When we talk about fabric, we typically break it into two categories: knits and wovens.
We talked all about knit fabrics in our Knit Fabric 101 post. Today we are doing Woven Fabric 101 and talking all about various types of woven fabrics and their ideal uses. While knit fabrics are primarily used for making garments, woven fabrics have a very broad range of uses from clothing to bag making to upholstery to table linens and more! This list is by no means exhaustive, but it covers some of the more common woven fabrics you will come across, particularly in garment making.
Quilting cotton is the most popular woven fabric for beginning home sewists. This is because it is easy to work with, can be fairly inexpensive, is durable for children’s wear, and has a wide range of uses. If you are new to sewing woven garments, quilting cotton is an excellent place to start. However, because it is heavier/stiffer than cottons fabric made for apparel, it can have less drape. It is wonderful for a structured dress, pant, etc., but will have less drape and not be as light as some of the other woven options.
Cotton shirting is a woven cotton similar to quilting cotton but made specifically for garments. It is more likely to have a higher thread count, a softer hand, and better drape than a stiff cotton made for quilting. This fabric could be used for blouses, men’s dress shirts, dresses, skirts, and more.
Rayon comes in many forms, just as cotton does. One example is rayon challis. Rayon challis is wonderful for garment making. It is soft, breathable, has beautiful drape, and doesn’t wrinkle badly. This is an excellent choice for dress making, though being lightweight it can be slightly more difficult to sew with than plain cotton if you are a complete beginner. Rayon sateen is another example. Sateen refers to the weave structure, done like satin, but made with cotton, rayon, etc.
Cotton lawn is made from 100% cotton and is lightweight, sheer or semi-sheer, soft, and breathable. It is excellent for clothing to be worn in hot weather, because of its airiness, and it has beautiful drape for summer dresses and tops. It is more challenging for a beginner to sew than quilting cotton or cotton shirting because it is quite lightweight, but it gives a beautiful finish.
Patterns: Most, the ones listed for rayon will work very well!
Silk comes in many many different forms from charmeuse to crepe de chine to organza to satin to taffeta and so many more. Pure silk fabric is cultivated from silkworms. It can be thin, heavy, shiny, or matte. It can have varying levels of opacity and drape, and the type of silk you would choose for one project could be very different from another. For example, a silk scarf would be made from a different type of silk than silk drapes or a structured silk gown. If you plan to sew with silk, you want to choose the silk that will fit your project best. Many varieties of silk come in synthetic form- so you can get satin, chiffon, charmeuse, etc., that has the look of silk but is made with other materials, often being less expensive.
Linen is a woven fabric made from fibers of flax plants. It is durable and also moisture-wicking. It is a popular fabric for clothing in hot weather. Linen is great for skirts, pants, rompers, dresses and more, and is also commonly used for things like table cloths and napkins.
A very soft woven fabric, flannel can be made of cotton, synthetics, or wool. It is commonly used in button up shirts, blankets and sheets, pajamas, and more. Flannel can also be used to make cozy dresses for cold weather. It is commonly thought of as plaid/tartan prints but can come in any print and color.
Most well-known for its use in making jeans, denim is a woven fabric typically made of cotton. It can have stretch but doesn’t always. Denim is most frequently used for pants and jackets but can also be used for bag making, upholstery, etc.
Tulle is made by a very fine netting typically made of nylon, polyester, or silk. It is used in special occasion dresses and skirts, as well as its famous use for tutus. Tulle is light weight and sheer or semi-sheer and perfect for layering over other fabrics for a very special pop. You can add layers of tulle skirts over regular knit or woven skirts to make them extra fancy.
Since this list was by no means exhaustive, here are a few more samples of Boo and Lu patterns sewn with various woven fabrics!
I hope this woven fabric roundup helps you when deciding on fabric for your next woven project! We love to see your makes, so the next time you sew a Boo and Lu pattern be sure to tag us on instagram @booandlupatterns or share in our Facebook group!