All fabrics are made from either natural fibers, and/or man-made fibers. They can be made from all natural fibers, all man-made fibers, or both.
Natural fibers are made from plants or animals, and they include fabrics such as wool, silk, cotton and linen. Man-made fibers are made by chemical processes, and they include polyester, nylon, acetate and spandex.
When a fabric is created from both fibers it is called a fabric blend. Since each fiber has its own qualities, blending the various fibers can create many fabrics for different needs. For example, wool and cotton blended together gives a better comfort, while ramie and polyester is easy to take care of.
Fabrics are either woven, nonwoven or knit.
Woven fabrics include muslins, poplin, cambric, chiffon, corduroy, denim and taffeta. The three main types of weaves are plain, twill, and satin. All other weaves are variations of these three. These fabrics are generally tough and durable.
Felt is an example of a nonwoven fabric. Nonwoven fabrics are not very strong because they are only bonded together either by chemical, mechanical, heat, or solvent treatment.
Knit fabrics are stretchy and more comfortable to wear. There are many different knits such as the plain knit, also known as jersey, double knit, rib knit, interlock knit, stretch knit and sweater knit.
Some fabrics are easier to work with than others. Plain weave fabrics made from cotton or lightweight wools are great if you are sewing for the first time. Satin and other sheer fabrics are for the more advanced sewers.
It takes a while to get to know all the different fabrics and blends, but it is essential that you familiarize yourself with them in order to select the right fabric for your sewing projects. The wrong material can ruin a potentially beautiful garment.
If you’re not sure what type of fabric to choose, simply check the pattern package for suggested material. This is actually the best way to learn. Then after a few projects you should have an idea of what you like to work with and which fabrics go with which projects.
The label on the fabric bolt will not only inform you of the fabric blend, but it will also provide instructions on how to care for your fabric. Always make sure to write these down before you leave the store.
Also check the fabric to make sure that it is what you want. Check the softness, thickness, and whether it stretches, or drapes the way you want it to.