthetic fibers. The right side of jersey knit fabric is smooth with a slight single rib knit, while the backside of jersey is piled with loops. The fabric is usually light-to-medium weight and is used for a variety of clothing and household items.

What Are the Origins of Jersey?

Jersey was first produced in medieval times in Jersey, Channel Islands—hence the name. The fabric was considered as only for menswear and was used to make underwear and fisherman’s sweaters.

However, in 1916, Coco Chanel revolutionized the jersey market and introduced the fabric to the women’s fashion industry, making comfortable dresses and coats out of jersey.

2 Types of Jersey

Jersey is a knit fabric, not a woven fabric. As a result, jersey has more stretch and give. There are two main types of jersey fabric, depending on the knit style:

  1. Standard jersey. Also called single knit or plain knit, this is made using one set of needles and appears smooth on one side and piled on the other.
  2. Double-knit jersey. Also called interlock jersey, this is two pieces of single knit jersey knit together to create a smooth surface on both sides.
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What Is Jersey Made From?

Jersey was originally made from wool, but more sophisticated manufacturing techniques led to the use of synthetic fibers and cotton. Cotton jersey brought down the costs of the material, and synthetic fibers made the fabric more durable. Today, most jerseys are made using cotton blended with synthetics.

Learn more about cotton here.

What Does Jersey Feel Like? Learn About the Characteristics of Jersey

Jersey is a multi-functional and versatile textile, and it has many qualities that made it a great fabric for daily use. Jersey is:

  • Stretchy. Due to its knitted structure, jersey-knit fabric is a stretch fabric, which makes it a great choice for items that require movement. Spandex can also be incorporated to create stretch jersey.
  • Soft. Jersey is soft and smooth, providing comfort for the wearer.
  • Opaque. Jersey fabric is opaque as a result of its knitted composition, which brings the fibers closer together with no way for light to pass through.
  • Absorbent and breathable. Cotton jersey fabric is king here, as cotton is very absorbent and breathable fiber. Cotton jersey and cotton blends are ideal for clothing that gets daily use, like t-shirts.
  • Well-structured. Most jersey fabrics have a nice drape, but it does depend on the fiber composition of the fabric. Jerseys using viscose or silk have a much smoother drape than cotton-jersey fabric, which tends to have more structure.

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5 Uses for Jersey Fabric

Jersey is one of the most popular and versatile fabrics used today. Some of the most popular items made from jersey include:

  • T-shirts and tank tops. Most t-shirts are made using a knit fabric, like jersey, as the opaque, stretchy, absorbent fabric is great for comfort and practical use.
  • Sweats. Sweatpants and sweatshirts are made from jersey fabric, as the stretch, softness, and absorbency make it a great fabric for lounging.
  • Bedsheets. Jersey sheets are very popular thanks to their soft and absorbent nature.
  • Underwear. Many undergarments are made from jersey fabric, as the stretch and absorbency make the fabric perfect for this use.
  • Sportswear and athleisure. The stretch and absorbent nature of jersey make it a good fabric for athletic endeavors. However, team uniforms today, which are usually referred to as “jerseys,” are not always made from jersey material—they are named that way because they were often originally made from jersey.

5 Tips for Sewing With Jersey

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Jersey is a soft and versatile fabric that can be used for many items, but it can seem tricky to sew with if you’ve never worked with knitted fabrics before. Here are some tips for sewing with jersey fabric.

  1. Use a ballpoint needle. A sharp regular needle may work for sewing knit fabrics, but it can often create tiny tears. Make sure you use a ballpoint needle, which goes in between the fibers when sewing rather than ripping them.
  2. Use a walking foot on your sewing machine. You can use a regular foot to sew, but if you’re worried about stretching the fabric as you feed it through the machine, a walking foot will help everything flow evenly so there are not random stretches in your finished product.
  3. Use zigzag stitch. If you just sew your knit fabric with a straight stitch, the fabric will stretch but the seam will not, which can easily lead to no give in the finished product and ripped stitches. Make sure to use a zigzag stitch when seaming, as this stitch allows for elasticity. You can also use a serger, if you have one, which will cut and finish your seams as you go.
  4. Use a twin needle for hems. For your hems, make sure to use a twin needle for the hem, as the double straight stitch is a nicer finishing technique and also allows for the stretch in the fabric.
  5. Test it on a swatch first. If you’re nervous about sewing with your fabric, test out a few seams on a scrap swatch first to get the length and give of your stitches right before moving onto the item you want to make.

Fabric Care Guide: How Do You Care for Jersey?

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Jersey is relatively easy to care for, but make sure you pay attention to the fibers used in the knit fabric. Cotton jersey has a tendency to shrink, so pre-wash your fabrics before sewing. Wash jersey with cool water and tumble dry on medium. An iron usually isn’t needed as long as you remove your items from the dryer quickly.

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