Choosing Sewing Fabrics


One of the more fun parts of starting a new sewing project is choosing the fabric. There are so many beautiful colors, fun prints, luscious textures – how do we choose?

Well, sewing a project is much easier if you choose your fabric for the project wisely. Some fabrics are made for apparel, while others are home decor fabrics. Some are for outerwear, while others are for suits, and still others are made for babywear.

Using babywear fabric with duckies on it for a sharp looking suit might make for an uncomfortable CEO!

Pick Your Sewing Project and Your Fabric

Probably the best place to start, then, is with the particular item you wish to sew. If you have a pattern that you intend to use for the project, carefully read the list of suggested fabrics.

While it is not necessary that you choose a fabric strictly from the list, it is a good idea to choose a fabric with the same characteristics as those fabrics listed.

Remember to think about such things as what type of cleaning will be required, whether ironing the item is something you might want to do or avoid, and what other characteristics might be important in the finished item.

Also, consider the look you are after. Should the item be sharp and tailored looking, like a business suit? Or should it be soft, hanging in gentle folds when draped over your arm? Do you want a heavy fabric for an overcoat or a lightweight but crisp fabric for a boy's dress shirt?

Learn About Fabric Characteristics

Of course, it would be easier to make these decisions if you knew what fabric had what kind of characteristics. We will be talking about some different types of fabrics in articles which will follow up this one, but a lot of these things can be discovered by simply handling the fabrics at the store.

There are also some websites which sell fabrics that are very good at describing their wares. This makes it possible to purchase with some confidence, even though you can't reach through your monitor to pet and manipulate before purchase.

Just one warning – fabric stores and fabric departments often cut corners by reusing the cardboard cores used to hold the bolts of fabric. They do not usually change the labels, so reading the labels will not necessarily be helpful.

If you need help, you can ask the clerk, who may know, or may be willing to conduct a burn test to determine the fabric content. If not, and you really want to know more about the fabric, you can buy a small amount (usually no less than 1/8th of a yard), take it home and conduct your own burn test on it.

For help in conducting a fabric burn test safely, go to Identifying Fabrics by Flame, coming soon.