After the last newsletter, I got a request, via email, from Lisa. Lisa started her crafting journey ages ago when she took the quilt making workshop here at the Studio. Since then, she has gone on to do many creative things, including dressmaking, but was having a problem with fabric selection:

“The thing I thought people may be interested in, is how to choose the right fabric to suit a pattern.  I recently made a fitted top in dress weight cotton.  It looks great because I tailored it to suit my shape, but I think it would have been better in a looser fabric which drapes organically to fit my body rather than me altering it – it now feels a bit like a straight jacket!  I suppose this is the stage before starting to sew something which I am needing help with.  Perhaps a link to a blog or website may be useful to those of us who are taking the plunge with making more clothes but want them to look as good as they can (well as good as in the shops!!)?”

I have a few rules that work for me but I also thought I would include a snippet from a longer post from that is worth reading in full.  Here is the link to the full post and before we jump to what they say about picking the correct fabric, here are my thoughts:

1. In addition to using what the back of the pattern suggests (it is a suggestion, not a rule!), I would also Google the pattern that you like and see what other fabric people have made it with (makers love to post!) and add that to your list of potential fabrics to consider.

2. I would stear clear of slippery fabrics – especially if you are a “new to dressmaking” sewer. They are really hard to keep from moving around and therefore, hard to sew! The most obvious is silk and usually, anything made with polyester.

and my number 3 is to start with a cotton or cotton blend if you are not sure. Just be aware that even within cotton, there are different “weights” and therefore, different drapes. Don’t confuse a craft weight cotton – one for quilting and bag making – for a lawn or shirting cotton which is a much more appropriate fabric for dressmaking.

And on to the snippet from the post by!

Which should you buy first, the sewing pattern or the fabric? I think it’s easiest to buy your sewing pattern first then shop for fabric. Once you’ve got your pattern, you know what kinds of fabric you’re looking for and how much fabric to buy. You can also buy any thread, zips, buttons or other notions to match at the same time.

It doesn’t always work out like that, though. If you find some fantastic fabric that you can’t resist, buy 3m of it to keep your options open when you’re ready to sew something.

When you are looking at fabric in a shop:

  • Check that the fabric is one of the ones recommended on the back of your pattern envelope.
  • Unroll the fabric bolt a little and have a look at how the fabric hangs (called its drape). Do you like the feel of it? Is it soft or stiff? Does this fit with what you are planning to make? Is the fabric scratchy?
  • Have a look at the label – there should be some information about the fibre content and care instructions. Can you machine wash it or is it dry clean only? If it sounds like it’s too high maintenance, move on.
  • Visualise your planned project made up in the fabric. Does it look right? Do you like it? Is the fabric in a colour that suits you?
  • Check the width of the fabric. Fabrics are made in different widths: mainly 150cm (60”) and 115cm (45”). Look at your pattern to find out what length of fabric you will need to buy.
  • Take your time – once you’ve had the fabric cut from the roll you generally can’t return it so don’t rush into buying.

I hope those tips help you with your fabric selection!

Do you have any suggestions that might help other sewing pick the right fabric?