Glossary OF TERMS
A filament fibre made from acetate with a crisp hand and high luster. Drapes well. Acetate woven fabric is often used for linings, but it shows perspiration stains.
A synthetic fibre that has a soft hand and good wrinkle resistance. It can be machine-washed and machine-dried. It is often used for blankets, jackets and coats.
Alpaca is a close relative to cashmere in its softness and luxury. It is also very warm to wear without being bulky. Woven alpaca makes a beautiful jacket or coat. Knitted alpaca makes a gorgeous sweater top, cardigan, clingy dress or gored skirt. To preshrink, hold an iron half an inch above fabric or preshrink at the dry-cleaners.
Any fabric created by resist-dying using wax as a resist. After the wax is removed, fabric is coloured where dye has gone through the wax cracks. Fabric is often used for shirts, skirts and loose dresses.
Fine, soft, plain weave fabric traditionally made from linen, now often made with other fibres, especially cotton.
A Nylon (or Poly), Rayon (Viscose), Lycra (Elastane) blend. A woven, not a knit, the stretch runs lengthwise on the fabric, parallel to the selvedge. It has a sheen on one side and is more matte on the other. Often used for trousers, jackets and skirts.
Bi-Stretch is a medium-heavy weight, dyed, 100% polyester fabric. It has "give" in the fabric but not a true stretch. Bi-Stretch is woven to create a strong durable fabric. Often used for trousers, skirts and jackets. It is machine washable and tumble-dryable, therefore ideal for workwear.
Combination of two or more different staple fibres within the same yarn. Fibres are blended for one or more reasons, e.g. cost, properties, appearance.
Boucle is a loosely woven or knitted fabric with small curls or loops that provide a nubby surface. Used mainly for sweater looks and unstructured styles. For Wool Boucle, preshrink by holding a steam iron half an inch above the fabric surface.
A fine, closely woven, lustrous cotton blend with an unbalanced weave that creates a fine rib. An excellent shirting material because of its soft but firm finish.
A heavy jacquard woven fabric with raised floral or geometric patterns that emphasise surface contrast or colour. Brocade fabric is one of the several shuttle-woven fabrics that creates intricate patterns often including flowers, plants and other natural images. Brocade is used in a number of different applications around the home, as well as a desirable element in formal wear and stage costuming.
Anglaise fabric is based on a whitework needlework technique of the 19th century. It features eyelets (small holes) and buttonhole stitches. Broderie Anglaise fabric can be found on multiple fabrics, including a standard Polycotton fabric and a stretch jersey fabric and is widely used for baby and children's wear.
Buckram is coarse, stiff, and a plain open-weave fabric used as a stiffener and typically made with a cotton base. It is used in the production of many everyday items to allow them to stay erect and upright or maintain a stiff silhouette. It is also used to cover and protect books. Various methods have been used in the production of buckram, though modern buckram cloth is primarily stiffened with a gap-filling liquid substance.
Burn Out Fabric
Made from two different yarns where pattern is created by burning out one yarn with a chemical. A burnout pattern is a special type of treatment for tufted fabric which creates a distinctive look for jackets, scarves, coats, and skirts. More rarely, it is used in upholstery, usually as an ornamental accent. It is often used on materials like brocade and velvet, which have a thick pile, allowing the burnout pattern to stand out much more clearly. The technique was developed in France in the early twentieth century, and was extremely popular in fashion design during the 1920s. A revival of ‘Twenties’ styles at the close of the century led to an increased interest in burnout patterns.
In the fashion industry, fabric with a burnout pattern is known as Devore’. Crafters call burnout patterns "fabric etching," because of the technique used to create them. It starts with a chemical paste, commonly containing sulfuric acid, which is applied to the fabric to create the desired pattern. The acid eats away the fibers, leaving the fabric backing behind. The fabric is rinsed to remove the acid, which does not compromise the integrity of the garment.
Calico is a plain-woven textile made from unbleached (and often not fully processed) cotton. It may contain unseparated husk parts, for example. The fabric is less coarse and thick than canvas or denim, but owing to its unfinished and undyed appearance, it is still very reasonably priced.
Cashmere is the number one luxury fabric in softness and warmth without bulk. Woven cashmere makes a beautiful jacket or coat. Knitted cashmere makes a nice sweater top, cardigan, clingy dress, gored skirt or luxurious bathrobe. To preshrink hold an iron half an inch above fabric or preshrink at the dry-cleaners.
Lightweight, closely woven, plain weave fabric, usually made from cotton or linen.
Strong, firm, relatively heavy and rigid, generally plain woven cloth traditionally made from cotton, linen, hemp or jute.
Firm woven fabric with a steep twill showing double twill lines, traditionally used for riding breeches and jodphurs.
Chambray has the appearance of very fine denim, with a plain weave using coloured warp and white weft. Makes great shirts and summer clothing.
Open, lightweight, plain weave fabric with a slightly crêpey appearance, usually made from carded cotton yarns with higher than average twist.
Closely woven, lustrous, plain weave cotton fabric, printed or plain, that has been friction calendered or glazed. Much used for curtain fabric and upholstery.
One of several combinations of colours used for a particular fabric.
A lightweight, plain woven silk suitable for lining garments because it breathes and doesn’t add bulk. However it does wrinkle and is not very durable. The terms habotai and China silk are interchangeable and denote a fine, lightweight silk used for scarves and lightweight, sheer garments. Habotai is a plain weave fabric with a soft sheen. Habotai and China silk make an excellent lining for many fabric types, not just other silks. Silk breathes which makes a garment more comfortable and the smooth finish of these fabrics allow garments to slip on and off gracefully. These silks do not add bulk but will add a slight amount of body and weight while remaining soft and fluid. A lightweight silk fabric commonly used for linings, hangings, underwear and silk painting.
A durable twill-cotton fabric with a slight sheen that makes excellent work clothes or casual trousers.
This velvet has a flat finish and a very luxurious look and feel, with a crushed, irregular effect. It drapes well and is ideal for making all types of garments as well as uses for home furnishing. It has a beautiful texture which captures a luxurious shine and feels wonderfully soft to touch. It is commonly used in robes, gowns and capes, but it also makes for very unique, high-class curtains, pillows, or upholstery.
This soft-to-the-touch fabric wears better and does not stretch out of shape if it is fully interfaced with fusible interlining suitable for knits. If you prefer the a soft draping flowing fabric, choose a style where slight stretching is acceptable. Sewing Tips: Overlock all pieces separately right after fusing or cutting if using as it is. Pushing fabric toward the presser foot rather than letting the feeding move the fabric along, prevents the fabric from stretching as you sew. To preshrink turn the fabric inside out and hand-wash or machine-wash on a gentle cycle with warm water and dry flat. To iron, cover pressing surface with fluffy towel and press right side of chenille against towel. Press on cotton setting with steam.
Chiffon, from the French word for a cloth or rag, is a lightweight, balanced plain-woven sheer fabric woven of alternate S- and Z-twist crepe (high-twist) yarns. The twist in the crepe yarns puckers the fabric slightly in both directions after weaving, giving it some stretch and a slightly rough feel.
Chiffon is made from cotton, silk or synthetic fibres. Chiffon can be dyed to almost any shade desired, but if it is made out of polyester it can be difficult to dye. Under a magnifying glass it resembles a fine net or mesh which gives chiffon some see-through properties.
Chiffon is most commonly used in evening wear, especially as an overlay, giving an elegant and floating appearance to the gown. It is also a popular fabric used in blouses, ribbons, scarves and lingerie. Like other crepe fabrics, chiffon can be difficult to work with because of its light and slippery textures. Due to this delicate nature, chiffon must be hand washed very gently.
Since chiffon is a light weight fabric that frays very easily, bound or French seams are recommended to stop the fabric from fraying.
Corduroy is derived from the French 'cordon du roi', which means 'cord of kings'. Corduroy is widely used for tops, skirts, tailored shirts, structured jackets, trousers and children's clothing. Sewing Tip: Sew in direction of pile. To preshrink fabric machine-wash in warm water and dry in a delicate cycle. If you plan to dry-clean finished garment, hold steam iron half an inch above surface. Restore flattened pile by tumbling corduroy wrong side out, with damp towel for 10 minutes. Avoid lint transfer by putting a dark-coloured towel in with dark coloured corduroy and light-coloured towel in with light-coloured corduroy. Take out of dryer and immediately hang up. To iron cover the pressing surface with a fluffy towel and iron on a cotton setting with steam. Avoid pressing on the right side of fabric.
The use of cotton for fabric is known to date to prehistoric times. Cotton is used to make a number of textile products and comes in many weights and forms. These include towelling for bath towels and robes, denim and chambray for jeans, corduroy, seersucker, cotton twill, sheeting, etc. Socks, underwear, and most T-shirts are made from cotton. Bed sheets often also are made from cotton. Fabric also can be made from recycled or recovered cotton that otherwise would be thrown away during the spinning, weaving, or cutting process. While many fabrics are made completely of cotton, some materials blend cotton with other fibers, including rayon and synthetic fibers such as polyester. It can either be used in knitted or woven fabrics, as it can be blended with elastine to make a stretch fabric which is very comfortable to wear.
Crepe is a twisted weave fabric with a pebbly appearance that doesn’t wrinkle. While wool and polyester crepes are the most common, silk, rayon and occasionally cotton crepes are also available. Wool crepe varies in quality. More expensive wool crepe resists wrinkles better and is more opaque than its less expensive look-alikes.
This fabric can be very flattering on the body and is suitable for tailored trousers, straight skirts, jackets, full skirts or semi-fitted dresses.
Crêpe De Chine
Lightweight, plain weave crêpe fabric, made with highly twisted continuous filament yarns in the weft, alternating one S and one Z twist, and with normally twisted filament yarns in the warp. The crêpe effect is relatively unpronounced.
Available in 100% cotton and cotton blends, crinkles are formed by tightening the fabric weft and heat setting. Crinkles tend to seat out but can be restored with steam. These fabrics are suitable for unstructured styles and are great for travelling! To preshrink, machine-wash in warm water and permanent press dryer cycle. After preshrinking, fabric gets very narrow and very pleated. Press slightly to remove some of the pleating so that it looks more like it did prior to preshrinking. To iron use a dry iron on a cotton setting (steam removes too many crinkles).
Lightweight, printed, all wool plain weave fabric.
Doupion (Or Dupion)
Silk-breeding term meaning double cocoon, used to describe the irregular, raw rough silk reeled from double cocoons.
Denim is widely used for jeans, jackets, skirts, shirt dresses, shirts, upholstery, cushions and accessories such as handbags. Denim comes in various weights, which are suited to different projects. Heavier weights tend to be used for upholstery, cushions, jackets, jeans and handbags. Lighter weights are used mainly for skirts, shirts and summer clothing. Sewing Tip: Prevent skipped stitches by holding fabric taut whenever you are machine sewing. When preshrinking this fabric, wash colours separately since colour may bleed. Machine-wash in warm water and machine-dry on regular temperature. Preshrink twice to eliminate all shrinkage. After second drying, remove fabric while still slightly damp and iron-dry. This prevents creases forming in the drying stage. The best thread to use with denim is either a good quality polyester, or an upholstery or top-stitch thread if the seams will be under stress.
Fabrics used for lining may or may not be made specially for the purpose. To be suitable, a fabric should be smooth to the touch, soft, pliable, and light enough in weight not to interfere in any way with the hang of the garment fabric. Fiber content and construction may vary, but if possible, use an anti-static fabric for lining, as this will prevent your garment from riding up the body as you walk or move.
In an ensemble, the coat or jacket is often lined with the fabric used for the dress or blouse, for a coordinated effect. If this fabric is expensive, or does not slip on and off easily, the sleeves can be lined with a lining fabric.
Fake fur may serve as a lining in a winter coat or jacket. In such a case, the coat style should be of loose fit to allow room for the fur. For less bulk and ease in slipping the coat on and off, lining fabric can be used in sleeves.
A strong, dense, medium-to heavy weight cotton with a twill weave. Drill is a very versatile fabric and is used in a variety of applications from uniforms and work clothes to mattress ticking, aprons, cushions and handbags. Woven twill fabric with a similar structure to denim, but usually piece-dyed.
A highly lustrous, smooth, very finely woven fabric. Used in bridal or evening wear where volume without bulk is desired. It has a very subtle sheen that is classic and elegant. Often used for couture wedding gowns, bridesmaid dresses, eveningwear or extravagant valances, duchesse satin has been around since ancient China. It accompanies lace, velvet, beading, chiffon, tulle, and organza beautifully. Designers prefer duchesse satin because the skirt keeps its full draped curves, instead of fluttering, as would a thinner fabric.
A high-quality long staple cotton used in the finest sheets.
Synthetic fleece is a knit fabric that stretches on the cross grain. It sheds water, holds body heat, but allows perspiration to escape. Polar fleece is the best quality as it pulls and stretches the least. For best qualities, look for the 'anti-pill' factor. Fleece is comfortable and warm and survives years of abuse. Fleece is widely used for sweatshirts, pull-on pants, jackets, coats, cushions, blankets and throws.
No preshrinking is necessary. After construction, machine-wash alone or with other fleece garments in cool water, machine-dry on low setting. Remove immediately. Reduce abrasion by turning inside out. Do not dry-clean. Since fleece does not fray or ravel, edges can be left without a finish.
Faux fur comes in many different varieties and qualities. These range from craft furs, long and short piles, through to luxury soft furs. Simple styling shows off fur to the best advantage. To preshrink machine-wash in cold water and machine-dry. When working with faux fur, if you are allergic to hair, wear a face mask during cutting and vacuum frequently. Cut through backing only with short, sharp scissors and cut one layer at a time. Never iron on the right side of faux fur.
Faux leather is essentially fake leather. Instead of being made of animal skins, these fabrics are made of other materials and may receive numerous treatments so that they replicate the look of leather and some of its common attributes. There are many names under which faux leather may be sold which include leatherette, leathercloth and leather-look. Many reasons exist why people want faux leather and why companies may use it. It is usually cheaper than using real animal skins, and lower cost to manufacturers means consumers save money when they buy it. Some consumers avoid leather for ethical reasons, as might vegans or vegetarians.
Faux leather is widely used for trousers, skirts, jackets, trench coats, upholstery, cushions and accessories.
Faux suede is widely used to make clothing, shoes, bags and furniture. It is a soft, synthetic fabric made from 100% polyester. The material can come in many forms, including micro suede and microfibre. It also comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The word suede was originally coined by the French. The word comes from 'Gants de Suede' which roughly translates to 'gloves of Sweden'. The soft fabric was originally created to make ladies gloves.
In many ways, faux suede is a better alternative to the real thing. It largely feels the same as real suede and is easier to clean and more resistant to liquid than leather. Additionally, it is considerably cheaper than real suede, costing much less than half the price of the real thing.
Felt is the oldest type of fabric known to mankind as its production involves the matting of fibres and no weaving techniques are required. It is a sturdy fabric that can withstand numerous applications without losing its overall shape. This is due to its homogeneous structure, which can be strong enough to withstand industrial usages over a long period of time. Its adaptability and inherent strength means it is every bit as popular as it has been in the past.
Felt as a fabric does not unravel or fray no matter how many times it is put under pressure, which is why it is used in industrial and construction applications above any other fabric. It is also extremely oil absorbent, so it can aid the movement of a joint and still will not show any signs of wear.
Felt material is commonly used in a vast number of crafts and design applications from embroidery to children's costumes but has the advantage of being versatile enough to have even been applied in the manufacture of household rugs.
Felt is also uncompromising in its ability to insulate against both cold and sound so its properties allow it to be used and relied upon as a deterrent against the elements. Throughout history, felt has been used by many cultures to create protective layers and is still used in the creation of the outside of yurts.
Used in the main across the fashion industry in the production of clothes and accessories from bags to necklaces, this fabric offers users more choice than most. Used also as an educational tool and as a base for equestrian fleeces, this fabric type clearly has many more uses than we can list here and will serve as the perfect starting point for any project that requires a strong and durable fabric over a long period of time. Wool Felt is not washable, whereas Acrylic Felt is washable, and therefore more practical.
Lightweight, open-textured fabric made in plain weave, a simple leno weave.
Gingham is a printed or dyed fabric that is known for its checked patterns of white and a bold colour. The size of the checks can vary, and although it is typically found with the checks appearing in horizontal rows and vertical columns, the checks also can appear to be arranged diagonally. Originally, this fabric was intended to be woven into stripes. Its name comes from the word 'genggang', which means "striped" in the Malay language spoken in places such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where it is believed to have originated.
Gaberdine is a twill weave that has a beautiful drape and is highly wrinkle resistant. While wool gaberdine is the most common, gaberdine also comes in silk, cotton and rayon. It is widely used for tailored suits, trench coats, tailored jackets, tailored trousers, straight skirts or loose shirts. Styles with drape do very well in gabardine. Since gabardine does not ease well, raglan or dolman sleeves look more professional unless you are a very experienced sewer. To preshrink wool gabardine either hold steam iron above by half an inch before cutting, hand wash in cold water, or pre-shrink at the dry cleaners.
Traditionally made from silk, although synthetic fibers such as polyester are often used as well. The thing that makes georgette fabric distinctive is the crinkly crepe-light texture, which feels slightly rough and dull, but gives the fabric a bouncy, flowing look.
The threads used in georgette fabric are highly twisted, which causes them to crinkle as they relax. The weave of georgette tends to be rather tight, but the overall appearance is slightly sheer, since the threads are very thin. Unlike some fine silks, georgette fabric is also unusually strong, and it holds up well to varied wear. Since silk is highly absorbent, georgette fabric can easily be dyed in a myriad of colors, or printed with a pattern. Synthetic versions are more difficult or not possible to dye.
The crepe-like texture of georgette fabric makes it very springy, so that the fabric almost appears to move on its own. It also drapes very well, making it a popular choice for women's fashions in which flowing fabrics are favored. Since georgette fabric is thin, it is also lightweight, and can be used as a layer in a largered garment without being heavy or bulky. Layers of georgette fabric may be used for a fanciful effect, especially in gowns. Bridal gowns, evening dresses, and other formal wear are sometimes made with georgette fabric.
Hessian is a dense woven fabric that has been historically produced as a coarse fabric, but more recently it is being used in a refined state known simply as jute.
Variation on plain weave, where two or more ends and picks weave as one. Sometimes called basket weave.
Fabric used between the inner and outer layers of a garment to improve shape retention, strength, warmth or bulk. Interlinings may be woven, knitted or nonwoven, and can be produced with fusible adhesive on one surface.
1. A fabric woven on a jacquard loom, where the patterning mechanism allows individual control on any interlacing of up to several hundred warp threads
2. A rib-based, double jersey weft-knit structure which shows a figure or design in a different colour or texture. Jacquard fabrics are sub-divided into flat-jacquard and blister fabrics.
General term used for any knitted fabric.
1. Natural vegetable base fibre.
2. The plant from which the base jute fibre is obtained.
Knitted Jersey has a fair amount of stretch and tends to curl when released. The right side of fabric shows a knit stitch and the wrong side shows a purl stitch. Knitted jerseys are suitable for tops, dresses, full skirts, wrap garments and lots more.
Sewing tips for Stretch Knits: The ideal needle for stretch knits is a ballpoint (this finds a hole in the fabric, rather than creating one, thus avoids puckering the fabric). A Rotary Cutter is more accurate than scissors for cutting, as knits stretch slightly as scissors lift them off the table. When ironing, use a steam iron on a temperature suited to the fabric content. Use a press-and-lift motion when ironing as back and forth movements will stretch the fabric. Buttonholes are not recommended on stretch fabrics as any stress will distort. It is best to use snaps, faced buttonholes, or button loops. Allow garment to hang overnight before hemming. To prevent knit fabrics from stretching as you topstitch, use fusing Vilene bias tape in the hem before you begin.
A finely woven, semi-crisp fabric woven in cotton or linen. Lawn cloth or lawn is a plain weave textile, originally of linen but now chiefly cotton. Lawn is designed using fine, high count yarns, which results in a silky, untextured feel. It is primarily used in heirloom dresses, blouses, collars and cuffs but also makes great interlining.
Dressy or casual, for a day at the office or a day on the beach, garments made of natural linen are comfortable, versatile and attractive. Natural linen has long been a fashionable choice for people wanting an easy-care, go-everywhere fabric.
A linen dress or suit is an elegant choice for attending a wedding, but linen looks equally at home on the beach. If you have never sewn with linen, you may be afraid it is difficult to work with. Actually, linen is easy to sew, it does not slip or stretch when you are cutting it out or sewing a seam. However, linen is prone to creasing, shrinking and to fraying, so special care must be taken when preparing it for layout and finishing seams.
Versatile natural linen comes in weights suitable for any project. Linen is ideal for warm weather because it "breathes", allowing perspiration to wick away from the skin. Light weight linen is great for summer dresses or tops and children's clothes. Medium weight linen is suitable for summer pants and shirts. Heavier weight linens are wonderful for summer suits or jackets.
Linen is lovely for all sorts of home decor projects such as tablecloths, napkins, placemats, drapes, pillows, and slipcovers. Linen is also ideal for historical enactment garments. While linen is ideal for nearly any project, it is not suitable for patterns requiring a stretchy fabric. The pattern's fabric suggestions are the best guidelines. If a pattern is suitable for linens, it will say so on the back of the envelope.
Loosely Woven Weaves
Loosely woven fabrics are often the most interesting but must be stabilized to avoid snagging and sagging later. It is suitable for loose unstructured jackets and tops with a minimum number seams. Pre-test your pattern first or hand-baste side seams for fit since stitches are difficult to remove in loose weaves.
Sewing Tip: For jackets and tops, fuse each piece separately after cutting out, then overlock each piece on all sides. For drapey tops, do not fuse, simply overlock pieces right away. Stabilize neckline and shoulders with stay-tape. Force garment piece to conform to stay-tape by positioning tape next to presser foot and fabric next to feed dogs. As interfacing reacts differently to different fibres and different dyes, always try a sample before committing yourself.
Lycra Knit Blends
Lycra is combined with nylon, cotton, linen and wool and stretches in one or both directions. Cotton/Lycra and often used for exercise wear. Nylon/Lycra is shiny and often used for swimsuits, biking shorts and leotards for dance and stage wear.
Nylon/Lycra and Cotton/Lycra are good choices for activewear and anything that needs freedom of movement. Lycra comes in different weights and it is advisable to use patterns which are specifically designed for Lycra if this is your fabric choice.
Sewing Tips: Do not stretch fabric as you sew. Use triple stretch stitch in areas of stress such as crotch and underarm seams. Use all-polyester thread and test seams by stretching them as much as possible. Loosen tension until no stitches break.
Alternatively use a stretch sewing thread such as metler seraflock for a true stretch stitch.
It is not necessary to preshrink Nylon/Lycra but it is mandatory for Cotton/Lycra which is best to machine-wash on a gentle cycle. Machine-dry on low heat or air-dry.
Lycra Woven Blends
Lycra is a man-made elastic fibre which is often combined with wool, linen, denim, microfiber, silk or polyester to produce wovens with a 5% to 10% stretch factor in width and none in length. These lycra blends look exactly like their 100% natural fibre counterparts except that they have stretch which can make them more comfortable to wear.
Ideal for any pattern where a woven fabric is recommended or a slight stretch for comfort might add to the comfort of the garment, such as tailored trousers, straight skirts and fitted jackets. For linen/Lycra, cotton/Lycra and poly/Lycra machine-wash and machine dry on a medium temperature to pre-shrink. For silk/Lycra hand-wash and air-dry and for wool/Lycra, hold steam half and inch above the fabric surface.
Lyocell (also known as Tencel)
A ‘Cotton type’ fabric made from extracting cellulose fibre from trees (a renewable sustainable source. Has been tried by Levis to replace cotton.
Wool from the merino sheep, which produces the shortest and finest wool fibres.
Microfibre is the finest quality polyester at around 200 threads per inch. Microfibre comes in different weights and might be labeled peachskin, micro twill or micro sandwashed. This fabric is very drapey and is great for loose unstructured styles.
On finely woven fabrics such as microfibre a very small needle causes the least fabric distortion, thereby eliminating puckered seams.
Microsilk also known as Vegan Silk
Engineered Spider Silk Produced by Yeast. Recently used by Bolt Threads and designs by Stella McCartney. Sustainable Fabrics continue to evolve.
Leather Grown from Mycelium Cells. For example: Designer Stella McCartney’s Falabella bag was made with Mylo™. Another Fabric from a sustainable source.
General term for very fine, semi-opaque fabrics, finer than muslins, made of silk, wool or cotton.
Muslin is a light cotton fabric, finely woven and typically white, that was first imported from the Middle East to Europe in the 17th century. It is a firm plain-weave cotton found in many weights. Muslin is a popular choice for clothing and curtains, particularly in hot, dry climates. Muslin has many uses besides those listed above. Because it is a relatively cheap fabric, it is not always used for clothing or upholstery, as more expensive fabrics often are. In sewing, muslin is often used to make a test garment before sewing with expensive fabric.
Muslin for cooking (Catering Grade Muslin) is not dressed and is used for staining, roasting and baking.
Mohair is made from the soft silky hair of the Angora goat. Suitable for unlined sweaters, coats and jackets, this fabric makes a terrific travel garment because it is lightweight, warm, and never wrinkles.
A product made from 100% recycled polyester yarn contributing to its, sustainability, made from post-consumer plastic bottles. There are various Newlife™ counts (make-ups) that afford the resultant fabric with different functionalities and applications. For example, Thermal, Fire Retardant (FR), Texture etc.
Man made synthetic polymer fibre. Alternative name for polyamide.
Organza fabric is one of today's most exciting fabrics. Crystal organza is a wonderfully semi-translucent fabric with a slight twinkle and a hint of sparkle. It is a lightweight sheer fabric with a crisp texture and sparkle sheen. It can be used almost everywhere from dressmaking to interior design, crafting, window and table dressing to fashion wear etc. Also very popular with machine embroidery techniques.
Hugely popular for Eveningwear, Bridalwear, Christening Gowns, Stage & Theatrical work, Fancy Dress Costumes amongst many other decorative projects. With this fabric you can create some really effective results but at a realistic price.
A leather like substance made from discarded pineapple leaves. For example, sustainable fabric fibres have been used in collections by Hugo Boss and H&M.
Poplin is a fabric with a similar weave to broadcloth but the rib is larger and the fabric heavier. Poplin in its early days was made by using a silk warp weave and a worsted yarn weft. The result is a sturdy fabric that has noticeable ridges. Today, poplin is popular in shirts, skirts, dresses and is often a combination of softer and heavier grades of cotton. Because of its manufacturing process, it tends not to wrinkle easily, and is somewhat water and stain resistant.
The higher quality the fabric, especially when it is 100% cotton, the greater the price. The expense is usually considered worth it, since poplin tends to wear well and is easy care. Poplin is also widely used for patchwork and quilting. Mercerised thread gives a slight sheer to the fabric.
Polycotton fabric is made combining strands of Cotton and Polyester. This blend is usually quite comfortable by combining the natural effects of Cotton for softness and moisture absorption with the no-iron crispness of polyester. Usually which ever fiber content is listed first will be the dominant fiber meaning in a Polycotton will be polyester dominant. A standard everyday Poly cotton mix is 65% Polyester 35% Cotton, normally the construction of standard bedsheets, bedlinen, clothing, etc.
While silky polyester is very seductive on the bolt, it is more difficult to get seams that don’t pucker unless you cut the fabric on the cross-grain or bias. Silky polyester is a good candidate to have pleated since polyester will hold pleats indefinitely. Polyester is also warm to wear.
Preshrinking is not necessary with this fabric. The completed garment can be hand-washed or machine-washed in warm water and is best air-dried.
While this fabric drapes beautifully and eases well, it is also prone to crinkles. Because this fabric is so drapey it is used widely for blouses, full skirts, full trousers and luxurious jacket linings.
Sewing Tip: Sulky rayon thread creates beautiful topstitching. Use rayon thread on top only and regular thread on the bobbin.
To pre-shrink this fabric hold steam iron half an inch above the fabric and dry clean garment when necessary.
Fabric on which sand or other abrasives have been used to give a worn or faded appearance with a soft hand.
Fabric made of long staple cotton or filament yarns to product a strong, lustrous surface.
While all satins have a sheen, satins of different fiber content differ in drapability, appearance and stitch performance. Rayon is the drapiest, silk is the next, and Polyester the least. Satin is most often used for bridal or dressy-occasion garments. It is also suitable for blouses, full dresses and coat linings.
Pre-wash in warm water and mild detergent without softener and line dry. Completed garment can be hand-washed or machine-washed and line-dried. If static is a problem, spray with anti-static spray.
Satin Backed Crepe
A reversible satin weave with one dull side and crepe-looking, the other shiny and smooth. Because of its wide colour range and affordability, crepe-backed satin is often used in bridesmaid dresses and eveningwear and is flattering when cut on the bias. Opposite sides used together create very interesting elements.
Satin Backed Dupion
A reversible dupion slub weave with one dull side and one shiny. Because of its wide colour range and affordability, satin-backed dupion is ideal for Bridalwear, Mother of the Bride, Christening Gowns, Promenades, Eveningwear and all special occasions.
This fabric has a grainy finish and can be used on either the matt crepe side or the shiny satin side, or a combination of the two for contrasting textures. Opposite sides used together create very interesting elements.
Allow three times longer to work on sequined fabric than any other fabric. Used widely for simple collarless jackets, tops, skirts, dresses, costume and theatrical display. It is best to stick to simple styling, avoiding gathers, pleats and pockets.
Pull sequins out of the seam allowances. Do not cut threads and save some loose sequins. Using a zipper foot staystitch along the seamline. Just outside of the seamline on the seam allowance, run a line of fray check or clear glue right next to the staystitch line. This stabilizes the thread that holds the sequins to the fabric. Sew seams along staystitching line. Using the zipper foot allows you to sew right next to your seamline with the zipper foot flat in the seam allowance. Replace damaged sequins or bald spots near seamline. However, if taking the sequins out of the seamline is just too much hassle for you, it is suggested that you fold back seam allowances on seam side of the seams with folds butting. Join by sewing seams by hand with the ladder stitch. Marry sequins on top side by letting sequins overlap one another, which forces the seam allowances to open. If you use this method use a stable lining sewn just a bit smaller than the sequin fabric to take the stress off the seams.
A permanently crinkled cotton stripe or check. Crinkle is produced in the weave and is not destroyed by heat. Great for tops, skirts, shirts, dresses and summer wear.
A manufactured fabric of at least 85% polyurethane with excellent recovery and flexibility.
Silk dupion, a crisp fabrc with irregular slubs in the yarn, is slightly rougher than Thai silk but not as rough as silk tussah. It is also thicker than Thai silk. It is widely used for narrow or tailored trousers, jackets, fitted dresses or straight skirts. This fabric is very easy to sew! To preshrink hold a steam iron half an inch above the fabric surface and dry clean the competed garment.
Natural animal protein fibre obtained from the cocoons produced by silkworms.
This fabric, sometimes referred to as raw silk, has a dull finish, ravels excessively, and is made from the short waste fibers of silk. Used for full trousers, full skirts, loose shirts, loose dresses and unstructured loose jackets. This fabric is easy to sew! Pre-shrink by holding a steam iron half an inch above the surface and dry clean finished garments.
Fancy yarn characterised by areas of thicker, loosely twisted yarn alternating with thinner harder twisted areas.
Staple fibre silk yarn produced from silk waste which has been largely degummed.
This fabric drapes extremely well and never wrinkles, making it great for travelling. There are different grades of slinky knit. The heavier the weight gives the best performance and shrinks the least. It is suitable for simple styling and few pattern pieces such as wrap skirts, A-line or gored skirts and full dresses. This fabric has a wonderful drape but needs to be at least 4inches bigger than the body or it looks skimpy and too figure revealing. To pre-shrink hand or machine-wash in warm water on gentle cycle. Machine-dry on cool or dry flat.
Some grades of sweatshirt fabric are thicker and more colour-fast than others. It is most widely used for sweatshirts and jogging suits. It is advisable to pre-shrink by machine-washing in warm water and dry at regular temperature two times before cutting out. Wash separately as this fabric is prone to produce a lot of lint.
Describes a substance which has been manufactured by building up a complex structure from simpler chemical substances.
Taffeta is a noisy fabric that rustles when you walk! It is used widely for full skirts and party dresses.
Sewing Tips: Experiment with tension on scrap fabric as puckers become permanent. Sew tautly, pulling with equal pressure front from to back. It is not necessary to preshrink taffeta fabric. For best results dry clean the completed garment. Machine washing and machine drying can create an interesting pebbly appearance that can hide puccared seams.
Tencel (also known as Lyocell)
Tencel is a fabric made from wood pulp (a renewable sustainable source) and produced with a recyclable non-toxic dissolving agent. Tencel is soft and drapey and often combined with other fibres in both knits and wovens. It is comfortable to wear, behaving very much like cotton without as much wrinkling. It does wrinkle however, and does not make a great travel garment.
Suitable for styles that need to be soft and drapey such as full trousers, full skirts, loose shirts and dresses. This fabric is very easy to sew! To pre-shrink machine-wash on a regular cycle in warm water. Machine-dry and remove fabric promptly from dryer to prevent wrinkles from setting. Completed garment can be washed or dry-cleaned.
A durable plain, twill or satin weave cotton fabric most often used as covering for mattresses and pillows and sometimes for upholstery.
Tulle & Net
Widely used for interfacing behind lace fabrics, bridal veils, underskirts with multiple layers, sleeve heads, underlining in satins and taffeta’s, and slightly transparent portions of a bodice. They are also used for craft projects such as wedding favours. It is easy to sew, not neccessary to pre-shrink and is best sewn with good-quality polyester (or cotton) thread.
Grades of velour vary. Many newer velours have Lycra content, making them drape better. Used widely for robes, loose tops, dresses, fancy dress, costume, theatrical work etc.
Sewing Tip: Do not stretch fabric as you sew. Push into presser foot. Reduce pressure on presser foot or keep finger pushing fabric behind presser foot to prevent stretching whether sewing on a conventional machine or serger.
Fabric may have progressive shrinkage which means it is advisable to machine-wash fabric in warm water and dry at regular temperature two times before cutting out.
The drapiest velvet is a rayon blend. Microfibre velvet does not seat out, can be machine-washed and dried, but does not drape as well and seams pucker slightly, preventing a good press. Stretch velvet has great stretch and recovery.
Velvet is most commonly used for full trousers, skirts, tops, dresses, capes and loose-semi-fitted jackets. Because stretch velvet can be machine-washed and dried without affecting the nap adversely, it is therefore an excellent choice for children's clothing as well as for casual styles for adults. Stretch velvet is great for skinny trousers, tops, gored skirts, full trousers and dresses.
Sewing Tips: Sew in the direction of the pile wherever possible, lifting presser foot every 4 inches to allow fabric to relax as you sew. You can avoid all the slipping and sliding associated with sewing velvet by simply underlining. The ability to have absolute control of the fabric and an anchor for hand stitches makes underlining well worth the time!
Rayon blend velvet can be machine-washed and dried, changing the nap slightly and giving it a more vintage look, but try a sample swatch first before committing to it. Microfibre and stretch velvet change little in the above process. Preshrink before cutting and if completed garment is to be dry-cleaned, hold a steam iron half an inch above the wrong side of the fabric surface before cutting. After garment is complete, you can also spray with Stain Guard to give added crush resistance.
Viscose is a term often used interchangeably with rayon. Viscose is created from a combination of natural and man-made components, and it can be made into the more common form of rayon used for many types of textile products, including clothing. Viscose has a silky appearance and feel, and has the ability to breathe in a manner similar to cotton. Though it breathes like cotton and has a good drape, it can wrinkle easily and shrink in hot water.
Vinyl shines like patent leather, does not breathe, and is fun to wear! Garments are much more comfortable and wrinkle less if they are lined. Suitable for upholstery projects, handbags, straight skirts, narrow trousers, jackets, coats and trimmings.
Sewing Tip: Spray machine surface with silicone spray to avoid sticking if sewing on the right side. If you still have problems resort to strips of tissue paper between the presser foot and the fabric and the fabric and the feed dogs. Pre-shrinking is not necessary.
Voile is a soft, sheer fabric, (usually) made of cotton or polyester or silk. The term comes from French, and means 'veil'. Because of its lightweight properties, the fabric is mostly used in soft furnishing and dressmaking. Because of their semi-transparent quality, voile curtains are made using specially manufactured heading tape that is less easily noticeable through the fabric. In dress-making, voile is often in multiple layers or laid over a second material. Voile is very similar to chiffon, which is also used in dress-making.
Lofty sheet of fibres used for padding, stuffing or packing. Usually comprise conjugated hollow fibers similar to Puffer Toy Fillings.
Woolens & Worsteds
Woolens are softer, fuzzier, have more nap, more stretch and appear spongier than worsteds. Worsteds are harder, smoother, stronger and more lustrous. The fabric weight determines suitable garment. Heavier woolens and worsteds make great coats and jackets. Lighter weight woolens and worsteds can be used for jackets, dress, trousers and skirts. Dresses, pants or skirts are best lined to avoid seating.
Flannel is a soft woven fabric, of various fineness. Flannel was originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn, but is now often made from either wool, cotton, or synthetic fibre. Flannel may be brushed to create extra softness or remain unbrushed. The brushing process is a mechanical process where a fine metal brush rubs the fabric to create fine fibers from the loosely spun yarns. Flannel is commonly used to make tartan clothing, blankets, bed sheets, babywear and sleepwear.