Lets talk fabric

To a newby sewer fabrics can be a little confusing. With so many fabric choices where do we begin when choosing a fabric for a garment. Well here is my way of making sense of it all.

Woven vs knits




Woven fabrics are made using two sets of threads which are woven together on a loom. The easiest way to recognise these threads are to look at the selvedge. The selvedge is at the top of a bolt of fabric and is characterised by its raw edge. It sometimes has printed writing along it, showing the brand of fabric. The selvedge is important in order to identify the warp and weft of the fabric.

The warp is referring to the lengthwise threads running parallel to the selvedge and has the least amount of stretch.

The weft runs on the crossways grain, running perpendicular to the selvedge, typically has more stretch. This is important to note as the weft of a fabric usually runs around the body on an item of clothing due to its stretch. However, in woven fabrics, there is very little stretch, unless the fabric is cut on the bias.

Cutting on the bias, simple means to cut diagonally which naturally gives the fabric more stretch. Some patterns will state to cut the pattern on the bias for this reason.¬†With a woven fabric, the cut edge will easily fray. The dress pictured above is really comfy to wear. The bodice was cut on the bias, giving it more stretch and movability. However, my shift dress, isn’t very comfy to wear as this woven cotton was not cut on the bias. This doesn’t mean that all woven cottons are uncomfortable, there are so many fabric blends, i.e cotton with lycra, cotton with polyester etc, the choice is endless.



Knits are made with one or more yarns continuously looped on a kitting machine. There are usually more yarns per inch on a knit fabric and they can curl up at the edges. They have a lot more stretch than woven fabrics and come in varying amounts of stretch. When sewing with knits, your pattern will usually tell you how much stretch is needed for your garment.

The selvedge on a knit looks like a cut edge and does not fray. Some sewers may chose not to hem a garment using a knit fabric as the edge will remain neat. However I prefer the clean look of a hem no matter what fabric I use.

2 way stretch knits: This type of knit only stretches on the crossways grain (running perpendicular to the selvedge)

4 way stretch knits: They stretch both lengthwise and crosswise, typically used in items which need a lot of stretch, i.e swimwear.

When sewing, patterns will usually tell you how to lay your pattern on the fabric. However, if you didn’t have a pattern then you would need to understand the various qualities of a fabric.

The coco dress pictured above is the comfiest dress I own. This will definitely get its wear.

Handy tips when sewing with knits:

Best practice is to use a ballpoint needle which has a rounded tip and wont damage the fibres in the fabric. You could also use ballpoint pins to hold your fabric together. If you don’t have these then just use your smallest, slimest pins as not to damage the fabric.

It’s also a good idea to use a zigzag or stretch stitch on your machine. If you use a straight stitch on a knit fabric, the stitches can tear when the fabrics stretches, resulting in seams falling apart.

A walking foot it also great for sewing with knits. The walking foot enables an even feed of the fabric when you are sewing it, as opposed to using a regular foot which only feeds the fabric through the machine from the bottom, via the feed dog. This could potentially stretch your fabric out of shape.

Did you know….

The same fibres can be used in either woven or kitted fabrics. For example, a woven cotton may say it is 100% cotton. A knitted fabric may also say it is 100% cotton. Therefore it is the way in which the fibre is constructed that gives it its varying textures and qualities.

Last but not least…..Coco Chanel revolutionised jersey when she started producing womens clothes with it. Previously, it had only been used for mens underwear. So we have to thank for that.