The fabric you choose for your project plays a major role in how the end product turns out. Use the same techniques on two completely different types of fabric and you’ll be simply amazed at how different they can end up looking. Imagine this – you use the same pattern for a pair of trousers and cut one out on denim fabric and another on a soft cotton fabric using the same measurements and the exact same methodology. What you’ll end up with is a sober, straight pair of jeans on one hand and a sassy, flowing pair of summer pajama pants on the other.
For some projects, it really is fun to experiment and shoot for different effects. However, if you have a definite picture in mind about what you are looking for, it is important that you choose the right fabric so you can achieve that look. If you are not very familiar with different types of fabric and how they will behave, this can be a tad tricky.
Here are a few things to think about and which will help you select the right fabric for your project.
Weight of the Fabric
To me, the weight of the fabric is the very first deciding factor. Some types of fabric are just too heavy for certain projects and some are just too light for others. And as I said before, even if you can use different fabrics for the same project, the end results will be drastically different.
Fabric comes in several different weights and this plays a huge role in determining how your project turns out. Curtains made from a heavy fabric such as satin will drape and fall differently from curtains made of light, breezy chintz or lace curtains. When thinking about a project, it helps to try and first determine the look that you are trying to achieve.
No matter how well a fabric may be suited for a project, it could be entirely inappropriate for the season. Sure, a mohair wool jacket drapes beautifully and feels just great against the skin but you could just never wear it in summer. The fabric you choose for a summer jacket is entirely different from what you would use for a winter jacket.
When sewing clothes for summer, stay away from synthetics and wooly fabrics. Instead, keep everything lightweight. Cottons, chiffons and georgettes in cheerful colors or dainty florals can be worked into the coolest looking clothes for those hot summer days. Keep the heavy wools and gabardines for winter.
Looks vs Convenience
Here’s where things get a bit tricky and all rules get blown out the water. Let’s say you are sewing a top. Now you can use several types of fabric, from polyester and silk to cotton or linen and each of them will look completely different from the other.
In addition to how it will look, you also have to consider the convenience factor and decide what is more important to you. My sister ribs me constantly about the hours I spend ironing my linen outfits. Her wardrobe is stuffed full of wash-and-wear, wrinkle free outfits. But really here’s where it comes down to making choices. I love the look and feel of linen and don’t mind the time spent on ironing rather than compromise. Then again, I know it’s just not feasible for everybody. If you are aiming to sew clothes that are just wear and go, you need to look for fabrics that are wrinkle free and washable. Think nylon, polyester or lycra. Don’t go anywhere near linen or pure cotton.
Cost of the Fabric
With keeping all of the above factors in mind, all fabric does come at a price and that price can surprise you. You need to decide how much the project is worth before buying the fabric. While you may not mind buying an expensive fabric for a formal gown, there is no justifiable reason for going all out and buying designer fabric for a sun dress you will wear a couple of times on the beach.
We could talk about fabric and fabric choices all day. And sometimes this may sound daunting and sometimes it may not. You may make the wrong choices sometimes and absolutely nail it at other times. Just remember, as with everything else in sewing, getting it right takes experience and experimentation. After all, some of the biggest hits on the fashion runway have actually been the result of breaking all rules!