World of Knits: Ponte Knit

“If you were stranded on a desert island with only one fabric to sew, it should be ponte knit.” — Nancy Nix-Rice

Ponte knit (aka Ponte de Roma and Ponte di Roma) is used by many sewists and designers because of its numerous advantages as a fabric to sew and wear:

  •  ​ Looks elegant and is wrinkle resistant: has characteristics of finely woven fabric
  •  ​ Can be used in sportswear, dresses, soft tailored jackets, cardigans, durable pants, t-shirts and other tops
  •  ​ Has the comfort of a knit, is stable and breathable
  •  ​ Is affordable for wardrobe basics
  •  ​ Can be firm enough to supply subtle shaping to smooth less toned areas of the body

Technically speaking, ponte is a thick, double knit fabric which is produced on double jersey (rib or interlock) knitting machines. It is one of the firm, stable type of knits with a subtle sheen.

Single knits are commonly used for t-shirts. They have a “v” shape stitch on the right side of the fabric and a “u” shape on the reverse. Many hand-knitted sweaters use this type of stitch.

Double knit, such as ponte, is created with two or more strands of yarns on a weft knitting machine. The resulting fabrication often looks the same on the front and the back of the fabric.

Yarns used to knit ponte are usually a blend of spandex, nylon and a third fiber such as rayon or polyester. Sew and care for them like you would most synthetic fibers. The March 2020 issue of Threads included Nancy Nix-Rice’s article “Fabulous Ponte Knits”.  In it, she suggested looking for certain fiber combinations:

  •  ​ At least 60% rayon because it is breathable (bamboo is a type of rayon)
  •  ​ 4-6% spandex for stability and stretch recovery
  •  ​ Filler fiber—polyester contributes to wrinkle resistance

 Marcy Tilton writes that ponte “comes in a wide array of fibers and the quality can range from top level to cheap-o.” She adds:

Ideal fiber content is a blend of rayon/nylon/lycra. As a general fabric rule, nylon is an indication of quality. European mills use nylon fibers to add smoothness and or texture, and it seems to show up in the better-quality pontes and fabrics in general.

It is usually polyester that is the culprit that leads to pilling but I am not positive about this and it has never been scientifically proven!

BUT it is not only the fiber content that causes pilling. It is the way the yarn is made and processed.

Sewing tips:

  • Either a sewing machine or serger since the knit does not ravel
  • Ball point (knit) or stretch needle
  • Walking foot may help when sewing several layers
  • Finish seams with a mini-zig zag, mock flat felled seam, or serging
  • Interface with fusible products
  • Stabilize shoulder seams and other horizontal seams as needed
  • When pressing, use a synthetic setting on the iron and a clapper afterward; steam seams and hems that are wavy

 Laundering tips:

  • Washing machine, gentle cycle
  • Air-dry or hang to dry
  • Press with synthetic setting

Marcy Tilton explains how she works with pilled fabric:

I ‘groom’ these fabrics (and pilly cashmere too), by lightly pressing and steaming. (My iron has a LOT of steam and always a teflon sole plate which minimizes shine) But the secret ingredient is a tailor’s brush; a rectangular wooden brush with a center section that has brass bristles and an outer edge of softer bristles. While the fabric is warm from steaming (not hard pressing which could make it shiny) I give those pesky pills a brisk smoothing/brushing. This is a temporary solution, the pills can come back, but it does the trick.

Old school tailors would use a brush like this with a light hand to lift shine or touch up an edge that had been flattened too much pressing.  It redeems the garment!

Ponte is manufactured in light, medium and heavy weights, which means a variety of garments can be made from it. The light weight can be clingy and is good for body-conscious garments. The mid weight drapes and generally doesn’t cling, while the heavy weight can have enough structure to stand away from the body. Search online for garments made from different weights to see which weight will give you the look you desire. For example, Harts Fabric writes, “We especially love ponte knit for leggings since its thick, structured nature keeps you warm and comfortable while holding shape and allowing for a full range of movement.”

Marcy Tilton and Ann Steves (of Gorgeous Fabrics) offer the following pattern suggestions for ponte.

  • Pants: Vogue 1730 and Jalie 4018
  • Tops: Pamela’s Patterns Pleated Back Flowy Tee and Vogue 1660
  • Cardigan: Sew Liberated Aurelia Cardigan and  Hot Patterns Mini Midi Maxi cardigan
  • Skirt: Style Arc Allison skirt and Vogue 1717
  • Dress: Vogue 9358 and 9329


Working with Double Knit  by Alyson Clair tells you what makes these fabrics such a joy to sew with and wear. Great website with sewing techniques and selecting patterns

Plush Addict is a sewing blog with tutorials, real people demonstrating pattern fit and fabric selections

J. Stern Designs provides stretch knit fitting tips, tutorials and sewing blog.  Excellent explanation of fitting the armhole and upper chest

Emma One Sock Excellent resource for sewing techniques.

Check out Ponte Perfection by Kathryn Brenne.