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The Basics Of Fabrics

Updated on December 7, 2009

The Basics Of Fabrics

There is a lot to learn about all the different kinds of fabrics available on the market today. Each different type of fabric is unique in its own way; some are shiny, and slippery, and are hard to work with, while others are plain, and easy to work with.

A beginning seamstress should stick with easy to sew fabrics such as plain weave, and medium weight fabrics. Then as the sewing skills progress one can begin with satin and other sheer fabrics.

Most fabrics can be washed and dried in machines, but some require air-drying and hand-washing. These care instructions can be found on the fabric bolt; take a pen and paper along to write them down.

Even though there are many different fabrics available, all fabrics are made from two types of fibers; natural fibers, and man-made (synthetic) fibers. There are also blended fabrics, known as fabric blends which contain both natural and synthetic fibers.

Synthetic fibers are chemically produced, and natural fibers are derived from plants such as the cotton, flax and bamboo plant, or animals such as sheep, llamas, alpacas, and silkworm.

Natural fabrics include wool, cotton, linen, and silk. Synthetic fabrics include polyester, nylon, acetate, and spandex.

Given all these different fibers, and the ability to blend one can create just about any kind of fabric suitable for all kinds of different needs. These fibers determine whether the fabric will be comfortable to wear, easy to sew, or easy to care for.

All fibers whether natural, synthetic, or blended are either woven, nonwoven, or knit together to create the fabric.

Woven fabrics are the most popular and are made using different types of weaves. There are three main types of weaves, and they are plain, twill and satin. All other weaves are derived from these three. Examples of woven fabrics are muslins, poplin, and taffeta.

Knit fabrics are also very popular and are the most comfortable to wear due to their ability to stretch. Some of the different types of knits are the plain knit, which is also known as jersey knit, double knit, rib knit, interlock knit, stretch knit, and sweater knit.

Nonwoven fabrics are simply bonded together by chemical, mechanical, heat, or solvent treatment. These fabrics are not very strong and usually not used in clothing. An example of a non-woven fabric is felt.

It is very important for the aspiring seamstress to become familiar with some of the different types of fabric to help determine which kind of fabric will be suitable for which kind of project.

Patterns usually have some fabric recommendations, and following those recommendations is the best way to learn. If the pattern gives several suggestions, check out each fabric suggestion to see how soft it is, whether it stretches, and how it drapes. It takes a while, but before long, picking out fabric for your sewing needs will become like second nature.


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    • Rhelena profile image

      Rhelena 6 years ago

      Thanks Dean!

    • profile image

      Dean 6 years ago

      Nice little article of fabrics, some useful info for weavers too.