Fundamentals of fabrics part 1

When I started my adventure with sewing, I was often wondering if I should get to know as many fabric names as possible, know which are synthetic and which natural, what is their weave, and what the fabric weight means…. there is so much information out there that I got discouraged from the beginning. After many years of practice I can recommend all of you to take it easy. You don’t need to go to the sea to learn how to swim.

Material science is a fascinating field, full of surprises, puzzles and news. However, there are things that we should learn as soon as possible, no matter whether you design clothes or just sew them for yourself using a pattern. The appearance of your model, and the comfort of your work with it depend on your choice of material. Having that in mind, we should get to know how they’re made, because the properties that they acquire in the production process we must consider in the first place.

There are 3 methods of producing materials, and thanks to them we have: woven fabrics, knitted fabrics and non-woven fabrics. The most basic ingredient of all of them are fibers – thin filaments which after spinning form yarns and threads.

Woven fabric

The best known woven fabrics are created in the weaving process. At least two systems of threads are interwoven here perpendicularly. Weft threads are being pulled crosswise throught lengthwise taut, tear durable warp threads. structure of woven fabric - warps and weftsThe edges are usually woven more densely, creating salvedges, which often contain information about the fabric printed on them. Because the warp threads are stretched, so it can be woven evenly, most of fabrics are strong, inflexible and stable (predictable), which is undoubtedly conducive to learning of sewing. Fabrics can be woven densely like denim – then they are stiff and strong, but also windproof. Woven loosely – chifon or lawn are characterized not only by the lightness and delicacy, but also transparency. By changing color or type of warp and weft threads, unlimited variety of fabrics can be created. Usage of a different type of weave changes the way the fabric handles.

Knitted fabric

Popularity of knits rises because of their wearing comfort and ease of production. They are made in knitting process where multiple loops of yarn are created and joined with each other. Knitted fabric consists of horizontal, parallel courses and vertical wales.
structure of knitted fabric - courses and walesKnits stretch in both directions, and thanks to this flexibility they fit closely to the body, providing great comfort. For the same reasons, however, they quickly loose their shape. Their openwork structure is breathable and can keep warm. The variety of textures and patterns is huge, but stretchy material requires flexible seams, and therefore having adequate equipment and better practical skills.

Non-woven fabric

The oldest method of creating materials is bonding / splicing the fibers togheter. The process of manufacturing felt fabrics can be a good example – it consists of soaking wool, compressing it, which results in entanglement of fibers, and ultimately creating a compact structure. Such created non-woven fabric doesn’t fray or rip, and can be cut in any direction. The best known non-woven fabrics are: waddings and interfacings.


To summarize: a method of production, depending on a fiber combination, gives materials its irreversible properties like: density, thickness, weight, texture, color, pattern, stability or flexibility, breathability and fabric handle.

Now I’ve got a task for you – get any material out of your closet, try to describe its properties, see how the fabric handles, and what kind of clothes can be made with it. You can wrap it around your body, and try to form a shape of it. You don’t need to be an expert in the field of materials science to sew, and with every newly sewn item you will gain an experience also in this area.