Sewing Blog

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.

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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 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.

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.

Did you know Craftsy's YouTube Channel is full of free, quick video tutorials?

Check out this one, which features more tips for choosing fabric and laying out patterns from sewing designer and instructor Angela Wolf.

See more on Craftsy's YouTube Channel.

65 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.

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Billy

i beg to differ

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Peggy Gerardi

Me too! Beginning sewers need to learn how to fit patterns to themselves. Using a simple cotton will allow them to discover where patterns need to be altered.

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Linda G

Unless, like me, you are allergic to the linen fiber, which is made from flax. Linen in any fabric or form is unbearable for me to touch, causing a hot, painful rash. There isn’t any one fiber or fabric that is perfect for “everyone” and “everything”.

No wonder so many people are confused about choosing fabrics. This blog post is mixing terms for fibers and fabrics, calling them all fabrics. Unfortunately, pattern makers copy this mistake, as well, listing recommended fabrics with vague terms like “cotton types” or “silks”, which aren’t fabric types at all, they are fibers.

Fibers (like cotton, silk, rayon, linen, wool, polyester, spandex, acrylic) are made into threads/yarns and then into fabrics (like voile, denim, twill, challis, flannel, interlock knits, sweater knits). For example, the fiber, silk–actually, one of the stronger natural fibers, which is why it can be used to make delicate fabrics–can be made into voile, lawn, twill, interlock knits, sweater knits, satin, suitings, brocade, and many other fabrics. Each of these fabrics is a different weight, has a different surface texture, and handles and drapes differently, but all can be made from silk. The same is true for other fibers, like cotton, rayon, and polyester.

There are some excellent books about fabrics and fiber classifications available, some with swatches included. Classes in choosing the right fabric are here on Craftsy. Another good way to learn about fabrics is to read the labels on the fabric bolts in fabric stores and take notes. Not all labels have the fabric type listed, but most do. This will help you learn the different qualities each fabric type has, as well as how the fiber content of the fabric may affect those qualities.

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ZKat

Thank you for this clarification. Hopefully this won’t be a chore but if it is, don’t worry ;). Could you please share with us total newbies some books… better yet if you have a blog or other online media where you share the info… since I relate to the way you explain things.

Thanks in advance.

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kelly

thanks for this excellent reference list for a newbie like me! 🙂

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Marcia Elliott

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

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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?

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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.

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Jenny161

Hi a white corduroy or white twill fabric are quite tough!

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Andie

For clothing that can endure rough treatment I’d recommend denim or duck cloth. They’re typically used in work garments. One of the best ways to discover what kinds of fabric work well for certain garments is to go window shopping for a garment that is designed for purposes similar to the intended use of your garment. So for your example of finding fabrics for garments that can handle rough work (like masonry), without being destroyed you’d examine Carhardtt or other work garments and from those you can get an idea of how thick and tough the fabric has to be to survive (also check labels to find fiber content). Then go to the fabric store and run your hands along the bolts of fabric as you encounter each fabric type until the fabric feels similar to the fabric from the garments you’d examined earlier. I’ve found that my fingers know fabric types much better than my memory for names of fabric types. This is also handy if you’re shopping the Sale rack where in some shops, the fabrics are labeled “unknown content”. Your fingers can find the fabric that feels right for your project.

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robert price

Please send more data

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chemoreceptor

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

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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.

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Prachi

Excellent information. Thanks.

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Elizabeth kannarkat

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

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Lynne

Try broadcloth

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Jenny161

Try a stretch cotton that has some Lycra in it.

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Harriet Heywood

The biggest tip for cotton is to use a low-heat dryer and remove promptly. Often, if followed no ironing will be required. Softened lined, likewise.

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Lady Praise

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

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Jenny161

Linen or a linen mix is a good choice.

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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? 🙂

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Becky

Any knit fabric will work that isn’t too see through.

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Diya Tyagi

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

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MD.ALAMGIR

yes i also acquired knowledge from this lesson

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Ravi Pasi

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

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ieesha

It gave me a gud knowlege but i need more.

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nidrita

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

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LeeAnn Smith

Satin and lace are probably the most common fabrics for wedding dresses but look at some of the blends. If you have a fabric store near you, ask to be directed to the dressy fabrics.

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susan

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?

thanks

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Becky

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.

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Rose

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.

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A

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!!

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Becky

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!

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LeeAnn Smith

Knit fabrics stretch. I recommend sewing knits with a serger, but most sewing machines have a stitch intended for knits. Check the owner’s manual.

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zain ali

what is the kinds of fabric?

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Becky

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.

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Vishal Joshi

Style Shells is coming

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Vishal Joshi

Ecommerce website Style Shells is coming very soon.

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LD

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.😊

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Nekky

What sort of fabric would be best for tops(tees) for girls?

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Dishu Mehta

well…..I have a 0% knowledge about fabrics…. is there someone who can help me….!!!!
if someone wanna help.,.i will soooo thankfull…..!!!!

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nurishia

I like your idea about fabrics and I wish I could learn more about fabrics that can be used for children both boys and girls and also teenage girls. Thank you

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Judith

I would like to buy some new cotton Lawn fabric for a skirt but have never worked with it before. I imagine it doesn’t not stretch so would nee to be cautious about a pattern. Thanks for the help.

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Dokurugu sahada

I have little knowledge about fabrics but what I learned will actually help me as a fashion student.Thank you

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Jenny

What can I make with cotton woven? I have 2 sons, toddler and baby. I have absolutely fallen in LOVE with this print and I have no idea what to make with it lol

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pradekesha shree ravichandran

I love fabric

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Niketa

Very useful for beginners like us
Thank you

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Rohini

I really got very useful information about fabric .one more question to ask ,at what price should I buy a cotton voile for per 10 meter?

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Jane

Could anyone suggest the best fabric to use for a nun’s habit – something that moves and drapes, and has a weight to it… NB not fancy dress!

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Nobby Jatt

Please give some images with every types of fabric

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sam

Hi, i want to sew a crop top using scuba fabric but i can’t find it so, is there any other fabrics that ressebmle scuba i can use instead?

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Kris

Hi I want to ask whats the name and best fabric I can use for my son shirt and short for basketball.thanks

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Muchu

Thank u

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prince ade

SOMEONE pls help me out, want to start a tshirt brand am not sure of the best material to work with, all i know is iwant something not too light and heavy, glossy like, and a little bit transparent

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trevor

vry helpfull
Glitter has has developed so much from this

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Cindy Tesler

Thanks for pointing out that cotton voile is a commonly used garment since it is lightweight and semi-sheer. You also said that chambray is smooth and lightweight as well. I think it’s a good idea to choose a clothing manufacturer that has durable and strong seams.

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Janice D Green

I’m making a skirt I designed myself. It will be sewn together out of 96 pieces like a quilt with an elastic waist inside a casing. I don’t know the names of fabrics enough to know how to shop for them online – could use some suggestions. I plan to sew 1/4″ seams plus zigzag them together to keep them from ravelling. I would love to find something we used to call permanent press that sheds wrinkles well as I hate ironing. But I also need to find it in several shades of brown plus prints and patterns. I need seven coordinated fabrics.

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Scott

My grandma likes to make all of her grandchildren clothes each year for Christmas. I have always wondered how she uses what fabric to use. I appreciate that you point out that she probably either likes the design, or likes the certain type of fabric. I’ll have to ask her which it is the next time she starts making them.

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Kumaş türleri

Thank you very much for the information about fabric types..

Reply

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