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How to Choose Fabric for Sewing Clothes

Only buy fabric after asking these questions! These questions will teach you how to choose fabric for sewing clothing and how do to it right!

The tricky thing about choosing fabric for clothing is that it comes in all weights, all colors, soft and stiff hands, all prints, all fibers, all weaves, and all stretches or stretch wovens. How to you choose with so many choices?

Do you choose ther fabric first or the pattern first? Does the pattern speak to you or does the fabric speak to you? I often choose fabric first, but I also choose the pattern first to fill specific holes in my wardrobe. How do you choose fabraic for sewing clothing?

How to Choose Fabric for Sewing Clothing

I have a fabric stash with lots of colors, prints, and types of fabric just sitting on the shelf waiting to be used. And I still buy more fabric. (I have a weakness for collecting coat weight fabrics even though I don’t make very many coats.)

Why? It’s all about correctly knowing how to choose fabric for sewing clothes and matching the right fabric to the right pattern. Read all about the types of fabric for clothing for a great starting place.

How to Choose Fabric for Sewing Clothes

Choose your project by either choosing the fabric first or the pattern first. Visualize or draw your project.

  • What details do you want to be included?
  • Are you filling a hole in your wardrobe?
  • Do you want the print to be the highlight of the handmade item? 

Research the style and item you want to make. Do a google search for the item you want to make and look at the details, colors, prints, and especially the fabric content.

You don’t need to copy something from the internet, but it will give you great ideas and guidance.

How to Choose Knit Fabric for Sewing Clothing

Follow pattern guidelines

  • Will a large print work well for this pattern?
  • Will a small print work well for this pattern?
  • Would a solid fabric work the best?
  • What color will look best?
  • Will texture make a difference to the pattern? 
  • Will it coordinate with items in your wardrobe?
  • How many details does the pattern have? 
  • How many seams are there are where are they located? 
  • What is the grain and direction of each pattern piece and how will the fabric affect that? 
How to Choose Lining Fabric for Sewing Clothing

Follow the fabric “guidelines”

Decorators Fabric vs Fashion Fabric vs Quilting Fabric: each of these fabrics were created for a reason and actually can be used for clothing if you are intentional about the projects. Decorator’s fabric is great for heavier weight items, and quilting fabric is great for fitted items. Here’s how to use quilting cotton for clothing.

Decorators fabrics comes in heavy weight and medium weight. Quilting fabric comes in medium weight and sometimes lightweight. Fashion fabric comes in heavy weight, medium weight, and lightweight.

Choose Fabric for Sewing Clothing

Questions to Ask About your fabric

  • What is the fabric made out of?
  • What’s the width of the fabric? Do you need extra yardage to match?
  • What’s the stretch of the fabric?
  • Does it feel good against your skin?
  • Is the fabric strong enough for the stress of wearing the pattern?
  • Does the pattern need drape or body to look right?
  • Is this fabric hard to work with?
  • Do you have to match the stripes, the print, or the nap?
  • Does the care of the garment match the care of the pattern? Will those pants need to be washed a lot? Can the fabric be washed a lot? 
    How to Choose Fabric for Sewing Clothing // heatherhandmade.com

Sewing Skill Level

  • What is your sewing skill level or sewing confidence?
  • Will you be able to sew this fabric?
  • Do you know how to finish the edges of this fabric? 

Know your sewing skill level and how confident you are. If you are a beginner I would recommend fabric for beginners. If you are confident and brave, then you can try fabric that is a little harder to work with.

How to Choose Swim Fabric for Sewing Swimsuit

Finding the Right Fabric

  • Where can you find the fabric?
  • Do you want to touch your fabric before using it?
  • Can you find it in a brick and mortar fabric store or can you only find it online?
  • Can you order a sample online? 
How to Choose Sweater Fabric for Sewing Clothing

Fabric Price

  • What fabric can you afford?
  • Can you wait to save up and buy the fabric?
  • Is there a off-brand fabric you can buy?
  • Is a cheaper version still good enough quality to do the job?
  • Are you making an everyday item the can use ordinary fabric or are you making a once-in-a-lifetime item that would be worth it with an expensive one-of-a-kind fabric? 

buy the fabric 

fabric for sewing clothing

Fabric I Love and How I Use it

  • Loose Fitting Pants: Linen, tencel, rayon challis, non-stretch denim, cotton linen blends, and wool
  • Fitted Pants: stretch denim, and twill
  • Loose Fitting Shirts: Cotton voile, rayon challis, double gauze, silk, chambray, cotton lawn, linen, Tencel, cotton linen blends, and flannel (less drapey shirts)
  • Fitted Tees: cotton spandex jersey(essentially only knit fabric that has good recovery) – how to sew knit fabric
  • Slouchy Tees: bamboo rayon spandex, dana knit jersey, and tri-blend jersey
  • Sweatshirts and Sweaters: sweater knit, french terry, and sweatshirt knit- how to sew French terry, how to sew sweater knit
  • Non-Pencil Skirts: cotton law, rayon challis, Tencel, cotton linen blends, and linen
  • Pencil Skirts: Silk, denim, heavier weight knits, quilting cotton, and twill
  • Dresses: Cotton voile, cotton lawn, rayon challis, double gauze, silk, satin, Tencel, linen, and wool (for colder weather)
  • Lining fabric: slippery lightweight polyester, flannel back satin, and flannel (only in the body) – how to sew lightweight fabric

If you make something using this tutorial, I’d love to see! Please share it on social media with the hashtag #heatherhandmade and tag me!

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Very useful and informative post. Thanks for sharing.

I want to make this top for a special occasion. The pattern i want to use calls for a stretchy material. If I cut a size up will that give me enough room

It was interesting when you mentioned that some fabrics are harder to sew with than others, so we should consider our confidence in our skill level before choosing which type to buy. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands since my daughter moved out last month, and I think taking up sewing would be a fulfilling hobby. Your advice will be helpful to keep in mind as I start looking at swatch memos to find a good fabric to work with!

My mom got me a sewing machine for my birthday, and I want to start sewing clothes for myself, but I’m not sure what kind of fabric I should choose for this. Your article had some great tips regarding this, and I liked how you said to consider if the pattern on the fabric needs drape or body to look right. Thanks; I’ll keep this in mind when choosing the fabric best for my sewing needs.

I like that you suggested drawing your project first to have an idea about the details that must be included in it, as well as the right type of fabric. This is something that I will share with my mom because she’s planning to shop for quilts. She wants to sew dresses for my unborn child, and she wants to make sure that the dresses are going to be comfortable.