Nap finish or napped fabric simply refers to a fabric that has a fluffy raised surface (also called pile) that 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 Tutorial
What is Nap in Sewing?
What is napped fabric in sewing? 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.
Examples of napped fabric or pile fabrics include
- Faux fur
- French Terry Cloth
- Fleece including Sweatshirt Fleece and Polyester Fleece
- Some wool fabrics
- Mohair and Lamb's wool
- Suede and Synthetic Suedes
- Carpet and rugs
Types of Napped Fabric
There are 2 main types of napped finish for fabric - that with a pile and that with a one way pattern direction.
1. Napped Fabric with a Pile
Napped fabric with a pile has the fibers sticking up and in one direction. Fabric with a pile nap catches the light differently when placed in different directions. You will notice that when you stroke it, 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.
Further Reading on Fabrics with Nap
2. 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 works 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.
Cutting and Sewing with Napped Fabric
Step 1 - Determine the 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. Check the fabric requirements for the with nap amounts.
The majority of sewing patterns will have a pattern layout diagram, especially for fabric with a nap. It will usually be labelled "with nap layout".
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 run 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.
Step 2 - Check the Pattern Pieces
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.
Step 3 - Cutting Fabric with a Nap
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 joint, 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.
Step 4 - 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 design 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 garments 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