How to Buy Fabric (Guide & Shopping Tips!)

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Hey, everyone! It’s Wendy, and today I’m going to be talking to you about how to shop for fabric. When I first started walking into fabric stores, I remember just thinking, “Why is everything everywhere?” Well, fear not!

How to Buy Fabric

I’m here to guide you through buying fabric, from understanding fabric classifications and materials to selecting the right fabric types for different occasions. Plus, I’ll share some shopping tips to make the experience less overwhelming. T & A Textiles Bedding Manchester is one name that frequently sticks out while looking for high-quality fabrics.

Understanding Fabric Classification

First, let’s demystify how fabric is classified. Most fabric can be categorized in two ways: woven or knit.

  • Woven Fabrics: The threads have been interlocked in woven fabrics, much like a basket weave but on a smaller scale. These fabrics retain their shape and have limited stretch, making them great for beginners because they are easier to sew with. Examples include cotton, linen, and silk.
  • Knit Fabrics: Knit fabrics are created by interweaving yarns to give them stretch and flexibility. These fabrics are used when you want your clothing to stretch and move with you, but they can be trickier to sew. Common knit fabrics include jersey, spandex, and polyester blends.

Remember that all fabric has a right side and a wrong side, with the right side being the one intended to show the outside world. However, this is only sometimes crucial; if you can’t tell the difference, don’t stress about it.

Materials Matter

Next, let’s explore the materials that fabrics can be made from. There are three main categories: natural, synthetic, and semi-synthetic.

  • Natural Fibers: These fibers are harvested from various sources and then woven or knit into fabric. Standard natural fibers include cotton, linen, silk, wool, cashmere, and hemp. They are often preferred for their biodegradability and feel.
  • Synthetic Fibers: Synthetic fibers are entirely chemically manufactured, resulting in various options, such as nylon, acrylic, polyester, and spandex. They are known for their durability and affordability but are less biodegradable.
  • Semi-Synthetic Fibers: These materials, like rayon and lyocell, are derived from natural sources like wood pulp or bamboo, modified into cellulose-based fibers. They offer a balance between natural and synthetic properties.

Natural fibers are often pricier but environmentally friendly, while synthetic fibers are affordable and long-lasting but less eco-friendly.

Types of Fabrics for Different Occasions

Now, let’s delve into the types of fabric suitable for various occasions and weather conditions:

Warmer Weather Fabrics

  1. Cotton: Lightweight and versatile, suitable for button-up shirts and summer dresses.
  2. Rayon: Smooth and breathable, ideal for flowing dresses and soft shirts.
  3. Chambray: A balance between cotton and denim, great for dress shirts and shorts.
  4. Knit Fabrics: Ranging from light to heavy, perfect for tank tops and fitted dresses.
  5. Silk: Lightweight and luxurious, great for summer dresses and shirts.
  6. Linen: Medium-weight and breathable, ideal for dresses, shirts, and shorts.

Cooler Weather Fabrics

  1. Denim: Heavier and stiffer, perfect for jeans and durable pants.
  2. Flannel: Soft and insulating, great for pajamas and cozy clothing.
  3. Fleece: Insulating and medium-weight, suitable for hoodies and sweaters.
  4. Wool: Various weights, durable but more suited for colder weather.
  5. Faux Fur and Real Fur: Used for accent pieces in winter wear.
  6. Leather: Heavyweight and durable, often used for jackets and bags.

Formal Occasion Fabrics

  1. Tulle and Crinoline: Netting fabrics used for decorative or structural purposes.
  2. Chiffon: Lightweight and sheer, perfect for flowy gowns and dresses.
  3. Satin: Glossy and luxurious, commonly seen in wedding and prom dresses.
  4. Lace: Intricately patterned and delicate, used for embellishments.
  5. Velvet: Medium-weight and shimmery, ideal for formal attire.

Shopping Tips

To wrap up, here are some shopping tips to help you navigate the world of fabric:

  1. How to Buy Fabric: When you enter a fabric store, it’s essential to understand how fabrics are sold. Most stores measure and sell fabric by the yard or meter. You can always ask the person who’s cutting the fabric about the width of the fabric on the roll, as this will determine how much you need to buy.
  2. Account for Shrinkage: It’s crucial to consider potential shrinkage, especially with natural fibers like cotton and linen. Some fabrics can shrink significantly after the first wash, which could lead to sizing issues in your finished garment. To account for this, buy a bit more fabric than your pattern recommends, pre-wash it, and then sew with it. For example, flannel can shrink by 10% to 20% of its original size, so purchasing extra yardage is wise if you plan to work with it.
  3. Consider the Print Direction: If your fabric features a distinct print, pattern, or directional design, it’s essential to factor this into your purchase decision. All elements of the design should align correctly with your clothing. This means you need to buy additional fabric to ensure that you have enough material to cut out pattern pieces while keeping the design-oriented the way you want it.
  4. Ethical and Environmental Considerations: In today’s world, thinking about the ethical and environmental aspects of your fabric choices is important. Consider how the fabric was manufactured, its durability, and its biodegradability. For instance, lower-quality, synthetic fabrics are often used in fast fashion, designed to be disposed of after only a few years. If you’re interested in more sustainable options, lean towards natural fibers or semi-synthetic materials like lyocell, which are biodegradable and produce less environmental impact. Remember, choosing eco-friendly fabrics can positively impact your wardrobe and the world around you.
  5. Feel the Fabric: While shopping, always make sure to feel the fabric. Touch and interact with it to understand its texture, weight, and drape. Running your hands over the fabric can help determine whether it’s soft, coarse, or somewhere between. Assess whether it has the right level of stiffness or flexibility for your project. Additionally, check if it’s see-through, which can affect the need for lining or layering in your sewing project.
  6. Start with Smaller Projects: If you’re new to sewing or working with a particular type of fabric, it’s a good idea to start with smaller, less expensive projects. This approach reduces the stress associated with making mistakes and allows you to gain confidence and experience with different fabrics. Once you feel more comfortable, you can move on to more substantial or expensive projects. Remember, sewing is a learning process, and taking it one step at a time is okay.
  7. Consult with Store Staff: Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from the store’s staff. If you have specific fabric requirements or need help finding a particular type of fabric, show them photos or descriptions of your project. They are usually knowledgeable and can guide you to the right section of the store. Additionally, they can provide insights into the best fabric choices for your specific sewing project.


In conclusion, shopping for fabric can be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience once you understand the basics and apply these tips. Whether you’re a seasoned seamstress or a beginner, these guidelines will help you make informed decisions, choose the right fabric for your projects, and ultimately create beautiful garments and crafts. Happy fabric hunting!

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