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5 things to consider when choosing fabric for your next sewing project

Whether it be in-store, at your local charity shop, or your own fabric stash, there are a few things we can keep in mind, and look out for, that will make the process of choosing fabric for that next project a little bit easier (and fun)!

Choosing fabric can seem a little overwhelming at times, whether you are an experienced sewer, or just starting out. There are many different types of fabric out there with their own unique properties, each looking and performing differently. Therefore, the choice of fabric can influence not only the appearance, but functionality of your project.

Whether it be in-store, online, at your local charity shop, or your own fabric stash, there are a few things we can keep in mind, and look out for, that will make the process that little bit easier (and fun)! This post will share just five of those things that are worth considering, and hopefully after reading you will feel that little bit more confident when it comes to choosing fabric for that next sewing project.


A wrap-up of this review


Begin with a little research

  • A good place to start is your own wardrobe. Alternatively, head in store and check out your favourite brands. In doing so, you can identify what it is you like about certain pieces - is it the fabric, the colour, or silhouette? Turn the garment inside out to get a better idea of what certain garments are made from, how they are finished, and how to care for certain fabrics.

  • If you are working with a sewing pattern, you have the advantage of being able to check the 'recommended fabrics' section on the reverse of the pattern envelope. But if you are looking for a little more inspiration than the photographs featured on the envelope, a simple search of a patterns hashtag on social media will more than likely provide you with finished versions in a plethora of fabrics.


The type of project

When choosing fabric for a project, it's important to first identify the type of project you'll be working on, taking into account its requirements. These requirements may include:

  • Function: The function refers to the intended purpose or use of the garment. Consider factors such as the environment it will be worn in (e.g. warm or cool), how often it will be worn, and the level of stress it will be exposed to. These more practical considerations will help determine if your garment is suitable for its intended environment, activity and/or occasion.

  • Fit: The fit of the garment refers to how it conforms to the shape of the body. Determine if the garment will be tight- or loose-fitting as this will affect the type of fabric needed. For example, a tighter fitting garment may a fabric with stretch, while a more loose fitting design may lend itself to a lightweight and flowy fabric.

  • Structure: The structure of a garment refers to its overall design and construction, including its shape, silhouette, and design features, such as gathering or pleating. Identify whether it's a more structured garment, like a blazer that has a more defined shape, and would therefore work well in a heavier weight fabric. Or maybe it has a billowy silhouette with lots of gathers that would be best in a lightweight fabric.


Fabric weight

The weight (or density) of fabric is typically measured in grams per square metre (GSM). A higher GSM indicates a heavier and denser fabric, while a lower GSM indicates a lighter and less dense fabric.

Knowledge of the weight or GSM of a fabric can be beneficial when determining the quality and appropriateness for particular projects. The fabric's weight can impact its drape, durability, comfort, and sewing behaviour. For instance, a heavier fabric may be more durable, but less likely to drape, and may not be comfortable to wear during those warmer months. Conversely, a lighter weight fabric may be more comfortable in warmer weather, have better drape, but may not be as durable.


Fibre content

The fibre content of a fabric refers to the types of fibres that were used to create it. These fibres can be natural, such as cotton, linen, or wool, synthetic, such as polyester or nylon, or a blend of both.

The fibre content can have a significant impact on the fabrics properties and performance*. For example:

  • Durability: Synthetic fibres tend to be more durable and resistant to wear and tear than natural fibres like cotton and silk.

  • Comfort: Natural fibres like cotton and wool tend to be more breathable and comfortable against the skin. Synthetic fibres can sometimes feel hot and uncomfortable, especially in warmer weather.

  • Texture: Natural fibres like cotton and linen have a softer, more natural texture, while synthetic fibres can sometimes feel smoother.

  • Care: Some natural fibres like wool and silk often require more care to maintain their appearance and shape, while synthetic fibres can typically be machine-washed and dried without much trouble.

*Please note that I am providing a broad, and very general overview when discussing the characteristics and capabilities of natural and synthetic fibres in order to illustrate a point.


Colour, pattern, nap

The colour, pattern, and nap** of a fabric can affect the amount of fabric required for a project. With patterned or fabrics with nap, extra fabric may be needed to match the pattern or ensure the nap runs in the same direction.

Additionally, it is crucial to test the colour fastness of the fabric before use, particularly if combining light and dark colours in the same garment. A test should be performed to avoid potential colour bleeding or running.

**The nap of a fabric refers to the texture or direction of the fibres, creating a raised or fuzzy surface when manipulated in a certain direction. This can be directional, meaning it runs in one direction and changes the appearance of the fabric when viewed or touched from a different angle. An example of this is velvet, where running your hand back and forth over the fabric changes its appearance and feel. Or non-directional, where the nap runs in multiple directions without affecting the fabric's appearance.


Care instructions

Care instructions are crucial in maintaining a fabrics quality and preventing damage or shrinkage. Some fabrics are more durable and can withstand rigorous washing methods, such as high temperatures and tumble drying, while others require special care like hand-washing or dry cleaning. It is essential to consider the garment type and your lifestyle when deciding on laundering methods, as dry cleaning may not be practical for your more everyday wear!


Additional Resources

For more tips on finding that perfect fabric for your pattern (in-store or online), take a listen to:

Please get in touch or leave me a comment. I would love to know if you found this article helpful. Let me know your process of choosing fabric and what you take into consideration.

Thanks for reading.

Emma xx

This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions contained on this site are my own. I am not affiliated with any brands, products, or organisations mentioned, and do not receive any sponsorship, payment, or other compensation for any of the content on this site.

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