Recently, I was buying clothes online and realized I do not know my fabrics. You might laugh, but this is a serious problem for if you like to shop online. Imagine buying a shirt and not realizing that linen was different from cotton. Yeah, that’s what happened to me. The shirt arrived, and it was completely different than what I was expecting.

Knowing the difference between fabrics isn’t just important for clothes shopping though. You wouldn’t want to buy wool tablecloths when you meant to buy linen or felt when you want satin. That would be terrible, and you don’t want to buy a linen shirt when you want loose-fitting cotton accidentally. You will have so many regrets if you do not know your fabrics.

Types of Fabric Material

Fabrics come in different kinds of fibers; either natural or human-made. They can be either knitted, woven or non-woven. All these factors affect their drape, stretch, and weight. It’s important to choose the material that fits the occasion. Say for example if you’re making a summer dress then you’ll want something lightweight. You may go in for a woven natural cotton fabric which is breathable. To get a better insight into fabrics scroll down to see the different types of fabric materials.

Cotton

Photo of cotton plant. Learning what cotton look like is essential if you want to know your fabrics

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The soft, fluffy substance that grows in a ball is the cotton fiber. You can knit or weave the cotton into cloth. A plain weave can result in fabrics like percale, broadcloth, and gingham. Denim, gabardine, and khaki are the result of the more durable twill weave. To purchase the highest quality cotton, search for tightly woven fabrics with long 1/2” fibers and even yarns.

Cotton is a natural cellulose fiber and has excellent absorbency. It is comfortable, soft and has significant color retention properties. The cotton fabric has good strength, drapes well, and it is easy to handle and sew.

For garment sewing, you can use cotton fabric, cotton lawn, and Chambray. Cotton voile is a lightweight sheer fabric that has a great drape. While lawn resembles voile in many ways, it is a lot crispier. Chambray is thin and smooth but does not drape well.

Wool

Different colored yards of wool fabrics. Learning what wool is, is vital if you want to know your fabrics.

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Chemically distinct from cotton, wool mainly consists of proteins and a small percent of lipids. Excellent quality wool has a thread count of 100 or more. Another superb fabric is Super 160s wool, which has individual threads measuring about 15.75 microns. The flexibility of the woolen fiber makes it more durable. The natural elasticity of wool makes your woolen apparels resistant to tearing.

Linen

different colored linen

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The linen fiber varies from a creamy white to greyish brown. Good quality linen is very durable and has a long life. It becomes softer and more lustrous with use and laundering. Flax fibers are not only durable but also very firm. In fact, they are the most durable natural fiber in everyday use. Linen has good absorbency rate about 20 percent before becoming damp. Good moisture absorbency makes it a comfortable fabric, especially during the hot summers.

Denim

A woman wearing denim skinny jeans, boots and a cotton sweater.

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The birthplace of Denim is the French town of Nimes. The plantation workers wore it due to its strength and durability. You obtain denim from cotton made using the twill weave. The distinguishing feature of denim is its blue color. The fibers are dyed indigo and interlaced with natural-looking strands to get the desired blue color. Denim is breathable and is highly durable.

Felt

red felt fabric

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You get felt by matting, liquefying, and pressing the fibers together. Felt can either be made from natural or synthetic fibers. Wool felt is significantly resilient, it retains its strength and unique properties for long periods of time. Wool felt is self-extinguishing as well as a flame retardant, while synthetic felt and wool blend felt must get treated for flame resistance.

Satin

Know your fabrics well enough to make maroon satin roses like the one in this photo.

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The satin has its origins to the city of Zaitun in China. From this place, it was exported all around the world. The satin fabric has a glossy look because the weave is four over and one under. Moreover, the threads are less interlaced.

During the process of weaving the woven material is run through hot cylinders. Natural fibers such as cotton, silk and wool and synthetic fibers such as acetate and polyester are commonly woven to create satin. Satin has a high durability value, and you can use it for sports apparel. This beautiful material is a favorite in the hot bridal industry.

Silk

This natural protein fiber has its origins in ancient China. You can obtain silk from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori. The silk fiber has a triangular prism-like structure which gives it a shimmering appearance. Silk is a durable fiber, and it has an excellent affinity to dye. It has good insulation properties by being warm in winter and cool in summer. Silk fiber has a low density which makes it light and comfortable to wear.

Velvet

When you know your fabrics you can buy light pink velvet like the velvet in this photo.

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Velvet is a woven tufted fabric with unusual softness and appearance. Often associated with nobility velvet is either made from synthetic or natural fibers. Silk velvet has a soft drape while the synthetic velvets don’t drape well but contain the sheen. The cut threads are spread evenly with a dense pile. This aspect gives the velvet its shine.

Types of Synthetic Fibers Used to Make Fabrics

Joseph Swan was the first to invent the synthetic fiber in the 1880s. The synthetic fibers are produced from the long polymer chain network of small molecules. The raw materials of these fibers come from petroleum-based chemicals or petrochemicals.

Synthetic fibers leave a huge carbon footprint because they require large amounts of energy, water, and dyes. These fibers are stronger than natural and regenerated fibers.

Common synthetic fibers

Know your fabrics like this yellow nylon fabric

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Nylon

The thermoplastic silky material nylon shows a variation in luster. It can be very lustrous, semi-lustrous or dull. The fabric is highly durable and has excellent abrasion resistance. Nylon is lightweight and is heat resistant. It has a low absorbency rate but takes on dye exceptionally well.

Polyester

A synthetic humanmade fiber polyester has quick drying properties, so it’s a popular choice for outdoor clothing. Polyester is durable as well as resistant to many chemicals. The fabric is lightweight, and its fibers are strong. Polyester is in high demand in the fashion industry because you can give the material permanent pleats and decorative shapes. This fabric is resistant to shrinking and stretching as well as wrinkling and abrasions.

Fleece

It is a soft, warm and lightweight fabric. Fleece possesses wool’s good qualities but weighs a fraction of it. In fact, it is the lightest of all the available woolens. This fiber is a human-made material and comes from polyester. Rarely some natural fibers are added to fleece to increase the vibrancy or to create a particular texture. It can be used for a lot of purposes ranging from an ear warmer for baby calves to the underwear of astronauts.

Fleece is extremely durable and also moisture resistant.

Rayon

Also known as artificial silk Rayon is a regenerated fiber. This fabric is comfortable and feels soft to the skin. The threads have the moderate dry strength and are resistant to abrasion. Because it drapes well it is a popular choice for apparels. Rayon is an excellent summer fabric because it absorbs sweat and allows it to evaporate away from the skin. This fabric shrinks and stretches more than cotton and loses a lot of strength when wet.

Knit Fabrics for Garment Sewing

knit fabric with different colored squares.

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Being one of the most comfortable materials to sew into garments knitted fabrics are easily constructed into smaller pieces such as socks and hats. There are many weights of knit fabrics, and each type stretches a different amount. Listed below are the different types of knit fabrics.

Jersey

Most basic T-shirts are made from the knit fabric Jersey. You can make this fabric with a single needle putting the knits and purls in rows. This fabric has a lovely drape as well as a lightweight feel, so it hangs well on your body. Jersey fabric may stretch well and has a right and a wrong side. It is excellent for stitching T-shirts, pullovers, blouses and T-shirt dresses.

Double knit

You can create the fabrics with multiple needles; it results in two layers of material. So you get fabric that is identical on both sides and is much sturdier. If you’re a beginner, then double knits are the perfect choice for you, since this fabric is easy to handle. Double knit fabrics do stretch but not as Jersey. This fabric is sturdier than Jersey and hugs the body tighter highlighting the shapes and curves. This material is suited for structured dress, trousers or leggings.

Sweater knits

Typically sweater knits have more stitch definition and fuzziness to them. They come in many weights such as a heavy fabric which you can wear as a winter jacket or lightweight material suitable for a casual summer top. The sweater knits are thicker and more stable than double knits and jersey. These fabrics may fray or unravel. You can use lightweight sweater knits for summertime cardigans while you have the option to use heavy weight knits for winter jackets.

Novelty knits

These knits have a unique texture, pattern or material. If the fabric doesn’t fall on the other three categories, then it would probably be a novelty knit fabric.

How to Match Your Fabric to an Apparel?

Here’s a mini-guide to help you choose the best fabric for your clothing, so you do not make the same mistake I did.

Skirts

For skirts, you can go in for fabrics such as denim, linen, knit, and cotton lawn and rayon challis.

Dresses

Rayon challis, cotton lawn, cotton fabric, knit, silk, double gauze, satin, linen and wool fabrics will be suitable for dressmaking.

Pants

During the summer months, you can use linen fabric for making pants. Also denim, flannel, and wool are the other best options.

Shirts and blouses

The right fabric, color, and fit of your shirts and blouses enhance your appearance significantly. So go in for double gauze, rayon challis, and cotton fabric, knit, silk, linen, satin and wool fabrics. For shirts and blouses that needs less drapery, you can choose flannel fabrics.

Now You Know your Fabrics!

The crucial step in sewing a garment is to choose the right fabric for your clothes. The right kind of apparel influences your self-perception and confidence. Your clothing and accessories will radiate self-worth and self-respect. Follow this handy guide to know your fabrics and make smart clothing choices.

 

Featured image: CC0, by Engin Akyrut, via Pixabay 

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