A glossary of fabric names is the best guide you find to help search for the different kinds of fabrics available. This is more than just a glossary of names, it is a realistic guide to the basic categories of fabric leading to greater detail and links to useful sewing tips and ways to handle different fabrics.
Glossary of Fabric Names
This is a gourmet guide, whetting your appetite and gathering a harvest of the best and most common fabric names in use today—an alphabetical listing of the best fabrics to choose from.
Batik – The Bold and Beautiful
Batik fabrics offer a wide range of pattern designs, unique colors and special effects. Watercolor backgrounds with diverse patterns trend with dress styles, beach wear and quilting too. Batik refers to the process of using wax and dyes to make particular patterns on the fabric. Batik fabrics are generally made from cotton, rayon and natural fibers which absorb the dye.
Further Reading: What is Batik
Canvas – For the Great Outdoors
Canvas, made from cotton, is durable and comes in different colors and patterns. It is useful for upholstery, bag making and outdoor utility or décor items. Canvas is a thick fabric which requires special sewing techniques in particular for the seams.
Further Reading: Sewing Canvas
Chiffon – Feminine and French
Chiffon is a soft fabric blended with silk or polyester and rayon. Organza and Georgette are similar in texture but not exactly the same. These fabrics fit into the sheer fabric category for sewing tips. Due to its fine weight, you will need fine needles and may have to adapt the pattern you are using to use French seams and narrow hems.
Further Reading: Sewing Chiffon
Cotton –King Cotton, Rag Trade Leader
Cotton is a natural fabric produced from the cotton shrub. Cotton lends its name to a wide range of fabric types. Soft lawn, gingham prints and flannelette all fall under the cotton label. Cotton blends well with other fabric types like polyester and rayon. If you are a beginner sewer, then pure cotton is one of the easiest fabrics to start sewing with. Quilting fabric is the name given to 100% cotton in a medium weight and is the preferred fabric for many designers of children's clothing.
Further Reading: Sewing Cotton.
Denim – Hardwearing, Hardworking
Denim is the workhorse of the fabric world. It is a popular fabric type and can vary in weight from very thick to a softer poly-denim blend. There are stretch denims, stonewash denims and many more. Sewing denim requires stronger needles and threads and if sewn regularly then you will need a stronger sewing machine with a metal interior.
Faux Fur – Fabulous Winter Wear
Modern synthetic adaptations of fur come in a variety of animal prints, shaggy fur, and fun colors of funky fur and different lengths of the fur itself. Faux fur makes a dramatic finish to a winter coat or hat! When sewing faux fur, care must be taken with going with the nap of the fabric and you may need to trim the seam allowances.
Felt – The Feel-Good Fabric
Felt is fantastic for craft items and can be a synthetic adaptation or made from real wool. It doesn't have a visible weave and tends to be used for craft rather than clothing. Felt is also amazing for applique as the edges don't fray.
Leather and Faux Leather
Leather and faux leather need special needles and techniques due to the tendency of the material to perforate and stitches to skip. Faux leather has a fabric backing making it much easier to sew and is great for clutches, bags and belts. Modern faux leather is often so realistic that once it is sewn you can't tell it isn't real. A Teflon foot is useful for sewing stickier and fine leathers.
Sheer Fabrics – A Wide Variety of Beautiful, Soft and Silky Choices
Sheer fabrics are in a list of their own including voile, batiste, organza, chiffon and georgette to name a few. It is worthwhile referring to my tips to ensure success with when sewing sheer fabrics. Most sheer fabrics need to be sewn with French seams and narrow hems. You may also wish to increase the seam allowance on your pattern if your sheer fabric frays excessively.
Further Reading: Sewing Sheer Fabric
Silk – As Smooth as Silk
The varieties of silk depend on the silkworm and its diet. Mulberry silk, tusar silk and eri-silk are the most common pure silks. Shantung and crepe de chine are cultivated silks but just as beautiful and needing special sewing skills to ensure a perfect outcome.
Stretch Fabrics – Versatile and Fun to Sew
Cotton knit, jersey fabrics, cotton Lycra and many other fabrics with stretch quality make a great choice for a wide variety of designs. It is wise to check the pattern you choose is suitable for stretch knits. You should also check the stretch factor of your fabric with that of your pattern. To prevent skipped stitches that break, you will need stretch needles and a Teflon foot. Stretch fabrics can be sewn on a regular sewing machine with a simple narrow zig-zag stitch.
Thick Fabrics – A Class of Extra Bulky Types of Fabric
Thick fabrics need some extra skills to set them right with your machine and sewing machine tension. Getting some sewing tips to ease into this weight of fabric is a good idea. Corduroy, some of the types of denim, canvas, twills and velvet all fall under the thick fabric genre.
Velvet – Soft and Super Plush
Velvet has been produced in stretch velveteen, velour for furnishings and velvet for clothing styles. Tips to sew this fabric will ensure a positive sewing experience. Sewing velvet is mainly recommended for more experienced sewers. If you are a beginner intent on sewing velvet, look for a cotton velvet with no stretch.
Wool – Nature's Gift to Fabrics
Wool blends and mixes with many fabric types. The best way to check for pure wool is to look for the 100% wool mark emblem. If the hallmark is not present then it is probably a wool blend you are working with. Due to its thickness, wool often requires grading of the seams and specialized finishes such as bias bound seams.
Fabric Names - In Conclusion
This glossary of fabric names is an indication of the many beautiful fabrics available to sew. A menu of what you can feast upon in the sewing world……Bon Appetite. Enjoy!