It’s important to ask the right questions when choosing fabric. We answer three of the most important questions here.
1. What Fabric Content am I Looking For?
Each individual strand that makes up the yarns of your fabric is a fibre. The types of fibre are either natural or man-made and influence the way the fabric and/or finished garment behaves.
Some yarn, like 100% cotton is made of a single fibre, while others, like Polycotton, are a blend. Neither natural nor synthetic fabric is superior – they each have their own pros and cons.
|Natural fabrics – organic materials||Man-made fabrics|
|Cellulose, i.e., plant-based such as cotton, linen, hemp, jute, and sisal.
Animal-based fibres like cashmere, alpaca, mohair, camel, animal furs, and silk.
|Natural polymer fibre, like rayon, viscose, and acetate.
Synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester, spandex, metallic, and elastane.
2. What Fabric Quality am I Looking For?
Depending on what your sewing project is, you will need to buy an appropriate type of fabric. A wise sewist once noted, “The quality of your garments is only as good as the quality of what they are made of”.
The strength, appearance, and absorbency of different fabrics come from the thickness and strength of the yarn. Indicators of a fabric’s weight, and therefore their suitability for different types of garments, is determined by:
- The denier of fabric measures the thickness of natural and synthetic fibres. The lower the denier, the more pliable and drapey the lightweight fabric will be, e.g., fluid fabrics like chiffon, satin, and knits. Higher denier fabrics are warmer, stronger, and more durable, and also heavier and rougher, e.g., stiff fabrics like twill, denim, or upholstery fabrics.
- The weave (interlacing of warp and weft yarns) also governs the smoothness, thickness, drape, and fraying of the fabric. Think of the difference between velvet and a knit fabric.
- The grams per square meter (GSM) is often related to the weave. Choose from lightweight, medium weight, or heavyweight fabric options.
- Measured according to the number of yarns in an inch of fabric, thread count has become synonymous with judging bed linen. Note, though, that a high thread count is not a guaranteed gauge of good quality.
Most fabric suppliers display what their fabrics are used for – be they dressmaking fabrics for evening dresses, shirts, or skirts, pants, and jackets; or decorators fabric for sofas or curtains. The least scientific, but most rewarding way to test for the right qualities in a fabric is the touch test – something sewists just cannot help themselves from doing, right!?
3. Is This the Correct Colour?
Aaah, the most eye-catching way to choose fabric is by its colour! Not much beats the thrill and anticipation of walking into your favourite fabric and sewing accessories supplier.
But just because it’s a beautiful fabric, does not mean that it is the right one for you. Consider the lighting where the completed item will be. Remember, too, that colours get distorted in photos on your phone. If possible, ask for a fabric swatch to ensure that the colour is right in situ. Also remember to ask the knowledgeable assistants about shrinkage and fading.