By Tamara Waters
For the beginner, an important part of learning to sew is becoming familiar with the wide variety of sewing
Fabrics fall into two categories:
natural and man made/synthetic.
and linen. Most
require special care when laundering such as handwashing or dry cleaning.
and cotton blends (cotton blended with synthetic fibers) are perhaps the most versatile and easy to care for, not to mention the lowest in price.
is always a wise and safe choice.
There is also a large variety of manmade fabrics available, including acetate, acrylic, polyester, nylon and rayon. Synthetic fabrics also include sheer fabrics, bonded fabrics (such as velvet) and vinyls.
Synthetics and blended
(blends of natural and synthetic fibers) tend to fray easily. To combat this, you should cut these fabrics with pinking shears and leave a generous seam allowance.
Most man made
are shrink-resistant and generally wrinkle-free. Such fabrics are usually machine washable and can be ironed if needed. Always iron on low as synthetics tend to scorch easily.
Fabrics come in standard widths of 45, 54 or 60 inches. Muslin fabrics come in 36-inch widths;
generally come in 72-inch widths. Other fabrics will fall into variations of this width-range.
When preparing for a sewing project, you should remember that while the pattern is very important, the presentation of the project is based upon the fabric chosen. A dark, heavy fabric can convey a somber and subdued mood, while lighter, brighter fabrics have a cheerier air.
Fabrics are dyed a certain color, left a natural hue or they may be printed with a colored pattern.
Generally, heavy fabrics such as
, corduroy, velvet or velvetine are better suited to clothing and patterns designed for fall and winter use. Lighter fabrics (in both color and weight) such as
, linen and percale are better choices for spring and summer.
When choosing a fabric for a pattern, the back of the pattern envelope will usually give suggestions for the best fabric.
choose the correct fabric
, several factors must be taken into account. Will you be making a simple dress, an evening gown or a purse? Also, what about the care of the fabric? Will it need to be ironed? Is it preshrunk and colorfast? Will the fabric require dry cleaning, handwashing or machine washing? Finally, consider the color. Is the blouse short-sleeved or long-sleeved, and is this color and pattern better suited to one or the other? Again, the pattern you are working from will give suggestions for the best choices of fabrics.
Remember that the pattern and the fabric should complement each other. For example, you would not choose a bright plaid fabric, a heavy wool or corduroy, or a busy floral print fabric for a dress pattern that features a number of flounces and embellishments. Those fabrics would be better suited for a simple-cut dress, while the flounced dress would work well with a soft cotton, linen or rayon in a single color.
The best way to familiarize yourself with various fabrics is to visit
a fabric store
in your area. Peruse -- and handle -- the many colors and textures of fabrics that are available. This will also help you begin to develop your own personal taste in fabrics.
In addition, take the time to look over various patterns. Read the backs of the envelopes to get an idea for the types of fabric recommended for different styles of clothing.
Look through your favorite clothing store to get an idea for fabrics that you like for specific styles of clothing.
Now, here are a few basic fabric terms you should know:
A diagonal line of fabric. True bias is found when lengthwise grain is folded to meet up with the crosswise grain.
A line or mark made when fabric is folded, then pressed.
A second layer of fabric used to finish necklines, front and back openings, sleeves, etc. Special fabric used for facing is called
The lengthwise and crosswise run of the fabric. It is always important to know the lengthwise grain of a fabric it runs parallel to the selvage edges because you must match the pattern grain to the fabric grain before cutting.
To separate or pull woven threads away from the cut edges of fabric.
The outside edge of a fabric, which is usually woven and won't fray. On some printed fabrics, the selvage may be a white strip with lettering printed on it. The selvage is woven more tightly and is usually trimmed off.
The number of threads or yarns per inch in the warp (lengthwise threads) and weft (crosswise threads) of a woven fabric.
For more information on sewing, visit the hobbies section of Life123.com.