Choosing Fabric for Clothes

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.

(Want to save this post? Click here to download a printable PDF version of this post and access it anytime, anywhere!)

Girl Modeling Vintage inspired dress

Dream Date dress via Craftsy member Seam33

Get Fabric for Clothing You’ll Love, Fast!

Get Fabric You'll Love, Fast!

Find the fabric you need for your next project, at the right price.Shop fabric now »

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 sewing 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.

Woman Wearing Gray Linen Shirt Dress

Essential Linen Shirt Dress Kit, available exclusively on Craftsy

Still stumped? Consider a sewing kit! 

Let Craftsy make it easy for you! Browse our growing selection of sewing kits, which pair inspiring patterns with all the fabric you need to bring it to life.

Simply click on the links below to browse all the fabulous kits available for the type of garment you want to make.

Get Fabric for Clothing You’ll Love, Fast!

Get Fabric You'll Love, Fast!

Find the fabric you need for your next project, at the right price.Shop fabric now »


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.

Marcia Elliott

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

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?

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.


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

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.

Elizabeth kannarkat

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

Lady Praise

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

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? :)

Diya Tyagi

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

Ravi Pasi

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


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


hi there,
i’ve recently started making pants for my 2 year old which is going great. however i find that 100% cotton just isnt that comfy for him. it doesnt seem to really strectch or ‘give’ that much.
any suggestions on soft stretchy material to use for pants and shorts for toddlers?



When making clothes for kids out of 100% woven cotton, lots of ease is required in the crotch and knees – anywhere a bend or stretch will occur. Also, consider sewing on the bias on fabrics without a knap to allow stretch. An alternative might be 100% knit cotton – like a heavy t-shirt fabric. Those make great pants to run around the house in but might not be strong enough for outdoor play. For cotton knits, use the lightening bolt stitch or zigzag so the seams will stretch along with the toddler. Recommend looking at ready-to-wear (RTW) in the stores and notice the fabric types and cut of those clothes. That may help.


I’m just beginning to sew, and have been totally lost when it comes to fabric. Thank you for explaining this so clearly. Total life saver.


Wanting to make a crop top I tried with 100% cotton fabric and it is not easy to put on (no stretch) what kind of material should I get?
Also would it make a difference if I used a kind of stretchy thread (is there such thing?)
What kinds of clothing are good to make out of 100% cotton (I bought lots of cotton)
Plz help!!


For the crop, if you won’t have any type of a closure such as buttons, then 100% cotton will work but you’ll need to make it large enough to get it on and off. Also, wash the fabric first. If it will shrink, you need to get that out of the way BEFORE you sew it. I always use Polyester Covered Polyester thread when I sew cottons. It is much stronger than 100% cotton thread and doesn’t shrink. Again, wash first. If you don’t want to wash first, then use the 100% cotton thread so any shrinkage of the fabric and thread happen together. Cotton fabric is good for children’s clothing, men’s shirts, blouses, skirts, etc. But be ready with the iron. It usually is not wash and wear unless in kids clothes because they are usually walking wrinkles! :) If you will use the fabric with an elastic casing for stretch purposes, wherever the seam might undergo stress from a stretch, use the stitch on your machine that looks like a lightening bolt or the zig zag. That will allow the stitches to stretch in the spots where you might need it. Good luck!


Can this post be edited to show the phoenetic sounds for the French words in the fabric types? Is “challis” (shall-ee) or (chall-ee) or (chall-ess)? Is “voile” (vall) or (voy-il) or ….well, you get the idea. I’ve read these words but I’ve never actually heard them spoken so I don’t know what they sound like. Also, a little close-up image of the fabric would be fantastic so I can actually see the threads and texture of the fabric.


I’ve been designing my own dress for the past two weeks now and learning about what the fabrics are called has helped me out a lot.😊


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>