I’ve already done a post extolling the virtues (and failings) of my favourite knit material, rayon. Today I’d like to talk about my next favourite, which I think isn’t always given the respect it deserves!
Polyester knits can be pretty great, guys! (It can also be pretty awful, I’m not going to lie.) Let’s dive right in to the good and bad kinds of polyester! Where I can I’ve collaged together pictures of my makes in each fabric… but some fabrics I’ve never made anything blog-worthy with, so have no pictures!
- ITY (aka. Interlock Twist Yarn) is a smooth, silky poly knit that is often found in ready-to-wear clothing. It feels a bit like bathing suit fabric, but thinner and much drapier. It doesn’t crease, bag out, or pill. ITY comes in a huge range of prints and solids, and in my experience, is the most reliable kind of fabric to order online. No matter the price point, it’s always consistent and reliable! I use ITY for all my underwear (with a cotton gusset), and I love wearing it for work. It even makes good leggings – in summer I wear ITY shorts under rayon dresses, and rayon shorts under ITY dresses, for the perfect bland of breathability and slipperiness (so I don’t also have to wear a slip). I have ITY dresses that are 5 years old and well-worn, and look as good as new!
- Jacquard knits are a double knit with two colours woven into a design. The jaquard knits I’ve bought locally generally have a bit of a rough, cheap feeling base material on the back, but a soft cottony-feel on the outside face. When I first touch the back , I think “Hmm, might be scratchy!”, but in practice, I’ve never had any trouble once I’m wearing it. In my experience jaquard knits are cosy and warm, and hold up well over time!
- Liverpool/Crepe knits are a type of fabric I’ve only started seeing this year, but I really like. I’ve bought some at my local chain store (which now sells online!) as Crepe knits, and on Fabric.com where they labelled them Liverpool knits. This type of fabric has a pebbly crepe texture on the outer face, and a silky inner face which means they drape beautifully and don’t need to be layered with a slip. I have found one dress has pilled a bit where my name badge was pinned at work, but otherwise, they wash and wear like ITY without creasing or fading. (Heather used Liverpool knit from LA Finch Fabric recently, and I saw it on KnitPop as well, so I guess it’s officially a widespread type of fabric now! Had anyone seen it before this year? How did it suddenly become pervasive?)
- Mystery knits: I’ve got a few garments in my wardrobe made from fabric that is uncategorizable – so synthetic, should be awful, but actually makes amazing clothes!
The “Hit-Or-Miss” Fabrics:
- Sweater knits can be good or bad. I tend to find mid-weight sweater knits are the best-behaved, whereas thin polyester knits can loose their drape when they go through the wash, or be too thin and cheap to sew nicely. Definitely potential there though!
- Brushed jersey is popular right now – and I like it in some circumstances. Great for tight-fitting clothing like athleisure leggings or tops, but wouldn’t be my choice for anything more elevated or flowing because it tends to cling to itself. It feels soft and cosy, but doesn’t actually keep you warm in winter. Best for fall and spring, I think!
- Quilted knits and scuba can be great… or not. Some feel very synthetic, and have a nasty smell when ironed. They can be scratchy on the inside, and very stiff, or they can be soft and lovely. Both quilted knits and scuba tend to be quite stable with only 2-way stretch, so consider that when you choose your size and pattern. These are the only two forms of polyester that I have ever noticed make me feel a) colder and b) smellier. For that reason, I think quilted knits work best as a layering piece over other fabrics, and scuba works wonderfully for something like a sleeveless fit-and-flare dress.
Now for The Bad:
- Ponte double knit made out of pure polyester always disappoints me. It tends to fade and pill appallingly quickly, and become unwearable. Prints seem to be particularly a problem – I’m looking at you, pretty floral prints and Girl Charlee cute designs! Not worth wasting money on a fabric that won’t last, in my opinion. Good quality ponte generally has a significant amount of rayon blended in, and then it’s more likely to last.
- Jersey made from polyester is THE WORST! I’m talking about the stuff that is pretending to be cotton or rayon, but actually has no drape, often limited stretch, and fades and pill immediately. If you have even slightly rough skin at your fingertips, this kind of fabric snags and catches on the rough parts, making it unpleasant to sew or wear. (As proof of how much I hate polyester jersey, I just paid $45 to mail back $70 of fabric to Minerva Crafts that was labelled as rayon online but turned out to be poly. Waste of my money, but I tried sewing with it and just ended up with an unwearable garment!)
I think polyester gets a bit of a bad rap. We’ve all heard people say “I only sew natural fibres.”, right? Which makes sense if you have a medical reason or live in a climate that very hot, cold or damp, or maybe it’s for ethical reasons… but I think there is such a good range of polyester options that wear well and last for years! That said, most of my online fabric shopping disappointments come from polyester content where I didn’t expect it, so do be careful.
All of this is just my personal opinion, so I’d love to hear your thoughts! We all look for different qualities in our fabrics, so it’s fair to disagree. What are your favourite (or least favourite) forms of polyester knits?