Pairing Fabrics and Patterns

Most of us have, at some point, picked the wrong fabric for the pattern. Considering the number of hours that goes in to sewing this is obviously very frustrating. Fabric choice is hugely important for a successful sewing project so it's worth giving thought to matching the right fabric to the pattern before you begin cutting and sewing.

Here's a few tips and things to think about for picking the right fabric for your next project. 

1. If you are using a store-bought pattern start by looking at the back of the pattern envelope, here you will find suitable fabric suggestions.


2. The most important guidelines to follow is whether the pattern has been drafted for woven or knit fabrics. Patterns for knit fabrics will often have very little ease built into the pattern, as the fabric itself will stretch. Unless you are going to make alterations to the pattern to accommodate stretchiness make sure you chose either woven or knit fabric, as per the pattern instructions.  

3. Stretch - That said, some woven fabrics also contain stretch. If the fabric composition contains some elastane it will have more stretch than a fabric without. Think about whether you want this additional stretch in your garment. Give your fabric a pull to test the stretch to see how stretchy it feels. Has the pattern been drafted for extra stretch? If it's a knit pattern does your stretchy fabric have enough stretch? Knit patterns will usually list the percentage of stretch that is required on the back of the envelope. Click here for more information on assessing your stretch percentage.

3. Another consideration is the weight of the fabric. At Sewing Gem we will list the GSM of each fabric. Most sewing patterns will state whether a light, medium or heavy weight fabric is required.

Here's a general rule for fabric weight.

Light Weight Fabrics 110 GSM and under - think chiffon, voile, crepes

Light to Medium Weight Fabrics

110 - 150 GSM - think lightweight cotton lawn, rayon, viscose
Medium Weight Fabrics 150 - 220 GSM - think tencel, knits, linen, craft cotton
Medium to Heavy Weight Fabric 220 - 320 GSM - think lightweight denim and heavy linen.
Heavy Weight Fabrics 320 GSM + Think denim, heavy cotton twill, wool


4. Drape refers to a fabrics ability to fall and create wavy folds. Softness vs Stiffness are the key factors in assessing this; the stiffer the fabric the less drape it has. Soft fabric tends to drape closer to the body forming wavy folds and stiff fabric hangs away from the body. If you want to create a floaty, easy breezy summer dress then choose a fabric with lots of drape, such as silk, viscose or rayon. Hold your fabric and let it hang. Hold it up against your body and walk around with it. Does it swish in the way you want it to? If you're sewing a tailored jacket you'll need a firm fabric with little drape.



5. Handle - Do you like your fabric to feel soft against your skin? Is a soft fabric going to work for the garment you're planning on making or does it need to be firm and create structure?  


6. Opacity - Hold your hand underneath your fabric to assess how see-through it is. If you can see through it you might like to consider lining your fabric. For most projects a lining similar to the main fabric works well. 

7. Consider the pattern on your fabric. Firstly is it directional? If it has a big bold print or stripes or checks does it need to be pattern matched in certain areas on the garment. Centre front and centre back usually cry out for pattern matching. Find out more about pattern matching here

8. Lastly play with your fabric. If you think you've found the right fabric buy a little bit extra. Use this extra bit to play with it - sew with it. If your garment has darts (or princess seams or similar) sew the dart in the practice fabric, the press it. Ultimately assess if it is going to work and whether you like what you see? 

Here you'll find additional information on selecting fabric from our store. Happy sewing!  



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