Choosing your fabric
You should choose your fabric based primarily on the general instructions given in the product description but remember to factor in your own sewing skills. The chosen material has an effect on the ease of sewing, and a challenging material can increase the difficulty of even an easy pattern by several levels!
In the fabric recommendations for each of our patterns, we give a short description of what kinds of characteristics the chosen fabric should have. In practice, there is an unlimited number of fabric types – combinations of weaves, fibres and finishes – which means that it is difficult to give a complete list of suitable fabrics. You should therefore learn to know and recognise different fabrics and their characteristics, such as their weight, stretch and drape, so that you can choose the best fabrics for different projects. A good understanding of fabrics requires some intuition, which develops best when you work with different types of fabrics and garments.
When choosing a fabric for a certain project, it is always smart to consult your local fabric shop. Fabric resellers have a good understanding of different fabrics, and are therefore a great resource of information.
Pay attention to the quality of the fabric – cheap, low-quality fabrics made of poor raw materials will not last long in use. However, this does not mean that all cheap fabrics are bad. It is entirely possible to make good finds at a low price! Don’t let cost be the main factor in your choice, though; buying expensive and high-quality fabric is a good investment because it lengthens the lifespan of the garment. It would be a shame if clothing you put a great deal of effort into only lasted a short time in use.
Estimating the quality of fabric also requires some practice, and sometimes you have to learn the hard way. The best way to learn is to try different materials. The best way to avoid buying low-quality fabric, on the other hand, is to buy your materials from small shops that have a carefully curated range of products.
Sewability and intended use
You should also make sure that the fabric of your choice is easy enough to keep in good condition considering its intended use. Save the elegant fabrics for special occasions and choose materials that are easy to look after and practical for your everyday clothes.
The fabric you choose also affects the ease of making the garment. Light, smooth and high-drape fabrics are more challenging to sew than stable, low-drape fabrics. On the other hand, very heavy and thick fabrics are challenging due to their stiffness and require more horsepower from your sewing machine. Non-stretch fabrics are slightly easier to sew than stretch fabrics, but elasticity can also make it easier to find a good fit.
Different mid-thickness shirting fabrics such as poplin, chambray and flannel, as well as dense jerseys like ponte, are easy fabrics for novice sewers to start with. Suitable fabrics for more experienced sewers include various light satins, chiffons, organzas, heavy denims and twills, as well as very light jerseys that have a tendency to curl.
The type and feel of the fabric also has an enormous effect on the appearance and wearability of the finished garment. If the garment you are making needs to be drapey, choosing a stiff fabric can lead to a result that looks very different from what was intended (which may not be a bad thing).
The most common fabric structures are woven fabrics, knit fabrics, non-woven fabrics, lace and tulle. Of these, the first two are most commonly used in clothing.
Woven fabrics consist of warp and weft that are interwoven perpendicularly to create different weaves. The simplest weave is plain weave, in which each weft yarn is woven alternatingly over and under each warp yarn. Plain weave is a very stable and often easy-to-use fabric that rarely has high drape (even though the raw material also affects the drape of the fabric. See 'Fabric qualities' below). Various crepes are an example of a more high-drape plain weave, and they are also often more challenging to work with.
In twill weave, the warp yarn is woven over or under two or more weft yarns at a time, forming a diagonal “twill line”. The most common twill is denim. Twill is typically strong and adheres to the shape of the wearer more than plain weave fabrics. Twill is most often used for trousers, outdoor wear and stiffer blouses.
In satin weaves, the warp yarn is woven over several weft yarns at a time in such a way that interlocking points are not adjacent to each other. These long floats make the surface of the fabric glossy and smooth. Normal satins include cotton satin (sateen), silk satin and polyester satin. Due to its long floating threads, satin is more prone to wear than other woven fabrics. Satins are usually drapey with the exception of sateen and heavier polyester satins.
Unlike woven fabrics, knit fabrics are not made up of warp and weft. Instead, the yarn of knit fabrics is knit into layers, using knit stitches to attach each layer to the one below it. Because of this, knit fabrics have significantly more elasticity than woven fabrics. Most knit fabrics are weft knit, meaning that their layers are horizontal, but warp knit fabrics, in which the layers are vertical, also exist.
Knit fabrics are also produced with different weaves, the most common of which is single knit fabric on which the right and wrong side look different. These include jersey and sweatshirt jersey. Single knit fabrics have a tendency to curl up, which may make sewing more difficult and cause occasional problems with turnups and hems.
Interlock (double knit fabric) such as ponte is a smooth knit fabric that has the same appearance on both sides, is more sturdy than single knit fabric and has less of a tendency to curl up. Interlock tends not to be very drapey and is well suited to tight-fitting garments due to its firmness.
Ribbed knits are often used for constructions such as necklines and cuffs due to their excellent elasticity. They have vertical wales made up of alternating knit and purl stitches.
You can test how much drape a fabric has by lifting it with your fingertips at one point and observing the feel. A high-drape fabric will feel 'liquid' and heavy and descend steeply from the point you are holding it by. When shook, a high-drape fabric will move in a beautiful, liquid way. If the fabric feels light and airy and does not 'flow' downwards, it has low drape. A full-bodied, low-drape fabric will barely move when shaken.
A high-drape fabric will conform closely to the wearer’s figure and move in a pleasing way. It works best in garments that have fullness, volume and lots of constructions such as pleats or ruching. Drapey fabrics are also suitable for some well-fitting garments. High-drape fabrics include chiffons, silk satins, different crepes, various viscose fabrics and some velvets.
Low-drape fabrics are not as form-fitting as high-drape fabrics are. Low-drape fabrics are used in well-fitting garments, as well as loose-fitting garments that are designed to have shape, airiness and structure. Light, low-drape fabrics such as dupion, taffeta, tulle, organza and cloqué are commonly seen in formal dress and other garments in which shape and airiness are desirable characteristics. Heavier low-drape fabrics such as different brocades and denim are used in a wide range of dresses, trousers, skirts, jackets and other outer garments.
Knitted fabrics are almost exclusively stretchy and usually stretch well in the direction of both the warp and the weft, that is, both length and widthways (four-way stretch). Knit fabrics are available in many different combinations of characteristics, and the same rules of thumb that apply to woven fabrics also apply here. Always ensure that the fabric you are using has sufficient stretch percentage for your project. Choose a light, drapey fabric for loose-fitting clothes that need to hang neatly from the wearer and firmer fabrics for close-fitting garments. When working with well-fitting stretch garments, pay special attention to how well the fabric returns to its original shape after being stretched. Knitted fabrics that return to their original shape well usually have a few percentage points of elastane or Lycra in them.
Woven fabrics can also have stretch if they have had a material such as elastane or Lycra added to them. Woven fabrics usually only stretch in the direction of the weft, that is, widthways (two-way stretch). Well-fitting clothes, such as tight jeans and close-fitting dresses, skirts and jackets, require a stretch fabric to be comfortable to wear.
You can determine the stretch percentage of your fabric by marking a 10 cm length of fabric with pins and stretching the fabric in the direction of the weft under a ruler or tape measure. If the length you marked stretches to 14 cm without undue force, the stretch percentage of your fabric is 40 per cent.
We refer to the rough weight of a fabric on a scale of light-medium-heavy, and it is always somewhat relative to the fabric’s intended purpose. For example, a light jacketing fabric might be heavier than a heavy shirting fabric. In fact, the expressed weight could be said to be more of an intuitive description than a numerical measurement and is, therefore, also somewhat subjective.
Light fabrics include feather-light chiffons and organzas, voile and tulle.
Medium weight fabrics include many shirting fabrics, such as chambray, poplin, voile, batiste and flannel. As the name suggests, they are commonly used in blouses, shirt dresses and various other tops. Some trousering fabrics such as chino and various linens are also medium weight fabrics and are suitable for light trousers, dresses and tunics.
Heavy fabrics, such as canvas and denim, are well-suited for accessories such as bags. Denim and other twilled fabrics work well in jeans and other trousers, as well as jackets and coats.
Bear in mind, that the lighter the fabric, the more sensitive it is. Heavier fabrics can endure a lot more wear.
Lining fabrics are often sold as such, but normal fabrics can also be used for lining. When choosing a lining material for coats and jackets, it is always worth picking a slippery fabric, preferably satin, to make dressing easy. Also pay attention to the quality of the lining fabric; the lining can easily become the weakest link in outer garments and be the first thing to wear through in use. Viscose is a good lining material, as it is more breathable than polyester and more durable than silk. Avoid using silk as a lining material, as it becomes brittle when it comes into contact with skin-based bacteria. The lining of dresses and overalls does not need to be as slippery as the lining of coats, and the material for it should be chosen according to the strength and feel of the material of the bodice. A light cotton fabric often functions well as a lining, and the material of the bodice can often also be used as lining.
Choosing the interfacing
In our instructions, we only use fusible (glue) interfacing that is attached to the wrong side of the piece by ironing. Interfacing is also available in different weaves, colours and weights from light to heavy. Choose the thickness, colour and stretch percentage of the interfacing according to the fabric you are using. Fusible interfacing always changes the feel of the fabric, so it is best to iron a piece of interfacing to a test piece before applying it to your cut pieces if you are unsure about its suitability.
It is best to use ready-made tape interfacing, particularly when applying support to hems, turnups and seam allowances. If you do not have any ready-made tape interfacing, you can cut an appropriate width from your interfacing. Also choose the strength and colour of the tape interfacing according to the fabric it will be supporting.
When applying interfacing to your pieces, set the piece down on an ironing board with the wrong side facing up. Set the fusible interfacing down on the piece with the glue side facing down. Use an ironing cloth or a piece of tracing paper between the piece and the iron to prevent glue from getting on the iron and, depending on your fabric, iron with the iron set to either two or three dots. Hold the iron still over each part of the piece for approximately ten seconds to ensure that the glue melts and the interfacing adheres properly to the piece.