Choosing and buying fabric

choosingandbuyingfabric

OK, so you have managed to buy a pattern to make yourself something fabulous, the next thing you need is the fabric.  To a new sewer this can be almost as daunting as buying the pattern.  Once you’ve managed to find somewhere selling nice fabric you’re faced with fabrics ranging from thin and floaty silks to heavy duty denims and canvases, not to mention stretch and knitted fabrics.

WHICH FABRIC SHOULD I USE?
First thing’s first – what does your pattern say?  On the back of every sewing pattern will be a list of suitable fabrics and a chart to work out how much fabric you need.  The list of suggested fabrics may look like gobbledegook to you, don’t worry.  First, use your common sense – what are you making?  If you’re making a skirt you’re unlikely to need heavy coating weight tweed, so think of what kind of fabric you would like to make your skirt from.  Also ask for advice in the shop, any good fabric shop should employ staff who can recommend a suitable fabric for the pattern you’re using.
As a guide, avoid these fabrics when you first start sewing to make your life easier:

  • very thick fabrics – heavy denim or canvas
  • fabrics with a surface pile – corduroy or velvet that have a textured surface
  • big patterns or stripes that would need to be matched at seams
  • slippery, thin satin fabrics.


HOW MUCH FABRIC DO I NEED?

WHERE TO BUY FABRIC?

Have a look at my regularly updated list of recommendations for where to buy your fabrics here and over in the right hand column, headed “Where to Buy Fabric”.

AND REMEMBER:

  • Check the label on the fabric to find out the width – crucial to ensuring you buy enough fabric!
  • Also check the fibre content (cotton, polyester, silk, etc) on the label. In general, natural fibres are more comfortable to wear, but may crease more easily, synthetics will be easy to look after but might not be so nice to wear.
  • Have a read of my fabric dictionary for descriptions of some common fabrics and to learn a bit more about fabric.
  • The washing instructions are also on the label – a very easy one to miss and if you forget to look the only way to find out will be to go back to the shop to check the label!! Have a read of my guide to pre-washing your fabric.
  • When choosing fabric don’t be scared to unroll some to check the hang and drape and to really see the pattern if the fabric is anything other than a single solid colour.  Also hold it up to your face and ask yourself if the colour and/or print actually suits you – is it the kind of thing you are likely to wear?  Something that looks great/cute/wacky on a roll may not make up into a garment that you will want to wear, so be honest with yourself! Have a read of my post about styling for more tips along these lines….
  • Grab a handful of the fabric and scrunch it up in your hand to see how easily it creases.

If you’re buying fabric online, only order straight away if you know the fabric and have used it before or know the shop.  If you’re not sure, most good online fabric shops will send out samples and the good ones will then even deduct the cost of the samples if you go on to order some fabric.

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