Fabrics come in a range of different fibres, and a range of different weights and textures. They are found in hundreds of different colours and patterns. This wealth of choices provides a great opportunity to transform your pattern to your own personal style; be it bright colours or subtle, interesting textures or weaves. However so many choices can be overwhelming. Choosing fabric for clothes can be the most import step, as the wrong choice could ruin the project. Having said that there are usually a few different fabric options for any pattern.
This introduction to fabrics cover the practical things you need to take into account and explains the basic elements of composition, construction and weight – factors that need to be considered along with choice of colour and pattern. We will look at the different types of fabric, what it is made of, how it will drape and what the care instructions are. Be informed about the fabric that you use for your project, it pays to invest in good quality as you will be putting your time and energy creating it. You want a finished product that you will love and enjoy wearing for hopefully years to come.
The fabric you use should be appropriate for its use as well as it looks. The fibre content of the fabric will determine how comfortable the garment is to wear and how you will care for it. Many stores will show the suitable uses for the different materials they have displayed and the staff will be able to give advice. You can also find fabric information from a lot of websites.
Always read the label on the fabric roll to check for fibre content and any special properties. Look for the care and cleaning instructions –for example; can it be machine washed or does it need dry cleaning?
Don’t try to save on the amount of fabric in order to afford your most expensive choice. You will spend a lot of time fiddling with pattern pieces to make it all fit, you will probably be get a better effect using a less expensive material. You do need to go for good quality what ever the price range as it is not worth spending time and effort on something that will soon look worn or lifeless.
If you are on a budget, or want to use an inexpensive light or medium weight fabric, rub the fabric between your hands to see if any dressing comes out, leaving the cloth itself limp.
Check for flaws in the weave.
Buy sufficient quantity to complete your project as at a later date it is difficult to colour match fabric from different rolls. Has the fabric been pre-shrunk or is it shrink resistant. If not you may need to allow for shrinkage, some cotton and synthetics shrink up to 6%! You may need to purchase additional quantities of patterned fabrics for matching of patterns.
Checking Fabric Before You Buy
When you have selected your fabric; carefully pull or unroll some of the fabric from the bolt. It’s time to put it through some very simple tests:
- Check that the fabric is one of the ones recommended on the back of your pattern envelope (or is a similar weight).
- Have a look at the label – there should be some information about the fibre content and care instructions. Can you machine wash it or is it dry clean only? If it sounds like it’s too high maintenance, move on.
- Visualise your planned project made up in the fabric. Does it look right? Do you like it? Is the fabric in a colour that suits you?
- Examine for flaws and snags, spots or defective yarns.
- Look carefully at the colour and pattern to be sure it is the same throughout.
- Examine the fabric for excess wrinkles or creases. Creases and wrinkles may be impossible to remove on some manufactured fibre fabrics.
- Check the cut edge. Examine how much the fabric unravels. The more unraveling, the more time and effort it may take to complete the garment. Some unraveling fabrics require special seam finishes.
- Pull the fabric in both directions (lengthwise and crosswise) to feel the stretch. The fabric should return to its original shape.
- Conduct the wrinkle test. Crinkle the fabric in your hand and release it. How does it look? Does it wrinkle? Do the wrinkles recover after they have been released for a few seconds? How much wrinkling are you willing to handle during a day’s wear of the garment?
- As you handle the fabric do you see any colour being transferred from the fabric to your hand? This is called ‘crocking’ and could mean that the fabric will fade or transfer colour during construction or while the garment is being worn.
- Does the fabric seem to be stiff with sizing or starch? Do you see white powder or flakes coming from the fabric as you wrinkle or handle it? This could indicate a poor quality fabric.
- Hold the fabric up and drape it over your arm. Does the fabric have the texture or drape needed to carry out the design? Do you like the feel of it? Does this fit with what you are planning to make?
- Check the width of the fabric. Fabrics are made in different widths: mainly 150cm (60”) and 115cm (45”). Look at your pattern to find out what length of fabric you will need to buy.
- Take your time – once you’ve had the fabric cut from the roll you generally can’t return it so don’t rush into buying.