Knowing all about fabrics and fabric types by heart should be second nature to us sewers. That is why today, I’m sharing this awesome infographic to everyone — a must-read for all textile lovers!
In this article:
- Fabrics 101: How to Pick the Right Fabric for Your Project
- Fabric Types | Choose A Fiber
- Fabric Types | Choose A Material
- Fabric Types | Choose a Construction Style
- Fabric Types | Choose a Design + Color
- Fabric Types | Know Your Fabric
Types of Fabric: Cotton, Linen, Silk, Wool, and More
Fabrics 101: How to Pick the Right Fabric for Your Project
Choosing the right fabric when creating a new project is one of the most important steps we take. If we make the wrong choice, this can greatly affect our finished product.
In making the correct choice, we are moved either by the fabric’s texture or design. Finding a happy medium between the two is sewing heaven, indeed!
For those who do not have a lot of time to research the different fabric types, this infographic from Blinds.com is a quick cheat sheet on what you need to know. Learn all about fabrics to help you pick the right material for sewing garments or textile projects.
Fabric Types | Choose A Fiber
1. Natural Fiber
Fabrics from natural fiber come from both plants or animals. Cotton and linen or flax are both from plants, while wool and silk are both products from animals.
Cotton comes from plants of the same name. Its use as a fabric has a long history dating back to prehistoric times, and it remains the most common and widely used fabric today.
Cotton is best for children’s clothing because it is soft, breathable, and lightweight. It is also durable, so it’s perfect for everyday wear and fine either with hand or machine wash.
Linen is one of the types of fabric from plants people value in hot and humid areas for its incredible breathability and coolness. When it comes to sewing, linen fabric is a fascinating material to work with: easy to handle and durable.
- Rich texture
Anytime you need sturdy and stiff material, get jute or bamboo textile. Projects like table runners, placemats, bath runners, rugs, and certain types of upholstery work great with jute.
- Great insulator
- Rich color
Using animal hair or wool fabric in garments or clothing also covers a rich history dating as far as plant fibers were used. If you’re looking to sew some winter clothing, wool fabric is a great choice for these kinds of projects.
- Fades easily
- More costly
One of the most celebrated fabrics, silk, makes luxurious clothing, textile crafts, and bed linens. Silk dresses cost more because they are soft and lightweight, yet durable.
Dyes in silk tend to bleed, so it’s best to dry clean the fabric or hand wash in cold water.
2. Man-Made Fiber
Fabric demands gave way to man-made or synthetic fiber. Now, man-made fiber is popular in textile crafts like clothing, bags, and home decor.
Some common and popular man-made fibers are nylon, spandex, acrylic, kevlar, and vinyon.
- Doesn’t wrinkle easily
This versatile man-made fabric is not only great for clothing projects, but is also exceptional for curtains, pillowcases, bed sheets, and tablecloths. One of the major advantages of polyester fabrics is its resistance to stain.
- Widely used
- Often not durable
Rayon fabric and its variants in viscose came to be in the quest for artificial silk. Like silk, rayon fabric is great for clothing because it is lightweight, flowy, and doesn’t wrinkle easily, but it is not expensive.
- Flame retardant
While widely used in different industries, fiberglass cloth or fabric has not conquered the clothing industry. The cloth is used, instead, for outdoor sports needs in harnesses and sails.
Fabric Types | Choose A Material
1. Staple Fiber
Any type of fiber in short lengths. Spin this together to create a yarn.
2. Filament Fiber
Silk or man-made fiber in continuous strands.
Fibers of varying lengths spun together for a thicker, stronger strand.
RELATED: How To Sew with Slippery Fabric
Fabric Types | Choose a Construction Style
The entire piece of fabric is dyed after construction. A blend of fibers can create a multi-colored effect.
Vertical and horizontal yarns interlace to form a woven fabric. These types of fabrics are great for sewing beginners because they are crisper and they hold in place.
3. Knitted Fabric
Yarns create interlocking loops to form a knitted fabric. A knit fabric makes comfy clothes to wear, but being stretchy makes it a bit tricky to sew.
Fabric Types | Choose a Design + Color
1. Piece Dyed
The entire piece of fabric is dyed after construction. A mix of fibers can create a multi-colored effect.
The yarn is dyed before the fabric is constructed.
3. Woven In
The pattern is created by weaving different colored fabrics together.
The pattern is applied to the face of the fabric. And it appears on only one side.
Fabric Types | Know Your Fabric
Ultra heavy-duty plain weave made with cotton or linen.
From: China 3000 BC
Cultural Fact: Designed to be sturdy enough for sails and tents. Also called sailcloth.
Where to Use: Artists paint on it, but it’s also great for upholstery that needs durability more than softness. Use when recovering a footstool or ottoman.
You can also use canvas in textile crafts like homemade bags, purses, coasters, table runners, and other home accessories.
Cultural Fact: Denim, tweed, houndstooth, and herringbone are all twills.
Where to use: Twill fabric is often used in apparel, but it’s beautiful for curtains as well. The thick fabric drapes well and resists wrinkling.
Twill fabrics like denim are woven in a warp and weft fashion, making it durable and weather-resistant. That is why twill fabric garments are commonly used in outdoor activities.
Variation of the twill weave that forms a chevron or “V” pattern.
Cultural Fact: Tweeds like herringbone were the “performance fabric” of their day for 19th-century sportsmen.
Where to Use: Herringbone fabrics drape beautifully as curtains and can provide excellent insulation.
For your DIY roman shades, pick this fabric.
Compact weave. Warp floats over many weft yarns to produce a sheen on one side.
Cultural Fact: Satin has been used for many years to cover ballet slippers and pointe shoes.
Where to Use: Use this statement-making fabric to make bedding, decorative pillows, and flowing draperies.
It is also great for formal wear in flowy and sleek dresses.
Cultural Fact: In The Sound of Music, Maria’s beautiful wedding dress was made of shantung silk.
Where to Use: This fabric has a slight sheen and flows beautifully for sheer drapes, Roman shades, and table runners.
Cultural Fact: Velvet was a huge trend in ’90s fashion, with icons like Princess Diana leading the way.
Where To Use: This fabric brings rich color and surprising durability to upholstery, and offers amazing insulation for draperies.
Design inspired by garden trellises and Moroccan tiles.
Cultural Fact: Some patterns feature quatrefoil designs, a classic symbol found in gothic architecture.
Where to Use: This pattern looks stylish anywhere. Try it on Roman shades, shower curtains, or accent pillows.
A classic leaf-inspired pattern often in repeating pendants, can be jacquard or printed. Because of its heft, it is best used for drapery and upholstery.
Cultural Fact: The damask pattern is often seen in brocade and upholstery fabrics.
Where to Use: This heavier weight fabric is perfect for draperies and tablecloths.
Damask is a reversible pattern of fabric, making it perfect for such textile crafts.
9. Ticking Stripe
Denim-like twill with double stripes, traditionally in indigo or black on white.
Cultural Fact: Originally used for mattress and pillow covers. Its tight weave and wax seal kept feathers from poking through.
Where to Use: This petite stripe works well for upholstery and bedding, especially with French country decor.
10. Awning Stripe
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Wide striped design inspired by fabric awnings on storefronts.
From: United States
Cultural Fact: These bold stripes are seen most often in preppy, east coast style.
Where to Use: Use this pattern in wallpapers, rugs, Roman shades, exterior overhangs, and curtains for a bold color-blocked look.
Threads are dyed several colors with a tie-dye type method, and then woven to form intricate patterns.
Cultural Fact: The signature “hazy” look of ikat fabrics comes from the dye bleeding up the threads as it is colored.
Where to Use: Ikat is everywhere in the fashion world. It looks beautiful on windows, beddings, or even as a wall hanging.
The pattern is woven in so that the reverse appears on the opposite side.
From: France (Lyon)
Cultural Fact: Named for Joseph Marie Jacquard, who invented the Jacquard loom in 1801.
Where to Use: Jacquard is a classic piece of upholstery fabric. It gives the furniture a formal look. Give it a try for draperies and tablecloths as well.
A piece of thin and lightweight fabric with a translucent or sheer appearance, made from polyester.
Cultural Fact: This fabric was made from silk until 1938, when the first non-silk chiffon became available.
Chiffon is an extremely delicate fabric, and production is a laborious process.
Where to Use: Since chiffon is sheer, it’s most often used as an overlay for evening wear or for special occasions.
Thin type of leather, originally made from lamb, but synthetic alternatives are available.
Cultural Fact: The French term “gant de Suede” means “gloves of Sweden.” During the romantic period, suede became popular among French nobility, especially lady’s gloves.
Where to Use: Suede is used for various garments and accessories, from jackets to handbags and shoes. Suede is prone to staining and absorbing water. This means it’s best not for everyday use.
A soft type of wool, made from goats-hair.
From: Kashmir region & Gobi Desert region
Cultural Fact: Cashmere is finer than regular wool, making it possible to weave dense fabric that is light-weight and thin.
Where to Use: Cashmere is relatively delicate and doesn’t insulate as well as wool, but is soft enough to wear directly against the skin. The best application for this fabric is in light sweaters, scarves, or gloves. But it can also be used for underwear or blouses.
Lycra or Spandex are the brand names for elastane, a synthetic elastic fabric.
From: United States
Cultural Fact: Lycra is a polymer, but unlike other synthetic fabrics, it’s resistant to heat.
Where to Use: Lycra is rarely used on its own and is usually woven in with other textiles to increase flexibility.
Lycra blends are found in most garments, from socks to sportswear. Almost any form-fitting garment contains some amount of lycra.
Don’t forget to download, save, or share this handy infographic for reference:
As they say, knowledge is power, so use it to create awesome sewing projects. But don’t expect yourself to memorize all these fabric types overnight. If you really want to master fabrics, I suggest you visit a fabric shop and see and touch the samples for yourself.
It gives you a better idea of what types of fabric you’ll have to work with and what’s probably best for the sewing project you’re taking on. Anyhow, I hope this guide helped you heaps!
Do you have a favorite type of fabric that you’re always fond of working with? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published 0n October 12, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.