Nap or napped fabric simply refers to a fabric that has a fluffy raised surface (also called pile) which generally goes in one direction. When you feel down fabric with a nap, it should feel smooth. If you stroke the pile in the opposite direction, it often feels rough. Learning what is nap in sewing is important to get a professional result in your sewing projects.
Napped Fabric - What is Nap in Sewing?
What is napped fabric? Normally, nap refers to fabric that has a weave or pile in one direction and so needs to be cut with all pieces facing the same direction. The pile in a napped fabric is created in the weaving process of the fabric and examples of napped fabric include faux fur, velvet, terry, velveteen, corduroy and velour.
Napped Fabric with a Pile
Fabric with a nap also catches the light differently when placed in different directions. You will notice one direction looks lighter than the other. When cutting out your fabric, it is important that the pile is facing the correct direction or you will get differences in color and texture.
Napped Fabric with One Way Designs
However, nap in sewing does not necessarily only apply to fabric with a pile. Some fabrics have a one-way print and these should be cut the same way as fabric with a nap.
See how the pattern on these fabrics only work if they are placed the right way up. You wouldn't want the hearts, elephants or fairies to end upside down on a dress.
This means all pieces need to be cut in the same direction for any sewing pattern to work.
Napped Fabric - How to Cut Fabric with a Nap
Direction of the Nap
If you are cutting out a fabric with a nap it is important that all the pattern pieces face the same direction.
Depending on the design, this may take more fabric than cutting non-directional fabrics. The majority of sewing patterns will have a pattern layout diagram especially for fabric with a nap.
As a general rule, all the pile should run down the body from the shoulders to the feet so it feels smooth to touch if you ran your hand down the garment. Faux fur is the easiest to visualize this with. You would want the fur pile to go down your body.
You may need to flip a pattern piece over to the back in order for all of them to face the same direction. When you are cutting double fabric, it doesn't matter if the pattern piece is flipped so the back of the pattern is facing up.
This is what happens when you don’t cut your napped fabric in the same direction. See how one side looks lighter than the other. In addition, if you run your hand over the fabric join, one side would be smooth and the other would be rough.
Some fabrics have a more pronounced difference than others of course, depending on the length of the pile and sometimes the color of the fabric.
When cutting napped fabric with a pile, it is important to use sharp scissors so you get accurate pattern sizing and edges that are not burred and more likely to fray. A rotary cutter can make cutting easier but you will need a cutting mat as well.
Sewing Napped Fabric
After cutting out the fabric with a nap, there is no difference from regular fabric when it comes to the sewing process. Sew the fabric according to its type, choosing seams, needles and threads to suit.
For fabrics with a long pile, you may need to trim the edges within the seam allowance to make sewing easier.
Cotton napped fabrics where there is a one way designed printed can be sewn and finished easily but you do need to be careful you don't put any pieces upside down. This is especially important for symmetrical pieces or rectangular pieces in a skirt where if you are not paying attention, you could put the pattern upside down. You don't want a skirt with upside-down elephants!
Here are some specific articles that may help you
Napped Fabric - In Conclusion
Napped fabric can be used to create vibrant and interesting textured gaments and home decor. With a little extra time taken to cut and sew a napped fabric you will get great results.
Now you know all about napped fabric and what is a nap in sewing, these articles may help you discover more topics for beginners.
- How to Cut Fabric for Sewing - This is an in-depth guide to cutting fabric.
- What is Selvage, Grain and Bias - Identifying these is important when sewing napped fabrics.
- Seam Allowance – what are seam allowances and how to add them
- How to Cut Notches – what are notches and how to cut notches
- Reading Pattern Symbols – you learned some of these here but these are some more symbols you might come across
- Sewing Measurements: How to take body measurements for sewing