Fabric 101: Basics and Reading List*

Confused by Cottons? Dumbfounded by Denim?

We run our dressmaking seminars on a cycle with our beginner modules and introductions to sewing. One of these seminars is the Fabrics 101 seminar.

Did you attend the seminar? Great! We have some further reading for you with the best prices that we have been able to find!

Didn’t attend the seminar? Don’t worry, there will be another one and in the meantime we will touch on some of the basics that will help you to make more informed decisions on your makes.
If you want to know more and have a fuller understanding of fabrics pop along to the next event.

What is Fabric?
Fabric = Fibre Content + Construction.

Fibres are sectioned initially into “Natural” and “Man Made”.
Natural fibres occur naturally in the world around us, whereas man made fabrics are manufactured.
Natural fibres include: cotton, wool, linen and silk.
Man Made fabrics include: Polyester, Rayon, PVC, acrylic, Modal and Tencel.

Fibres indicate how the fabric will perform, for instance the drape, warmth, does it wick moisture away from the body?

Fibres are made into yarns/threads which are then used to construct fabric.

Construction of fabric can be performed in many ways. The 3 main construction methods are: Felting, Weaving and Knitting.

Felted Fabrics include: felt, wool felt.
Woven Fabrics include: organza, taffeta, canvas, denim, flannel, gabardine, chino.
Knitted Fabrics include: jersey, sweatshirting, interlock jersey, ponte roma, rib.

Stretch Fabrics:
Stretch fabrics are either knitted fabric with elastane or woven fabrics with elastane.
Knitted fabrics with elastane have a far greater stretch due to the inbuilt stretch of the construction of knitted fabrics and the fact that elastane is stretchy.

Woven fabrics with elastane are stretchy but to a far lesser degree. A small percentage of elastane with a primary yarn such as cotton results in something called a ‘comfort stretch’/ This fabric is not primarily manufactured for stretch but gives additional ease.

Fabric Weight:
Several things help decide the weight if fabric such as:
Yarn Count- thickness of yarns
Thread Count- Number of warps and wefts. The higher the thread count the finer the quality of fabric.
Additional finishing treatments such as dyeing, brushing, washing, waxing etc. can also change the weight of a fabric.

Fabric Widths:
As a general rule of thumb fabric comes mostly in 2 widths, 45’/110cm or 60’/150cm wide.

But my pattern says….

All sewing patterns will have a recommendation as to what fabric to use for a specific pattern. This doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to use that fabric but if you don’t the final garment may differ in size and style.
Most notably if a pattern is sized for knit fabrics, use knit fabrics. If you are a confident sewer and depending on the pattern you could attempt a knit pattern with a woven fabric but will most definitely have to alter the garment to make it work.
Also if a pattern is sized for knit fabrics, the pattern will often have a guide on how to pick the right fabric for the pattern. This often is a measuring guide for stretch percentage.

We’ve all seen these fabric names on the back of pattern envelopes that we’ve never heard of or seen in the wild. Below we’re going to try and demystify a few.

Batiste, Voile and Lawn:
Very fine, woven cottons with a high thread count. They have a very soft hand and smooth surface.

Has an allover design with slightly raised sections.

Made from 2 different yarns. The velvet yarn is burned out with a chemical in selected areas, leaving behind a pattern of velvet on silk chiffon.

Silk charmeuse is a luxurious, supple fabric. It has a shiny satin face and a dull back. You can also get polyester charmeuse. Almost impossible to get pucker free seams as charmeuse must be cut on grain.

Fuzzy and soft to the touch. Best if interfaced as it has a tendency to stretch.

Lame and Lurex:
Metallic effect fabric.

Microfibre, very soft made from 100% polyester, like fleece but softer and thicker.

A medium weight cotton with raised weave which almost looks like a small check.

Rayon Viscose:
A regenerated fabric produced from wood pulp. Cool to wear, good drape.

Lightweight, wind resistant nylon. Not breathable.

Fine cotton, woven from long staple yarns.

Made by treating wood pulp with recyclable non toxic dissolving agent. Soft, drapey and breathable. Wrinkles unless blended with other fibres.

Rugged looking 100% cotton.

Lustrous, durable, warp faced fabric with a corded appearance.

Fine denim appearance. Coloured warp and white weft.

Lightweight, woven. Blended traditionally from silk and wool but can be made from cotton, silk, wool or rayon. Like lawn but with a more fluid drape.

Want to know more? Book onto one of our seminars or check out the list below for further reading, click the links below to be taken directly to buy.

All New Fabric Savvy- Sandra Betzina

Fabric Savvy: The Essential Guide for Every Sewer- Sandra Betzina

Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book, Second Edition- Clive Hallett and Amanda Johnston

The Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion: The Essential Guide from the World’s Most Famous Fabric Store

Want to get your hands on these books fast? Click here to try Amazon prime for free for 30 days.

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