The world of textiles is vast and varied. Walking into a well stocked fabric store is, to me, similar to the feeling I get when I walk into a bookstore or a library. So many possibilities!
Patterns are generally designed to be used with a specific type of fabric. In most cases, there is one very basic distinction that will at least get you headed to the right section of the store... identifying whether a fabric is woven, or knit. These are the most simple categories that fabric can be divided into, and it's important to understand the differences. Once you know the basics, I'll share some tips about these two very different fabric types, and how you can sew them together in one garment.
First things first... What is Woven & What is Knit.
Woven fabric is any fabric that is constructed by "weaving" the fabric together. This means that there are fibers that run horizontally (also called the crosswise grain or 'weft'), and there are separate fibers that run vertically (the lengthwise grain or 'warp'). This fabric is what you would imagine if you picture someone using a loom; there are rows of thread or yarn running in one direction, and additional yarn is woven perpendicularly over and under them. You see it in basket-making, and when you were a kid you may have even done this with strips of paper. Burlap is an example of a textile that very clearly shows the weave of the fibers.
Woven fabric can be made in various densities. Wider yarns and string can be woven to create beautiful colorful blankets, but it is very tiny barely distinguishable thread that is woven by machine to create the typical garment or quilting fabrics you find in fabric stores. The more tightly woven the fibers, the more stable the fabric.
More characteristics of woven fabric:
Examples of woven fabrics include: denim, twill, linen, flannel, broadcloth, poplin, lawn, satin, chiffon.
Knit fabric is constructed of a single yarn or thread that is "knitted" into interconnected loops. If you've ever seen someone knitting with knitting needles, you may have observed that there is only one ball of yarn actually being used at a time. Only when the knitter reaches the end of one ball or wants to change colors, is another ball started. Basically, the yarn or thread goes under a loop from the previous row, picks up a new loop, and pulls it up onto the next row. This repeats over and over until it is either turned and the next row is created on top of the previous one, or it continues to be knitted in around in a circle or tube.
Which side of the fabric the loops are looped from changes some of the characteristics of a knit fabric. Melly Sews does a great job of explaining this in more detail, so if you are curious about that, check out her article about Types of Knit Fabric. As with wovens, knit fabrics will look different depending on the type and thickness of fibers they were made with, and the style of the knitting. Thick or thin yarns are used to create sweater knits, and design features can be added, including raised bumps called ribs. Thin threads are knitted by machine to make the material that is used for garments such as t-shirts and athletic wear. Though you have to look closely, you can see that the interlinking loops appear the same as with fabrics knit with thicker yarn.
There are also other types of knit that are made with fibers that are very hard to see with the eye, such as fleece fabric. (Fleece is a whole other fascination when it comes to textiles... check out my Sewing with Fleece Series for lots more about that one!)
Examples of knit fabrics include: jersey, interlock, ribbing, sweater knit, fleece, french terry.
More characteristics of knit fabric:
Now comes the Fun Stuff... Putting Wovens & Knits Together!
There are a few things you need to take into account if you are sewing woven and knit fabrics together. It does depend on which part of the garment you are combining as to whether certain conditions will apply.
In my Simcoe pajama pattern, the main parts of the pattern (pants/shorts, shirt front and back, and sleeves) are designed to be made with woven fabric, such as quilting cotton or flannel. The cuffs, collar, and bottom hem of the shirt call for knit that has good recovery, such as ribbing or interlock. Quality cotton lycra is also a good option if you don't have those; it is just often a little thinner so may be less stable than ribbing or interlock.
With this pattern, the knit that is being attached is smaller than the opening that it will be attached to, This means that the knit fabric will pull slightly at the seam, similar to the way elastic behaves in a waistband, causing the woven fabric to bunch up along the seam. Because this is intentional, this combination is very easy to stitch together as you do not need to worry about the knit fabric stretching more than it is meant to.
In all cases of sewing a knit and a woven fabric together, I personally recommend starting off with simply a universal needle, and a regular straight stitch or very narrow zigzag.
There are some conditions however, where you need to take special care when stitching wovens and knits together...
Perhaps you have some tips to share too about sewing woven and knits together? I'd love to hear your experiences! I really enjoy the affect of combining these two types of fabrics... so perhaps in the future you will see more woven/knit combinations in my collection!
Thank you so much for stopping by my little corner of the digital world. When I'm not designing (or, more likely, attempting to keep up with housework or schooling my three rug rats!) you'll probably find me with my nose in a book, escaping for a few precious moments into a world of fiction or learning with single-minded focus about my latest interest. Here, I'd like to share with you some of the things that I'm currently working on and a bit about all the ways I like to keep my creative juices flowing!
Just for Fun...