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Tools & Supplies

Wool Fabric Guide: Easiest to Most Difficult to Sew

For success when sewing with wool, choose fabrics thoughtfully, and progress from easy to more challenging textiles.

Threads #200, Dec. 2018/Jan. 2019
Article Image
When chosen carefully, wool fabric can be a joy to sew. This classic coat was made in a wool tweed by 4-H member Katie Kreider for the Make It With Wool competition. Photo: Jack Deutsch.

Wool is a classic fabric for a reason: It’s long-wearing, looks good, and works well for many garments and climates. But beginning sewers are often intimidated by it.

There’s no need to fear wool. In fact, it’s one of the most satisfying fiber types to work with. If you choose the right fabric, you’ll be able to have success.

When you’re starting out, keep in mind that not all wool fabrics are the same and not all are suitable for beginners to sew. Below are some examples of wool textiles, ranked from beginner to advanced. Look for materials that share the characteristics noted, and you’ll avoid frustration in your first wool projects.

Learn more about wool and find out how to select an appropriate garment design for your skill level, in “Essential Techniques: Wool fabric guide,” Threads #200, Dec. 2018/Jan.2019.

Beginner

Peruse 19 wool fabric options for beginners.

 

Burgundy cashmere flannel
Burgundy cashmere flannel
Flannel is highly recommended; however, this cashmere version may be pricey for someone who is timid about wool.

Black/red tweed with silver
Black/red tweed with silver
Nice for a dressy but easy skirt; the metallic threads will elevate a straight or pencil skirt. Use a press cloth when pressing, and test on a scrap to make sure the metallic fibers don’t melt.

Peacock/black tweed wool
Peacock/black tweed
 Tweed with no matching required.

Forest green floral jacquard wool
Forest green floral jacquard
Nice for a simple top or dress; may be difficult to find coordinates for this unusual colorway.

Pink/red/black tweed wool
Pink/red/black tweed
Excellent weight for a coat or pencil skirt. The multicolored tweed weave requires no matching along seamlines and conceals any small sewing errors.

Black-and-white bird's-eye tweed wool
Black-and-white bird’s-eye tweed
Nice for a skirt or dress; tweed camouflages errant stitches. The neutral color coordinates with a wide range of garments, so you’ll get lots of wear from a garment made with a fabric like this.

Black-and-white tweed blend wool
Black-and-white tweed blend
Allover tweed; no matching; hides small errors.

Periwinkle heavy crepe wool
Periwinkle heavy crepe
Crepe has a lightly textured surface and not a hard finish, so it’s easy to press and mold with steam. It makes excellent coating and is good for a skirt.

Soft lilac basketweave wool
Soft lilac basketweave
This textured weave is likely made from angora or other animal fiber. It has a soft hand. The basketweave design is small so no matching is needed.

Purple flannel wool
Purple flannel
Flannel is highly recommended for a first project. Its brushed surface hides any sewing imperfections, and it’s easy to press and mold, so setting sleeves isn’t a chore. When you’re ready to make a jacket or coat, try flannel.

Black/dark red twill tweed wool
Black/dark red twill tweed
This dark weave is excellent fabric for camouflaging minor stitching irregularities; it is a nice weight for a skirt or structured dress.

Black/green/purple tweed
Black/green/purple tweed
 Lovely fabric for a coat or skirt. The texture and multicolor weave add interest without increasing difficulty.

Jade green twill weave wool
Jade green twill weave
Nice for a skirt; it’s also nice for a coat or jacket with interfacing support. Wool doesn’t have to be dark or neutral—enjoy a brighter hue.

Dark green/black Harris tweed wool
Dark green/black Harris tweed
For a wool novice, this is suitable for a skirt or collarless coat. More advanced sewers can use it for jackets and coats with notched collars.

Red/black Harris tweed wool
Red/black Harris tweed
For a wool novice, this is suitable for a skirt or collarless coat. More advanced sewers can use it for jackets and coats with notched collars.

Red/black Chanel-type tweed wool
Red/black Chanel-type tweed
No repeat or plaid earns this multicolor tweed beginner status. Consider a classic collarless jacket, in the silhouette of a Chanel jacket. Pay special attention to seam finishes as the fabric will ravel.

Black with purple and green painted wool
Black print lightweight crepe
Lightweight crepe for a sleeveless top or dress. The weight and sponginess of this fabric will camouflage beginner errors.

Purple flannel wool
Purple flannel
Excellent for a beginner, whether it’s a skirt, pants, collarless jacket, or coat. The purple hue is deep and rich, and is a lovely alternative to black and gray as a winter neutral.

Paisley rayon/wool blend
Paisley rayon/wool blend
Lightweight; suitable for a sleeveless shell.

Advanced beginner

These five wool fabric options are for those wishing more of a challenge.

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Red/black herringbone tweed wool
Red/black herringbone tweed
Excellent weight for a beginner but the herringbone forms a vertical stripe and would need to be matched at key seamlines.

Purple tweed blend wool
Purple tweed blend
Likely some silk, which causes the sheen; slight repeat, which some folks would think requires matching.

Brighter red and black wool
Brighter red and black
This fabric has a harder finish (its surface is smooth and has little nap), which is less forgiving. It may have a plaid or repeat that would require matching.

Burgundy challis with painted flowers
Burgundy challis with painted flowers
Lightweight challis for a shell top; errors will not be easily camouflaged. Light, soft wovens can stretch along bias lines and may need stabilization.

Black or midnight broadcloth wool
Black or midnight broadcloth
Superb weight for a dress; errors are not camouflaged, but the drape is excellent for some styles.

Advanced

Three enticing fabric options provide challenges for the most experienced wool sewing enthusiasts.

Forest green drill look wool
Forest green drill look
Hard finish; prone to shine when pressed. When properly sewn and pressed, this type of fabric yields a crisp, rather than soft, look.

Burgundy wool sateen wool
Burgundy wool sateen
Beautiful textile with a slight sheen. However, the hard finish should be reserved for those with experience with wool; excellent for dresses and indoor jackets.

Black sateen with polka dots
Black sateen with polka dots
Elegant, but this combines the difficulty of a sateen (see above) with the challenge of polka dots that form a plaid. You’ll need extra precision for layout and construction.

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  1. User avater WillieSFegley November 29th

    Superb post

  2. onceover November 20th

    I agree that a list of wool suppliers would be helpful. Wool in northern Minnesota is a staple but alas we go searching!

  3. Sheila_Schmutz November 20th

    Hi, This was a wonderful article! The coats shown are just beautiful. I love sewing with high content wool fabrics but sadly am finding them more and more difficult to source. I live in Canada where we have cold winters so one would think they'd be more available. Showing some sources for the fabrics shown would be very helpful.
    Thanks!

  4. rr528 November 20th

    I strongly disagree with categorizing wool crepe as a "beginner" fabric. Yes, it is easy to sew and press - but it frays like crazy. Definitely not for the faint of heart. (And heaven help you if you think you're going to make welted buttonholes in a wool crepe dress. That's all I'm sayin'. )

  5. CarolFresia November 12th

    Unless otherwise noted, these are all 1oo-percent wool, as the title suggests. A couple of the descriptions mention other blended fibers, such as silk and rayon.

    All are medium-weight, unless specified--for example, challis is lightweight. The descriptions generally indicate the type of garment each fabric is good for, and that will help with selecting an appropriate textile.

    The essential point for beginners to keep in mind is to look for softer surfaces with some texture, rather than very smooth and flat surfaces, and to avoid tricky patterns such as plaids and stripes, which require experience to match.
    Carol Fresia
    Threads Senior Technical Editor

  6. user-7041445 November 2nd

    Hello, this article would benefit from including the fabric weights and contents. Identifying a fabric as "tweed" doesn't tell a novice enough.

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