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Identifying Better Fabrics

lovemycottons | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

One of my Christmas presents was the Vogue Sewing book and it is wonderful. I have a feeling I will be referring to it often.

Last night I was reading the section on fabric and it didn’t really answer my question on how to choose “quality” fabric.  Yes, it stated the thread count determines the quality of fabric and sizing may mask a poorer quality.  But how can you tell the difference when you are actually looking at the fabrics? Are there any other factors to look for?  Any tip would be very helpful.

Thank you


  1. mimi | | #1

    lovemycottons:  This is very difficult to convey but I will try!  The most important (to me, anyway) aspect of fabric when I am considering purchasing for any outfit is the "hand".  How does it feel or drape (hang)?  How thick is it or how transparent is it?  Will it strectch if it needs to?  Will it hold its shape if it needs to (think baggy knees on a well tailored trouser)?

    Once you have handled a really good-quality piece of fabric, you will know what I mean!  Hope this helps.


    1. lovemycottons | | #3

      Thank you for your input. From your response I am beginning to see that there is a lot to consider before buying a piece of fabric.

      I have heard once that to determine the hand you should drape some of the fabric over your fist.

      1. mimi | | #5

        I have never heard that one!  Hand usually refers to the way a particular fabric drapes when you hold it, so it does stand to reason that you might be right.

        I'm a very tactile person.  I always like to play with the fabric in the store before I buy it!  Having said that, I admit to biting the bullet and buying fabric online this past year.  I have not been disappointed yet, but then I am taking the advice of all the Gatherings posters when they write that a site is a good one.


  2. SewNancy | | #2

    Go to a high end clothing store and feel the fabrics on the really good clothes, like Armani etc. They use some of the best fabrics. Look at the type of fabric they use and how they use them. Then, don't expect to find them at Jo Ann's or Hancock etc. Send for samples of the fabric types you are interested in and keep notebook with them in it.
    You might try http://www.Banksvilledesignerfabrics, http://www.emmaonesock.com. You can call B & J in NYC and they will send samples as will Paron in NYC as well as their website http://www.manhattanfabrics.com
    Happy sewing, Nancy

    1. lovemycottons | | #4

      I like the idea of keeping a sample notebook. To tell you the truth, I had considered that about a year ago for a study on different types of fabrics, their styles and weaves, etc. and then completely forgot about it. So, thank you for reminding me of it. I really believe it will be helpful.

      The web sites you listed are a great start in my quest for purchasing fine fabrics. I am tired of buying junky fabric. Have you ever used Sawyer Brooks? (I assume they have quality fabrics). They are located about an hour from my home.

  3. user-51823 | | #6

    examining high-end clothing is a great way to learn about quality fabric, and you will learn even more by following that up by going to a low-end re-sale clothing store, like Goodwill or Salvation Army, and examining what cheap fabric looks and feels like after a garment has been worn. i find this extremely nformative.
    better brands of clothing still have a satisfying feel and look even if obviously well-worn. cheaper fabric "pills", fuzzes, sags, and just plain looks ratty.

    i'm gettng forgetful in my old age- LOL. i thought "drape" was drape, and "hand" was the surface texture (ie: rough, silky, nubbly, smooth etc).

    1. SewNancy | | #7

      I agree with your definitions too.

    2. loomchick | | #8

      I'd like to second the suggestion on looking at garments at places like Goodwill, Value Village, and other thrift stores to better understand fabric . . . it also works great for learning about construction techniques Sometimes I go on Mondays when items with certain colored tags are 99 cents . . . occasionally, I find a well-made garment that has been worn thread bare and not suitable for wearing . . . or even something that is badly stained, not the right size, wrong color, dated look, etc. I then take them home and take the garment apart and study it . . . I've learned a lot over the years by doing this . . . It also clarified why some garments cost more, have a better shape, wear better, etc. It also pointed out that some of the most poorly made garments are the low-end "designer" brandsIt's also how I learned a lot about purse construction techniques and how to install hardware, like clasps, fasteners, magnetic snaps . . . and why lots of purses are not constructed for long-term wear . . . plus, I saw how much cardboard is sometimes used for support in cheaper purses.Lots of great lessons for a few dollars and a bit of time.

    3. lovemycottons | | #9

      I guess I am a bit confused.  I will have to look up the words hand and drape in the sewing book to fully understand the difference. Thanks for pointing it out.

      1. solosmocker | | #10

        Sawyer Brook is an excellent resource, in my opinion. I, too, have done the thrift shop "tear apart". You can learn a lot from these garments. Great suggestion. In highschool my friends and I would take the bus into Boston, go straight up to the designer salon at downtown Filene's in Boston and start trying on clothes. This was in the days of real designer salons. We would try on Very expensive suits and dresses until the sales women would "eyeball" us out. Did I learn a lot from the adventures! It taught me to love beautiful fabric and fit. I would come home so inspired. Do the same. Go to the highest end dress department you can find and start trying on clothes. Bring a friend. You will have a ball and learn loads.

  4. lovemycottons | | #11

    I just wanted to thank you all for your tips and suggestions. I think this will be an interesting venture: looking & touching fabrics, creating a sample book, and visiting both high end and goodwill stores. This project could keep me busy for years!

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