Fabric Guide: Clothes Sewing

Fabric Guide: Clothes Sewing

There is a massive range of fabrics that can be used in machine sewing – something that can be a daunting prospect for beginners when deciding upon the best materials for a project.Choosing the right fabric is especially important when creating your own clothing, as different types are better for certain styles and designs.

How well do you know your sewing fabrics?

Fabric store with fabrics listed

When getting stuck into DIY clothes making using sewing machines, Brisbane-based sewing centre Janome Everton Park offers the following fabric information for your guidance.

Get A Feel For The Fabric

Weight is one of the most significant attributes of any fabric, and because fabrics can be a mixture of different fibres, (e.g. 50% Cotton, 50% wool) it’s also one that can vary the most.

Because fabric won’t always have a weight listing, it’s good practice to have a feel yourself and judge it by comparing it to other materials.

As a typical guideline, thin, lighter fabrics will be good for tops and dresses while heavier fabrics make for better jackets and pants. While there of course exceptions to these rules, you should be safe by following this standard guideline:

Very light / light: Good for shirts, shorts, dresses and skirts.

Medium: Great for light pants and jumpers.

Heavy / very heavy: Ideal for heavy pants (jeans), jackets and patches.

Outside the weight, it is also advantageous to know how your chosen fabric is constructed to ensure it will adequately meet the requirements of your sewing project/clothing piece.

There are three main varieties of fabric construction:

Knitted – This is the process where yarn (the materials interlocking fibres), are joined and interloped together in different ways. Because of this process, knitted fabrics are typically made from stretchy material.

Woven – Slightly different from the knitting procedure, this is when the yarn is woven into a pattern instead. Normally not as stretchy as knitted fabrics.

Nonwoven – When fabric has not been produced by knitting, weaving or another conventional method.

Some fabrics can also be constructed in multiple ways, such as both knit and woven, which is something to keep in mind when selecting the best one for the job.

It’s also good to know how fabric fibres are classified within the construction of the fabric itself:

Natural – Fabric and its fibres that are obtained naturally. For example, cotton that is removed from grown cotton plans and used in a large array of textile products.

Animal – A variety of natural, protein fibres obtained from animal sources.

Artificial Man-made fibres that have been created using chemicals, which have their own advantages and disadvantages from other fibre types.

Different Fabric Types

With so many fabrics on offer, we have compiled a quick overview of some of the more common types used in machine sewing.

Cotton: One of the most popular fabrics in clothes and garment creation for good reason. Very versatile, it’s used in a broad selection of clothing types including shirts, trousers, and jeans. It’s also often used in other sewing items such as bags or handkerchiefs.

Because cotton is usually light weight, strong and produces easy to wash, comfortable clothing, it’s a great fabric choice for beginners. Within the category of cotton itself there are a few variations, so make sure you double check the cotton you choose will work.

Wool: Obtained from the fur of animals, it’s also extremely popular as a fabric thanks to being strong, warm and durable. Like many fabrics, there is a host of different types that have their own weight and texture.

Linen: A medium weight fabric that like wool is used in hotter climates due to how well it conducts heat. Being a non-stretch fabric, it wrinkles heavily and can shrink in water. Still, when it comes to summer clothing, linen or a mixture of linen fabric is a good choice.

Rayon: Similar to cotton, this material, while still considered a lightweight fabric, is a little heavier than others in the same category. The fabric is cool, smooth and drapes well but is also known to wrinkle easier.

Silk: A shiny, natural fibre fabric that often signifies elegance and grace. It can be quite expensive, which is why it normally isn’t a good beginner sewing material. It’s a very soft, lightweight fabric though, that is comfortable to wear, which has justified its use in dresses, blouses and underwear.

Spandex: Known for its elastic qualities, spandex can be used in small percentages to add stretch to otherwise rigid fabrics, making it valuable in DIY clothes making for extra comfort.

Flannel: Soft and lightweight, flannel is a woven fabric used in winter clothing thanks to its heat retention.

Polyester: One of the most popular man-made fibres, polyester is great for clothes due to being cheap, strong and drying quickly. This synthetic woven fabric is also wrinkle and crease-resistant, with the advantage of not shrinking in the wash.

Denim: Known for its use in jackets and jeans, denim is a heavy fabric that takes experience to manipulate under a sewing machine. It has very little drape or stretch and often undergoes indigo dyeing that gives it the traditional blue colouring it’s known for.

Nylon: One of the strongest fibres and possesses great stretching attributes. Not the most absorbent fabric which is why it’s usual combined with other fibres to increase the comfort factor.

Leather: Tough, strong and absorbent but hard to sew. Certain leather varieties can be sewn with a regular sewing machine with preparation and patience but typically is something that requires a specific model to handle properly (e.g.  a walking foot sewing machine).

Get In Touch With The Sewing Machines Brisbane Experts Today

If you need any advice or assistance in selecting a sewing machine for your clothes making projects, get in touch with the friendly staff at Janome Everton Park.

We would be more than happy to help you with what models are best with each fabric and how you can get the most out of your sewing machine experience.

Start making your own clothes today!

4 thoughts on “Fabric Guide: Clothes Sewing”

      1. Hi Philippa,

        Rayon is considered the first man-made fabric. While it is produced from naturally occurring wood pulp, it is artificially spun using machine techniques. It is a synthetic fabric for the purposes of dressmaking. As well, every company that produces their own designs and patterns also use their individual sizing charts. Because of this, while your patterns should be consistent with any one brand, you may find that there is variations in size across patterns produced by different companies. The only real test that you are going to have is to take a look at the measurements before you purchase a pattern or design. Hopefully this helps Philippa, but please let us know if there is anything else we can assist you with.


        Janome Sewing Centre

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *