Brief guide to fabric:
Fabrics are either woven or knitted, and can be made from animal fibres (wool and silk), plant fibres (cotton and linen) or man-made fibres (nylon). Knitted fabrics are more stretchy than woven ones.
I won't go into every fabric, but a quick break down is:
Cotton: the most versatile fabric, woven cotton comes in many different weights from light-weight handkerchiefs to heavy canvas. It’s often used for shirts, skirts, trousers, jeans and bags. Fabrics like denim, moleskin and corduroy are generally made from cotton. Range of prices – often fairly cheap.
Cotton jersey: knitted by machine from fine cotton thread, this fabric is what t-shirts are made of. It’s stretchy and comfortable to wear, but not as easy to sew as woven fabric.
Linen: woven linen is easy to sew and comes in a variety of weights. It tends to crease a lot and is often blended with cotton. It’s main use is in making summer clothes. Can be quite expensive.
Silk: shiny, slippery woven fabric often used for luxury underwear, blouses and dresses. Expensive and difficult to sew.
Wool: Can be knitted or woven. Woollen fabrics are often made into suits, coats and posh skirts and trousers. Often fairly expensive and tend to be dry clean.
Polyester and polycotton: synthetic woven fabric, generally light-weight and crease resistant. Polycotton is a blend of polyester and cotton. Often pretty cheap.
Good fabrics for beginners
To start with, it’s a good idea to buy fabric that is easy to sew and not too expensive.
A woven fabric that will not slip or stretch to much when you sew it. This means choosing cotton, linen or a cotton-linen blend. Avoid silk, rayon, shiny polyester and cotton jersey and other knitted fabrics.
Either plain colours or small prints. Avoid stripes, checks and big patterns for the moment as they are more difficult to lay out.
Light- to medium-weight fabrics. Avoid really heavy-weight fabrics like denim at first as they are harder to manipulate. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of bumpy or ridged fabrics like corduroy for your first attempt at sewing.
How to buy fabric
It is easiest to buy/have your sewing pattern first, then shop for fabric. Once you've got your pattern, you know what kinds of fabric you’re looking for and how much fabric to buy. You can also buy any thread, zips, buttons or other notions to match at the same time.
When you are looking at fabric in a shop:
Check that the fabric is one of the ones recommended on the back of your pattern envelope.
Unroll the fabric bolt a little and have a look at how the fabric hangs (called its drape). Do you like the feel of it? Is it soft or stiff? Does this fit with what you are planning to make? Is the fabric scratchy?
Have a look at the label, there should be some information about the fibre content and care instructions. Can you machine wash it or is it dry clean only? If it sounds like it’s too high maintenance, move on.
Visualise your planned project made up in the fabric. Does it look right? Do you like it? Is the fabric in a colour that suits you?
Check the width of the fabric. Fabrics are made in different widths: mainly 150cm and 115cm. Look at your pattern to find out what length of fabric you will need to buy.
The other fabric to look at is furnishing fabric, yes is is a lot heavier, but is great for some clothing and perfect for crafting. The two below are for my next two projects. Owls are for bunting for a customer, roses are for me. I am finally decorating my sewing space.