What is knit fabric?

If you’re beginning to get interested in knitting as a crafting hobby, then it’s useful to understand some of the key terms. The oldest knitted fabrics discovered by archeologists have been dated as early as the 11th century, and in a thousand years the craft has developed some terms of art and arcane language it’s worth understanding if you want to avoid confusion and get the most out of your hobby.

Today we’re taking a look at the basics: what exactly is knit (or knitted) fabric?

A basic definition

Knitted fabric is fabric that is made by knitting – creating enmeshed loops of yarn in interlocking rows. When you imagine a knitted fabric, you think of wool, but it’s the technique that makes knitting, not the material. It’s easiest to knit thick yarn like sheep’s wool with the tools you can use in your home, but using industrial tools or more laborious processes you can knit finer yarns or heavier ones – chainmail is, in a sense, a knit fabric!

Uses for knitted fabric

There are two main reasons you might be interested in types of knitted fabrics: because you’re making one yourself, as a craft project, or because you need one as a component for a larger, more ambitious project.

If you’re making a knit fabric, then your pattern or instructions will guide through the process, and the most important thing for you is to follow those instructions accurately and focus on your end goal, whether it’s a sock, a scarf or a blanket.

If you’re buying a knit fabric to use in a grander design, you need to make sure you know what you need: the wrong kind of knit, stitch or yarn could have a serious impact on the success of your crafting project!

The two kinds of knit fabric

Knit fabric comes in two basic types, based on how the rows of yarn loops enmesh.

Weft-knit is the kind of fabric you are more likely to make in home knitting. Weft-knit fabrics use a single skein of yarn to make a series of perpendicular wales. Wales, in knitting are stitches, each one suspended from the one before. Before it’s secured with the next wale, or tied off, each stitch is considered active, or live. The final act of knitting a garment is to secure the final stitch, locking the garment into place.

While weft-knit fabrics are easier to create, they’re also more delicate. That chain of wales, all relying on each other, can be broken. A rip, a poorly secured stitch or general wear and tear can lead to a chain of unravelling stitches – known as a run.

Warp-knit fabrics are more secure: the wales interlock diagonally, with two lines of yarn working their way through the fabric. This knits the whole piece more securely together, but it makes it exponentially harder to complete. You’re more likely to buy warp-knit fabric to use in a bigger project as it’s normally done by machine rather than made by hand. Warp-knit is used in delicate fabrics like lace, to create intricate but secure patterns.

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