How to Choose the Right Fabric for Your Fabric Project
6 easy steps that explain why it choosing the right fabric for your clothes, your design and product is so important
Why is it so important to select the right fabric type? To find the ideal fabric type may sound simple. Making the wrong fabric choice can cost you time and money.
Starting a fabric design project isn't easy. It doesn't matter what the sewing project is and what it’s for: an interior space, a garment or just for fun. Often, the variety of patterns, colours and fabric can be daunting. You want to start sewing your project, but you're not sure how to begin.
It can be a tough decision to make. And let's not forget the technical details.
For instance, a simple change in the weight of the fabric could change the entire project result.
Perhaps it would make your leggings too see-through or your skirt drape the wrong way. Whatever the reason, the fabric you chose for your sewing project is difficult to work with.
Ask yourself these 6 questions before choosing fabric and design for sewing all projects and making crafts:
1. What is my fabric going to be used for?
Think about your new sewing project before you go fabric shopping to find the ideal material.
For interiors, think about what fabric type you want. Would your fabric need to have a great light fastness (curtains do) or a strong rub fastness (that’s important for upholstery, as are durable fabrics)?
Is the fabric being used in a commercial environment where it needs to be flame retardant? Do you prefer an organic fabric product like cotton or silk? Or would you love a polyester blend instead?
Think about the stability of the fabric if it has to hold embroidery. Does the fabric need to be water repellent for making items for outdoor use? Consider the price if you’re only planning to use the fabric just for one event. You may love the fabric, but its use is limited.
For a fashion garment, do you want the fabric to have lustre or be matte? Should it be stiff or have a comfortable feel?
If you're using fabric for a fashion item, whether you’re making dresses in a factory or as a dressmaker, you’ll be asking a completely different list of questions to the ones above.
Is the fabric item you’re making for July, in which case it needs to be lightweight? Or is it for December, when it’s cold and you’ll need a heavier fabric? Do you want the fabric to have lustre or should it be matte?
Does the fabric need to be stiff or have a certain drape effect for particular styles? What is the best fabric for a dress (we’re talking about making all sorts of skirts, shirts and a dress including evening dresses)? Should it be sheer fabric or solid?
If you’re making something for a children’s garment brand, the fabric may need to have specific certifications.
Are you a sustainable company looking for eco, organic or recycled cotton or other fabric products? Perhaps you’re designing swimwear or another garment that needs extra stretch?
2. What's the look and feel of the fabric I want?
Selecting the correct fabric base to match the look and feel of your sewing project is an important step. maake offers a superb selection of different textiles for making various products. To choose the one you want is an art in itself.
Let’s say you love using stretch fabric for your sewing project. Polyester fabric may be a good choice, as it’s often blended with other fibres to give more stretch.
For one thing, synthetic fibres are usually more affordable than natural fibres. Maybe you want something with a silk effect? It all depends on what you’re looking for.
Fibre content: different woven fabrics
Consider the fibre content of your fabric before you sew. Remember, different fabric weaves will give different surface effects.
Read our informative blog on woven materials and take a look at the examples below and before you start:
1:1 or Plain woven fabrics - These offer a flat (level) finish:
Faux Silky and Gloss satin fabrics have more of a shine
Top Sateen and Satin fabrics offer a more matte, yet smooth, woven effect.
The composition of each woven fabric can also make a difference to the final effect. For instance, a polyester Panama fabric will have more lustre and a brighter finish than a cotton Panama fabric of the same weight.
The fabric's composition can also make a difference to the final effect. For instance, a polyester Panama will have more lustre and a brighter finish than a cotton Panama fabric of the same weight.
3. Why choosing sustainable fabric is a good idea
The world is moving towards a more sustainable future. And customers care more about their products, the supply chain, transparency, and origins.
Many brands are focusing on becoming sustainable. When you choose fabric for sewing projects, this should be part of this journey.
Organic fabric certification is another important consideration. You need to be savvy about the country you’re sourcing from or selling to.
Fabric regulations differ in each country. Those in the United States are completely different to those in the UK.
maake is based in the UK. When we digitally print on our fabrics, we take great care about industry standards and designers’ needs.
Sustainable printing options
Our methods for eco-friendly pigment cotton and linen use no water in the printing process. Also, they use less than a thimble-full of ink waste per 100m printed.
It’s a sustainable and eco-friendly solution to reactive printing which uses a lot of water.
Let's compare this method to traditional cotton and linen printing methods like screen printing. This uses up to 1000 litres of water per 5 metres of printing.
Our polyester printing process uses no water at all. And the inks we use meet Oeke-tex requirements. Also they pass EN71-3 certification.
You can rest assured that all the fabrics you order from maake have been checked for chemical safety and supplier responsibility. This is something we take very seriously.
Different types of sustainable fabrics
Cotton fabrics with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) are organically produced on organic farms. This has a bad impact on the environment and affects farmers’ livelihoods.
It can be tricky to use only organic or recycled fabric bases to make products. It's better not to restrict yourself to just those options for a project. (Yes, there are options other than cotton, which is everyone’s go-to fabric!)
In the final analysis, sustainable choices may be more readily available, but it’s still difficult to find eco-friendly fabrics for all your project needs.
And let's face it: sustainable fabrics are more expensive. You have to take that into consideration, too.
However, sustainability is important, and is one of maake’s main focuses for every project. Here’s advice on how to help maake a difference with our fabric.
4. Sewing, cutting, accessories and choosing the right machinery for your printed fabric
One big factor when you pick a good fabric type to sew is your company’s sewing ability.
What are the fabrics appropriate for beginners? Some fabrics, like maake's Calico and Stretch Jersey, are very easy for sewing and pinning, so they're great choices.
This makes them very versatile as sewing these fabrics on most sewing machines is easy and doesn’t need skilled sewers.
Obviously, there are fabrics that require more sewing skills, like lightweight Silk-effect fabrics, especially if you’re going to be sewing with those with a Satin face that can snag or leave pinholes.
These fabrics need more sophisticated sewing machines and experienced sewers. Given these points, it's not just sewing skills that are important. Cutting these fabrics can also be tricky, as you will need very sharp shears or a rotary blade.
It's all about sewing machines
It's important to consider the sewing machine you will be using. For example, it could include any of the following:
- 1. Standard home lockstitch (straight stitch) sewing machine.
- 2. Industrial lock or chain-stitch machine.
- 3. Sewing overlocker/serger.
- 4. Notably, a sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch to handle fabrics like stretch jersey bases.
Now, before you spend money on a new sewing machine, do lots of research. And take the fabric you’ll be using into consideration.
Another key point: it's a good idea to ask your supplier for advice and recommendations. That way you get the best sewing machines to match your skill set and your fabric choices.
5. Is this the right material for my project?
This is where a designer’s true skill shines through. Selecting the correct fabric base and matching it to a design gives a pattern life, whether you’re going to knit or sew an item. The wrong fabric type will change the effect completely.
Let's look at an example. An Oriental pattern may look lifeless and flat on plain white fabric, but on a textured linen fabric base, it looks rich and almost antique.
By the same token, floral pattern picking fabric can lose its brightness on a beige organic drill base but will come to life on a white-based drill fabric.
What textile bases to choose for your design?
Think about the effect you want. For instance, cotton fabrics work well with a pattern with pastel colours and subtle tones. And polyester fabrics are great for patterns with bold colours that keep their hue after every wash. We’re talking about all patterns here including crocheting knitting quilting and sewing.
Sampling and testing your design on various bases is the quickest and easiest way to get an ideal result, no matter whether you’re quilting knitting crocheting or sewing.
Make sure to compare the same print for colour intensity, impact, depth, and even scale.
Start by having a fabric sample book handy (maake has handmade the perfect one for you), and use the colour codes on the first fabric to help you navigate selections.
6. Am I getting the right scale on my patterns for textile printing on screen?
The beauty of digital printing on fabric is its many possibilities.
Scale can play a big part in your print’s effectiveness. For instance, you visualise a dainty floral print, but the final print on the fabric is full of giant daffodils the size of real-life pineapples!
This is why maake uses rulers as tools on the side of each design. To help you, on our maakeHome site you can custom print on a variety of products to make sure the product looks just as you want it to.
There’s no easier way to see what your product will look like!
Try this testing trick
Here's a quick testing trick to learn where you print your design on A4 paper on a home printer. Hold it against an item of furniture or an accessory, like a sofa, curtain, or pillow, and take a picture with your mobile.
If you have several sizes of the same fabric pattern, it helps to write a number on the paper or use labels for easy identification.
Alternatively, use somebody (it could be a baby, child or adult) wearing white and photograph them holding the fabric print. This will give you an idea of the design’s dimensions as they appear on the fabric.
You can use the picture for reference to help you decide on the correct pattern size.
The technical details
When you first upload your design, you can scale it either up or down. The pattern can get as big as the resolution allows it. Make sure to save your files depending on the final size you want.
Although wallpaper patterns are usually larger than store-bought or free sewing patterns, the pixels per inch (PPI) is appropriate for its size for sewing as well as papering a wall.
PPI is the number of pixels in a square inch of a digital file. The DPI (dots per inch) explains how many dots of ink have dropped down while your image was printing.
You may notice Adobe Photoshop use the term ‘pixels per inch’. These tiny pixels of colour are part of an image.
How is an image made up?
You see, the image is made up of tiny little squares, each of which is a pixel. Pixels are bitmap images. They’re often referred to as PNG, JPEG or TIFF.
The number of pixels you have in an image relates to its particular quality. However, when you enlarge an image, the number of pixels will affect its quality.
If the pixels aren’t great enough, the image becomes pixelated, which means you can see the pixels. This means the image is low resolution (low res).
maake recommends keeping the pixels up on an image to keep the quality at its best.
It’s important to use a file with a high resolution. If you don't, the software will ‘interpret’ where to add extra pixels, and this can result in a poor quality image. This will translate to a poor quality pattern on your fabric.
To get the best effect, it’s important to always sample first. For the pattern you want, try different colours, different sizes and different fabrics. If you print different options, this will help guide you to find the best sewing pattern match.
Make sure you remember: sampling is vital for the digital printing process. Choose your fabric range options and rely on maake’s digital printing skills to deliver the results you’re looking for.
So, when you print in bulk, you will be able to create the ideal outcome and have peace of mind.
Now that you have sharpened your digital printing skills, you can start to sew fabric products with maake!