fabric, trim, fabric guide

Quick Fabric Guide: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Sewers

Choosing the right fabric can be confusing and intimidating! For one thing, fabric stores can be huge- where do you even begin looking?

Second, the fabric you choose can not only change the outcome of your garment, but it can also make the sewing process a lot harder (silk versus cotton for example).

So, even once I was able to select a fabric I liked, there were a few occasions where the fabric type did not suit the garment I wanted to make or it turned out to be a fabric that I was not comfortable working with.

So, without further adieu, here is a list of fabric types based on sewing levels. If you go into the store knowing the specific type of fabric you want, it’ll be a lot easier than just going in without any idea. Just look at the signs or read the bolt labels to check which type of fabric you’re looking at OR ask an employee. For some additional quick tips, see below.


  • Cotton Shirting
  • Cotton
  • cotton-blend wovens
  • most wool wovens (steer clear of gauze)
  • bonded fabrics
  • felt
  • fleece


  • Jersey and stretch fabrics
  • medium weight silks
  • silks with body
  • denim
  • fine voiles and challis
  • faux leather


  • Silk Jersey
  • Light-weight silks (including chiffon, gauze, charmeuse)
  • Silk brocade
  • Lace, sequined and beaded fabrics
  • Fur
  • Leather

Choosing Fabrics: Quick Tips

A couple other things to consider before heading to the fabric store:

  1. Your budget! Especially for beginners- consider how much money you are willing to spend on a sewing project that, if you’re anything like me, you may end up wrecking.
  2. If you are unsure about a certain fabric- try it on! I know it sounds weird, but you can hold the fabric against your body in front a mirror to test the drape and stiffness.
  3. Don’t worry too much about it. If you end up choosing the ‘wrong’ fabric, it isn’t the end of the world. There is actually a famous designer who started off making clothing out of home decor fabrics! Clearly, it doesn’t really matter that much.
  4. Your Current Clothing. Are there certain colors or textures missing from your wardrobe that could create more balance? Think of your entire wardrobe as a cohesive collection and think about how you could make it more interesting and dynamic.


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

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