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Choose right knit for garment

If you love knits, there has never been a more exciting time to sew. Knits of all types and weights are on the market, but choosing the right knit for your project takes know-how, or you will be disappointed at the first wearing.

Both single and double knits are on the market. How can you tell them apart?

If you pull the fabric on the cross grain, a double knit will have greater recovery, often returning to its original size. On the other hand, a single knit pulled on the cross grain will curl with only minimal recovery.

How this information relates to garments is important. If you are looking for a knit to make a pair of slim pull-on pants or a straight skirt, anything other than a double knit will stretch out of shape at the seat and the knee. A double knit, with its good recovery, will return to its original size, if not overnight at least during its next cleaning. A single knit such as wool jersey also would be unsuitable for the same garment because it would bag out at the knee and the seat.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a knit suitable for full pants or a semi-full or full skirt, a single knit would be a better choice because it will drape better and hang closer to the body. The stretch factor is not an issue because the garment is full enough to take the stress off the fabric.

When you are choosing a fabric for a top, both single and double knits can be suitable if the style is close fitting. If the style is loose fitting or needs drape, such as a cowl neck, then a single knit would be more suitable.

Accordingly, a full dress is more flattering in a single knit, and a straight dress will keep its shape only if it is made in a double knit.

Knits come in many fibers, natural and artificial. Wool jersey, cashmere knit, lacy nylon knits and linen knits are all single knits.

Wool double knit and polyester double knit are the most common double knits. Lycra combinations can give a fabric better resiliency, allowing more flexibility in style. Lycra and rayon single knits, while very drapey, are often strong enough to be used in a double knit capacity.

Cotton and Lycra knits, while single knit in nature, are rarely drapey enough for anything very full. These cotton knit layers stick together, producing an unflattering silhouette.

In my opinion, good knits should be purchased as soon as you find one you love, since they are not always available. For flexibility in style, purchase 2{ yards, and you will have enough for a skirt or a top.

Sandra Betzina is host of Sew Perfect on Home & Garden Television. Send e-mail to