Buying Fabric for Your Fashion projects

by Helena  - September 5, 2016

Most people think they should design a collection and then choose fabrics. That can only bring you a headache, because you don't want to create beautiful designs for a particular color and drape and then realize you can't find the right fabric.

Buying fabric for your fashion projects may seem as pure fun. But before you make any real choices it is important to understand properties of selected fabrics - how they are made, how they behave in different patterns and how much you will need to create your designs. 

Checklist for Buying Fabric

When you are buying fabric, there are some important things to consider so you have all the information you need to decide which fabrics are suitable for your project.

  • Fiber composition
  • Is it a woven, knit or neither?
  • Width of the fabric
  • What is the straight grain/cross grain and how do selvages look?
  • Right and wrong side of the fabric
  • Does it stretch and in what direction? What percentage of stretch?
  • One-way fabric?
  • Is it preshrunk and if not what percentage of shrinking can you expect?
  • Estimated yardage for the garment
  • How much of the fabric is in stock?
  • Do you need lining or interfacing?
  • Can you use any trims and notions to make the style more appealing?
  • Care instructions for fabric
1. Fiber Composition

The composition of a fabric refers to percentage of various fibers that make that particular fabric and you should find this information at the end of each fabric roll.

2. Woven or Knit

Most fabrics are either woven or knit type and this is very important to know because it will inform the pattern, cutting, sewing, finishing and the overall functionality of the design. Woven fabrics are made by weaving and knit fabrics are made by looping yarns together. 

3. Width of the fabric

It must be considered when calculating how much fabric you will need as a wider fabric usually results in smaller fabric requirements.

4. Cross-grain and Straight grain

A pattern piece can be cut on the cross-grain which is perpendicular to selvage. This can be useful when you want to use a detail along the selvage like border print or embellishment.

5. One Way Fabric

Refers to a fabric that has a raised surface,non-symmetrical print or a mohair texture that leans to one side. These fabrics increase yardage requirements significantly.

6. Stretch

Some woven fabrics have stretch because of the spandex fibers in them and you can check this by pulling fabric. Knit fabrics all have some stretch built in because of the looping but can also have additional spandex for more comfort, recovery or compression. Most stretch fabric stretch in cross grain direction (one way) but there are some that offer two way stretch (sometimes called four way).

7. Shrinkage and Care

In a fabric store you can usually find fabrics that are washed and pretreated but that is not always the case. If the fabric isn't preshrunk, you will have to do it before cutting and sewing. Keep in mind that this will increase the amount of yardage you need for your piece so don't forget to ask what is expected percent of shrinkage.

Also, fabric should be stored and sewn properly to bring the best out of your design.

8. Yardage and Stock

When calculating how much fabric you need to buy for a specific style, always round up by 20%. Extra fabric will account for margin of error and even the world most famous designers do that and that is why you can find leftover designer fabric each season in fabric stores.

If you are planning to produce a sort of multi-piece collection, it is also important to ask how much fabric is in store. In case your item becomes popular and you want to make several new pieces, you want to make sure that there is more fabric to restock.

9. Lining, Interfacing and Notions

Linings make garments warmer and more comfortable, as well as give them a clean finish from the inside. Structured garments have layers of lining to protect the inner work. Interfacing provides support and stabilizes fabrics. Anything with buttons or tailoring requires some interfacing. Interlinings are usually used in outerwear to add warmth or bulk. Underlining is added beneath the fashion fabric, usually under sheer fabrics. Notions include zippers, buttons, thread, closures and other things with functional purpose.

10. Other Things to Consider

Better quality fabric at any price point lasts longer, looks and wears better. If you are not sure how to chose quality fabrics, the best strategy is to get to know all the fabric types and comparison shop.

buying fabric for fashion projects

The best rule for finding perfect fabric is to see it, feel it, touch it and drape it. Make sure you love how it looks, the texture and the way it moves. If you want to know how quality fabrics look and feel like you can always visit high end stores and study the drape and touch of fine fabrics to familiarize yourself with the difference from cheap fabrics. Over time you will be able to quickly distinguish fine from average textiles.

Another important thing to consider when buying fabric is if the weight of the fabric makes sense for the design of the garment.

Always have in mind that sewing is equal part art and science. Even if you find the most beautiful material in the world, if it doesn't serve the function of planned design then it will become an unwearable fail. Education is as important as inspiration so always get to know your fabric well and make sure it will be good for your pattern.

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