BEGINNERS GUIDE TO FABRICS

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Listen, there’s no way we can list ALL the existing fabrics – walk into any fabric shop and you’ll see hundreds of rolls of textiles.

But we want to cover the basics of fabric shopping, explain the difference between the fibre (composition) and the type of the fabrics, provide you with some basic guidance when it comes to fabric shopping, especially if you are at the beginning of your journey.

FIBRES

Super general – there are three types of fibres: natural, synthetic and blended. It goes without saying that natural fibres are better for your skin and for environment, but synthetic fibres might be good for certain things as well (and some fabrics are exclusively poly).

If we could give you one advice: it’s better to stay with 100% either or. Textile recycling is still at its baby stages and neither organic nor synthetic fibres are really getting recycled.

BUT. Mixed blends are just not recyclable at all. Also 50% cotton 50% polyester fabric will most likely be of very poor quality both in its look and in its feel.

How To Read The Label

Always read the description carefully. Very often you’ll see products like “Silky …”, “Linen look”, “Cotton feel”, “Wool like” – all of these are marketing tricks and the fabrics are most likely blended. If it’s natural, description will read “100%…”. 

Compositions like “30% wool, 30% cotton, 30% polyester, 5% nylon, 5% elastane” don’t make the fabric “oh, but it’s mostly natural”. It’s mixed blend, it wears off soon, it will end up on the landfill. You can make a better choice :)

 

NATURAL

SYNTHETIC

BLENDED

COTTON

POLYESTER

POLY-COTTON

LINEN

NYLON

 

HEMP

ELASTANE

 

SILK

 

 

WOOL

 

 

BAMBOO

 

 

VISCOSE

 

POLY-VISCOSE

 

FABRIC TYPE

COTTON/LINEN/HEMP/VISCOSE

Simple fabrics like cotton, linen, viscose often get called the same when we talk about the cloth. “Plain linen” or “Plain cotton” is a common description for simple fabrics (similar to your bed linen). They can differ depending on the weight (usually indicated in grams). Lightweight fabrics will be more floaty-drapey (blouses, shirts, summer dresses & trousers), heavier fabrics can be used for thicker clothes (think chinos or blazers), bags and outerwear.

There are all sorts of types of fabric that are cotton based: broderie anglaise, textured fabrics, lace, even tutu mesh can be found made with organic cotton. Quality denim is also made with 100% cotton fibre. 

When it comes to cotton it’s always a good idea to pick certified organic fabric (OEKO TEX). Organic cotton is a little bit more expensive, but it has much better quality and is better for your skin (not to mention, it’s a lot better for the planet and the people than conventional cotton that needs too much water & pesticides for production)

JERSEY

Jersey is your favourite t-shirts, jumpers, hoodies, sweat pants, pyjamas, comfy skirts & dresses. We love jersey and cover many garments made from jersey fabric in our courses. It key feature is its stretch. Some people find it scary to work with, we find it very simple: you just need to know how ;) 

As any other fabric, jersey can be lightweight and heavyweight. The former is perfect for summer tops, the latter is great for comfy winter hoodies. You can often buy matching ribbed fabric to give a beautiful finish to your t-shirts or hoodie cuffs. 

You will often find jersey with added elastane (for example, 95% cotton, 5% elastane). You will also find pure jersey fabric (not just cotton, it can be viscose, bamboo, or any synthetic fibres). But jersey is stretchy not because of the added or not added elastane: it is stretchy because of the way the fabric is woven. It’s kind of knitted, and knit loops create stretch. 

When starting working with jersey, remember to check the stretch ways in the description: four-way stretch (meaning the the fabric will stretching in any direction) can be tricky to work with. Two-way stretch will be a lot easier to cut & sew. 

One of the warmer types of jersey is called “French terry” – it has a warm fleece-like layer on the wrong side and makes excellent jumpers, hoodies & relaxed trousers for colder days. 

WOOL

Simple weave (classic tartan skirts) or textured boucle (classic Chanel blazers), boiled wool (think most coats) – there are endless types of wooden fabric (even jersey!). If you live in the cold country, it’s the best fabric for pretty much any classic garments. The only downside, it will require lining to keep the shape and prevent the itchy feeling on the skin.

CHIFFON

Extremely light weight fabric, often sheer, usually used for floaty blouses, dresses & skirts; often used for evening wear. Composition can be silk (might be very expensive) but more commonly polyester or nylon. Extremely difficult to work with especially for beginners. 

TAFFETA

Another traditional evening fabric, has a distinct shine and noise when you scrunch it. Nowadays mostly synthetic. 

SATIN

Another shiny fabric (often has a metallic sheer) and despite common use of the name “silky satin” it is usually synthetic. If you are looking for alternatives to silk, it might look similar, but you will be sweating. It is also very slidey and not easy to work with. You can see it in evening wear or lining for the jackets.

How To Pick The Right Needle

Best way to learn about fabric and what works for you and your style is to take a walk to your local fabric shop and have a chat with the sales assistant. You can experiment with different fabrics and recreate the very same garment design in two different fabrics and see which one you prefer. Remember to change machine needles accordingly to the fabric. General rule – thin fabric need thin needle; thick fabric needs thick needle; jersey needs a special jersey needle. 

We hope it clears it a little bit! If you'd like to start with our online courses, we recommend checking what garments you want to make and choose the fabric accordingly.

For the CAPSULE WARDROBE course we recommend getting a variety of cotton and linen fabrics as well as jersey ones.

For the SKIRTS course you should choose fabrics depending on the type of skirt you plan to make. We were using mostly cotton, wool, taffeta, thick jersey.

For the KIDS COURSE you can start by getting plain cotton and jersey with fun patterns, also check out our fabric shop (we have amazing fabrics for gym- & tote bags that we cover in the course).

Before buying expensive fabrics, we strongly recommend to practice on old bedsheets or any old clothes. After taking our courses you will also understand the principles of garment construction and will be able to upcycle your old clothes and save money on new fabrics :)

Any questions, fire up in the comments!

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