The Fabric of Our Lives.
by Shelly of Figgy's Studio.
There are so many new designers popping up everywhere that are creating gorgeous prints and the fabric quality and offerings of organic and natural materials get better every season.
For some of us selecting the correct fabric for different projects can be the most exciting moment. For others the same moment can be intimidating and frustrating. I have experienced both; but thanks to my mother, seamster friends, and wonderful books I have conquered my fabric fears. I hope that this fabric guide can help you conquer yours.
These fabrics are made from animal or plant fibers they are considered the easiest fabrics to sew. If your just beginning your sewing journey I recommend using a natural fabric. Cotton, wool, silk and linen are the most common natural fabrics.
These fabrics are made from chemically produced fibers. They are created to resemble the look and feel of natural fabrics. Nylon, Acrylic, acetate, and polyester are the most common synthetic fabrics.
When laundered or pressed they may shrink a little. It’s always best to launder and press your fabric prior to creating your project.
Grainlines are the directions in which the fabric yarns run. The LENGTHWISE grain is the strong lengthwise yarns running parallel to the selvages.
The CROSSWISE GRAIN is perpendicular to the lengthwise grain and this will have little stretch.
The BIAS is any diagonal direction and this has a good amount of stretch.
Knit fabrics are rows of interlocking loops of yarn. An example is a hand-knit sweater but on a finer scale. Knits have a lot more stretch and are more flexible. Te lengthwise rows of stitches are called RIBS and the crosswise rows are COURSES.
Let’s talk specifics.
Batik Fabric– the base of this fabric is normally 100% cotton or 100% rayon. Terrific for loose tops and dresses, fuller skirts, pajama pants, quilts and they are also terrific traveling fabrics. They breathe well and the pattern helps to camouflage the wrinkles.
Machine Wash on Warm and use an 80/12 needle size.
Canvas- this is a firmly woven cotton. By preshrinking the fabric will soften. Some canvas fabrics will actually become softer and softer with each wash. Wonderful fabric for seat covers, window covers, upholstery & tote bags. You can use a Scotchguard spray to protect your gorgeous fabric too!
Machine wash Warm and use a 100/16 needle size.
Corduroy– a cut pile fabric with ribs usually made with cotton. The fibers of the fabric are normally twisted as they are woven. When finished the fibers create the long parallel corduroy pattern. Great for apparel, handbags & upholstery.
Machine wash warm and dry on delicate cycle. If you want your corduroy to look new longer I suggest dry cleaning. Use a needle size 80/12.
Denim– The workhorse of the fabrics. This is a twill weave of 100% cotton fabrics. Some denim has stretch and this is a cotton lycra blend. As most of you know this is terrific for apparel, handbags, pillows and shirts (lightweight denim).
Machine wash separately because the color may bleed. I would wash this twice to eliminate all shrinkage. Use a 90/14 for lightweight or 100/16 for heavy weight. Stitching two parallel rows looks great for top-stitching.
Dupion Silk– this fabric is a natural fabric with uneven thickness of the warp. It is normally a little rougher or thicker than other silks. A wonderful fabric for tailored pants, jackets, fitted dresses and pencil skirts.
Machine was on gentle in Warm water and dry on permanent press. Use a 70/10 needle size.
This fabric shrinks a lot! Machine wash inside out in Hot water and machine dry. For a longer lasting flannel I suggest hang dry and press. Use a 80/12 needle size and a 2.5 stitch length.
Not necessary to preshrink. Machine wash inside out in Cool water on gentle cycle or you’ll find your fleece to grow old quickly.
Jersey Knit – This has a fair amount of stretch and curls to the side when stretched on the crossgrain. Wonderful for tops, skirts, pull on pants, wraps and lingerie. Do not stay-stitch neck line with this fabric because it will stretch.
Hand wash and dry flat for a long wear. Use a 75/11 ballpoint needle. To prevent the fabric from stretching us a small zigzag or stretch stitch at a 2.5 stitch length. If you notice your seam is wavy, lengthen the stitch if it puckers shorten the stitch.
It’s very important to check the weight of the linen. Some people purchase a heavy weight linen for a blouse instead of a tissue weight. If you accidently purchases a heavier weight needed for your project you can try cutting it on the bias for a better drape.
Machine wash in warm. Don’t over pack the washer because linen absorbs twice it’s weight in water. Use a HOT iron. Use a needle size 70/10.
Purchase an extra ¼ yard for every two yards to allow for shrinkage. Machine wash in Warm water and dry at regular temperature two times before cutting. Needle size 75/11. Use a tiny zigzag stitch at 2.5 stitch length.
Woolens & Worsteds– Woolens are softer and have more stretch and spongier than worsteds. Worsteds are smooth, strong, and more lustrous. They drape much better and hold a wonderful crease. Wonderful for suits, coats and dresses to name a few. I highly recommend lining your dresses, pants and skirts or the seat will stretch out.
DRY CLEAN only. Use a needle size 80/12.
I hope these descriptions help you along your journey. These are just a few in the land of fabric but I think it’s a good start. Don’t forget you can grab a ton of these gorgeous fabrics at sale cost this weekend! I know I’ll be there!