The best way to learn about fabric is really through trial and error. We have written several posts on fabric types in an effort to help your learning process, and of course there is an entire chapter in my book all about fabric. There is an awful lot to know about textiles.
But just reading about it isn’t enough. It’s important to get out there and touch the fabric, sew with it, and iron it. Actually combining real experience with the things you read an help establish a firm base of fabric knowledge.
One thing I’ve found helpful is to identify a few common problems related to fabric choice. Then, when I’m at the fabric store actually looking at a fabric, I try to imagine if any of these problems could arise. It’s sort of a loose mental checklist.
- Paper effect: When a fabric is too thin and crisp for a garment style, it can look like you’ve made it out of paper. Think about what a garment made of paper would look like. It shows every wrinkle and lump, and just ends up looking cheap. If you think it’s a possibility with your garment, you probably want to go with a fabric that’s either a bit more drapey, or heavier.
- Sagging effect: When a fabric is too drapey for a garment’s style, it can tend to sag rather than flow. Flowy garments need flowy fabrics, but tailored garments need more crispness.
- Bubbly seams: If a fabric is all or mostly polyester, the seams might not press as nicely. You get that odd look to your seams where they bubble up rather than blending into the garment.
- Bulky seams: This is another problem that sometimes shows up with seams. If a fabric is too thick, you can get added bulk around the seams from all the seam allowances.
- Poor print matching: This is mostly a challenge with stripes and plaids. If a garment has too many seamlines, it can be impossible to match up prints, and you can get a really dizzying effect.
- Prints cut off: Again, if a fabric has a lot of visible seamlines, consider print carefully. A large scale print can get cut off, making it much less attractive than you imagined.
- Busy print: If a print is too busy, it can hide the design lines of the garment. This is something you may or may not want.
- Too sheer: If a fabric is sheer or semi-sheer, consider whether you’ll need a lining or underlining.
- Shrinkage: Will the fabric shrink a lot? Will it continue to shrink (like wool)? Will you need special cleaning for it?
I’m sure I’m missing some here. Do you guys have any common problems with fabric choice that you’d like to add to the list?