Choosing Fabric For Your Project
A Description of Fabric Types & How to Sew Tips
When I started out sewing for myself in my 30’s (such a long time ago now ), it took me a while to figure out what fabrics to use for certain pieces. As well as what needles and stitch types to use. I couldn’t understand why the t shirts I was making had holes all along the seam lines after a few washes and wears – read below to find out the answer to that).
Knitted vs Woven Fabrics
Knit fabric is the generic term for any textile in which the yarn is formed into an interconnecting loop construction. When fabric is stretched along its width, it will stretch significantly, with only slight stretch along its length. It looks like its knitted if that makes any sense. Many knit fabrics have good stretch and recovery. They are generally soft and easy to wear. Knits don’t fray as much as woven fabrics and seams don’t need to be finished.
Woven fabrics are treated differently to knitted fabrics. As the yarns are woven together, the edges can unravel or fray relatively easily. They therefore need to be finished with a zigzag stitch for a simpler finish or a serger (overlocker) for a more professional finish. Fabrics made from weaving are generally tauter and have a crisper handle than knitted fabrics. Woven fabrics are generally not stretchy unless they have some Lycra/ elastane mixed in.
GSM is a metric measurement meaning grams per square metre- it is how much 1 square metre of fabric weighs and the higher the GSM number the denser the fabric will be.
Here is a simple guide of our most popular fabrics if you are just starting out. We will discuss our knitted/ jersey fabrics today:
This fabric is a soft, smooth knitted fabric with some stretch, its the type of fabric found in t shirts and leggings. The cotton jersey we stock has 4 -6% Lycra so has plenty of stretch for leggings but still drapes or falls well in a dress or tunic. Its really comfortable to wear and suitable for babies and children as well as adults.
Used For: Use it for t shirts, leggings, pyjamas, baby-grows, dresses, underwear, CSP, nappies and lots of other things
Insider tip: Use a ballpoint needle and a small zigzag stitch on your regular sewing machine. Use an overlocker/serger if you have one but not essential. When I started out – I didn’t know these facts (hence the holey seams) until I stumbled across it in someones blog – game changer!!
Ball point needle has a blunt tip and doesn’t break the threads when it pierces the fabrics, it just moves them aside and the zigzag stitch has stretch properties so it will stretch with the fabric and not pop and break like a straight stitch would.
The weight of our Cotton Jerseys is approximately 200g/m2. You can use this figure to compare against other fabrics weights.
French terry or sweatshirt fabric is similar to cotton jersey as its a knitted fabric and looks like cotton jersey on the outside. It is heavier though due to the way it is finished on the inside – its either brushed like fleece or looped. The fleeced backed version is usually heavier and warmer and comes in different weights.
Used For: Typically used for sweaters, hoodies, jogging bottoms, dresses and tunics. The heavier weight ones are perfect for cold weather whereas the lighter looped back versions are good for summer and warmer weather layering.
Insider tip: As cotton jerseys use a ball point needle and zig zag stitch.
The brushed french terrys range in weight from 240g/m2 up to 280g/m2 approx.
The looped back french terrys start at approx 230g/m2 and upwards.
Ribbing is a stretchy ‘ribbed’ fabric used to create cuffs, neckbands and waistbands on jersey and french terry garments. Usually a similar weight and composition to cotton jersey. It comes in narrow tubes.
You can also buy ready made cuffs in strips – these are a bit heavier in weight and come in a range of colours and designs.
Used For: Cuffs and bands on sweaters, hoodies, joggers etc.
Insider tip: Sew into a circle and insert right sides together and sew on main garment in a loop from the inside.
These fabrics are like knitted fabric – but are much lighter weight and soft and stretchy. They sew up like regular jerseys. They have a more open loop structure than regular jerseys. Also known as Hacci Knit.
Used For: Cardigans, sweaters, dresses, tunics and tops.
Insider tip: Reinforce the shoulder seam with stay tape, a scrap of interfacing or a strip of waste fabric.
Our regular stock of Sweater knits start at 230g/m2. There are other heavier weight ones available too.
Ponte di Roma Jersey is an excellent quality jersey fabric with a good body and weight. It was developed in Italy (hence the name). It is also known as double knit as it’s knit in two layers during construction and both sides have a smooth finish. Its composition is generally a mix of viscose, polyester or nylon and Lycra.
It is a popular fabric due to its comfortable and flattering fit as it skims the curves of the body. It sews up as easy as cotton, doesn’t crease and is warm in the colder weather.
Used For: Dresses, trousers, jackets, cardigans and skirts. Perfect for smart office wear.
Insider tip: Use a ballpoint needle and zig zag although the heavier weight versions might be fine with a straight stitch.
Weights: our heavyweight Ponte is 330g/m2 lighter and heavier versions are also available.
Scuba is the fashion version of neoprene (what is actually used in wet suits). Its lighter weight than Neoprene – similar to Ponte di Roma but is typically composed of Polyester and Lycra. Its got more body than other knit or jersey fabrics and the heavier weight ones can hold their shape really well and its has good stretch and recovery. Its got a fine knit gauge and really smooth surface.
Used For: Dresses, trousers, jackets, cardigans and skirts. Perfect for smart office wear or an occasion dress.
Insider tip: Sew it up on a regular machine or over-locker. It wont fray but use a slightly longer stitch than usual to allow for the thicker fabric.
Weights: approx 200g/m2
Viscose is man made fabric and is also known as Rayon. It is manufactured from regenerated cellulose fibre and the raw material for viscose is cellulose, derived mainly from wood pulp (trees are 50% cellulose), which is broken down either mechanically or chemically and reformed into fibres. Viscose takes its name from the viscous liquid, which has a similar colour and fluidity of honey, that is formed midway through the manufacturing process. it was patented in the 1920’s and was known as artificial silk as it can look like silk.
Viscose jersey is the knitted version of this material and usually includes a small amount of Lycra. It is lighter in weight / thinner than Cotton jersey and drapes wonderfully.
Used For: T shirts, tops, Dresses, trousers, jackets, cardigans and skirts. Perfect for smart office wear.
Insider tip: Sew it up like cotton jersey – Use a ballpoint needle and a small zigzag stitch on your regular sewing machine. Use an overlocker/serger if you have one but not essential.
Join our sewing community
We have a great active Facebook group where the members post photos of finished projects they have made from our fabrics to inspire your creativity, you can ask questions and someone else out there will have the answer if I don’t. Its a lovely safe environment to chat about sewing, patterns and fabric recommendations even what sewing machine to buy or where to get it serviced.
I discuss Fabric pre-treatment and taking care of your finished garments here.
Information on Sewing with Softshell Fabric here.
Have a lovely week – hope you get some sewing done
Dress Fabrics Autumn/Winter Collection
Open Day Special!
Saturday, October 13th from 10 am to 4 pm
Layer up for Autumn!!
It’s going to be great fun, loads of other like-minded sewists there you can chat to about your favourite fabrics and patterns for the winter... ‘til you’re blue in the face!! And all the tea you can drink and of course cake and sandwiches.
Some of the fabrics available on the day aren’t even in the online shop yet. Be the first to get your hands on them. There’ll be a 10% discount off everything and some other really special offers, but you have to be here to avail of them. Get here early before they’re all gone. Annnnnnd if that’s not enough, we’re having another raffle. There’ll be vouchers and sewing kits and other goodies to win just by turning up!
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