A Complete Guide to Fabrics
When you understand all the different types of fabrics, your sewing projects will be that much easier. The type of fabric you use in your sewing project determines a lot of factors such as the type of needles used, thread, and other tools needed to ensure that your project turns out as intended.
Fabric stores can be overwhelming. You can, and should, ask the in-store assistant to help you with finding the proper fabric for your project. However, we have created this section of the website to get you familiar and comfortable with all the different types of fabric, what they’re commonly used for, and important information about each type, so you feel more comfortable walking into the fabric store.
One of the first things you should look for when buying fabric is the fabric that’s specified in your pattern. Most of the time, if not all times, patterns will tell you specifically what type of fabric is needed and how much.
If you’re not following a pattern and you have the freedom to choose your fabric, there are a few things you should consider before making a purchase.
You should first start by looking at the information at the bottom of the bolt. This information will tell you the width and type of fabric, the pricing, and how it should be washed. Most fabrics are 44” wide, but there are some that are 60” wide as well.
You should also study the pattern envelope as it will tell you important information and help you decide whether the fabric is suitable for your desired project. Usually, these envelopes also give you suggestions of what you can use this type of fabric for.
You don’t always have to use the suggested fabrics, but in some cases, you don’t want to veer too far away. When patterns call for knit fabrics, you don’t want to use something sheer and lightweight like chiffon and vice versa.
Once you have chosen your fabric, you can take it over to the cutting counter and tell the staff how much fabric you need. Therefore, you should figure out your requirements beforehand so you’re ready to go as soon as you get up to the counter. The smallest amount of fabric you can tend to purchase is about 1/8th of a yard so you shouldn’t expect to be able to purchase anything less than that.
Fabric stores are pretty amazing. When you walk in there are hundreds, if not thousands of different colors, textures, patterns, and styles of fabric. For sewers, this can be super exciting and also a tad overwhelming.
Most fabric stores have an organized system, they have to, knowing how many fabric choices they have. You can always ask the in-store assistant the layout of the store, but most stores will have them organized by either a certain type of fabric, color-coded, or by certain types of projects like quilting fabric.
Fabric Shopping Online
Fabric shopping online is definitely a different experience. You won’t be able to see the fabric in person or feel it before purchasing, but you tend to get a lot of detailed information about the product, the intended uses of the fabric, and other important information as well.
Fabric shopping online is also a lot more convenient as you just have to find the fabric you’re looking for, choose your required amount, and wait for it to arrive in the mail. Different sewers prefer different options so you have to see what one you prefer best.
This video from WithWendy is a great guide to buying fabric as well! We encourage you to check it out!
Different Categories of Fabric
There is a wide range of different categories of fabric. We have designated specific sections within this Section 5: A Complete Guide to Fabrics, to go through the different types of popular sewing fabric.
Below, we have summarized fabrics into different categories to help narrow down what you may be searching for your next sewing project.
Cotton fabrics are probably one of the most versatile fabrics out there and therefore you can find an enormous range of different cotton styles and designs for your sewing projects. The cotton fabric also tends to shrink and comes pre-washed. It’s commonly used to make quilts, springs, bags, and clothing.
Most fabric stores will have a “Home Decor” fabric section. This fabric is usually very durable and thick and most of the time, more expensive as well. If you’re looking to make some home decor such as pillows, curtains, upholstery, or rugs, the home decor section is where you should look.
Jersey knits are extremely popular due to their soft, stretchy material. Jersey knits feel almost like a T-shirt and have been used in a variety of different ways, including bed sheets because of the comfortable material. The fabric is wider than most other fabrics so you will probably need less of it to make items like bedsheets, shirts, dresses, and other clothing items.
Since it is a stretchy fabric, it can be a little bit difficult to sew on, but with a little bit of practice and a good sewing machine, you can definitely manage.
Another popular type of fabric used for bed sheets, flannel is not as thick as fabrics such as fleece, but in between that and a cotton fabric, which makes it a cozy and popular fabric to sew with. With flannel, one side is definitely a lot softer than the other and since it’s plush fabric, it tends to pill and shrink when washing.
When you’re trying to make blankets or clothing that you want to be soft, yet lightweight, flannel is your go-to fabric.
Plush fabrics include fabrics such as Minky, fleece, and mentioned above, flannel. Plush fabrics are incredibly soft and cozy which makes it absolutely perfect for baby items, blankets, PJs, and just anything that you want to be nice and soft.
Although plush fabrics are great to stay warm and comfortable, they can make a bit of a mess when washing them. They also require a lot more patience and time when sewing on them and they can also be more expensive than other fabrics as well.
When you think of heavy or sturdy fabrics, denim probably crosses your mind and you’d be right. Fabric-like denim and canvas are thicker and sturdier fabrics that are very durable. Since they are so durable, they are commonly used for everyday items like clothing, especially for the outdoors, bags, pillows, and things that get a lot of use or see a lot of traffic.
Formal fabrics are fabrics that you would use to recreate, well, anything formal. From satin dresses to silky scarves, these fabrics tend to be soft, slippery, and silky. Formal fabrics look absolutely gorgeous, especially when it comes to clothing, but definitely require a bit of hard work to achieve. With their slippery texture, it can make it very time-consuming and difficult to work with these formal fabrics.
With that being said, if you take your time and have a lot of patience, your hard work will definitely pay off!