Italian fashion house Missoni is recognized worldwide for their iconic zigzag knits. Here, a look from the Spring 2010 collection. Photo: Nathalie Lagneau/Catwalking/Getty Images

When I first took up sewing, I made a bikini out of woven material. (Translation: I was a little green about fabric knowledge. Bathing suits need to be made out of a fabric that stretches, i.e. a knit.) Consider this a lesson if you're trying to be fabric savvy. Here are some more bullet points to abide by:
  • Knit vs. woven: In the fabric world, there are knits, and there are wovens. Woven textiles are made up of two crosswise threads, a warp and a weft, and only stretch on the bias or diagonal like cotton. Knits are fashioned from one continuous thread of interlocking loops that permit stretch (think T-shirt material, not heavy wool sweaters). This distinction makes a huge difference in what fabric you choose for your project. Woven fabrics need more ease, or room for movement between the body and the garment. Knit fabrics do not require ease, as they are worn close to the body.
  • Check your pattern: Most patterns will usually indicate whether you need a knit or woven fabric. In fact, many knit patterns will indicate on the side of the package how much stretch fabric you will need. It is possible to convert a pattern created for knits to a pattern for woven fabric, by adding ease and darts and vice versa. Be forewarned when it comes to bathing suits. They need the stretch for a reason, and it should actually be a two-way knit, i.e., it stretches in both directions rather than just one.
  • Beginners beware: If you are a beginner at sewing, woven fabrics are your best bet, preferably 100% cotton. Sewing with knits is a lot more challenging, and best left until you are a little more advanced in your sewing skills. (One good thing about knits, however, is that they don't ravel and that makes seams and hems much easier to finish.)
  • Neither knit nor woven: There is also a third kind of fabric called nonwoven, but it's not typically used for sewing. It's utilized for interfacings, which are the used to stiffen or add body to a fabric.
If nothing else, learning the difference between knit and woven fabric will take you a long way in choosing the correct material for your pattern.

For more DIY Design articles, click here. Next week, picking patterns that flatter your figure.