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What is… Jersey and How Do You Sew It Successfully?

Jersey top
Jersey top

Not knowing what a fabric is can make it seem scary, and means you might not want to sew with it. That is how many people have come to feel about Jersey and other stretch fabrics. In fact, once you know what you are doing, jersey is not scary and there are a lot of benefits to being able to sew with it.

Jersey is a knit fabric used predominantly for clothing manufacture. It was originally made of wool, but is now made of wool, cotton, and synthetic fibers. The fabric can be a very stretchy single knitting and usually light-weight.

The benefits of Jersey and stretch fabrics are also the part that people find scary, which is the stretch. People worry that they won’t be able to sew with a stretchy fabric and that it will pucker under the stitches, which can be true if using the wrong stitch. The best way to sew with a stretch fabric is to sew with a small zig zag. This stitch allows the fabric to still move and therefore stops the puckering. Another option is to use a stretch stitch setting if your sewing machine has one. This can be either straight or zig-zag and involves the machine making 3 stitches next to each other very slightly offset, which lets the seam stretch with the fabric. A third tip is to use a walking foot for sewing jersey, this stops the top layer of fabric in the seam ‘creeping’ as you sew.

Once over the fear of sewing with the material, it is then possible to see the benefits of this very versatile fabric. The benefit is that it is stretchy, meaning it can be very flattering to the figure, it will stretch if you have sewn the item a little too tight, and most of the time with jersey garments you don’t need zips! Another top advantage is that most jersey fabric does not fray when cut so all that tiresome oversewing of the cut edges of your garment are done away with, making sewing up of jersey garments really speedy. You can even use this feature to allow you to make designs on the garment by appliqueing on layers and cutting designs in the jersey as in this example.Example of cut jersey design

Stretch fabrics can be made with a range of different fibres, from the synthetic lycras and elastines to the natural cottons and viscoses. Each with different levels of stretch and with different qualities to complement different garments.

Top Tips for sewing with Jersey;

  • Sew with zig-zag stitch or use stretch stitch setting on your machine
  • Pin lots to stop it from slipping, and/or use a walking foot
  • Always use a ball point needle to sew
  • For added extra ease cut with a rotterycutter 
  • Jersey doesn’t fray and hemming is not always necessary

Interested in trying out Jersey or stretch fabrics? Visit our stores in Bridport or Yeovil to see our current range. Still feeling nervous? Why not buy a book about sewing with jersey to help you?

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