sewing small talk: are you a knit or woven person?

Hello friends!

I have a theory that dates back to my days at Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. In the fashion world, designers tend to specialize in either knits or wovens. I was usually a wovens designer, and I had a counterpart who designed knits. I knew enough about knits and could certainly design them (sometimes I did!), and I worked really closely with my knit counterpart so that we both had a hand in everything. But wovens were my specialty.

Anyway, fashion often trends between knits and wovens. Sometimes knits are more popular and sometimes it’s wovens. But we designers also noticed that we, in our own wardrobes, tended to wear more of one or the other–no matter what the trends. Not surprisingly, I tend to prefer wovens. That’s not to say I don’t wear and love to wear knits as well, but I’m generally more drawn to button-down shirts, trousers, and blazers for my personal style. In fact, I’m very specifically drawn to tailored apparel, while others are drawn more to the look and feel of knits. My knit counterpart at Tommy was also a wearer of wovens, although her personal style was very different than mine and she was a very talented knit designer.

So which are you–and why? Or are you a mixture of the two?

Interestingly, you might also find that you prefer to wear one and sew the other! I’m very curious to hear what you have to say about this.



 

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30 Comments

  1. I am definitely a knit person, except maybe in the summer when woven can feel cooler than knits. I prefer knit tops for comfort, freedom of movement, easy of care. I also like to wear woven garments when I need to dress up for special occasions.

  2. Liz

    Woven! I wear principally woven natural fibres and sew exclusively with woven fabrics. I wear knit underwear and sportswear but otherwise I only wear woven fabrics. I also make and wear hand knit clothes. My boys, however, prefer knit fabric. So I mend a lot of knit clothes by hand. I don’t sew with knits so I don’t sew any clothes for the children anymore. I sew clothes for myself and do a lot of mending and alterations. Perhaps it’s a chicken and egg situation but I don’t sew with knits as I don’t wear many knit clothes and I don’t know how to sew knit fabric. I find woven fabrics a lot cooler for the climate where I live. I also enjoy sewing with woven fabrics. I’m definitely in the woven team in my wardrobe and at my sewing machine!

  3. Karen

    I’m also a woven fan although I do wear some knit RTW tops. But when it comes to sewing I make jackets (my favorite garment) from woven natural fibers. For jackets I sew them in linen, denim, cotton and tropical weight wool. Rayon challis is my preferred fabric for flowy blouses, tunics, and nightgowns due its cool factor. Love your blog and patterns!

  4. Both! Woven for bottoms and knits for tops. I love the flexibility, the warmth (I generally have a cold torso) gained from a jersey and the ease of movement. I love wovens for bottoms, outer wear and dresses. They last longer and stay smart longer and well as bearing up to everyday life. I see both but love the crispness and obedience of working with wovens!

  5. Jamie

    I tend to sew more with wovens unless I’m making a bra, but most of my shirts are knits. I prefer knits up top for ease of movement but woven bottoms.

  6. I’m transitioning to knit, especially for kids it works so well for them.

  7. Theresa in Tucson

    Definitely woven. Every time I try to sew knits I run into problems. The exceptions are swimsuits (some success there) and bicycle shorts. Personally, I find knits cling too much and wovens sit lighter on the body so they are cooler, at least to me. I also need a collar at the back of my neck to be comfortable. I don’t like stretch in wovens either. The few woven garments I have ever made that had stretch got pitched out. Cotton, linen, rayon and silk in that order are my preferred fabrics. I love a collared buttoned shirt or blouse in a wild Alexander Henry print. Pair it with a pair of jeans and I’m good.

    1. I totally agree that wovens are cooler in the summer!

  8. Elisabeth

    I sew a lot of both! For myself, I make a few knit tops/sweatshirts and then more woven tops, skirts, dresses, and jackets. My kids get a lot of knit pajamas, leggings, and t-shirts and then wovens for dresses, blouses, button-downs, and pants.

  9. Emily

    I generally prefer to sew with wovens – medium to heavy-weight twills and denims are my favorite. But I actually prefer to wear knits (esp. on top) and I love how quick most knit projects go together, so I sew a fair amount of knits, too.

  10. Holly

    I am always disappointed in knit garments. The fit is almost alway not quite right. I hate negative ease.

    I sleep in t-shirts and do garden and house work in them. In the winter it’s merino undershirts and sweaters. I would love a good mock turtle neck pattern, or a classic twin set pattern. I have 2 knit shirt patterns, one of them is your Bento. I’m a linen, cotton, and wool gal. That is my preferred sewing. But I stumble through the others, fiddling with too low and too wide necklines, and too tight busts. Honestly, by the time I get through making a knit pattern fit, I hardly want to sew it again.

    I have two boxes of knit fabric, and ten boxes of woven. That tells it all.

    By the way, every year I sew one charity garment. I used your free shorts pattern to make boy’s shorts for the Little Dresses for Africa drive. I have long since given away my son’s patterns. I found the pattern quite good. And yes, I made them out of cotton.

  11. TerriSue

    I am definitely a woven person. Give me cotton or linen or rayon woven and I am happy. I am not a polyester person and don’t even like blends. I do not mind Ironing my dresses which sometimes may take as long as 45 minutes each depending on how full the skirt is. I have some knits in my closet but they never get worn. The knit fabric I own is old and I have learned not to buy it as it will not get sewn up even for my grandchildren.

  12. Karen

    I love to sew with wovens although most of my sewing is in knits. I sew for my granddaughters and grandsons and they have been brought up in knits so that is what they prefer. They hate having to button anything. It’s quite frustrating as I could make so many pretty wovens for them but they won’t wear them. i do find knits easier to fit than wovens.

  13. Susan Terrill

    I prefer sewing with woven and wearing woven. I think I just have not had enough time working with knits, but I am not crazy about the addition of stretch materials . I am trying to use a lot of organic cotton and linens. However, Natalie Chanin has beautiful organic knits so I am trying to improve. Also, I do not have a serger.
    The knits are really soft for children’s clothes. I think I must be mixed. I love Liesl’s woven patterns for kids and adults. I am not as conservative,however.

  14. Janine

    I like to sew with both. Not al fabrics work in all situations, so it is good to have options. Both types of fabrics ask for different sewing techniques, you use the machines differently and they challenge you in different ways. I find that interesting. Sometimes I’m in the mood for quickly whipping up a T-shirt, and sometimes I enjoy the slow process of sewing a button down shirt with all bells and whistles.

  15. Caroline

    In general, I like to sew separates for myself- knits for tops and wovens for trousers. I find wovens for tops can feel too restrictive if they’re a fitted design, and likewise, knits for bottoms can feel a little too casual/not dressy enough for work. My teen and tween daughter live mainly in knit leggings and tops, with the odd woven shirt or playsuit thrown into the mix. I enjoy the process of sewing wovens, with the extras you don’t generally get in wovens, such a pockets/front flies etc, but knits are definitely faster to sew.

  16. Addie

    I started sewing with wovens, mostly cotton and linen so that’s definitely my comfort zone (I grew up in a warm dry climate and thosr fabrics are cool). I love the look of crisp tailoring but it’s never been entirely practical for my lifestyle. I have gotten into knits in the last 5-ish years, since I got a sewing machine that handles them easily, and since many nice cotton, bamboo and rayon knits have become more readily available. So now I love both, more knits in winter and more wovens in summer.

  17. Cindy Cooksey

    I prefer to sew woven. I am less confident sewing knit. I wear plenty of each. Lots of knit tops, usually woven bottoms.

  18. I have seen and designed with wovens for decades…. But I have a huge urge to conquer scuba fabric!!! Such great body and colors!

    1. Kay

      Ooh, scuba! Good call. I just did my first jacket. It’s knit but has the body of a woven, sort of stands away from the skin. The jacket looks tailored, but was easy to sew. I did line the front, though, because the fabric looks really unfinished on the reverse.

  19. Connie

    I echo Karen’s Comments. I sew more for my grandchildren than myself, and they prefer knits. My granddaughter won’t even wear jeans. She only wants to wear leggings. In fact, they have busy, early mornings, so they bathe at night and go to bed in the clothes they will wear to school the next day! Wovens don’t work well for that. I do most of their sewing with my serger. As for me, I prefer to sew wovens and buy my knit tops.

  20. Joyce

    I love woven fabric. I live in a climate with a long hot humid summer so woven is the only way to go. Though as others have said, grandchildren live in knit clothing, so I make plenty of them too. I can sew both, for myself and the climate I don’t do negitive ease in a knit so pick my pattern wisely. But I’m a woven girl and for myself mostly sew/wear cotton, rayon, linen.

  21. Stretch! I feel more put together wearing wovens but if there isn’t any stretch, I feel constricted and uncomfortable. I like to move around and explore my range of motion all the time so my clothes need to allow for that. I would love to just wear my yoga clothes all the time but I don’t like the activewear all the time look. So while I prefer a nice, crisp shirt, I end up in knit tops a lot more. I do have one shirt that I bought that mixes knit and woven fabric so it has that nice tailored woven look with the comfort of knit. I don’t generally wear knit pants but there’s almost always a little bit of stretch in the woven. There are some exceptions though. I have wide leg linen pants that don’t stretch at all but I wear them all the time in the Summer. I also generally prefer woven dresses and shorts.

    As for sewing, I much prefer to sew woven fabric. For actual sewing, I’m about even between woven and knit though because knits are more in demand in my house (my kids wear knit tops and leggings almost exclusively).

  22. Michele

    I have been sewing knits the last month. I’m working on cardigans for layering as we head into cooler weather. I wonder if the OliverandS readers tend toward wovens because that is what most of the patterns are?
    I sew for my daughter (size 22 women’s) and myself (size 16 women’s). As a curvy sewer the knits hang better. Woven tend to shift around and need constant adjusting.

  23. Paola

    When I’m dressing casual, I wear more knits. I feel more formally dressed in wovens, so I guess I wear knits or wovens depending on the occasion.
    Also I’ll tend to wovens in summer – any elastane content in a knit makes me sweat. And I love merino knit to keep me warm in winter.
    So I guess it’s ‘horses for courses’ when it comes to the knit/woven question.

  24. June Gould

    I found this a very interesting question. I wasn’t sure which I am, so I had to go and look in my wardrobe! I have decided that at the moment I am a mixture. I definitely wear a lot of knit tops, but generally stretch woven trousers and woven dresses and jackets. I have historically sewn almost exclusively woven fabrics and have only just started sewing with knits. I am enjoying the challenge and the process, so who knows? Maybe in a year’s time I will be a knit person, but then again maybe not!!

  25. Kay

    I’d have to say, woven. I love linen (so much), and crisp cottons, and wool, if I can find it. I love seersucker, and denim, and all tings crepe. I love the drape and the way it feels on my body. To be fair, I mostly look for some amount of stretch in these fabrics. Nevertheless, keeping it real, I often wear knits, which are cheaper to buy and forgiving to fit.

  26. I’m both, but usually only one at any given time. I go through phases of sewing only knits or sewing only wovens. I tend to wear knits when it’s cold out, and wovens when it’s not.

  27. Annette

    I love sewing and wearing garments made with natural wovens but I’m making several knit Concord tops for the winter at the moment as a necessity but don’t enjoy the process much but will enjoy wearing them and they certainly are cosy. But I will still wear my cotton and linen tops and blouses during the winter with my hand knitted wool cardigans.

  28. darci

    I’m a sweater person! I’ve always liked to wear sweaters and my work in fashion has made me specifically a sweater person- though as you know sometimes we get lumped in with the knits. I dont like that- they arent the same 🙂 Maybe you remember there was kind of a separate sweater team at RL- we handled all of the labels except Mens Polo and Lauren.
    I prefer to wear knits, I find the fit more forgiving and I have trouble fitting my body type, especially as it has changed as i have aged.
    As far as sewing, I definitely prefer wovens, but i suspect i would enjoy knits if I had a serger. The proper tools always make things easier
    xoxo

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