Knit Fabric: From Basic Stitches to Fashion-Forward Styles

A lot of people prefer knit fabric for its many admirable qualities. It is incredibly flexible, easy to take care of, and doesn’t wrinkle easily.

Knit Fabrics are made from different materials, making their uses more varied. Knit Cotton is breathable and keeps you cool in the summer, while the dense nature of Knit Wool keeps you warm in winter.

The varied and sometimes opposite uses of Knit Fabrics raise some questions. How are they made, and what is their origin? How can you take care of them effectively? This article will answer these questions.

What is Knit Fabric?

knitted jacquard coated fabric
Knitted jacquard-coated fabric

Knit fabric is any textile that interlocks various yarns together using long yarn needles. The process of making Knit fabric is called knitting.

You can categorize knit fabrics according to the knitting pattern. There are two basic categories: Weft Knitting and Warp Knitting.

Weft Knitting

Weft Knitting is a knitting process in which the knitter makes the loops horizontally from a single yarn and intermeshes them in a circular or flat form. 

Both sets of loops intersect in a crosswise pattern, and the weft thread spreads at a right angle to the direction of the fabric’s formation.

Warp Knitting

Warp Knitting is a knitting process in which the knitter supplies the yarns in a way that produces parallel rows of loops; the loops interlock in a zigzag pattern.

To connect the yarn stitches in a way that forms a fabric, they are deflected laterally between the needles. Knitters produce both types of knitting through knitting machines and by hand, although the former is preferred.

While Weft Knitting produces a more elastic knit fabric that doesn’t easily fray, Warp Knitting frays quickly and is less elastic. However, warp knitted fabrics are denser and more run-resistant.

A Brief History of Knit Fabric

The origin of knitting is unclear. Some sources claim the earliest sample of knitted is found in Egypt and dates back to the 11th century, but the complexity of stitches suggests that knitting has been going on far earlier.

Many other sources believe it was invented in the Middle East as far back as the 5th century. From the Middle East, it had spread to Europe.

Earlier Knitters used cotton and wool to make earlier Knitted fabric. Muslims dominated the knitting industry, and some even worked in the palaces of royalties.

By the 14th century, Europeans had already taken on knitting as it crept into everyday use ranging from baby socks to waterproof jumpers for sea voyages.

In the 16th century, the first Knitting Machines were produced to knit exclusive hosiery for the elite class; operators began using knitting machines to create everyday items, and local industries sprang up across several European cities.

By the 20th century, knitwear was already part of mainstream fashion due to its practicality and fashionable look. 

Famous fashion labels like Chanel helped increase their popularity by introducing jerseys, cardigans, and jumpers into its collection.

How is Knit Fabric Produced?

Knit fabric is divided into two types-Weft knittings and Warp knitting. Knitters and manufacturers produce both types of knits by hand or machine.

Hand Knitting 

Hand Knitting is the form of knitting done by hand using yarns and yarn needles. This form of knitting involves three basic processes:

Casting On

Casting On is crucial as it is the first step in knitting; it refers to the various techniques used to create loops on the needle that would lead to the first stitches. 

Casting on can also be used to create stitches that don’t depend on other stitches during the knitting process.

Plain Knitting

Hand Knitters use plain knitting to create Weft Knitting. The knitter uses a linear array of needles to produce stitches meshed in one direction, and it is one of the simple steps in hand knitting.


Purling is one of the foundational building blocks of knitting. It is used to form stitches but flows opposite to regular knitting stitches; they usually create bumps along the fabric.

Machine Knitting

Knitting machines have existed since the 16th century and have grown in popularity and preference. There are two types of knit machines: The Circular Knitting machine and the Flatbed Machine.

The circular machine uses needles arranged in a circular pattern that moves in one direction. It is the manufacturer’s most preferred knitting machine because it is user-friendly and swift.

The flatbed machine, though slower, can produce more intricate patterns. The machine has knitting needles arranged in a straight line that produces knit in its flat open width.

Knitting with machines involves four basic steps:

Threading and Casting On

Threading and Casting On are the first steps in the process. The operator puts the yarn through a part of the machine called the tension arm, wrapped around several needles.

Attaching Comb Weight And Claw Weight

The operator uses comb weights to establish the first stitches on the needles, while he uses claw weights to draw the fabric down from the machine. 

He constantly repositions both weights to form consistent and even edge stitches during the knitting process.

Working the Carriage

The carriage or cam box is a mechanism that engages the yarn and controls needle action, causing movements that create stitches.

The knitter or operator can affect color and design changes by changing the yarn in the carriage and manipulating the way the needle and yarn interact.

Casting Off

Casting Off is the final process of production. In this process, the operator produces the last stitch and removes the knit fabric from the machine.

The Types of Knit Fabrics

As mentioned earlier, you can broadly categorize knits into Weft and Warp Knitting. However, several other knit patterns are tucked under each type of knitting.

Types of Weft Knits

Weft-knit Fabric
Weft-knit Fabric

Types of Weft Knitting include several knits such as the Jersey knit, the Double knit, the Circular Knit, Fair Isle Knit, and the Cable Knit. 

All weft knits are mainly produced through machine knitting and are very elastic due to the circular pattern of their stitches.

They are prevalent because knitters can use them to achieve various patterns, and the fabric doesn’t easily fray when worn.

Types of Warp Knits

Warp Knit Fabric
Warp Knit Fabric

Warp knitting is the fastest method of producing knits, especially with knitting machines. Types of warp knits include Tricot knits and Rachel Knits. 

Tricot knits have fine vertical wales on the surface and crosswise ribs on the back, while Raschel knits have a lace-like, open construction.

Warp Knitting is less elastic than weft knits and more likely to fray, but they offer more resistance.

Uses of Knit Fabrics 

Different knitting methods usually lead to different end products, which textile manufacturers, designers, and other professionals use in various ways.

Uses of Knit Fabrics in the Textiles Industry

Weft Knit Fabrics are very elastic, shrink quickly, and are warm and comfortable to wear. These properties make them ideal for:

  • Sportswear such as jerseys
  • Baby Clothes and Pyjamas
  • Knitwear such as jumpers, scarves, hats, and gloves.
  • T-shirts

Warp Knit Fabrics are more resistant and dense than weft fabrics. They are also comfortable and warm and do not fray easily. Their sturdy properties make them useful in producing:

  • Dresses, blouses, and outerwear
  • Sheets and pillowcases
  • Upholstery for car interior
  • Carpets
  • Coarse sacks
  • Laces
  • Blankets

Manufacturers use both sets of knits to produce underwear, socks, leggings, swimwear, sweatshirts, and cardigans.

Use of Knit Fabrics in the Medical Field

Knit fabrics are used heavily in medicine to produce medical apparel and apparatus.

Medical designers use the more breathable Weft Knits to produce medical dressings, bandages, and composite wound dressings. 

In contrast, they use the more dense Warp Knits to make artificial blood vessels, hernia patches, artificial chest walls, and cardiac support devices, amongst others.

They are also used to create medical textiles and mattresses.

Industrial Applications of Knit Fabrics

Some researchers have been able to manipulate knit fabrics to produce composite reinforcements. They use these reinforcements to construct tanks, containers, and even aircraft.

Care and Maintenance of Knit Fabric

Knit Fabrics are delicate and so should be handled with care. Fortunately, taking care of knitted fabric is easy.

Follow the guidelines below to care for knitting and help them last longer:

1. Always spot clean or hand wash knit clothes. The agitations of a washing machine may quickly destroy your delicate knit fabric.

2. Always air your knit fabric occasionally and especially after every wear. Airing your knits will stall smell and mold and reduce the need to wash them.

3. Steam your cloth after every wear and remove the little fiber balls that tend to appear on knits.

4. Always check the fabric care label before washing. Knit Fabric is made from different materials, and many of these materials require different laundry styles.

Check the fabric care label before washing it at home or taking it to a professional dry cleaner.

5. Check your knit fabric before storing them. Hanging knit fabric on a hanger can put marks on the shoulders and cause them to lose shape.

The best storage practice for knit fabric is to fold them carefully and insert them into cotton or canvas storage bags.

6. While storing knit fabric, keep it out of reach of direct sunlight to protect the fabric against mold, mildew, and discoloration.

7. Add cedar blocks or other natural repellents to protect the fabric against pests, if available.

8. Check your knit fabric before storing it for stains and holes. Wash properly and fix all holes, if possible, before storage.

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