Choosing Fabric for Clothes

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Choosing fabric for clothes is the most important step in sewing a garment. The wrong choice can mean a very unsuccessful project! Fortunately, there are usually a few “right” fabric options for any pattern, so it’s not too difficult to pair up a fabric and pattern.

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How to choose fabric for clothes:

When starting a sewing project, you’ll begin in one of two places: either you’ll have fallen in love with a pattern and need fabric to make it out of, or you’ll have fallen in love with a fabric and need to find a suitable pattern to go with it.

Have a pattern?

Patterns will tell you which types of fabrics the pattern was designed for. Although there are no sewing police to come arrest you if you deviate from the suggested fabrics, beginning sewists especially will want to stick to the list. The fabrics listed will have properties (in terms of weight, stretch and drape) that complement the design of the pattern.

12 types of fabric commonly used for garment sewing:

  • Cotton voile: Voile is a lightweight, semi-sheer fabric with a great drape.
  • Cotton lawn: Lawn is very similar to cotton voile but is slightly crisper.
  • Rayon challis: Rayon challis is a smooth, lightweight fabric. It drapes well and is slightly heavier than other lightweight fabrics, like cotton voile and cotton lawn.
  • Chambray: Chambray is another smooth, lightweight fabric. It doesn't drape as well as rayon challis, cotton voile or cotton lawn.
  • Denim: Denim is a heavy-weight fabric with very little drape or stretch.
  • Double gauze: Double gauze is a unique fabric in that it is literally two layers of gauze woven together. The double layer of fabric eradicates the main problem of sewing clothing from gauze (the sheerness), while retaining the good qualities (extremely light and breathable).
  • Knit: In the knit fabric category, there are several types of knit, varying from lightweight to medium weight. Knit fabric is your go-to for any garment that needs to have a great deal of stretch. Patterns are designed for either woven fabric or knit fabric, and patterns sized for knit fabric will often specify the degree of stretch needed in the fabric.
  • Silk: Silk is a lightweight, delicate fabric that drapes well. It has a slightly shimmery appearance. Silk can be slippery and more difficult to work with. It also makes a great lining fabric.
  • Satin: Satin can vary from lightweight to heavyweight, depending on the type of satin. Like silk, it has a glossy appearance.
  • Linen: Linen is a medium-weight fabric with little elasticity (hence the wrinkles). But it conducts heat very well, which is why it’s a popular choice for warm-weather anything.
  • Wool: There are over 200 different types of wool, coming from 40 different breeds of sheep, so the weight will vary depending on the type of wool. Wool is extremely hard-wearing and versatile. It’s also very warm and a good choice for colder weather garments.
  • Flannel: Flannel is a soft, lightweight fabric. It works well for colder-temperature shirts, pants and jackets.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these fabric types are a good place to start when shopping.

Have great fabric? Match your fabric to a garment and start pattern shopping:

  • Pants: Linen (for warmer weather); denim; flannel; and wool.
  • Shirts and blouses: Cotton voile; rayon challis; double gauze; knit; silk; chambray; cotton lawn; linen; and flannel (for less drapey shirts and blouses).
  • Skirts: Cotton lawn; rayon challis; denim; knit; and linen.
  • Dresses: Cotton voile; cotton lawn; rayon challis; double gauze; knit; silk; satin; linen; and wool (for colder weather).

The weight of the fabric can be a deciding factor when choosing a pattern; a lightweight fabric will usually require a pattern suitable for warmer weather. If you need more guidance on choosing fabric for clothes, see our post on how to pair fabrics with sewing patterns.

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17 Comments

Gillian Sutherland

I love linen – it’s a fabric which can be plain or dressed up, formal and informal, and handles very well too. I love that it suits everyone and every occasion.

Reply
Marcia Elliott

I love linen cotton and georgette . They all can spruce up you wardrobe

Reply
Alex LeTerneau

Hey, so I know little to nothing about fabric, so I figured I would come and ask. I am working on a project for rough outdoor use, but I need a high white color. Does anybody know a fairly cheap but durable fabric that I could find in very bright white?

Reply
Ellie Ackerson

If you[‘re wondering about perfect fabric, try cotton voile. It’s very light. And cute. It comes in many different colors, including Bright White.

Reply
chemoreceptor

Wow! In the end I got a website from where I know how to truly take helpful data
concerning my study and knowledge.

Reply
Whitney McGruder

This is super helpful! In the past, I’ve tried to sew my own dress and it looked more like a costume than an everyday dress, simply because the fabric wasn’t “right.” Just knowing the names of some fabrics can help me when I’m at the store and looking for something that will work with the pattern I have for my *new* project.

Reply
Elizabeth kannarkat

Can someone tell me how to choose 100% cotton that doen’t wringle much?

Reply
Lady Praise

What is the best type of Fabric one can use to make a suit?

Reply
katherine Jones

I am so glad you have posted this list of different fabrics! I am wanting to make my own Plazzo Pants out of the stretchiest fabric that I can find lol. the fabric used on most plazzo pants at boutiques is what I’m looking for but I have no clue what it is called! I am new at the sewing world Any suggestions? :)

Reply
Diya Tyagi

hello i m diya
i love this information about fabric..and i gain so much knowlge..
thnk u

Reply
Ravi Pasi

i love this information about fabric..and i gain so
much knowlge..
thnk u

Reply
nidrita

what type of fabric i have to choose to make a marriage gown?

Reply

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