Choice of fabric is a critical element to the final outcome of your dressmaking project. The right choice can contribute to a breathtaking garment that will please your client and bring you more business. A poor choice of fabric leads at best to some wasted time, and at worst to an expensive and upsetting start from scratch. If the dress was intended for a specific event or function, there may not even be time to redo it, so choose carefully the first time, and avoid this dangerous pitfall.
The most important part of CHOOSING a fabric is understanding dressmaking fabric in general. What is natural fiber good for? When do I want a synthetic? Which fabrics are warm and durable? Which will help the wearer to stay cool and comfortable? These are critical questions, and need to be answered before you even touch your scissors!
If you’re just starting out, it’s a good bet that you’re already putting so much brainpower into patterns, equipment, colors, and the like that all of this information on dressmaking fabric is overwhelming. Take a deep breath – it’s not as hard as it seems. To avoid throwing away cash on the wrong choice of fabric, learn the basics now, and build on them later, after you have a little more experience.
There are all kinds of placed that you can look for information on dressmaking fabrics, including right here on this site. If you know what sort of garment you’d like to make, you might run a search on a dressmaking forum, where everyone and their sister has a strong opinion, but you can usually find some consensus if you dig for it. This has long been a wonderful source of advice and inspiration for me. Fabrics are grouped by the primary fiber used to make the material – and the types of fiber vary. Cotton and linen are both plant-based. Wool is from the hair of sheep and similar animals (like alpaca). Silk comes, believe it or not, from worms! These natural fibers don’t tend to set off allergies, and are very popular.
Making Your Choice
Unwilling to take a million years sorting out the minute differences in dressmaking fabric? Want to make your purchase and get to work? Tired of messing around? Go with cotton. I suggest this because cotton is among the most popular, durable, affordable, and easy-to-use fabrics on the market. It generally adapts itself well to various projects, and is overall a very forgiving fabric. You’re not entirely off the hook, here, though. The number of TYPES of cotton could spin your head around! From flannel and seersucker to terry and gauze, just because you’ve decided on cotton doesn’t mean you’re done choosing.
There are all kinds of other natural fibers available beyond cotton, and all at varying prices. The smooth, cool qualities of silk used to put this dressmaking fabric out of the reach of mere mortals, but with recent advances in synthetic and even farmed silk, we lowly hobbyists can again consider the fabric for our projects.
I won’t even get into synthetic fibers here, as they’re sold in a million blends under a million named from nylon to Velcro! There’s no need to discount specialty and exotic dressmaking materials from your repertoire, either. Consider the fun of working with denim, leather, vinyl, fur, or even rubber! Perhaps not for a funeral, but a little daring never hurt anyone. There are three main variables when considering fabric:
– Availability. If making a number of the same garment, either for retail sale or a group of people – bridesmaids, for example – it’s absolutely critical that you have a ready supply of the materials you’ll need. Screwing up a dress and being unable to source replacement dressmaking fabric would be a hard blow, indeed.
– Cost. Obviously, cost is a major factor – you can’t go all silk for a budget project. Make sure that you discuss costs up front with whoever you’re sewing for, and be clear what your limitations are. Whenever you can, consider trying to make bulk purchases.
– Durability. Think about the final use of the garment you’re making before picking out a dressmaking fabric. Something intended for daily wear should probably be made from an easy to clean material such as cotton or linen. Special event clothing like graduation or wedding attire can be a touch more delicate, as they won’t need to be cleaned as frequently.