Choosing the right fabric is always a bit of a challenge. Fabrics are made differently, woven differently, have different features, and in many cases require special consideration in terms of sewing with the different fabrics.

For example,

when sewing on woven fabrics you will use a universal or sharp needle, but if you change to a knit fabric, you will be frustrated by skipped stitches and poor seams. To sew on the knit you will need to change your needle to a ballpoint or stretch needle. Perhaps for this reason many beginning sewers choose a type of fabric and stay with it for all the different projects.

Here is a very limited glimpse at some of the different fabrics available to you today.

When you go fabric shopping, make it a habit to collect swatches (small sample cuts) of different fabrics. Label them and create your own swatch book. This will be a fabulous reference tool for you when you start planning your many projects.


Fibers Are Processed stretched and twisted to form threads of yarn. Strands or threads of these filaments vary in length (staple) from tiny pieces up to hundreds of feet long. These filaments are “carded” or combed to remove foreign matter from the yarns. Some fabrics are woven without further processing producing super soft fluffy fabrics (woolens for example). Most fibers continue processing through combing to refine the threads. Once ready the fibers are spun or twisted into yarn to make the yarn stronger. The yarn may be single strand, two-ply (strands), or three-ply. Some yarns are blended or have added fibers added to the mix forming combinations such as silk and wool blends, blending may also involve combining natural and synthetic fibers like cotton and poly blends. Once blended and processed

Weaving the Fabric

involves yarns being stretched lengthwise and crosswise of each other. The longwise yarns are called the warp yarns, while the crosswise yarns are called the weft or filling yarns. These yarns do not necessarily have to be the same yarns. The texture of the fabric will depend on the yarns themselves as well as the way they are woven together. A Plain Weave simply alternates over and under like in burlap, canvas, challis, cheesecloth, muslin, organdy, and percale. In a Basket Weave, two or more yarns are used for both warp and weft like in basket-weave woolens, hopsacking, or oxford cloth. When multiple yarns are used in one direction, it forms a nap and is called Rib Weave like in broadcloth, faille, grosgrain, ottoman, and poplin. Twill like covert, denim, drill, serge, and gabardine are produced by the weft yarn aligning diagonally creating ridges or wales with a steep angle. Herringbone is similar but changes the direction of the weave periodically. The smooth shiny finish of satin is achieved by long closely woven warp yarns, varied so no surface pattern emerges (Satin Weave). Pile weaves create a distinctive pile on the surface of the fabric like with Velveteen and Corduroy (cut pile).

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