Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Shopping for knits online, part 3: Rayon Jersey Knits

I intend for this to be my final post in my "shopping for knits online" series, and in this post, we'll look at a few listings for rayon jerseys from different online sources. If you're new to my blog, here are the other two posts in this series:
A few words about other types of knits: French Terry, Ponte de Roma, and neoprene/Scuba knits

Now, there certainly are other types of knit fabrics that you can buy online, such as French Terry, Ponte de Roma, and now even neoprene/SCUBA double knits. I may add onto this series with a post about these fabrics later on, but as for now, I don't feel confident enough in my own ability to shop for these fabric types to write an entire post about them. However, here are a few observations that I've made based on my experience so far with these fabrics:
  • French Terry: The few pieces of French Terry that I've bought and worked with (all from Girl Charlee) have all been absolutely lovely fabrics--drapey with a nice amount of body (more body than many of the jersey knits we've discussed in this series).  I love this stuff. It's held up well to washing and wearing so far, and I expect to stalk their web site and buy/stash prints and colors that I like when they get them in stock.
  • Ponte de Roma: Ponte de Roma is a type of double knit fabric and is currently experiencing a lot of popularity. PdR is affordable, has a nice drape, and is often available in a wide variety of solid colors and prints.  Because PdR is relatively stable, you can also often use it in a pattern that calls for a woven fabric. (A lot of people refer to this fabric as "Ponte" as a shortcut, but "Ponte" is a different fabric with less drape.) PdR is typically a blend of rayon, polyester, and spandex. Because this fabric type is a rayon-poly blend, some fabrics will pill in the wash, which is generally the biggest knock against Pdr. Generally, a blend with a higher poly content will tend to pill more than a blend with a higher rayon content, although I have read about exceptions online. Blends with higher rayon content will also tend to feel softer to the touch. Occasionally, you'll run across a PdR that's all poly and spandex with no rayon. I, personally, would probably not purchase this fabric.
  • Neoprene/SCUBA knits: These are everywhere right now, often available in vibrant colors and prints. Neoprene/SCUBA is a beef-ish double knit that can be used for more structured garments. No, it does not feel like a wetsuit. I've purchased three cuts of this fabric from three different sources but have not sewn any of it yet (although I plan to do so soon).
    • The first cut that I ordered was an inexpensive solid purple cut that I bought on sale from FabricMart. Honestly, this fabric feels "icky" for a lack of a better word. Luckily, I only bought one yard of it to make a Mabel pencil skirt, but I can't seem to bring myself to actually work with this cut. Maybe it'll feel better after washing, but right now, I'm leaning towards writing off my $6 investment.
    • The second cut that I ordered was a cut from Girl Charlee, and it feels So. Much. Nicer. than the stuff from FabricMart. This cut was from the big lot of SCUBA fabric that they got in within the last month or so. It's beefy and soft and stable, and I think that it will work well as an unlined bomber jacket, which is what I'd originally purchased it for.
    • The third cut that I ordered was from Gorgeous Fabrics. They've gotten a lot of neoprene in lately, too, and I got sucked in by a cool print. This cut was the most expensive, and not surprisingly, feels the nicest out of the bunch. I'm planning to do a "wearable muslin" in the Girl Charlee fabric and make my "real" garment out of the stuff from Gorgeous Fabrics.
Onto the rayon jerseys...

For me, rayon jerseys have required the most trial-and-error shopping out of any type of knit. "Mid-weight" seems to mean something different to every online retailer. This post will largely be me sharing my lessons learned with you.

If you haven't worked with rayon jersey before, be aware that this type of jersey is generally very soft and very drapey. If you're not used to working with drapey knits, rayons can be a bit more difficult to work with than more stable knits like ITY jerseys and cotton knits. On the other hand, rayons usually have an amazing drape and are great for garments with ruching details or things like cowls necklines.

I won't discuss "tissue-weight" or "layering" rayon jerseys in this post because I avoid those like the plague. Jerseys of those weights absolutely have to be lined or layered with another piece, and I'd rather not deal with them. That said, I could see them working well for lounge tops or lingerie. The "tissue weight" or "layering" red light keywords apply across all online fabric sources, as far as I'm concerned.

Enough rambling from me. Let's look at some jerseys!

11oz. rayon/lycra jersey from Emma One Sock

I'll cut to the chase, I love the 11 oz. rayon lycra jersey from Emma One Sock. To me, it's the gold standard for rayon lycra jerseys and is worth the price tag, if you've got an appropriate TNT garment to use it for.
Emma One Sock 11 oz rayon jersey
 
Linda from EOS always has a ton of this fabric in stock in many, many different colors. You can reliably order and re-order from this group and always know what you're going to get.

At $18/yard, if you use 2 yards for a knit top pattern that you've already made and loved, $36 total for a top that will wash and wear well through multiple seasons seems like a good investment to me. The description for this fabric is pretty accurate. The thing to take away from it is the weight is 11oz, and if you look at the suggested uses, "pants" are one of them. This is a beefy knit. A maxi-dress made out of this will both stretch (note the 4-way stretch) and feel heavy.

I've bought and sewn with this fabric probably about a half dozen or more times over the years. I love this fabric for tops. I like it for simple knit dresses; however, I wouldn't go with any fuller of a skirt than an A-line shape for this fabric, as a dress with a full skirt will feel pretty heavy. This fabric would work great for a dress bodice in a solid color and the skirt in a lighter-weight print.

Knit print from Emma One Sock

Hint: most fabrics described as "knit prints" from EOS are rayon jerseys. Of course, you'll want to check the fabric description to be sure. Here's a fairly typical knit print (i.e. "rayon jersey") listing from EOS:

Knit Print from EOS
With this fabric, you're largely paying for the quality of the print. I haven't worked with this exact fabric, but I have occasionally splurged on other rayon knit prints from EOS, and her knits are generally quite a bit lighter weight and drapier than the solid-colored 11oz jersey. This listing describes this fabric as medium-lightweight, and from the similar knits that I've worked with, I would agree. I'd use this fabric in either a knit top or a drapey dress, like a Colette Myrtle.

Midweight Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics

Moving down the price scale a little bit, here's a midweight rayon jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics:

Midweight Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics
Now, when I think of a fabric as "midweight", I usually think of a t-shirt as an example garment. I don't think that necessarily applies to rayon jerseys, and I think we'll generally be happier if we can get that association out of our heads. This fabric is described as "midweight", but the midweight rayon jerseys that I've received from Gorgeous Fabrics have definitely been on the lighter side of what I'd use for a t-shirt. They do, however, work well for drapey knit tops, which is the example pattern in this listing (the "HP Mighty Aphrodite knit top"). Another clue is that Ann hints that this jersey can be layered with other garments--to me, that's a pretty big sign post that this fabric is on the lighter side.

Super Soft Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics

Okay, if the above fabric is a "midweight" jersey, then what's a super soft jersey?

"Super soft" rayon jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics
When Ann says that a fabric is "super soft", she means it. You might buy this fabric for a top, but you'll feel it and want to use it for pajamas. I'm sure that it varies some, but my experience has been that the "super soft" jerseys run a little lighter in weight than Ann's "midweight" jerseys.

This listing doesn't contain a whole lot of clues as to the weight of the fabric, but both recommended patterns have some drape and gather details. If this fabric is the same as other "super soft" jerseys I've bought/swatched from GF, I'm not sure that I would use it for a Tiramisu. Normally, Ann's descriptions and recommendations for her fabric are spot-on, but my opinion does occasionally differ from hers once I have fabric in-hand.

Fabric.com rayon jerseys

I won't post individual listing examples for fabric.com because I haven't ordered a rayon jersey from here in a while, generally having been disappointed with how lightweight the ones that I'd ordered were. I mention them because I know that they're a popular source for inexpensive rayon jerseys among a lot of sewists. I can offer some general guidelines, though, if you're interested in ordering rayon jersey from fabric.com.
  •  "Tissue": You'll see a lot of fabric.com jerseys use this word in their description. Tissue weight jersey is EXTREMELY lightweight. As I mentioned in my intro, I avoid anything of this weight like the plague.
  • "Slub": The word "slub" refers to little runs and "flaws" intentionally knitted into the fabric. Slub doesn't mean anything weight-wise. Pay attention to the fabric description for that.
  • "Lightweight": As with ITY jerseys, when fabric.com says that something is lightweight, they mean it. "Lightweight" generally isn't as lightweight as "tissue" weight, but it's still a weight that I avoid. 
  • "Dakota": Dakota is a manufacturer brand name. I've seen the Dakota line fabrics on other sites listed for significantly more than what fabric.com charges. If I were going to order a rayon jersey from fabric.com, I'd look for the Dakota name and stick with that. In my experience, when fabric.com mentions a manufacturer's brand name, it's nearly always a fabric of at least decent quality.
And of course, if you're in doubt, remember that you can always order swatches.

HotPatterns giveaway update

If you haven't posted a comment for the HotPatterns giveaway, you still have a few days to do so before the August 30th cut-off (PST). I'll announce the winner on Monday:

HotPatterns giveaway post

14 comments:

  1. Great post again. I find this information most helpful. I am looking forward to seeing your scubas sewn up.

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    1. Yes, I'm looking forward to that, too!

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  2. Generally I'm with you on the super light stuff but when I was is Paris I fell in love with a super cheap print that was too flimsy unlined. I ended up lining it with the really cheap Joanns knit the one that's like thick panty hose material. Turns out it works great and keeps the skirt from sticking to my tights. Its a long sleeve dress wouldn't have used the lining in summer but for winter it works pretty well. I actually cheated and basted the pieces together before sewing the dress instead of doing a real lining. So much easier imho.

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    1. Lining is definitely an option for thinner knits. (I'm going to need to line the skirt of the Myrtle when I make it because the fabric I chose is semi-sheer.) But since I look at knits as instant gratification projects most of the time, I'm usually loathe to line them if I can avoid it.

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  3. Thanks for a great post. I'm trying to find knits that are beefy enough to wear as a dress (and hide lumps and bumps), but still have good drape. I really like the Title Nine style of clothes, but it's really hard to find similar quality fabrics to the ones they use.

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    1. Definitely give French Terry a try, if you haven't already and are able to find some. Gorgeous Fabrics also carries a fabric called "Swiss 4-Way Stretch" that has good drape and body: http://gorgeousfabrics.com/?s=swiss&post_type=product It was originally designed for active wear, but can be used for other things. I made a set of (unblogged) lounge pants from it a while back.

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  4. Great post, thank you! Your advice is really helpful. I have been very happy with all the rayon knits I've bought from EmmaOneSock, and there have been a few. Linda is my favourite vendor because her descriptions are informative and I love that she takes such helpful photos. I haven't bought viscose knits from Gorgeous fabrics because often the fabric content isn't stated. I did buy some from GirlCharlee but they were a lot lighter in weight than whatI'd hoped, so your advice is really helpful. For weight, my suspicion is that (luck aside) you probably get what you pay for, but I'm happy to be contradicted! (Since I pay a fortune in shipping, I guess the per yard price is relatively less important to me than getting a really good fabric. It also puts me off swatching!).

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    1. Linda's (EOS) descriptions are always spot-on. Ann's (GF) are usually quite good, although on very rare occasions, I've gotten a fabric from here that wasn't what I was expecting--although it was still usable. I think that the funniest difference between description and reality was the "rayon jersey" that I ordered that turned out to be a very nice rayon doubleknit. Still totally usable, but not for the project I'd bought it for.

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  5. Michelle, your posts on buying knits online have been most informative and helpful. I don't think I've ever read anything so detailed! Thank you for taking the time to do this!

    I haven't ordered anything from Fabric.com in a while either. Like you, I found that it is best to order a swatch before committing to yardage as their descriptions can be iffy.

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    1. Your welcome! I decided to do this series because I was reading so many comments from people being disappointed in online fabric purchases. I'm hoping to show how to "read between the lines" of fabric descriptions so that people will have a better idea of what they're actually purchasing.

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  6. Great post! Thank you also for explaining the difference between ponte and ponte de roma!

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  7. Great series - thank you! I h have recently become a knit convert through the Crafter Ultimate TShirt class by the Tiltons, generally with success. However, I've picked up a very drapey, SLIPPY, rayon knit and just not loving it!!! Do you have any tips for sewing it? Or any links? Any advice would be MOST appreciated!!!!

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  8. Great article! FYI on Fabric.com the Mirabella knit jersey is a nice one. Says medium/heavy but it is more medium. Soft hand and vibrant colors. Washes with no pilling. Also if you are looking for a beefy knit try their Ibiza knit. Says medium in the description but it is heavier than the Mirabella. I have made several tunics out of this brand. Washes like a dream and doesn't pill. The Ibiza has 4 way 50% stretch. Mirabella is 25% 4 way. Just wanted to throw out a couple of staple knits I get at Fabric.com. Some of their stuff can be kinda sketchy.

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