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What is Jersey Fabric?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Jersey fabric is a type of knit textile made from cotton or a cotton and synthetic blend. Some common uses for jersey fabric include t-shirts and winter bedding. The fabric is warm, flexible, stretchy, and very insulating, making it a popular choice for the layer worn closest to the body. Jersey also tends to be soft, making it very comfortable.

The textile is named for the island of Jersey. Jersey is the largest of a group of islands known as the Channel Islands, located between England and France. The island has a long history of human occupation, and is also well known for Jersey cows, typically raised for their rich, creamy milk.

A knitting machine is used to make jersey, since it can create the small, even, close grained stitches associated with jersey fabric. Like many other knit fabrics, jersey fabric has a right side and a wrong side. The right side of the material is marked by a series of very small lines which run vertically, and the wrong side has a horizontal grain. In most cases, a garment made from jersey fabric is sewn with the right side facing out, unless the seamstress is making a deliberate stylistic choice.

One of the reasons many people like to wear jersey fabric is the stretch factor. The fabric can stretch up to 25% percent along its grain. Garments made from the material have plenty of give as their wearers move, and also tend to cling to the body, since the fabric contracts as well as expanding. Knit dresses are usually made from jersey fabric, exploiting the clingy characteristic of the fabric. Jersey fabric is also available in a large assortment of colors and patterns to suit all tastes.

Care directions for jersey fabric vary, depending on whether the fabric is entirely natural or partially synthetic. As a general rule, jersey fabric can be washed in warm water with like colors, and tumble dried on a medium setting. Bright colors will stay brighter longer if they are washed on a cold setting and dried on low. Try to avoid mixing bright colors and whites in the wash, as the colors may bleed.

When sewing jersey fabric, it is recommended that the fabric be washed first, especially if it is cotton. All knits tend to shrink when they are washed, and washing beforehand eliminates shrinkage issues. It is also important to use a pattern specifically designed for knit fabrics, as the pattern will account for the stretch factor of the material. Most seamstresses also use a double layer of stitching or an overlock stitch on jersey fabric, to prevent unraveling.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon927739 — On Jan 26, 2014

Are all knits tubular or only special kinds? I want to make a no sew scarf, and I am trying to find where I can buy that kind of material.

By anon339497 — On Jun 24, 2013

How is jersey fabric most prone to shrink? Is it more length wise and less width wise?

By amypollick — On Jun 26, 2012

@anon276785: If I were you, I'd take the dress to an alterations shop. They have equipment like overlock sergers and can roll the hem of that dress, or hem it in another appropriate way that will look nice and won't cause the fabric to ravel.

Jersey is a funny fabric to work with and it has its quirks. I wouldn't trust something like a bridesmaid's dress to anyone but a professional. You're much better off spending a few dollars to have it hemmed and have it looking right than to try it yourself, with unpredictable results. If this were plain cotton, or a pair of shorts or something, I'd say go for it, but that hem is going to determine how the skirt falls, so really, you're better off going to a pro. Good luck!

By anon276785 — On Jun 26, 2012

I have a bridesmaid dress made out of matte jersey that needs to be shortened. But there is no hem. It is just cut straight with scissors. Will it be all right for me to do the same thing when I shorten it? Should I hem it?

By anon241016 — On Jan 16, 2012

Please explain what is the difference between single jersey and double jersey fabric. What are the knits in interlock fabric?

By anon209032 — On Aug 25, 2011

good information.

By anon160488 — On Mar 16, 2011

When was knit material first used in the United States?

By anon155695 — On Feb 24, 2011

anon 21636: I'd use interlock. it stretches less and is quite more durable. think polo shirts over t-shirts. polo shirts are more heavy weight, stronger.

By anon155694 — On Feb 24, 2011

@anon2832: i think you mean sports jerseys - i.e for soccer and so on. these are normally polyester or spandex (non natural fabric) - and the numbers are normally printed on just like any typical print on a shirt. prints come in different forms - you can have fluffy prints called flocking, shiny *glue like* prints which are normally gloss i.e., plastic based.

By anon88438 — On Jun 05, 2010

Which of the below knitted fabric is best one to use for industrial wear?

1. 100 percent Cotton

2. 65 percent Cotton; 35 percent Polyester.

Please advise on the above with technical reasons.

By anon88102 — On Jun 03, 2010

all knitted fabrics can be called jersey fabrics?

By anon83056 — On May 09, 2010

can you make panties with jersey cotton?

By anon80771 — On Apr 28, 2010

Jersey is named after the isle of Jersey because Lily Langtry, who popularized their use in ladies' suiting in the late 1800s (Hatch, 2003).

By anon76132 — On Apr 09, 2010

is it possible to make double Jersey?

to the best of my knowledge it's heavy Jersey.

By anon74924 — On Apr 04, 2010

As someone who used to work in a fabric store and who sewed her own clothes for years, I believe I can answer some of these questions.

First, jersey is not necessarily a cotton or cotton-blend fiber. The fabulous jersey dresses of the 40s were rayon. In the mid 60s, we started seeing polyester jerseys, which were popular into the mid 70s, then surged in popularity again in the 90s. Poly/cotton blends are popular jerseys.

Jersey is always a single knit, never a double. Double knits are not jerseys; they are not made the same way and do not have the same weight, drape, or stretch of a jersey knit.

Jersey is always a knitted fabric, never woven (by definition and manufacturing method, jersey is a knit). Matte jersey is a dull-finish fabric, unlike typical jersey, which tends to have a glossy or shiny finish, rather like the difference between matte- and glossy-finish photos.

I do not know why jersey knit is named after the Jersey Island. I can only guess that there was a large cottage industry of fabric weaving there, and perhaps jersey was either invented or produced in great quantity there. Much as tweed was produced iconically in Scotland.

By anon65534 — On Feb 14, 2010

Thank you for your explanation of what Jersey fabric is. Now it would be interesting to know why it was named after the Isle of Jersey.

By anon51964 — On Nov 10, 2009

Please explain what is the difference between single jersey and double jersey fabric. what is the knit interlock fabric?

By spacebabi13 — On Jun 06, 2009

What exactly differentiates Matte Jersey from basic Jersey?

By anon23361 — On Dec 22, 2008

anon2832:I'm assuming you're writing about the material on the "sport jerseys". I'm pretty sure that the little holes are made with some kind of hot tool. The jersey material with small holes all over it is usually all synthetic (plastic) and when you punch a hole with a hot tool, it melts the fabric around it just enough to seal in the thread ends. This all is done mechanically in a factory. I'm not sure what kind of tools you would use if you'd want to make this at home.

By anon21636 — On Nov 18, 2008

Hi, Kindly advise what are the advantages/disadvantages of using Jersey fabric to manufacture hand gloves over Interlock fabric if the market is EUROPE and USA?

By anon11271 — On Apr 12, 2008

jersey is also knit and never woven?

By anon7810 — On Feb 03, 2008

How can i know the quality of the jersey? i just want to know the percentage of its streched factor. what does cvc and tc mean?

By anon7319 — On Jan 24, 2008

what are the types of jersey fabric and manufacturing methods?

By anon6612 — On Jan 04, 2008

Please explain what is the difference between single jersey & double jersey fabric. what is the knits interlock fabric ?

By anon2832 — On Jul 27, 2007

You know those numbers on the jersey with glossy polyster and many tiny holes like it seems they are painted onto the jersey? What are they made out of? Glue? Is there somewhere I can go for more research on how to make those?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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