Your ultimate guide to jersey

When it comes to sustainable fabrics, there are so many types, and they all have different sewing strengths. So how do you decide which one is best for your #memade garment? In our blog series, we will help you discover more about some of the more eco-friendly textiles on the market – covering all the details you need to create your very own masterpiece while being kind to the planet.

This time around, we’re taking a look at Jersey – a material that has changed and evolved so much over the years, but remained a staple in our wardrobes. It’s got more of a stretchy vibe going than cotton, but how is it really different? What goes into the making of modern jersey? And when would you use it? Find out below!

Jersey – the facts

What is jersey?

Jersey comes from the small English Channel island of, fittingly, Jersey, and it was originally made for fishermen and menswear. It wasn’t until the 1910s when Coco Chanel put her twist on it that it became a regular in women’s fashion as well.

Originally made from wool, jersey is a knitted fabric rather than a woven one (cotton is an example of woven fabric). Jersey can be made from multiple types of fibers, both natural and synthetic, and these are knitted together to create a smooth fabric that has a bit more elasticity to it. This stretchy feeling is enhanced by including elastane in the ‘recipe’ of fibers used to create jersey.

So essentially, it’s come a long way from the woolen vests of fishermen! Now there are many different types of jersey – single and double, interlock and jacquard for example, which all have different styles and are either the same on both sides or have a distinct front and back. In our store, we stock different stretch jerseys, which allow for more stretch in the fabric so you can make anything from a t-shirt or evening wear to sport and shapewear.

Our jersey materials consist of viscose, cotton, and polyester with a small amount of elastane. You can check the content section in our product page to find out exactly what each jersey fabric contains.

Which jersey combination fabric should I choose?

One of the great things about a blended fabric like jersey is that it can be used for so many different garments, and if you need something a bit more special, or stretchy, or light on the skin, you can just choose the right ‘recipe’ of fibers to fit!

Jersey that’s made with polyester won’t stain or wrinkle as cotton does – so this is a definite benefit if you’re looking to make womenswear such as tops, dresses, or smart casual wear.

Meanwhile, cotton jersey is a bit more lightweight and very versatile – it can be used to create anything from a dress to a shirt, top, skirt, pair of leggings, sweater, or even a romper.

Viscose jersey on the other hand drapes nicely and has a silkier texture – making it more luxurious. It can be used more for nicer dresses and tops that you would wear on a special occasion. Our Ponte is the heaviest jersey in the collection. If you’re looking for a jersey that smooths over your curves, this is the one to opt for. 

Is jersey eco-friendly? 

This is not an easy question to answer. Let’s start by saying jersey can be eco-friendly. Because jersey can be made from many different fibers, looking at those specific ingredients is paramount to deciding how eco-friendly it is.

Some jersey is still made from wool, which comes from sheep – this could be a red flag that things might not be eco-friendly, depending on if animals are being harmed in the process. If you are looking for a wool-free jersey, you should consider the conditions of the workers, whether the fibers are organic or not, which fibers you think are better – natural or synthetic, and the amount of water the fibers need when turned into fabric.

The benefit of natural fibers (cotton, linen, viscose for example) is that they don’t require as many chemicals in the creation process. Synthetic fibers, meanwhile, don’t require as much water, or growth space and time. Their ingredients may come from more or less sustainable means, depending on the fiber.

The least eco-friendly of jersey fibers is polyester, which is created from coal, air, water, and petroleum. While it is less water-intensive than viscose or cotton, it can’t be considered good for the environment.

Elastane is similar, having been created from oil. And when it’s washed, it will release small microfibres of plastic into the water stream and drains. Our fabrics only have a small percentage of elastane. There are multiple microfibre capture filters on the market these days that will catch the plastic so it doesn’t end up in the water.

From our range, cotton jersey would be the most eco-friendly option, particularly as it is certified with GOTS so it has used sustainable processes from the origin of the fibers, through social responsibility and care for the environment. All jerseys certified OEKO-TEX are produced without harmful substances. This makes the fabric not harmful for our skin and the impact on the environment is much lower. A viscose-made jersey is also a good option because it is made from renewable plants.

So to conclude, there are lots of things to take into consideration to determine if jersey fabrics fit your eco-friendly tick boxes! It basically comes down to what you consider to be eco-friendly. We strive to give everyone a choice when it comes to choosing better fabrics for your handmade garments. So, with the knowledge you have now about jersey and eco-friendly options, you can decide if it’s the fabric for you, and if so, which ‘recipe’ works best for your wishes! 

What are the benefits of sewing with jersey?

You can do some great things with jersey fabric – from sewing the likes of leggings to every day and evening wear. Thanks to the elastane, the material bounces back well, so you can create things that will hug in all the right places, be soft to touch, and won’t end up getting out of shape.

Is it easy to sew with jersey?

Being a stretchy material, jersey can be relatively hard to sew with. For example, picking a heavier weight jersey will make things easier. As will the use of the right tools. Make sure you use a zigzag (or stretch) stitch, or a serger if you have one available so you can sew through it quickly and cut and finish your seams as you go. Light to medium weight jersey has the tendency to roll up at the seams, so finishing them in one go is an advantage. A serger isn’t necessary though so don’t feel the need to invest in it just for your jersey projects.

Be sure to use a ballpoint needle or a specific needle for stretchy fabric. Otherwise, you might have to deal with some tears in the fabric. Cut the fabric without stretching it – you can lay it out flat to do this, keeping your scissors flat on the table while cutting. Or use a rotary blade and pattern weights to be more precise. Pre-wash your fabric so you get the initial shrinkage out of it before you start.

Overall, take your time and be gentle with the fabric, so you avoid puckering and messy seams.

Washing instructions for jersey

Generally speaking, jersey’s biggest challenge is its potential to shrink, so you need to take that into consideration with both your washing and drying techniques. Always prewash the fabric: better safe than sorry! When washing jersey clothes, keep the temperature under 30 degrees.

Avoiding a tumble dryer is best for your garment and the environment – put your clothes into their desired shape and lay them to dry naturally, to minimize any potential shrinkage or ending up out of shape.

Where can I buy jersey?

We have a wide range of jersey fabrics to suit any occasion. And our jersey fabrics all have the GOTS and/or OEKO-TEX certification. Check them out here!

Happy shopping & sewing! 

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