Cotton Mania (Part 2): Medium Weight Cotton Fabric

There’s a reason good fabrics have a cost. They’re done with good quality to last.

Zac Posen

Welcome to part of my cotton mania series! This post will focus on medium weight cotton fabrics. For information on light weight cottons, click here.

Medium weight cottons, while heavier than the lightweights, are also very versatile. They can be used for heavier skits, tops, outerwear, trousers, or even tote bags (although you may need to add a lightweight cotton underlining for this). See the full list with descriptions below.


Sateen is, unsurprisingly, the cotton version of satin. Sateen refers specifically to cottons and other non-silk satin-weave fabrics. One side of the fabric is shiny which you can use for shirting or more structured jackets, dresses, or even bottoms (especially if it has some stretch!) Some sateens have been mercerized- or, given a chemical bath that gives the fabric more luster and a softer, smoother feel with greater resilience.


Flannel makes me think of winter! It’s a warm, cozy, and fuzzy fabric. It’s medium-to-heavyweight with a plain weave. It also has a brushed napped surface and, as you may already be aware, also comes in a wool variation. It’s only major flaw is that it tends to pill. For these reasons, its best to use flannel for loungewear- pajamas, bedding, robes, button-down shirts. Alternatively, you could use it as interlining in outerwear or underlining for structured bodices. Cotton flannel fabrics can be manufactured with either one or both sides having been brushed.

TIP: Be sure to cut all pattern pieces in the same direction as the nap!


Moleskin gets its name from its similarity to the skin of a mole- fuzzy and cozy while also being dense and durable. This fabric is woven and then sheared to create a subtle nap with a matte finish. Moleskin can be used for jackets, jeans, pants, bags or or anything that’s also suitable for suede or corduroy.

Tip: again, make sure to cut all pattern pieces so the nap faces the same way!


Plaid fabric is created using crisscrossing patterns that traditionally are yarn-dyed (the yarn is dyed before being woven into fabric). Lightweight cottons with plaid patterns are often referred to as madras and originate in India. Now, however, some madras are made by printing the color on the finished fabric. Plaid is often used for golf attire, blazers, button-down tops, summery shorts and even pants.


This fabric is created using the pattern you often see on picnic tablecloths. Gingham is a medium weight plain weave fabric with a crisp feel to it. While its often thought of as more “country” wear, it can also be used to create more chic full skits, tops, shorts, and dresses.

Tip: Be extra careful cutting this fabric. Make sure to line up the plaid patterns at the seams.


Seersucker’s name comes from the Hindi term “kheer aur shakkar”: meaning rice pudding and sugar. This name is perfect given the fabric’s texture. It’s is a fabric composed of stripes and puckers. Because this fabric is wrinkle resistant and cooling- making it a good choice for summer attire. Possible uses include: suits, bow ties, dresses, jackets, and shorts.


Chambray orignates in the French city named Cambrai. It’s a soft, medium-weight plain weave fabric with a soft weft and a colored warp (often pale blue). It resembles denim in appearance, so, is often used for casual shirts and shirt dresses.


Muslin (called calico in British English) is commonly used for creating prototypes of garments before cutting the final garment. This is usually done to make sure the garment will fit correctly but could also be done as a ‘practice’ run for beginner sewers. Muslin fabric is a stiff, plain-woven unprocessed cotton. It’s easy to sew and (in theory) is cheap (the cheapest I can find in my city is $12 per meter- I recommend ordering it from for about $14 Canadian for approximately 4.5 meters!). Because muslin is not preshrunk, its best to wash and dry it twice before cutting if using for clothes (not prototypes). Alternatively, it can be used for bags.

Tip: Because muslin shrinks so much, try not to steam it during designing or fitting (and try not to let it crease too much- you could keep it on a hanger to help with this).

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!


The Mood Guide to Fabric and Fashion (2015) New York, New York. Stewart, Tabori & Chang an Imprint of ABRAMS.

Photo by Svetlana Gumerova on Unsplash

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