I talk quite a bit in the instructions for Bronte about general guidelines for finding the right kind of Bronte fabric. I initially found it hard to describe the type of knit that you need, because being a relative newbie to the knit-sewing community myself, I knew that getting across the feel of a fabric for someone just starting out was a tough call.
Enter, the humble pair of cotton underwear. Yep, there it is right there. That's what you want - an Undie Knit.
So, go find yourself a pair (make sure they're good quality and not too old) and a ruler and let's talk about the three properties you want in your ideal Bronte knit...
1 - Stretch percentageThe stretch percentage is how much your fabric will stretch. For Bronte, we want at least a 40% stretch. To figure out if your fabric will work, take a 10cm piece of it and keeping away from the selvedge, try to stretch it to 14cm. If it does so easily (your undies should stretch nicely) then you have a great stretchy fabric that is right for Bronte.
To illustrate this a bit further, if you head on over to Fabric.com you can search for fabric by the stretch percentage. You'll want to tick the 30-50% range (on the left, down the bottom). There is no other website that I can find that does this (though please let me know if there are!), and I find that so strange, especially when the stretch percentage of a knit is so crucial to getting a pattern to fit you properly. So, kudos Fabric.com! (FYI - these guys are not a sponsor, nor do they even know I'm talking about them. Also, I've never ordered from them before so I can't vouch for their quality or service, I just love that I can narrow my search down by this criteria).
Stretch percentage is different to the fibre content of a fabric. If you check out the tag on your pair of undies, it'll more than likely say '95% cotton, 5% elastane (or lycra or spandex)' which is the fibre content. I would personally look for a stretchy fibre content of 5-10%, as this should ensure you have some lovely stretch in your knit.
2 - RecoveryOnce you let your fabric go after you've stretched it, did it ping back into place? Or did it droop? Can you poke little dents in it with your finger and they stay there? I would avoid this kind of fabric. The last thing you want is for your Bronte to grow into a droopy mess as the day goes on.
You should find that your undies will spring back into shape nicely after being stretched and that finger dents don't remain in the fabric. That's the kind of recovery you're looking for in the ideal Bronte knit.
3 - WeightThe underwear you're currently holding is about as light as you want to go with Bronte unless you're a knit superstar. Basically, the heavier the knit, the easier it is to handle and I have personally found with light weight knits, they don't tend to have great recovery (though this is certainly not true all of the time!). Ideally, you want to find a medium to heavy weight knit fabric for your Bronte.
Did any of that make sense? I hope so!
Now onto some of my favourite kind of knits!
Double Knit (or Ponte de Roma)There seems to be a lot of information out there that Double Knits (or Ponte de Roma) has minimal stretch. Well guys, that depends. It's certainly not true for all of them!! If you find one with a stretchy fibre content of 5% or more, then generally, you'll have some pretty great stretch coming from your fabric.
I personally LOVE double knits. Like, love them. You know that black and gold Bronte? Yep, double knit. You see, the thing about some double knits is that they are reversible, so the neckline binding on that Bronte is actually the underside of the fabric. Pretty cool huh?
Another thing about double knits is that they are easy to handle (great if you're new to sewing with knits). They don't tend to curl at the edges, nor do they fray, so you don't need to worry about finishing off raw edges if you don't want to. Oh, and double knits are comfy to wear and they don't tend to wrinkle.
So, if you're scared of knits, go buy yourself a double knit - you'll wonder what you were ever worried about.
Jersey Knit (aka what your undies are generally made from)You can get man-made jersey knits, but personally, I prefer the natural type of knit that your cotton undies is made up of. They tend to be a great medium summer weight (also perfect for autumnal layering) and they breath really nicely, which means they won't get too hot or sticky as man-made jersey knits can sometimes get.
They also tend to have great recovery, will withstand a lot of washing, wearing and general 'beating-up' and they are easy to work with.
ITY Knits (aka Interlock Twist Yarn)If you're hunting around your fabric shop and you come across a knit that says ITY on it, you'll probably be all 'What the...?'. An ITY knit is just a different way of constructing the fabric - a twist is put into the threads as it's being made up.
If you're going with an ITY knit, I would recommend making sure it has a stretch fibre content of at least 5% as this generally results in a lovely stretchy knit with great recovery. You can get all kinds of ITY knits made up of man-made or natural fibres in all the colours under the sun.
French Terry KnitFrench Terry has a lovely soft outer, that looks a lot like a jersey knit, but it has little loops on the underside. The long sleeved fuchsia Bronte I made is a French Terry, and it's so comfy and warm!
Merino KnitI'm probably a little biased towards 'warm knits' at the moment (seeing as we are in winter down here) but your Bronte top will sew up beautifully in a thermal or merino knit. I have 4 merino knits currently drying that are about to be sewn up into some lovely layering Bronte tops.
I know it's a lot of information, and it can be a little overwhelming for beginners, but once you know what you're looking for, you'll be able to spot the right kind of knit from a mile away.
So, do you think you might dip your toes into knits a little?
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I'll try my best to answer them for you.