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Guide to Fibers

What the heck is that fabric, anyway? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have! Here's a handy guide to a number of common garment fabrics on the market.

Contents: Cotton, silk, polyester.
This fabric is very finely woven. It is frequently semi-sheer.
Uses: Lingerie and nightgowns, linings, interfacing. It is frequently used in heirloom sewing and baby clothes. It is machine washable or dry-cleanable.
Sewing Difficulty: Easy

Contents: Cotton, silk, rayon, polyester.
Broadcloth gets its name from the fact that it was woven on broad-width looms. Way back when, most fabrics were woven on 27 inch wide looms. Broadcloth was woven on looms more closely resembling the modern 44 and 60" widths. Broadcloth is also a generic term for a smooth, plain-weave fabric that is used for prints.
Uses: Shirting, dresses, sleepwear, casual wear. Depending on the fabric content, it is washable, handwashable and dry-cleanable.
Sewing Difficulty: Easy


Contents: Just about any fiber you can think. Wools, cottons, silk, man-made fibers and blends.
This is a heavy, rich fabric made on jacquard looms to give it texture, woven with extra threads in multiple colors. It has a stiff hand and is often made with a satin finish and metallic threads.
Uses: Suits, sportswear, evening wear, bridal, accessories, home decoration. This fabric has a tendency to catch and snag easily, making lining a must. It is usually dry-clean only. It also has a tendency to ravel so make sure you finish seams when sewing with it.
Sewing Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Contents: Cotton.
This is an inexpensive, plain weave cotton that was originally made in Calicut (Calcutta), hence the name. It is usually printed.
Uses: Shirting, kids clothes. Machine washable. Wears well and is easy to sew.
Sewing Difficulty: Easy

Contents: Cotton, cotton/poly blend.
This is a very stiff cloth, similar to drill and sailcloth, but lighter. It is a very durable cloth.
Uses: Tote bags, upholstery, lightweight jackets and coats. Easy to sew, but requires some patience because it can be stiff.
Sewing Difficulty: Easy

Contents: Cotton, silk, wool, rayon.
A very soft woven cloth, often with a somewhat brushed surface. Has a lovely drape making it suitable for flowing garments.
Uses: Dresses, separates, scarves. Depending on fabric content, washable or dry-clean.
Sewing Difficulty: Easy

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Comments (1)

parkapuff parkapuff writes: I need advice on what kind of washable lining to use with corduroy, and polar fleece. I'm sewing a winter parka. The ruff is of faux fur. I will make the ruff detachable so the main body is washable and can dry clean the ruff.
Posted: 2:33 pm on January 26th

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