Preparing to start your sewing project but not entirely sure what to look for when it comes to fabric? Fabric stores can offer hundreds, if not thousands, of fabric options in a variety of weights, colors, textures and more but all the choices can seem a bit overwhelming sometimes. Let me show you ten things to think about when picking out your fabric, especially online, that can help narrow down your choices.
The first thing you want to think about is what the fabric will be used for and in what kind of weather conditions. The fabric you may want to use for a blouse, will most likely be lighter than something you’d use to make trousers but if you will be wearing the blouse in a colder climate, you might want to consider a slightly heavier fabric for warmth.
That brings up different types of fabrics from lightweight chiffons and silks to heavier wool tweed or denim. Getting to know the basic types of fabrics can help you narrow down fabric choices and search websites easier.
While it is obvious that heavier weight fabrics will weigh more than sheer or lightweight ones, fabrics like cotton or satin are often available in a range of different weights. Not only is the weight of the fabric important in terms of warmth, but it will also affect the way the fabric drapes across the body.
Drape is used to describe how the fabric will lay on your body. Stiffer, heavy-weight fabrics will hold shapes and form better while lightweight fabrics can delicately flow across the body and move with the body or wind. While you can stiffen lighter fabric using specifically formulated sprays or dips, it’s easier and more natural looking to find the right drape from the start.
Is the piece you’re making body hugging or loose? If it’s meant to contour to the body, is this due to tailoring, stretchiness within the fabric or both. If stretch is important in your final design, you must also decide if you want the fabric to be able to stretch in all directions (4 way stretch) or in one direction (2 way stretch).
Certain fabrics like cotton, may shrink after the initial wash or if washed in too hot of water. If a fabric shrinks, make sure to take this into consideration when figuring out how much fabric you will need. And always wash your fabric first, before you start sewing. The last thing you want is to finish a garment, wash it and then realize it’s not only shrunk but possibly warped.
Fabrics come in sheens from a matte (non-shiny) finish to glistening like a delicate silk and sometimes in between or both. Satin usually has a shiny finish on one side and matte on the other but there is no rule saying that you can’t use the matte finish as the outer facing side if all the other qualities of that fabric matches what you are looking for.
Color seems to be the most obvious way to narrow down fabrics but if you learn the basics of dyeing your own fabrics, your choices of fabrics open back up again. Natural fabrics like linens and cottons are much easier to dye while polyester and polyester blend fabrics are more temperamental and require specific dyes and a more involved process.
9. Length and Width
One of the benefits of working with stock patterns is knowing exactly how much fabric the garment needs by looking at the chart on the back of the packaging. But the length needed is not the only measurement to keep in mind. The width of the fabric can determine how you will lay your pattern pieces on it and in turn, how much length you’ll need.
Finally, the price of the fabric can affect which one you ultimately pick. It’s a validating experience when you can find the exact fabric used to make a cosplay from a show or movie but sometimes large entertainment budgets means that fabrics can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars per yard (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones). Make sure to always look online for promo codes or coupons for the stores you purchase from and even check sites like Etsy for cheaper overseas fabric sellers if you are willing to wait for delivery.
Now that you have a better idea of what you are looking for, head to my article on 10 Online Fabric Shops for a list of resources to find that perfect fabric for your next cosplay.