Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Sewing Project

There is such a tremendous selection of fabrics available; the job of choosing fabric can be overwhelming. As you peruse the different fabrics, you may be drawn to the bright, splashy colors at first. Then, the subtle colors, interesting textures and weaves present you with more possibilities. Stoffenmarkt Westerstraat Amsterdam It is essential to be informed about fabrics, so that your project is successful. But, it is still important for you to fall in love with the fabric!

We will begin by breaking down the types of fabric into categories, then sub-categories. You will want to know what the fabric is made of, how it will drape (flow), and what the care instructions are. One thing is for certain – it pays to invest in quality fabric, as you are going to put a lot of your energy into the project, and you want it to be a success.


The fiber content of a fabric will determine the comfort of the garment when you wear it, and how you will need to care for the garment. Usually, in a store, the fabric content will be on the end of the cardboard form that the fabric is wrapped around. Be sure to ask the sales people, as sometimes the form is re-used and does not match the fabric. If purchasing fabric from a web site, the information should be displayed with the fabric. In case you find fabric that the fiber content is unknown, it can be tested by burning it. More about fabric testing later.

Natural Fiber Fabrics:

– Cotton

– Linen

– Ramie

– Silk

– Wool

– Specialty Hair Fibers

Man-Made Fiber Fabrics:

– Acetate and Triacetate

– Acrylic

– Nylon

– Olefin

– Polyester

– Rayon

– Spandex

Leathers and Suedes

Synthetic Suedes




Natural fiber fabrics are made from materials that grow in nature. Fibers come from animal coats, silkworm cocoons, and plant seeds, leaves, and stems. Natural fiber fabrics are biodegradable and also can be recycled. In recycling, the fabric is shredded back to fibers, respun into a coarse yarn, and then rewoven or knitted. Wool is the most common recycled fabric, but cotton can be recycled and made into industrial wiping cloths, mattress filling, and carpet backing.


Cotton is known for its comfort, appearance, versatility, and performance. It is available in many fabric weights, colors, patterns, weaves, and prices. Cotton comes from the seedpod of the cotton plant. It is grown in warm climates that have plentiful rain. The cotton fibers are taken from the boll (seed pod) and vary in length. They can be as long as 2 ½” and as short as 3/8″. The long fibers are the more costly, and are harder to produce. Once the cotton is picked, it is separated by a process known as ginning (remember hearing about the cotton gin?) and the long fibers are made into thread. The short fibers are used to produce rayon. The quality is determined by: a) fiber fineness; b) color; c) foreign matter. To figure out the fiber length, peel a thread and untwist. Look for fibers longer than ½”.

Enough history lesson, now on to what is so great about cotton. Cotton has many admirable characteristics and a few less-than-admirable characteristics:

– Comfortable year-round. In hot, humid weather, cotton will absorb perspiration and release it on the fabric surface, and the moisture will evaporate. In the cold weather, cotton will help retain body heat.

– Easy to clean: usually, cotton garments can be laundered, and even stand up to hot water, but cotton can also be dry cleaned, if the garment calls for dry cleaning. Some factors for determining if the fabric should be dry-cleaned are the dyes, finish, trims, and design of the garment. If you have a doubt, wash a small sample of the fabric first. Cotton garments should be cleaned frequently. The fibers soil easily.

– Shrinks: Oh, yes, cotton fabric shrinks. It is a must to pre-shrink cotton fabric before you begin the sewing project. You may want to wash the fabric more than once. Looser weaves shrink more; closer weaves shrink less. Cotton shrinks more when washed in hot water. Wash it in the same way as you will the completed garment.

– Wrinkles: cotton does wrinkle when washed. Many times the cotton fibers are blended with another fiber to achieve wrinkle free fabric. Cotton blended with polyester makes a wrinkle-free, easy care fabric. Although the cotton/poly blend fabric is easy care, it is not cool as cotton and also pills. Formaldehyde is sometimes added to cotton to create “easy care cotton”

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