Most people can tell the difference between a heavy fabric like denim compared to a light fabric like chiffon. You can feel the fabric in your hand and tell whether it is heavy or light. However if you’re online trying to choose fabric it’s a bit harder.
Lightweight fabrics often have a pleasantly translucent quality. Beginner sewers may find them hard to handle. It can help to place tissue paper under or between fabric pieces to help them feed evenly through the sewing machine. Most domestic sewing machine prefer a medium weight fabric as this is what the factory has set the sewing machines timing to. That doesn’t mean you can’t sew light or heavy fabrics you will just need different settings and needles.
Medium Weight Fabrics
These are generally the easiest weight to work with and very adaptable.
Heavy Weight Fabrics
These can be harder to handle just because of the thickness of the fabrics – handling and shaping takes more work. Think about bulky seam joins, pleating or gathering. Not impossible but takes a bit more patience.
Collette Patterns have a great chart that shows the weight of the fabric together with its drape. Drape is a term used to describe the way a fabric hangs under its own weight. So it is important on how a garment will look. For example a dress made from a knit fabric which is relatively floppy will flow your body contours. The same dress made from a woven fabric such as broadcloth which is relatively stiff will be far more tailored, with the fabric not following your body contours. This is where the chart comes in. Check your pattern for the suggested fabric weight. Also think about the overall effect you want. Don’t be afraid to unroll some of the fabric and gently drape it over something (even yourself). Look at the way it flows or doesn’t, how it folds, how it gathers…