Do you know knits? Here’s a guide!

We all love wearing knits – the stretch makes it comfortable to wear and forgiving if you gain or lose a few pounds. The fit makes all the difference.  That’s why buying fabric online can be so difficult. You can’t feel a knit fabric before you buy it.  You don’t know how much it can stretch.  It can be hard to know what you’re getting. It’s disappointing to order fabric for a project and realize when it arrives that it just won’t work. It’s hard enough unless you go to a fabric store such as PFI Supply and have knowledgeable hep
To help make sure you get what you want when buying knit fabric, here the main types of knit with a guide to tell you what you can expect from each of them, as well as what clothing items to make from them.
JERSEY – Single knit.  Flat vertical ribs on right side; dominant horizontal courses on wrong side.  Little lengthwise stretch.  Used for skinny T-shirts, pullover tops, lingerie.
DOUBLE KNITS:  Firm, stable knits that are medium to heavy weight.  Little to moderate stretch.  Used for jackets, suits, pants, dresses.
INTERLOCKS – Fine rib on both sides.  Light to medium weight.  Moderate crosswise stretch.  Watch out for runs!  Used for heavier T-shirts, sportswear, sleepwear.
SWEATSHIRT FLEECE – Flat vertical ribs on right side; softbrushed surface on wrong side.  Stable with little stretch.  Used for sweatshirts, sweatpants, hoodies.
SWEATER KNITS: Smooth and lightweight to lofty and bulky.  Stable without much stretch.  Can be sold by the yard or as sweaterbodies with built in ribbing.  Has a nap and may run.  Used as sweaters or coats.
RIBBINGS – Prominent vertical ribs on both sides.  Have significant stretch.  Used for collars, hems, cuffs.
4-WAY STRETCH – Stretches lengthwise and crosswise. Gets its stretch from a manmade elastic fiber called spandex.  Lycra is Dupont’s registered name for spandex.  May be blended with nylon, cotton, polyester.  Used to make form-fitting garments for activewear and swimwear.
KNIT TERRY – Includes French and stretch terry.  Small loops on right side; smooth vertical ribs on wrong side.  May shift with right sides together because of nap.  Used for jackets.
VELOURS – Includes stretch velvets, stretch panne.  Brushed nap on right side; smooth vertical ribs on wrong side.  May shift with right sides together.  Used for jackets.
MESH KNITS, TRICOT – Knitted with evenly spaced holes.  Do not ravel or run but can snag.  Can be woven, non woven and knit.  Can be cotton, polyester or nylon.  Use for T-shirts, tops and jacket lining and ventilation.  If using for a dress or top, be sure to line it with a fabric of the same stretch.  It is see through!
For more on how sew with knits, take PFI’s Sewing Knits class.  Want to make patterns suitable for knits, take PFI’s Pattern 4-Knits & Stretch class.

Knits vs Woven. What’s the big deal?

It’s a simple truth that you can’t swap a woven for a knit when making something.  Knits stretch.  Wovens don’t.
True, some wovens are blended with spandex (registered name:  Lycra) to make them stretchy.  But they still won’t stretch and behave the same way as knits.  So if you substitute a knit for a woven, you’ll find the final garment is way too big.  If you substitute a woven for a knit, you’ll find the final garment way too tight.  That’s also why it is so difficult to sew a knit to a woven without the knit rippling.
Let’s take a look at the basics of how each is made.
WOVENS:  In a basic plain weave, warp threads are laid vertically.  Weft threads are woven horizontally through through the warp threads using a shuttle.  Warp threads are very stable and do not stretch.  Weft threads are looser and will have a bit of stretch.
KNITS:  With knits, the fibers are looped together.  That gives the stretch. Stretch also makes knits harder to sew and control.  The vertical column of loops is called a wale.  The horizontal row of loops is called a course.
In a WEFT KNIT, such as hand-knitted fabric, a single yarn is looped repeatedly to create horizontal rows, or courses, with each row built on the previous row.  This makes for a looser knit.
A WARP KNIT is made with multiple parallel yarns that are simultaneously looped vertically to form the fabric.  This makes for a tighter knit.
A two-way stretch knit gives significantly along the width of the fabric and a little along the length.  Four-way stretch knit gives significantly along both the width and length of the fabric.  Most often, four-way gets its stretch by adding spandex.
Knits, unlike wovens, do not fray.
The amount of stretch varies greatly depending on the knit.  To assess the stretch, test a fold of the fabric on the crossgrain.  Take a single layer between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand.  Hold the fabric in the same way in the right hand three or four inches away.  Lay the fabric on a ruler with the left hand at zero.  Pull the fabric along the ruler with the right hand.  Stop just at the point that you have to exert any effort.
The amount of stretch determines how you use the knit.  The words you find on a pattern tell you what kind of knit to use.
Stable.  4 inches of knit stretches to less than 1 inch (called 18% stretch ratio).  Use this for jackets and pants or firm skirts and dresses.  Typical fabrics:  Weft knits such as Ponte, french terry and double knits.
Moderate.  4 inches of knit to 1-1½ inch (called 25% stretch ratio).  Use this for dresses, beefy t-shirts.
Typical fabrics:  Interlock
Stretchy. 4 inches of knit stretches up to 2 inches (called 50% stretch ratio).  Use this flowy tops and dresses, thin t-shirts.
Typical fabrics:  Jersey, ITY
Super-stretch.  4 inches of knit stretches another 3 inches (called 75% stretch ratio).  Use this for very stretchy clothes such as activewear or cuffs and waistbands.
Typical fabrics:  Performance, matte jersey, rib knits
The tools and techniques you use to cut and sew knits are special to them.  Most have been created since the 1970s when knits first became available to the sewing public.  Look for those in the next blog.
We’ll follow that with a blog about the many kinds of knits you can find today.
Want know more knits? Sign up for Sewing Knits with Lisa.  Choose either the morning or evening class.  Next classes start in September.  Click here!

Portland Fashion Institute’s recent expansion holds good news for local apparel design

Sewing up the future

Stephanie Basalyga — Portland Tribune

Photos by Jonathan House

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Portland Fashion Institute’s recent expansion holds good news for local apparel design

When it came time to expand Portland Fashion Institute, founder Sharon Blair found the answer in her own backyard.

The school, which uses a former house on the corner of Northeast Tillamook Street and Northeast 43rd Avenue in Portland’s Hollywood District, recently purchased and renovated a neighboring house. Blair said the purchase was necessary to meet growing demand for the school’s classes and certification programs.

The ground-floor of the second location at 4225 N.E. Tillamook St. now contains a fabric store called PFI Supply that is open to the public. Rooms on the upper floor as well as basement space are for classes taught by a faculty that includes professionals from local apparel manufacturing companies.

Blair, whose resume includes a career as a fashion designer and apparel entreprenuer, says the Hollywood location is ideal for the school’s two buildings in large part because research indicates the area boasts a high number of people interested in sewing.

Offering sewing classes was Blair’s main focus in 2002 when she started a venture called Portland Sewing, which served an initial class of four students. By 2010, she had added classes in the business of apparel. In 2016, Portland Fashion Institute opened its doors as a licensed commerical school.

As the school’s class offerings increased, so did the school’s popularity, driven as much by reality television shows like Project Runway — 11 of Portland Fashion Institute’s student have competed in the show, with one selected as a winner in season eight — as by willingness of city residents to embrace a sustainability mindset that extends to their wardrobes.

Faced with a fast-growing enrollment and lack of room in the 2,800-square-foot original location, Blair began looking for a second building. After searching for nearly a year without success, she learned the house next to the school’s original building was for sale.

From designers to DIYers

The school saw a jump in enrollment starting in 2016, when a certificate program it created was approved by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission. From a first-year class with 20 students, the school has expanded to three certificate programs — apparel design, apparel technical development and apparel entrepreneurship — serving a total of 57 students at any one time.

The school serves another 630 students each year who come seeking individual classes for personal or professional development. Part of the attraction, Blair said, is the fact that Portland Fashion Institute offers classes for a range of students, from designers looking to earn certification to people interested in one or two classes either for fun or for continuing education.

Portland Fashion Institute only uses teachers who work in the fashion industry. The main goal is to ensure that teachers are up to date in industry trends and practices, but that real-world connection comes with a bonus.

“It also turns out quite a few of them are hiring managers for their companies,” Blair said. “So, they’re able to spot the next talent.”

That pipeline to jobs at local companies has resulted in a 100 percent placement rate for students once they finish their certificate programs, Blair added. 

Building on basics 

The world of apparel design is becoming more high-tech, but Blair holds firm in her belief that a successful career in the industry still requires building a hands-on foundation. 

“You always have to know how things go together and we teach those basics,” she said. “Any garment has a certain set of operations, whether you’re doing it by machine or by human being. What we try to teach our people is (they’re) not necessarily going to be doing the sewing, but (they’d) better know how it goes together so (they) can specify that to the factory or the sample sewer or the production house who’s going to be putting that together.”

Students enrolled in the certificate programs also are required to take 36 credits of business courses. Blair has tapped local professionals to teach classes on topics that include branding, marketing strategy, building financial plans.

The school also partners with Mercy Corps Northwest’s Business Development Services along with its Small Women’s Business Center, which offers low-interest loans for entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities. About 80 percent of the students at Portland Fashion Institute are women, while 40 percent of the school’s students identify as minorities, Blair said.

Most students complete the certification program in two to two-and-a half years. The programs are broken into quarters, which align with those at local public schools.

“Most of our students have jobs, are married, have kids,” Blair said. “So, they’re trying to have a work-life balance and fit in schooling.”

Next steps

Blair is looking at possibly finding a third location in the near future. The school is “very close” to receiving accreditation, according to Blair, and she believes that will attract even more students. The status means Portland Fashion Institute will be included in Department of Education and career counseling lists available to students at high schools. It also will allow the school to accept to accept Oregon Savings Plan money and federal financial aid.

The institute has long had a commitment to helping students graduate with little to no debt, even using the hashtag “studentswithoutdebt” on social media. While the school will continue to offer plans that allow students to pay for classes as they go or break up payments through a quarter, Blair also plans on hiring a financial aid officer once the school receives the accreditation.

“If (students) really insist on borrowing … through financial aid, then we’ll have somebody to help them,” she said. “But we’ll find every avenue we can to make this education affordable to them so they graduate with a clean slate and not have a monkey of debt on their backs.”

Designing Ways

Portland Fashion Institute will serve up a double celebration on Wednesday, April 10, in honor of Portland Design Week and the school’s ninth anniversary.

The school will offer a series of demonstrations from 4 to 5 p.m. that will include patternmaking, machine knitting and fabric painting.

From 6 to 7 p.m., Michelle Lesniak, a self-taught Portland designer who won season 11 of Project Runway and moved on to become a cast member of Project Runway Allstars, will discuss what it takes to succeed in fashion design. 

The school also will offer tours of its new building, including a fabric store that’s open to the public, and a special exhibit of Barbie dolls featuring 100 outfits by some of the biggest names in fashion design.

Registration to attend the demonstrations is available online here.