Choosing fabrics

Choosing the right fabric for your project can make or break the finished result. If the fabric is too lightweight, the garment will not hold its shape or structure; if it is too heavy or stiff, the garment will not hang properly. Take note of the suggested fabrics in the pattern as the designer will know which will work best.

There are several points to consider when selecting the right fabric for your project.

WHAT IS THE GARMENT FOR?

Consider the occasion and what you will be doing while wearing that particular piece of clothing. Are you making an outfit for a wedding or a piece of new running kit? These projects will require very different fabrics that will need to perform different tasks.

Fibre
Think about the fibre content with regards to the purpose of the garment. A polyester satin fabric may have a beautiful pattern, but will be rather hot and uncomfortable worn next to the skin – a silk crêpe de Chine would be a better choice for that purpose. However, the polyester satin would work well as a jacket lining where it will slide over other clothing worn under the jacket.

Sheen
A satin fabric with a sheen will catch the light, but could also highlight a host of lumps and bumps. A more matte fabric will cover these and give a smooth overall look to the garment.

Drape
The stiffness of a fabric is described as ‘body’. Fabrics with more body will prevent the fabric from draping as much as a fabric with less body. The best way to check this in a shop is to unroll the fabric from the bolt and drape and hang it yourself to see the level of drape it has.

PLAIN OR PATTERN?

Plain fabrics are easier to work with, but sometimes a pattern is what’s called for. Be mindful of how the pattern works on the garment pieces. For example, if you have a large circular pattern, think carefully about where to place the front bodice pattern piece to avoid an embarrassing faux pas. Similarly, a small delicate pattern may get lost if used all over a garment – it might be better used as a contrast or for a collar.

Stripes and checks
When matched perfectly, stripes and checks look great, but wonky stripes do not. Take the time and effort to match stripes up. It will not always be possible to match up all the stripes across the garment, so focus on the ones that are most visible. Stripes can run horizontally across the body and vertically from the bodice down into the skirt.

  • Mark on the bodice pattern pieces where you want the stripes to sit
  • Mark on the sleeve pattern where those lines fall on the sleeve head
  • Match up the lines on the pattern pieces with the stripes on the fabric

Which way up?
Patterns can sometimes have a particular direction. Always check, even if you think it’s an all-over pattern, otherwise you may find the odd flower or bird that will be sitting on it’s head! Decide on the top of the pattern and mark clearly so that you don’t forget. You could even pin a note to the edge of the fabric to help.

Nap
Even when using plain fabrics, there are factors to bear in mind. Some fabrics, such as velvet or corduroy, have a pile or ‘nap’, which needs careful consideration. As the pile stands away from the base of the fabric, the light will catch it in various ways. It will also feel different stroked up or down. Decide which is top and place your pattern pieces accordingly. It is usual to have the nap of a velvet running down the body.