Types of Fabric – Beginner’s Guide
With so many different types of fabric at your fingertips it can be confusing to know what to pick for your next project. I’m here to help sort out the different types of fabric so you can sew with success. Walking through the fabric store with rows upon rows filled with countless bolts of fabrics can quickly be overwhelming. It truly is wonderful to have so many options, you just need to understand what they all are so you can make the right choice. Here are the different types of cotton as well as other fabrics.
Types of Fabric – Beginner’s Guide
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What are the different categories of fabric?
There are several different categories of fabric. Knit fabrics and woven fabrics are the main two that you will probably hear about. Knits are usually stretchy and supple. Think of your t-shirts and leggings when thinking of knits. Woven fabric is most often what is used when you make things like quilts or draperies. It’s usually not stretchy and has a more crisp feel to it. The other difference is the way the two different types of fabric are constructed. Knits are basically one long, continuous thread that is actually knit together. Knits won’t unravel the way woven fabric will because of how they are made. Woven fabric is constructed with individual threads in a basket weave type pattern. When woven fabric is cut, the edges will fray.
What are the cotton weave types?
Cotton is woven into 4 different weave types. Depending on the weave, you will get different looks and feels to the fabric.
Sateen is a dense fabric with a slight sheen to it. It is silky and smooth to the touch. Because of its beautiful drape, it’s used often for linens.
Percale has a breathable weave making it a great choice for clothing. It does wrinkle easier than sateen so you may end up needing to iron it more frequently.
Flannel is super soft and warm due to the unique brushed technique used when creating it. It’s perfect for winter clothing, sheets and even pajamas.
Twill has a diagonal weave pattern that creates a distinctive texture. Denim is the perfect example of the unique pattern created by the weave.
What are the types of fabric?
There are different weaves, fiber types, and also categories of fabric. You may have heard about these fabric types or see them at your local fabric store. To help clarify what some of them are I will tell you a little bit about them. Note that while I have placed these types of fabric into different categories there is a lot of wiggle room. Many fabrics can be used for lots of different applications so just because linen is categorized as home decor doesn’t mean you can’t use it as apparel fabric!
When making a quilt, your best bet is to use fabrics that are 100% cotton. They are heavyweight and will go the distance which is exactly what you want. You could use Quilter’s Weight Cotton, Home Decor Cotton, Essex Linen or Quilter’s Linen.
Cotton – soft, sturdy, and smooth to the touch; made with 100% cotton. Pictured below quilting cotton comes in solids and about a zillion different patterns. Quilting cotton is often sold as a line or a collection of fabrics that are meant to go well together.
Sewing clothing opens up a door to the use of a lot of different fabrics. What you use depends on what you plan to sew. Some patterns will call for fabric with stretch in it while others call for no stretch. This post will shed some light on how to pick the right fabric.
Here are some common fabrics you may use when making clothing:
Chenille – soft, fuzzy, and textured; usually made with a silken thread sewn into cotton or wool
Chiffon – lightweight and sheer; typically made of cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers
Crepe – has a crisp, crimped look; made from silk, wool, or synthetic fibers
Denim – thick, sturdy, with a twill weaving that creates a diagonal ribbing; made from cotton
Fleece – lightweight and insulating; made from synthetic fibers
Rayon – soft, lightweight, and absorbent; made from regenerated cellulose fibers
Satin – smooth and lustrous; the name actually refers to a specific weave rather than the fibers it is made with however, it’s commonly created using silk, nylon, or polyester
Silk – smooth, shiny, and soft to the touch; made from the cocoon of the silkworm
Velvet – tufted, soft, and dense; made out of cotton, silk or nylon
Wool – fuzzy, soft, and warm; the fibers are made from sheep, goats, and sometimes even camels, llamas, or rabbits
Home decor fabric/ Other
If you want to make yourself some curtains or a decorative pillow, you have several options. You can grab any of the types of quilting fabric mentioned above. These same fabrics will also work great if you want to sew up a zipper pouch like this or a handbag like this one. There are also a few more fabric types that fall into this category.
Chintz – coated with a smooth glaze after it’s printed with bright colors, flora and fauna motifs; typically made with 100% cotton
Damask – reversible with a distinctive design that is created from how the fabric is woven together; can be made from silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibers
Linen – strong, absorbent, and dries quickly; made from the fibers of the flax plant
Minky – soft, plush, and sometimes has bumpy texture; made from 100% synthetic fibers (minky can be tough to work with, check out this post for all my tips for working with minky.) Minky blanket pictured below.
How can you tell the quality of fabric?
You want to make sure that the fabric you’re buying is good quality so your time, effort, and money aren’t wasted. If you are looking for cotton to quilt with, hold it up to the light and make sure it’s not thin. You can also tell this by touching different fabrics and getting used to the feel of thick vs thin. You can also pull on the fabric, stretching it horizontally. If it retains its shape, you’ve got yourself good quality fabric.
What is the best quality of cotton fabric?
There are a few kinds of cotton. The best quality you can find is either Egyptian or Pima. These are made from 100% cotton fibers. Higher quality cottons usually have a much softer hand than lower quality cottons. The hand is the way the fabric feels in your hand.
Now that you are armed with a little more information on fabric types you can walk into that fabric store with confidence. And it’s ok if you blame me for the extra yards and stacks of fabric that you now come home with. What fabric isn’t mentioned that you want to know more about? Share with me in the comments below.
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