Fabric Descriptors Explained

Fabric Weight

Fabric weight is measured in grams per square metre (GSM) and in America ounces per square yard. At Sewing Gem we use GSM.

The GSM is how much a square metre of the fabric weighs. 

As a general rule:

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



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.

Highly twisted yarns make for stiffer fabric as do heavy and coarse yarns.

To help make your online fabric shopping easier we use these five key terms to describe the drape of the fabric;

'Lots of drape'
Think very soft, often lightweight fabrics such as rayon, viscose and silks.
‘Fair amount of drape’ 
Think lightweight cottons such as cotton lawns, chambray and voiles. 
'Medium Drape' 
Medium weight cottons and linens.

‘A little drape’

Think thicker linens and cottons.
‘Very little drape’ 
Think denim and thick twill.



The handle of a fabric is how it feels. Key considerations in assessing the handle include: How stiff/hard/ rough it is vs limp/soft/smooth.

Smooth, soft handle  
Think soft bamboo jersey, soft voile, silk
Medium handle Somewhere between the two - for example cotton, linen
Stiff, rough handle Denim, canvas, heavy cotton twill


Weave (woven fabrics)

There are a number of weaves used to construct woven fabric. This includes:

Plain, basket, twill, satin, jacquard, dobby, loop pile and velvet weave. 

The GSM or weight of the fabric gives us one part of the picture, however it is also important to consider how loose or dense the weave is.  Where possible we will list the weave used.


Often lighter weight fabrics will be more transparent. We will always classify our fabrics as either:

Very see-through. If you put your hand underneath you would see a complete outline.
Translucent (slightly transparent)
You would get a hint of what’s behind it, but not see it clearly
You can’t see through this fabric. 



Finishings are applied to either enhance the look and feel of the fabric or improve its function. 

Finishes may include:

Embossing, pleating, puckering, embroidery.

Where possible this will be listed in the fabric description.


If you are in any doubt it is recommended to request a fabric sample. To do this please email support@sewinggem.com.