Updated: Jun 2
‘Ponte’ or ‘Ponte Roma’ is the current popular term for a blended double knit. However, all Ponte’s are NOT created alike.
I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of the differences in Ponte’s lately, from my own personal experience. Then, earlier this week a professional whom I admire, Glenda Sparling, posted about Ponte fabrics on her Blog. Here is what she had to say in her post of Jan. 9 at www.surefitdesigns.com
“I do love Ponte Roma, but the surface sure does pill. What is Ponte and why does it pill?
Ponte Roma, originally from Italy (hence the name) is a double knit which is constructed with interlocking stitches that connect the front and back surfaces – like a Roman bridge. Now the term is used generically for double knits in a variety of weights, fiber content and cost from very spendy to low price.
I recommend my Fit & Sew Retreat students bring Ponte Roma for their yoga pants projects. It’s an ideal beginner’s knit if the student has never sewn with knits before. It’s stable, the edges don’t roll. It’s smooth and resilient. And best of all, it feels oh so comfortable on. It can come with either a 2 or 4 way stretch. The lighter weight ponte is great for tops, skirts and dresses. Whereas the heavier weight is wonderful for pants and skirts. In the photo below, the pants are of a heavier, 4-way stretch ponte which is simply perfect for our winter weather.
So with all these wonderful properties why does it pill? After 4-5 washings it can look like they been worn for years. Such a shame. Often times the pontes with a high percentage of polyester pill. But I’ve also found that a ponte with rayon can also pill. Some experts say the ideal fiber content is rayon/nylon/lycra. Generally, nylon is an indication of quality. Nylon fibers will add to the luxurious feel of smoothness against the skin.
But why does it pill? It’s not only the fiber content, but the way the yarn is made and processed. To make a polyester yarn soft, the original smooth extruded fiber is cut into short lengths and spun into yarn. The yarn is then constructed into fabric and in the case of ponte, is made into a double knit. Because the polyester synthetic yarns are so strong, when they are rubbed, tiny elements of those short fibers pop out from the yarn and form pills along the surface.
What can you do about this? Sorry…not much. You can brush the pills gone. And you can always use a sweater shaver. But no matter which tool you use to remove the pills, unfortunately, they will still come back with wear and washing. Oh…so sad.
But this hasn’t stopped me from sewing up at least 8 pairs of yoga pants in various leg shapes. I simply love the feel of ponte on and as I said earlier, this fabric is so easy to sew with.”
My Experience with Ponte
I first encountered ‘Ponte’ with the variety called ‘Sophia’ by Logantex Fabrics. It comes in a nice selection of colors, usually sells for around $12.99/yard, is 58″-60″ wide. The fiber content of this product is 67% polyester, 30% Rayon, 3% Spandex. Care: Machine Wash Cool, Delicate Cycle, Tumble Dry Low. No ‘weight’ is listed that I can find, not even at the Logantex Fabric website. While it is a joy to stitch, and can truly make most any type of garment…I agree with Glenna, it DOES pill, and pretty quickly as well.
I truly hadn’t thought anything further about ‘Ponte’, other than registering some disappointment in Sophia, but then Nancy Nix Rice was telling me about the top quality ‘Ponte’ that she sells – and offered to send me a piece. AMAZING!
Here is what Nancy’s website says about this ponte:
“Absolutely the loveliest ponte in the market. A full 60% rayon for breathability and natural-fiber appearance. 7% Lycra-branded spandex “(made in USA) for stability and recovery. 33% American-made nylon. 16-oz weight, made on special machinery that creates a finer/tighter gauge for a smoother surface and a more stable, firm fabric. Made in a California factory with the same eco-friendly bluesign certification used by iconic brands like Patagonia and Eileen Fisher. 60” width. Gently machine washable, tumble briefly, then hanger-dry. Also dry-cleanable.”
I’ve made a lovely jacket from Nancy’s Ponte Knit, but haven’t laundered it yet. I have just ordered more for combining with a lovely imported tweed I purchased from a fabric store in New Orleans – so I will end up with personal experience regarding the ‘pilling’ issue. This fabric DOES feel ‘silkier’, has a ‘cooler’ hand. I’m concludindg this is because nylon is replacing the polyester. This ponte blend seems more heavy-bodied. And at 7″ Lycra instead of the 3% of Sophia, it has more stretch. Nicer? You bet, but this Ponte is $24/yard – almost double the Sophia. However, if it doesn’t pill, and is heavier – I’m hopeful….
I decided to survey my favorite online fabric sources…and this is what I found.
More ‘Ponte’ and Sources
Mood has several different ponte offerings. The first is a $29.99/yard Wool and Elastane (European for Lycra). They also have a 65% Rayon 30% Nylon and 5% Spandex blend. They also list a gsm weight of 320. This is grams/square meter and indicates weight or thickness of fabric. New to me, I looked it up and learned that gsm is what is often seen in Europe for fabric weight, where we generally speak of fabric weight in ounces. (oz).
To convert, 5.5 oz x 33.906 = 186.48 gsm. 185 gsm/33.906 = 5.4 oz.
Sadly, no other fabric retailers listed fabric weight – in any form.
Marcy carries what she calls 5 star Ponte. Beware: her prices are per half yard, so though marked $12, for our per yard comparison, that makes it $24/yard. Here is her description of this ponte that is 65% rayon, 30% nylon and 5% spandex.
One of the finest quality ponte double knits I’ve come across. Ponte is a generic term for a double knit, but the fiber content can vary. This one is a blend of rayon/nylon/spandex, so it has a smooth matte texture, beefy, but good drape, appealing smooth hand and 4 way stretch. No rolling at the cut edge and no seam finish required, so it is easy to sew. Works for both tops and bottoms, Ideal for pants, either with some fullness or a narrow skinny pant. Just right for a jacket, vest, light coat, dress or skirt. Unbeatable for travel and wardrobing.
Pre-treat by wash/dry gentle. After sewing, wash gentle and air dry.
Having stocked many fabrics from Elliott Berman during my fabric shop days, I always check there for fabrics. Theirs is what they call a ‘High-end’ quality, and from Italy. The fiber content is different: 95% viscose and 4% Lycra. It is the highest price I found at $28/yard. No care recommendation was given.
This discount designer fabric website has some printed ponte fabrics! These are just $15.5/yard, and a different fiber mix yet: 57% polyester, 38% viscose, and 4% Spandex.
Emma also has a couple of solid pontes from Italy called Rag & BOne for $21/yard. Specific yardage percentages aren’t given for the viscose/nylon/spandex blend. Aqua and Rose are currently available.
I’ll be sure to report my own personal findings on whether the ponte with rayon, NYLON and Spandex pills as easily or not. I have some more of that lovely periwinkle ponte from Nancy Nix-Rice on its way that will combine with an absolutely GORGEOUS European piece I bought in New Orleans.
Pilling Report from June, 2022: The preferred blend of nylon, viscose and Spandex does, indeed, NOT pill! I just went to double check if Nancy Nix Rice was still handling this great fabric, and she IS!
Here's her description for this beautiful fabric, now $26/yard.
"Absolutely the loveliest ponte in the market – available in over 20 classic colors. A full 60% rayon for breathability and natural-fiber appearance. 7% Lycra-branded spandex (made in USA) for stability and recovery. 33% American-made pill-resistant nylon. 60″ wide. Cross-grain 10″ stretches readily to 12″ and fully recovers. Minimal lengthwise stretch.
Ideal weight for pants, skirts, shells, jackets and sleek dresses – 16/16.5 oz or 330 GSM. Knit on special machinery that creates a finer/tighter gauge for smoother, more stable fabric with zero pilling. Produced in a California factory with the same eco-friendly bluesign certification used by iconic brands like Patagonia and Eileen Fisher."