Updated: May 24
Choosing fabric is the most important step in sewing a garment or buying one. The wrong choice can mean a big disappointment — and we've been there. Fortunately, there's usually more than one “right” fabric for any garment. Have you come with the questions:
Is this breathable fabric?
Does this fabric tend to shrink?
What temperature do I choose for ironing?
Should I wash a garment in the washing machine, wash by hands or use dry cleaning service?
If so, this article is made for you!
The way the fabric will feel against your skin, how it will behave when sewing, how it will drape against your body and after all how durable it is going to be – all these points are as important to your fabric buying decision as to its color and designs.
First thing is to know what is the type of fabric you have in mind – The textiles available are broadly categorized as natural textiles and synthetic textiles. The main Natural textiles are Cotton, Silk, Denim, Flannel, Hemp, Leather, Linen, Velvet, Wool; The synthetic textiles include Nylon, Polyester, Acetate, Acrylic, Polar Fleece, Rayon and Spandex. FULL LIST to fabric types that are woven, braided or knitted from textile fibres.
NATURAL VS. SYNTHETIC
Advantage. Cotton and other natural fabrics are very absorbent and soft, while also being easy to care for. It’s hypoallergenic, and very comfortable for those with sensitive skin, partly because there aren’t as many chemicals used in the manufacturing process
Disadvantage. Cotton can tear easily, meaning that it is not the most durable material
Advantage. Synthetic fabric is extremely durable and is also resistant to stretching out, which can always be nice if you want your clothing to last. Also, dry quickly, which is great for those who are out in the heat each day, or are working out regularly and don’t want their clothing to retain moisture.
Disadvantage. Synthetic fabrics may irritate the skin because it is man-made and not a natural option. It also is not going to breathe as well as other materials due to the chemicals it is made from.
Yarns, Fibres, Fabrics
There are about 100 different types of cotton fabric. Natural woven or knitted cotton fabric is super comfortable and one of the best fabric to make clothes with. It is a breathable fabric and can make you feel cool even when the temperature is hot.
The best thing about sewing with cotton is that it is easy. If you want to sew your first garment by yourself, my advice to choose any cotton fabric. Easy to sew and inexpensive.
One disadvantage of cotton fabric is that it wrinkles easily unless specific finishes are added to it.
Linen has similar features comparing to cotton. Qualities of cotton are present in linen plus the added elegance – cool, crisp and durable. The most popular type of linen is natural linen, stonewashed linen, mélange weave linen.
Unlike natural, untreated linen, washed linen can wash up to 60 ° in the machine. Linen is 100% antiallergic that suits everyone.
If you buy natural linen fabric (not prewashed) make sure you have washed in the washing machine. When the garment is ready don’t forget to keep washing care the same way as you did at the beginning for fabric. If you will wash in higher or lower temperature garment either will shrink or deform.
Silk is a beautiful fabric with a luxurious feel to it and the best fabric for drape. The absorptive capacity of the silk fabric makes comfortable apparel even for a warmer atmosphere. The fabric is cool in summer. Silk fabrics are subjected only to normal shrinkage which can be restored by ironing. Crepe effect fabrics shrink considerably in washing, but careful ironing with a moderately hot iron will restore the fabric to its original size.
It is a little difficult to maintain silk as most are marked as dry-clean only. It can be slightly difficult to sew with as well.
Struggling where to start your project?
As a fabric, hemp provides all the warmth and softness of natural textiles. Hemp is extremely versatile and can be used for countless products. Examples of garments commonly made with hemp include skirts, pants, jackets, dresses, T-shirts, hoodies. In particular, this type of fabric is highly popular for T-shirts since it is resistant to tear and durable.
Due to fabrics high absorbency and durability it is particularly popular for use in towels. Hemp blended with other fibers easily incorporates the desirable qualities of both fashion and home textiles.
Wool is the weakest of all-natural textile fibers. But they have excellent absorbency, moisture regain is high and tend to be warmer than others.
Wool fabrics resist wrinkles and are the most resilient fiber because it has a natural crimp that helps it keep its shape. Wrinkles disappear when the garment or fabric is steamed. The fabric also can be affected by prolonged exposure to sunlight.
There are many variations of the leather to the color, texture, smell, surface resistance and handle of leather that makes this product unique and valuable. Leathers can be as natural as observed in pure vegetable leather or as refined with outstanding performance as an automotive seat.
Leather can be made to absorb water, resist water or be completely waterproof.
Hand sewing is a very important skill in leatherwork, and it is one of the hardest fabric to sew if you have no previous sewing experience.
Regular or rayon viscose fabric is lightweight, very flowy; the wonderful way it drapes on the body is the reason why many of the clothes you see in stores are made from this fabric.
Consumers should be aware of several cautions in relation to the proper use and care of fabrics made from rayon fibre. Regular or viscose rayon has low wet strength, resulting in loss of stability or the tendency to shrink or stretch easily when wet.
It is not the easiest fabric to sew, fabric is quite slippery, reminds sewing of silk. But the way it looks on you, after all, will compensate for the stress and time you have spent.
Nylon does not absorb water – this is great for some projects, but it also means that nylon fabric and movement combine to create static electricity. Nylon has some of the look and feel of silk.
Nylon fibres are durable, fairly elastic, lightweight and absorb very little water, so clothes made of nylon are easy to wash and dry.
Regarding sewing, keep in mind to use sharp scissors or a rotary fabric cutter to reduce the fraying of the nylon. The next, keep the fabric tight by pulling the fabric on both sides of the needle instead of trying to pull the fabric through and never pin ripstop nylon.
Polyester has its own disadvantages but if you buy high-quality polyester this fabric will give you many qualities. Sometimes people get mistaken if they do not see the fabric blend, it can remind silk, cotton or even linen. Polyester has a great drape, ease of maintenance, adequate stretch, the garments can look really luxury.
The variety of natural and synthetic fabrics available today offers a wide selection of fibers for use. But all fabrics are not perfect in one way or other. They all have some good, fair and poor characteristics. Combining natural and synthetic fibres together we can get quite good fabrics. As a result, we have breathable, durable and wrinkle-resistant fabrics (my personal preference).
The conclusion, not always better 100% cotton than 60% polyester; 40% cotton fabric blend! That depends on garment design, target market, concept and etc.
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Thank you for your time reading the article. Let me know if was there enough information to choose the fabric blend preferable to you or your project.
Feel free to leave your insights or questions below in the comment section.