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Categories of Fabric

Whether you are making a quilt, wall hanging, table runner, clothes, couch cover, purse, bag or more; understanding what fabric to use can be very important. This is particularly true if you want to properly care for it so it lasts longer.  Different types of fabrics have different properties that can strongly influence how you use and care for it.  


Fabric is made by interweaving fibers together. Usually, a fabric is named after the fiber user to manufacture it, but names also consider patterns, textures and the production process used. Some fabrics also consider where the fibers originated from.  There are generally two sets of categories that separate types of fabric: the fibers used (natural vs. synthetic) and the production processes (woven vs. knitted).

Natural vs. Synthetic

Natural fibers are obtained from plants and animals. For example, cotton comes from plants while silk comes from silkworms.  

Synthetic fibers on the other hand, are made entirely by human and are synthetic matter.  

Woven vs. Knitted

Woven fabrics are made up of two pieces of thread that interweaves horizontally and vertically on a loom. Since the thread runs at a 45-degree angle, the fabric doesn’t stretch and is usually firmer and sturdier than knit fabrics. The fabric consists of a weft (when the thread goes across the width of the fabric) and a warp (when the thread goes down the length of the loom).

-       There are three types of woven fabric: plain weave, satin weave and twill weave. Examples of popular woven fabrics are chiffon, crepe, denim, linen, satin and silk.

For knit fabric, think of a hand-knit scarf; the fiber is formed into an interconnecting loop design, which allows it to stretch. Knit fabrics are known for being elastic and keeping shape.

-       There are two types of knit fabric: warp-knitted and weft-knitted. Examples of popular knit fabrics are lace, lycra and mesh.

Cotton fabric can be either woven or knitted, which plays into price differences and certainly the outcome of any project. 

Woven vs. Knitted Fabric

Types of Fabric

There are many different types of fabric.  Below are the most common types you’ll encounter:



- Chiffon is a sheer, lightweight, plain-woven fabric made from twisted thread that gives it a slightly rough feel. The thread is usually made of silk, nylon, polyester or rayon.

- Chiffon can be easily dyed and is usually seen in scarves, blouses and dresses, including wedding gowns and prom dresses, due to its light, flowing material.


- Crepe is a lightweight, twisted plain-woven fabric with a rough, bumpy surface that doesn’t wrinkle. It is often made from cotton, silk, wool or synthetic fibers, making it a versatile fabric. Due to this, crepe is usually called after its fiber; for example, crepe silk or crepe chiffon.

-       Crepe is often used in suit and dressmaking since it’s soft, comfortable and easy to work with. For example, georgette is a type of crepe fabric often used in designer clothes. Crepe is also used in blouses, pants, scarves, shirts and skirts.



- Denim is a woven cotton twill fabric made from entwined cotton wrap yarn and white cotton stuffing yarn. It is often known for its vivid texture, sturdiness, durability and comfortableness.

- Denim is mostly dyed with indigo to create blue jeans, but it is also used for jackets and dresses.



- Lace is an elegant, delicate fabric made from looped, twisted or knitted yarn or thread. It was originally made from silk and linen, but lace is now made with cotton thread, wool or synthetic fibers. There are two main elements to lace: the design and the ground fabric, which holds the pattern together.

- Lace is considered a luxury textile, as it takes time and expertise to create the open-weave design and web-like pattern. The soft, transparent fabric is often used to accent or embellish projects.



- Leather is a unique natural type of fabric in that it is made from animal hides or skins, including cows, crocodiles, pigs and lamb. Depending on the animal used, leather will require different treatment techniques. Leather is known for being durable, wrinkle-resistant and stylish. Leather usually requires industrial or heavy duty machines to sew.  

- Suede is a type of leather (usually made from lamb) that has the “flesh side” turned outward and brushed to create a soft, velvety surface. Leather and suede are often found in jackets, shoes and belts since the material keeps the body warm in cold weather.



- Linen is one of the oldest materials known to humankind. Made from natural fibers, this strong, lightweight fabric comes from the flax plant, which is stronger than cotton.  The flax strands are spun and then blended with other fibers.

- Linen is absorbent, cool, smooth and durable. It is machine-washable, but it needs regular ironing, as it creases easily. Though it can be used in clothing, including suits, jackets, dresses, blouses and trousers, linen is mostly used in drapes, tablecloths, bedsheets, napkins and towels.



- Interestingly enough, satin is actually not made from a fiber.  It is one of three major textile weaves and is made when every strand is well-knitted.  Satin was originally made from silk but is now made from polyester, wool and cotton. This luxurious fabric is glossy, elegant and slippery on one side and matte on the other.

- Satin is sleek, smooth and lightweight.  It is often used in evening and wedding gowns, lingerie, corsets, blouses, skirts, coats, outerwear and shoes. It can also be used as a backing to other fabrics.



- Known as the world’s most luxurious natural fabric, silk is another soft, elegant fabric choice with a smooth touch and shimmering look. Silk comes from the silkworm’s cocoon, which are found in China, South Asia and Europe.

- It is the most hypoallergenic, durable, strongest natural fabric, though it is difficult to clean and delicate to handle; many fabric weaves tighten or pucker when washed, so it’s best to hand wash or dry clean silk. Like lace, satin is expensive due to the time-consuming, delicate process or turning the silk thread into yarn.

- Silk is mostly used in wedding and evening gowns, shirts, suits, skirts, lingerie, ties and scarves. 



- Unlike the other fabrics listed, synthetics actually cover several fabric types: nylon, polyester and spandex. Synthetics don’t shrink and are usually resistant to water-based stains.

- Nylon is a completely synthetic fiber made up of polymers. It is known for its strength, flexibility and resilience. Nylon is also long-lasting and handles wear and tear, which is why it is often seen in outerwear, including jackets and parkas.

- Polyester is a human-made synthetic fiber and fabric created from petrochemicals. Though it is strong, durable, wrinkle and stain-resistant, polyester is not breathable and doesn’t absorb liquids well. Instead, it is designed to move moisture away from the material.  Most t-shirts, trousers, skirts and sportswear are made from polyester.

- Arguably the most popular synthetic material is spandex, which is made from polyurethane. Also known as Lycra or elastane, spandex is known for its lightweight, elasticity and strength after being blended with several fiber types. This comfortable, form-fitting material is often used in jeans, hosiery, dresses, sportswear and swimwear.



- Another type of fabric is the soft, luxurious velvet, which has mostly been associated with royalty due to its rich, opulent finishing and complex production process. This heavy, shiny woven warp pile fabric has a smooth pile effect on one side. The textile’s quality is determined by the pile tuft’s density and the way they are anchored to the base fabric.

- Velvet can be made from cotton, linen, cool, silk, nylon or polyester, making it a versatile material that is either inelastic or stretchy. It is often used in blouses, shirts, coats, skirts, evening wear and outerwear.



- Wool is a natural fiber that comes from sheep, goat, llama or alpaca fleece. It can be knitted or woven.

- It is often noted for being hairy and itchy, though it keeps the body warm and is durable and long-lasting. It is also wrinkle-free and resistant to dust, wear and tear. This fabric can be a bit expensive, as it needs to be hand-washed or dry-cleaned. Wool is mostly used in sweaters, socks, gloves and for embellishing quilts, wall hangings, bags, etc...

- Types of wool include tweed, Cheviot fabric, cashmere and Merino wool.



- Cotton is the most popular material in the world and what we primarily carry.  It is a light, soft natural fabric.  The fluffy fiber is extracted from the seeds of the cotton plant in a process called ginning. The fiber is then spun into cloth, where it can be woven or knit.

- This fabric is praised for its comfortableness, versatility and durability. It is hypoallergenic and breathes well.  

- Cotton is used in most all clothing and is the most desirable fabric for Quilting. Quilt fabric is 100% cotton material and is typically used for making quilt tops and backs.   

Cotton Fabric Quality

Have you ever noticed the drastic price difference between cotton fabrics?  It is very important to take a close look to understand why.  

- Thread count, staple length of the cotton fibers, weave, printing and finishing are all components of high-quality cotton fabric.

- These components add to the price, but more importantly the longevity and quality of your finished project.

- Quilt cotton fabric thread count will vary between 60 to 75 threads per inch to high quality with 200 threads per inch in the length (warp) and width (weft). Batik fabric typically uses 200 to 220 thread count and a finer thread as required for the wax and dye process. The weight of the thread used should also be considered.  Thread count is not typically shown on the bolt of cotton so hold the fabric up to the light: if you can easily see through it, it probably has a lower thread count or lower weight thread.

- Quilt Fabric is generally made of long staple cotton, meaning the length of the cotton fiber is 1 3/8" long or longer. Long staple cottons may be labeled as Pima or Egyptian and are stronger, more uniform than other cotton fibers and leave less lint in your sewing machine, which means less cleaning or chances for problems.  Upland cotton, typically used for Flannel and Denim, has a staple length of less than 1 1/4".  Both fabrics may have their place in your stash, depending on what your jects you may have up your “sleeve”.

- Quilt Fabric weave is generally a plain weave. The number of threads for the length (warp) and width (weft) are the same. This ensures the fabric will handle well and not fray during sewing and quilting (again which means less cleaning or chances for problems).  Quilt Fabrics are also being made with different color threads on the warp and weft, so the color will shimmer and move based on how the light falls.  Different weaving patterns will also add interest to fabrics for quilting.

- Quilt Fabric for premium brands and designers will have a higher number of colors used in the printing process.  Take a look at the selvage, often you will see color dots or symbols that indicate all of the colors used to create the print.  A High number of prints and complex designs are highly sought after by quilters and most often used as Focus Fabrics.  

- Finishing Quilt Fabric is an important step for manufactures.  High quality Quilt Fabric will feel soft, shrink less and have a superior colorfastness.  If purchasing precut squares, kits, or bundles it’s important to have high quality fabric otherwise it will shrink and can make piecing/finishing your project challenging or even impossible.  

- Purchasing lower quality fabric from big box stores is okay for testing things out or just getting started, but using Quality Cotton Fabric from small business is where most sewist’s end up.  In the long run, it creates less frustration, less sewing machine maintenance, produces better looking projects that last longer.  

- Key considerations for selecting fabric for your project are:  How will the project be used? Will it hang on the wall, be a keepsake or used every day? Does the style of the project lend itself to other fabrics like linen or silk?  What's the best fabric I can use right now?  Remember, the projection is a reflection on your choices.  Choose wisely!  

Types of fabric weaves

Weft vs Warp

Shop High Quality Fabric


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