How to Buy Fabric & What Fabric to Buy for Which Dress

Things You Need To Know Before Buying Fabric -

​We buy fabric for different purposes - for sewing our dresses, home decor, gifting etc.. Earlier we used to buy while visiting the stores and feeling the texture (appearance and look) of the fabric ourselves. But now, fabric shopping has been a notch higher. We shop for fabric online too by just looking at the pictures and reviews of the fabric offered by the online vendors. 

So, what is it that makes us a savvy shopper for fabric materials?

Let's check out these fabric buying tips for shopping online as well as offline.

  1. KNOW THE PURPOSE YOU NEED FABRIC FOR - We need to know what is the purpose we are going to make use of the fabric. There is a good variety of fabrics for different purposes. 
    • Basically, we have natural fabrics like cotton, synthetic fabric like nylon or blended fabrics which are a mix of natural and synthetic fabrics.
    • As a layman, we can devise the purpose of fabric just by looking at it's fall and it's feel. If you are going to make a flowing dress, it may be perfect to have soft and shiny fabric like satin, crepe' or Georgette but to have a frock with volume you may consider Organza.
    • You may easily differentiate between fabrics by just feeling them with your fingers. Rule of thumb is, softer the fabric, more comfortable it is for the skin but to make it wearable there can be more factors like adding lining (inner layer) to cover transparency of the fabric.
    • If you are using some ready made sewing pattern then the type of fabric needed for the purpose would be mentioned on the back of the packing.
    • If you are buying the fabric for the first time, then look at the existing piece of dress / clothing and feel to understand the fabric texture. If possible, you can carry a sample of your clothing to the fabric store.
    • If you are buying online then ask the seller for sample of the fabric. If it's not possible read the reviews and check out the return policy of the seller, if the fabric did not meet your requirement.

Knit Vs. Woven - Which one to choose?

  • Knit fabric - This fabric has inbuilt quality of being flexible and stretchable like the fabric we use for socks, jersey etc.​ Has lesser wrinkles compared to woven fabrics. Shrinks a lot so washing before sewing is must.
knit fabric
  • Woven fabric - This fabric stretches diagonally and woven like a basket if you closely observe the threads but it stretches less than knits. Cotton, twill, satin, linen, denim, chiffon, corduroy, tweed and canvas are some of the types of woven fabric material.
Woven fabric

    How to Choose Fabric for Suit

    Fabrics to Consider:

    1. Wool: Most preferred fabric for a good suit due to smart wrinkle free aesthetic finish.
    2. Cashmere: Good for casual party wear but not good enough for formal wear due to it's shiny texture. 
    3. Linen: Ideal for summer. Creases and stains easily. High maintenance needed.
    4. Cotton: A comfortable fabric but creases easily and does not give a luxurious look. Good for everyday wear.
    5. Silk: Though expensive, it's good choice for suit if you are looking for comfort and luxury. Good for formal and informal occasions. 
    6. Velvet: A party wear, royal or luxurious looking fabric, to stand out in a crowd.
    7. Polyester: It is synthetic fabric and due to it's cheap shiny look, it gives a low quality finish.
    8. Worsted:Worsted is a compact textile which is made by a certain way wool is spun. It is woven a mixture of ways to produce tweed, flannel, gabardine and fresco cloths. Highly durable and good fabric choice.

    How to Choose Fabric For Dress

    COTTONCotton poplinLimited drapeNatural fibre, light to medium weight, skirts, shirts, dressesEasy
    Cotton lawnVery good drapeLightweight, skirts, blouses, dresses, shirtsEasy
    PolycottonLimited drapePolyester and cotton blend, medium weightEasy
    Cotton sateenDrape varies dependant on weight.Satin finish, sometimes has a small amount of stretch, skirts, trousers, dressesEasy
    CHIFFONSilk chiffon, nylon chiffon and polyester chiffonExcellent drape.Lightweight, sheer, lingerie, sleepwear, overlay on evening dresses or blouses, scarvesAdvanced
    LINENLinenGood drape.Natural fibre, cool and absorbent. Trousers, skirts, blouses, jacketsEasy
    POLYESTERPoly-viscose, 100% polyesterGood/very good drapeSkirts, dresses, trousersIntermediate - can be slippery
    Crepe de chineExcellent drapeSilk like appearance (silk based also available), very lightweight, blouses, lingerie, scarvesIntermediate - can be slippery
    CrepeExcellent drapeVarious weights available, satin backed options available. Tops, skirts, dressesIntermediate - satin backed option can be slippery
    VISCOSEPoly-viscose, ramie-viscoseExcellent drapeNatural fibres, often blended with other fibres, dresses, tops, skirtsIntermediate - can be slippery
    KNITSCotton jersey & wool jerseyExcellent drapeMatt finish stretch fabric, tops, skirts, dressesIntermediate - correct tools & handling necessary
    Polyester jersey & viscose jerseyExcellent drapeSheen finish stretch fabric, tops, skirts, dressesIntermediate - correct tools & handling necessary
    ScubaFirm knit, no drapeSuitable for skirts, dresses, jacketsIntermediate - correct tools & handling necessary
    DENIMStretch denim available in a range of weightsFirm weave, limited or no drapeStretch fabric, lighter weights suitable for dresses, shirts, skirts, heavier weights for trousers, jackets, coatsIntermediate
    Non stretch available in a range of weightsFirm weave, limited or no drapeLighter weights suitable for dresses, shirts, skirts, heavier weights for trousers, jackets, coatsEasy
    LACEAvailable in stretch and non stretchExcellent drapeDecorative fabric used for dresses, tops, skirts and lingerieAdvanced
    SATINPolyester or silk basedDrape varies depending on weightLuxurious fabric used for evening wear, blouses, dressesAdvanced - very slippery!
    TAFFETASilk, rayon or polyester availableFirm weave, limited drapeLuxurious fabric used for evening wearIntermediate
    VELVETSilk, rayon, cotton, viscose, polyester blends availableExcellent drapeShort dense pile - smooth brushed in one direction, coarse in the other. Luxurious fabric, dresses, tops, jackets, trousers, skirtsAdvanced
    WOOLBoiled wool, worsted wool, wool crepe, wool jerseyDrape varies depending on weightTrousers, dresses, skirts, coats, jackets depending on weightSpecialist preparation & pressing required

    Source :

    What more to consider while buying fabric?

    There are certain more things which you can keep in mind -

    • ​If you are a heavier size choose a lighter fabric and vice versa. It will complement your style.
    • For everyday clothing, buy a fabric which is durable, machine wash, non color bleeding and easy to handle.
    • For party wear, you can choose any fabric which can be dry cleaned.
    • Read the tags or instructions given on the packet of the fabric and follow.
    • If in doubt, ask the seller. You may also ask your fellow buddies on Stitching Mall facebook page.
    • Most importantly, Touch,Feel,Breathe to really know if the fabric is right for you!

    Do you have anything more to add, to help others understand their choice of fabrics more?

    If yes, share your knowledge, it could be a good help to others.

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