Nap or napped fabric simply refers to a fabric which has a fluffy raised surface (also called pile) which generally goes in one direction. When you feel down a fabric with 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.
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.
Fabric with a nap also catch the light differently when they are 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 – How to Cut Fabric with a 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.
This is what happens when you don’t cut in the same direction. See how one side looks lighter than the other. In addition, if you ran 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.
What is Nap in Sewing?
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. 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 this fabric (from Spoonflower) only works if it is placed in one direction. You wouldn’t want the rabbit heads to be upside down on half of your garment.