Understanding the Nap and Print Direction of Fabrics

sewing tips

If you have recently purchased a sewing machine with the sole purpose of making items of clothing or quilts, there are a few important considerations to address before getting started. Once you understand how to operate your sewing machine and when exactly to put your sewing equipment to good use, you should start learning all about the fabric itself. 

Most of the time, especially when making clothes for wintertime, the fabric in question will have what is called a ‘nap’. Furthermore, when working with patterned fabrics for dresses and shirts, for example, you must be aware of how to manipulate the direction of the fabric to ensure symmetry. Here is a breakdown.

What is the ‘nap’? 

The nap of a piece of fabric refers to the raised, fluffy side which is traditionally placed on the inside of the garment for maximum comfort and warmth. However, some sewing professionals choose to do it the other way around, keeping the smoother side on the inside and embracing the softer effect for the outside. It is a personal choice, so feel free to experiment. 

Also, keep in mind that placing the nap vertically can give the illusion of a slightly darker shade. You may opt to pair up vertical and horizontal naps for a textured effect, or you may opt to keep your garment consistent. Either way, it is important to be aware of how the nap is placed and why. 

What is print direction? 

Print direction is exactly that – the direction that the fabric print faces. Usually, you will need the print to remain consistent at all times. It is, therefore, essential that you pay close attention to this direction throughout your project, especially if you are making a quilt. 

The best way to get symmetry when making a quilt that has a square in the middle and is surrounded by strips is to cut two horizontal strips and two vertical strips. Be sure to sew them in the right order and you will be able to keep them all pointing in one direction. 

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