You need to know all about fabric weight for sewing if you’re going to use the correct material for a piece you’re making.

We’re going to start with the fact that how much a fabric weighs has nothing whatsoever to do with how your favourite pattern weighs, and this has to do with a sewing pattern. We will then explain the importance of knowing how much a textile weighs and why this is so important when choosing a material for your product.

To help you, we've put together a simple guide on why what a textile weighs is so vital when choosing material for sewing or manufacturing an article, how you measure the different weights of each fabric, and which work best for different products. Take a look...

What are fabric weights?

How much a fabric weighs tells you many things about it: how it was created, for starters. This involves whether it’s a woven or knit textile, even whether it’s made from natural or synthetic yarns, or a mix of both, and also what it feels like – is it smooth or textured, for instance? 

Basically, how much a fabric weighs tell you about how dense, or thick, the material is. It’s important to have an idea of what a material weighs before you decide whether it will be suitable for making your project or not. That’s way before you actually start sewing the piece.

Why are these so important?

It’s not just about how much the textile actually weighs; you also need to consider whether the actual material is suitable for what you’re making. Say you’re going to be sewing a dress or skirt pattern – then you need a material with drape, right? For those you’d need a material that is lightweight, like silk or chiffon, which are soft and flow beautifully. It’s important that you make an informed decision about the material for your product before you start making it.

Remember: the heavier the material, the more hard wearing it will be. This is why heavyweight fabrics like canvas and denim are ideal for products that can withstand wear and tear, such as tog bags and other bags and upholstery.

Also, you will definitely choose the heaviness of the material to suit the weather. It’s unlikely you’ll want a heavy material for a summer outfit, or a light one when you want to keep warm on winter days.

Let’s go through the different ways of defining how much textiles weigh and then work out suitability, too.

What is the GSM of a textile?

We use this measurement to determine how much a textile weighs. The abbreviation GSM stands for ‘grams per square metre’. This metric measurement tells you how much the material weighs and how dense it is.

Remember: the higher the number, the thicker, or more dense, the material will be.

Once you know how many grams per square metre a fabric is, it’s easy to work out whether the material will be suitable for sewing pattern pieces for an article or not, because this measurement not only determines how much it weighs, but also how suitable it is. 

Rule of thumb: The heavier the fabric, the more likely it is to be a thicker material. And the thicker the material, the more likely it is to be long-wearing and durable. Look at your trusty denim jeans – they’re thick and heavy and last for years. Your cotton T-shirt is thinner, lighter and won’t last as long. See what we’re getting at? 

This doesn’t always apply – so be aware of that. And also note that the quality of the material you’re looking at isn’t determined by how heavy it is. Thin materials like silk and cotton are of an extremely high quality. So be careful how you judge the material you’re considering for a sewing pattern.

Different material weights for sewing a pattern

·       Lightweight: Grams per square metre: 1-150; type of material: Chiffon, cheesecloth, lace, linen, mesh, organza, voile. Perfect for: Lightweight, warm weather garments including dresses, leggings, T-shirts and delicate undergarments.

·      Mediumweight: Grams per square metre: 150-350; type of material: Nylon, polyester, sateen, taffeta, velvet. Very versatile fabrics. Best for: Durable garments and clothes that are ideal for in-between seasons. We're talking about shirts, sweatshirts, pants, tracksuits and homeware (cushions, curtains, table linen, bed throws).

·      Heavyweight: Grams per square metre: 350+; type of material: Brocade, canvas, denim, poplin, suede, wool. These sturdy materials are best for: Outerwear like coats and jackets, plus upholstery (for indoors and outdoors), bags, denim jeans and other durable products.

Speciality materials directory

These materials need to be considered differently.

  • Stretch materials: When choosing these textiles, think about how much it weighs as well as the stretch of the material so that it is suitable for activewear.
  • Satin and silk: These textiles are usually lightweight, but sometimes you will need a mediumweight material if it’s for a formal dress or bridal gown.
  • Water-resistant materials: Sure, you need to know whether the material is durable if you’re looking for something to use for outdoor furniture. But it also needs to be water-resistant or waterproof if it’s going to be outside. These textiles are mostly mediumweight or heavyweight.
  • Fleece and knits: You will not only be looking at how much the textile weighs; you’ll also consider how warm you want the garment to be.
  • Quilting: If you want to make a quilt, the best material to choose is a mediumweight cotton textile that will last and will be easy for sewing with.

Before you choose materials, read our definitive guide on how to choose the right textile for your product.

Working out the weight of a textile

When you’re not sure what category a textile falls into, here’s what you should do:

1.     Check for the grams per square metre rating which tells you how much the material weighs when you buy fabric stock.

2.     Do you have spare or leftover material after cutting a pattern, or returns of previous pieces? Perhaps you’ve taken up maake’s offer of a free upcycling bag in different sizes of plain material offcuts – pieces left over after cutting and printing, which is part of our innovative maakelesswaste initiative instead of placing the offcuts in storage.

Weights made simple

If you don’t know how much a fabric weighs, here’s how to work it out:

·      You’ll need a ruler to measure straight lines and a scissors and a precision digital scale to weigh the fabric. Then it’s time to start cutting a small rectangle out of the textile you’ve ordered for a sewing pattern.

·      Measure its length and width.

·      Now weigh a scrap of material on your precision scale.

·      Work out the following mathematical formula: 10,000 divided by (area cm2.X how much it weighs in grams).

Consider these facts when you shop 

  1. Is the textile for indoors or outdoors? If it’s to be used for sewing garments to be worn outdoors or to protect you from the rain, wind or cold, the material needs to be heavier and have waterproof or other warming properties.
  2. Will the item you shop for keep you cool? If you’re going to make something to wear on the beach, it needs to be light, cool and breathable.
  3. Are you going to wear it for comfort? If you’re sewing something to wear for exercise, it needs to be lightweight, breathable, have stretch and be hard wearing. Heavyweight fabric for denim jeans isn’t always comfortable and soft the first time you wear it. But if you wash your jeans a few times, the material will be softer and the garment will feel far more comfortable.
  4. Does it need drape? Or does it need to be stiff? These conditions will determine whether you choose a light, dreamy material for sewing a dress or skirt pattern, or are looking for something heavier and long-wearing to wear as outerwear, for example for products like bags.
  5. If you’re comparing 2 similar textiles before you shop... Let’s take an example of 2 heavyweight denim materials with different GMS’s. Which is better? It depends, of course, on what you’re sewing. If you’re making a denim shirt, it doesn’t need to be as hard-wearing or stiff as jeans. It should have a little drape and a higher measurement if you’re sewing a pair of jeans. 
  6. Check before you shop: Before you purchase material for a project, it’s important to know exactly what it looks and feel like. This is why we suggest you order a maake Sample Book, which not only gives you an idea of how much the fabric weighs and its texture, but also shows what it will look like when we have printed on it for you. Add to favourites now!

Don’t confuse material and pattern weight

We’ve discussed textile weights at length, but sometimes people confuse this with fabric pattern weights, which are used for sewing patterns.

Let’s get this straight: pattern weights fabric is something else entirely. They relate to one’s favourite sewing pattern weights, which are weights that keep your patterns flat so you can trace or cut them accurately before you start sewing. These usually come in a set or kits.

These pattern weights are far better to use than pins for pattern weights, which create holes on the patterns and can even warp the material or make it misshapen when you’re cutting it. These pattern weights, by the way, are available in weights sets for ease of sewing a pattern.

Help is at hand!

If you’re confused about which particular fabric to use for a particular sewing product, why not give us a call? Our team of experts will be happy to assist you in your material choices.

We have a series of quick guides on different textiles to help you. So, whether you’re looking for kids’ clothing, swimwear, men’s shirts or jacket lining, we’ve got you covered!

At maake, we offer a patchwork of quality, sustainable base textiles for cutting and printing on – a total of 80. Some are natural materials, others are synthetic and there are quite a few that are a blend of both.

We give full descriptions of each textile, often mentioning weights, usually talking about whether it is a light-, medium- or heavyweight material as well as what it’s made of and whether it’s eco-friendly. We also give an idea of what you can use the material for, so that you know which pattern to choose before you start cutting.

You’ll find this information, as well as exactly how much the fabric weighs under the heading ‘Product Specifications’. It lists everything you need to know about each particular fabric in the maake range, including the composition of the material (eg 100% cotton), the fabric width in mm, how much it weighs, whether it’s sustainable or not, where it was manufactured and the type of ink that should be used for printing.

However, if you’re unsure about how much the material you’ve chosen weighs, please contact us and we’ll give you all the weights information you require.

Add some of our textiles to your cart

Choose from our stunning selection of base materials

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    April 04, 2023 — Alexander Wills