All about knitwear

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Knitted fabrics are the third major class of fabric, after woven and nonwoven fabrics.


Knitted fabrics are divided into two basic types: warp-knit fabrics such as tricot and weft-knit fabrics such as a hand-knit sweater. Weft-knit items have the drawback that they run when cut. Warp-knit fabrics are often used in lingerie.

  • knits can shrink but can also extend if a rib construction.
  • knits have nap.
  • ribs/wales versus courses.
  • generally more elasticity along the course than along the wale.


Over the long history of knitting across the world, hundreds of different knitting stitches have been created.

The basic building blocks of all hand knitting are the following stitches: knit, purl, cast on, cast off (also known as bind off), increase and decrease stitches. Use of a combination of these methods can provide a vast number of different textures to knitted fabrics.

In order to save space in knitting patterns, the names of stitches are normally abbreviated.


The most common fibres used for knitted fabrics are cotton & viscose with or without elastane, these tend to be single jersey construction and are used for most t-shirt style tops.


Knitted dress, 1967

Coco Chanel's 1916 use of jersey in her hugely influential suits was a turning point for knitwear, which became associated with the woman. Shortly afterwards, Jean Patou's cubist-inspired, colour-blocked knits were the sportswear of choice.

In the 1940s came the iconic wearing of body-skimming sweaters by sex symbols like Lana Turner and Jane Russell, though the 1950s were dominated by conservative popcorn knits. The swinging 1960s were famously manifested in Missoni's colorful zigzag knitwear. This era also saw the rise both of Sonia Rykiel, dubbed the "Queen of Knitwear" for her vibrant striped sweaters and her clingy dresses, and of Kennedy-inspired preppy sweaters.

In the 1980s, knitwear emerged from the realm of sportswear to dominate high fashion; notable designs included Romeo Gigli's "haute-bohemian cocoon coats" and Ralph Lauren's floor-length cashmere turtlenecks.

Contemporary knitwear designers include Diane von Furstenberg, and Irakli Nasidze.

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