How to Buy Fabric (Terminology & Shopping Tips!) | WITHWENDY
Hey, everyone. It’s Wendy and today I’m going to be talking to you about how to shop for fabric. When I first started walking into fabric stores I remember the feeling of just being like why is everything everywhere? I’m gonna go through a couple of things to try and clear the air. I went on Wikipedia and searched up fabric and it was just a huge A to Z list of all the terms that fall underneath different types of fabric. When you get really into it, there’s a word to describe every single type of weave and color and pattern, but I’m going to cover the ones that I see the most in fashion and hopefully that’s helpful for you. First, I’m going to go through some common ways that fabric is categorized, so you learn a couple of keywords. Then I’m going to go through some common fabrics that I think about when I’m looking at warmer weather, cooler weather and also formal events. And finally I’ll go through some of my personal tips when it comes to walking into a fabric store and walking out with what you need. First, how fabric is classified. Most fabric can be categorized in two ways. It’s either woven or it’s knit. When it’s woven, the threads have been interlocked like this. Think of like a basket weave, but shrunk down into your fabric size. Therefore in woven fabrics the property is that you’re using it for is that it retains its shape. It doesn’t have a lot of stretch and because it doesn’t have a lot of stretch It’s easier to sew with that makes woven fabric a great starting point for beginners because it’s less likely to move under the machine while you’re sewing. Then the other way fabric can be made is knit. So think of some huge cable knit sweater. All the yarns are weaving in and out to create it and that weaving motion is what makes knit fabrics stretchy and flexible. When you’re using knit, you’re using it because you like the way it stretches and moves. But also because it stretches and moves it can sometimes be harder to sew with. Depending on what it is that you want to sew. You’re going to want to use a woven fabric or a knit fabric and most of the time it depends on whether you want it to be non stretchy or stretchy. Before I move on to the different materials that fabric can be made of, all fabric can have a right side and a wrong side. The right side is usually the side that was intended to show the outside world. It’s where the colors are brighter, the threads are cleaner. With woven fabric and knit fabric sometimes it can be obvious, sometimes they can be the same. Ultimately if you’re sewing the clothing you can just look at the fabric yourself and decide which side you want to show the outside and if you can’t tell the difference, I’m just gonna tell you now, you don’t need to stress about it because if you can’t tell I don’t think a lot of other people can tell either. Okay, the next way fabric can be classified is the material that makes up its fibers. There’s three types of materials that fabric can be made from. It can be natural, synthetic, or semi synthetic. Natural fibers are harvested and then woven or knit into fabric. You’ve probably heard of these fibers before. The more common ones in fashion are cotton, linen, silk, wool, cashmere and hemp. When it comes to synthetic fibers, these are ones that are completely chemically manufactured, there are way more different types of these because basically if you invented a new way to chemically manufacture fabric you can patent it and call it whatever you like. But the common ones that you’ll find are nylon, acrylic, polyester and spandex. And lastly, there are these semi synthetic ones. This includes rayon, lyocell, these materials are basically wood pulp, sometimes bamboo. It’s been modified into a cellulose based fiber which has been woven or knit into a fabric. For the exact same physical properties, natural fiber is usually the one that’s the most expensive, but the synthetic ones have really been made to imitate all of them. So when it comes to choosing between them I find a lot of it depends on where you stand ethically or what your preference is for how it feels and what it’s made of. Since synthetic fibers are less biodegradable, sometimes you can make a biodegradability argument for using natural fibers. At the same time some natural fibers have to be harvested from animals and people who are sensitive to the use of animals to make our clothing, they would prefer to use synthetic fibers. When you’re shopping for clothes, you don’t always get to make these choices because the clothing has already been made for you. But if you’re the one buying the material it’s good to think about what it is that you’re buying and whether you stand for how it became the fabric that is before you. Okay we’ve covered a lot of fabric terminology. Now I’m going to go through the different types of fabric that you usually use for warmer weather, cooler weather and formal occasions. I’ll show you as I go, some projects that I’ve made in the past that use these different materials, so that you can see the differences. There’s a couple of fabrics that you’ll commonly be looking for when you’re looking to make clothes for warmer weather. Typically it’s cotton, rayon, chambray, some knits, silk and linen. Cotton is really lightweight. It can range from being sheer to totally opaque. If it’s really thin, it can be soft, but if it’s heavier cotton, it can be more stiff. If you wanted to make a button-up shirt, a stiffer, pleated kind of summer dress, those are instances where cotton might be useful. The next one is rayon. Rayon is really smooth, it’s lightweight, and it can come in some really bright colors and prints. It’s been made to be pretty breathable, and it’s also a bit more delicate of a fabric. On dresses, you’ll use it for something that has a lot of movement and for shirts. It’s very soft so it falls and drapes on you in a gentle way. For chambray, this is like if you were trying to strike a point between light cotton and denim. It’s pretty smooth, it’s lightweight, but it’s a little bit stiffer. Dress shirts can be made of chambray and since it’s stiffer and a bit more durable you could also use it for a pair of shorts. Knit fabric, out of all of these probably has the broadest range of light to heavy weight. Its main feature is that it has stretch and in most cases with knit, it covers a wide range of natural and synthetic fibers. When you’re making tank tops or any dresses that are more fitted, knit is the route you want to go because it’s going to follow the curves of your body. And then there’s silk. Silk is very lightweight and it’s pretty delicate. Sometimes depending on how it’s made, it can have a shimmery and a dull side, and it tends to be a bit slippery, too. So it’s a slightly more challenging fabric for beginners. But silk just naturally has a very luxurious look to it so it’s really nice in dresses and shirts. And it’s super breathable, which makes it a great fabric for summer. Finally the last summer fabric that I use often is linen. Linen is a bit more medium weight, it’s very very breathable, but it wrinkles super easily. You can make dresses, shirts shorts, but linen is not going to give you that crispy look that chambray or cotton could. Those are the ones that I use the most. Some of those fabrics can transition into the winter time. But the winter does bring around a couple more heavier fabrics that I can talk about. Denim, flannel, fleece, wool, faux fur, real fur and leather. Denim you’re probably already familiar with if you own a pair of jeans, but it’s a bit more heavyweight. There is not a lot of drape or stretch to it. The only reason skinny jeans are able to fit well is because it’s been mixed with some spandex. Flannel is a little bit more lightweight but it’s very soft and insulating so it’s perfect for pajamas or any kind of comfy clothes. Fleece is another one that specifically is used for its insulating properties. It’s in the medium heavy weight range. It’s almost always made of polyester and it’s really great for hoodies and sweaters, any kind of those campus crewneck type of things, they’re often fleece. Next is wool, which has a pretty broad range for light to heavy weight, but in all cases, it’s pretty insulating but still not a fabric that’s used much for warmer weather. It’s very durable and you can see it in a thinner form in things like suits all the way to something really thick like what they use for pea coats or jackets. Between faux fur and real fur, faux fur is a little bit less insulating, it doesn’t last quite as long as real fur. They’re both very heavyweight and usually used as an accent type of piece on winter wear. It could be the entire coat or it could be part of the trim. And in most cases, faux fur is also much less expensive to buy than real fur. Finally the last winter fabric that comes up a lot in fashion is leather. Leather is typically pretty heavyweight. It’s a bit more challenging to work with because once you sew through leather, those holes are there forever so you can’t make any mistakes. I’ve used it before to make jackets but you can also obviously use it to make bags and other durable pieces. The last kind of category where a lot of fabrics sit is in the more formal type of clothing. Here you’ll find your tulle, crinoline, chiffon, satin, lace and velvet. Tulle and crinoline are both a form of netting. Tulle is a lot more soft and densely netted. Crinoline a bit more generous and very stiff. Tulle is used to be decorative in the accents. Crinoline is usually hiding underneath to provide more structure. Chiffon is a very lightweight, very sheer fabric. It flows really easily. If you get silk chiffon it can be pretty expensive and on the other end there’s polyester chiffon which is a lot more affordable. Satin is the glossy fabric that you’ll often see on wedding dresses or prom dresses. It can range from light to heavyweight, but its main feature is its glossiness. Lace is typically silk or cotton threads that have been purposefully patterned into all sorts of flowering embellishing shapes. That’s one of the main reasons why lace is expensive because it’s much more difficult to manufacture. And finally, velvet. Velvet is pretty medium heavyweight. I would not recommend wearing it for summer. It’s insulating and it’s usually purchased because it’s shimmery. Those are the typical fabrics that I’m looking for whenever I go in with a sewing project. Within each of them there are even more terms to break down. Different categories and types of prints that you’re looking for but usually those categories will help me to conceptualize what it is that I want and once I get there I’ll see within that category if they have what I need. Which brings me to the last thing: a couple of shopping tips to help make this whole thing a little bit less stressful. First, there is: How to buy fabric. In most stores, fabric is sold by the yard or by the meter. You can always ask the person who’s cutting the fabric how wide it is on the roll because what you’re trying to define is how long you’re going to be buying. Say the fabric is sixty inches wide and you decide to buy one yard, you’re going to end up with a rectangle that is 60 inches by one yard. And it doesn’t have to be whole yards or whole meters. If you want one and a half yards, one and a quarter yards just ask them how narrow they’re willing to break down the yard or meter. When you’re buying your fabric, there’s a couple of things you want to look out for. One is shrinkage. Especially with natural fibers, some of them shrink after you wash it. You may have to buy extra, pre-wash the fabric, and then sew with it. Flannel, for example can shrink 10 to 20 percent of its original size. So sometimes you have to buy much more of it than you need. The next thing to look for is the direction of the print. If there’s a certain design on it and it matters to you that all of that design shows facing the right direction on your clothing, then you might have to buy more fabric to fit all the parts that you’re planning on cutting out. And lastly, of course, you should think about whether you’re buying this fabric for it to be durable or for it to be biodegradable, and how it’s going to impact the environment. For example in fast fashion, there are a lot of synthetic fibers that they use that are not meant to last and that’s why it’s called fast fashion. You’re supposed to go through it and then throw it in the garbage. Therefore cheaper, lower quality fabrics. They lose shape, they lose color, they age faster and they tend to be a little bit less biodegradable because they are synthetically manufactured. I think it’s good to think about how long you want to wear the clothes, how much it matters to you and make a decision that is good for you and also the world around you. My final tips are just to sum up everything because I don’t know if you can even remember all of this in one go. This is my approach whenever I’m shopping for fabric. First I do my research. I make sure I have lots of photos on my phone and then I go into the store and I just find a person and ask for help. I show them the pictures, ask them where to find the fabric to make the thing that is in the picture. Then I always make sure that I feel all of the fabric. I check if it feels nice, if it drapes nice, if it’s see-through. Getting to touch and interact with the fabric in person is going to be a huge help in deciding whether or not you like it. When it comes to how much I order, whenever I’m in doubt I just order two yards because with two yards you can pretty much make any standard sewing project. And if you’re a beginner to all of this, it’s way less stressful if you start out with less expensive fabrics. That way if you make a mistake you won’t stress out too much that you paid a lot of money for the fabric and you are willing to embrace that this is a learning process. The first time I bought more expensive silk, I think I just sat around staring at it for at least two weeks because I’m so scared to touch it and ruin it. That’s the gist of my fabric shopping tips. I hope it’s helpful for you and make shopping a little bit less overwhelming. If you like this video let me know and you can also find me on Instagram. It’s @withwendy. And lastly if you want to see more of my fashion sewing tips you can subscribe. I upload new videos every Wednesday and Saturday. And there’s the subscribe button for you. I guess I’ll see you guys next time. Bye.