Beginner Sewing Series: Choosing Fabric

Hi there, sewing friends!  I’m Sarah, a self-taught sewist and crafting fiend.  I’m excited to be here guest blogging for New Horizons today talking about one of my favorite subjects – FABRIC!  If I were a betting woman, I’d bet fabric is one of your favorite things too!


As the Beginner Sewing Series continues, it’s important for us to talk about fabrics and choosing the right fabric for the project as it really can make or break your end result. Whether a beginner or experienced sewist, nothing is more frustrating than spending the time cutting and stitching only to find out the garment is not like it should be because of the fabric.  The first lesson in this blog post is, when starting a sewing project, determine what kind of fabric the pattern calls for so you can choose wisely!


The two major categories of fabric are knit and woven.  Woven fabrics are comprised of two sets of yarn that are interlaced. They can be interlaced into various types of weaves like plain, twill and satin.

Knit fabrics are made with one set of yarn that are interlooped. There are again various types of ways that knits can be knitted. For example warp knits make jersey, rib knit, terry cloth, and velour. Weft knits create tricots, and everyday socks, and sweater garments.

In both categories, there are several types with varying weights and drapes and amounts of stretch. There are multitudes of detailed fabric descriptions available on various fabric store websites, so I won’t bore you with definitions. Again, refer to the pattern you are working on to determine the specific requirements for fabric type.


There are some important factors to consider when choosing the right fabric.  One is the amount of stretch the fabric has. Knit fabrics can have lots of stretch or very little stretch and some stretch all four directions, while some only stretch two ways.  The same is true for woven fabrics, which sometimes have lycra added to them to make a stretch woven fabric, but can still have varying amounts of stretch.

Weight is a pretty easy concept to grasp.  Most of us can understand if a fabric is heavy (like denim) or lightweight (like chiffon). Drape is a little more abstract – the way in which the fabric hangs over something. It might help to think about how stiff the fabric is.

These factors are all important to consider when choosing the right fabric for the project.  Should the fabric be sheer or opaque? Will a light fabric be difficult to sew for this project? Will the fabric be sturdy enough to tolerate stress on the seams? Will the heaviness of the fabric cause bulky seams? Will the fabric have enough drape to flow the way I want? Will the fabric have enough stiffness to have the structure and crispness I want? Chances are there will be pros and cons to a couple different fabric types and, with experience, we will learn to make better decisions for the best type of fabric for the project.

Another important factor to consider is the print of the fabric.  Having so many options for sewing garments is a wonderful thing, but not every print is right for every project.  Even when you’ve decided on a good print for your project, it’s important to take a moment to think about that print and fabric placement. Ask me how I know (see the time I had a floral bloom right on the center seam above my pubic bone or the poorly placed circular designs on my chest).  Aside from that, one of the most valuable things I’ve learned in the last few years of sewing is how to sew for myself and my body.  It’s not as simple as my shape and my “colors”, but a mixture of my personality, my lifestyle, and what makes me feel comfortable and confident.  That is to say – it is an individual thing that will change from one person to the next. For example, I know I generally prefer to have prints on the bottom and solids on top, which doesn’t mean that’s the right thing to you, but I do think it’s an important thing to remember when picking the right fabric for your project.

For giggles, here’s a picture of my very favorite fabric – French Terry.  I know the whole post was about choosing the right fabric for the project, but I must confess… I wish I could use it for every project!


You must be logged in to post a comment.