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  • lilysuggett

All about fabric

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

When you have to shop for fabric online, it can be pretty overwhelming trying to figure out what you're looking at! Don't worry, I will help you choose! Here I'll go over some ideas and key terms that we'll talk about when we're deciding what type of fabric to use for your garment.

First of all, there are two basic categories of fabric: knits and wovens.

Knits are stretchy. Look really closely at a t-shirt or sweater, and you'll see columns of tiny v's - just like in hand knitting. Different knits have different amounts of stretch, depending on the type and content.

Wovens are not stretchy unless they have elastic/spandex added. Look really closely and you'll see a woven texture of straight lines.

Generally a given design will work for either stretch or non-stretch fabric, not both.

Next, there are two key descriptors to look for - weight and drape. Weight and drape are sometimes confused, but are not the same! Both are affected by the fibre content as well as the thickness and weave of the fabric.

When shopping online, often fabrics are simply categorized as light/medium/heavy weight, but some have specific measurements in grams or ounces. Weight is important to think about for comfort as well as how the finished garment will move and hang. Some heavyweight fabrics are denim, canvas, or wool coatings. Some lightweight fabrics are cotton lawn or voile, most jerseys, and shirting.

Drape refers to how to the fabric hangs. Often, lighter weight fabric is drapier, but it also depends on the content - bamboo, tencel, and silk are very drapey, while cotton and linen are more crisp (but might soften with washing). Drapey fabric hangs closer to the body and moves with you, while less drapey fabric keeps its shape and doesn't stick as close to the body.

For a more in-depth explanation:

Some patterns will only work with a particular type of fabric, others will work with many types of fabric (but with very different results).

Example: Clara blouse by Sew Over It

These two blouses are the same pattern in the same size, with just the sleeve cuff different. The solid blouse is made of viscose and linen noil. It is heavier and very drapey, but still feels cool because of the linen. This one feels looser because of the way it moves and shifts. If I tuck it in, the fabric will fold over the pants and hang flatter. I can move very easily.

The printed blouse is made of cotton lawn. It is very lightweight, but does not have much drape. The pleats are very crisp, and the blouse doesn't hang close to my body. If I tuck it in to pants, it will stand further away.

Choosing an appropriate fabric is a combination of knowing your own personal preferences as well as knowing what will give you your desired look. Other factors to consider are comfort, formality, care, environmental impact, breathability, and of course, cost.

Two other things to know:

- Most fabric is priced and sold by half meter

- Most fabric is a standard 56" wide, but some designer fabrics are only 42" wide - if you pick a narrow fabric, you will need to buy more.

More info here:

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