Choosing the Right Fabric Type for Sewing Apparel

Spoonflower offers over 25 different fabric types for a vast array of apparel projects. But how can you choose just one, and where do you even start? lucky, Spoonflower Ambassador and pattern maker Leila Kelleher makes it quite easy! Continue reading for her rundown of our best apparel fabrics from comfy Cotton Lawn to durable Dogwood Denim™.

Featured designs: Black and White Tie-dye Spots by @carolinadiazb, Fractured Prisms by lapetitelecour and Geometric Qajaq by pangniq

Leila: How often have you found the perfect print fabric, only to discover it only comes in a quilting cotton and not an apparel-friendly fabric (more on that later)? One of the things I love about working with Spoonflower fabrics is the amount of creative control I have. I get to search through so many gorgeous designs to find just the right print, and then I can choose what fabric I want it printed on! So much creative control but it also makes it tricky to choose the right fabric for the job!

So, here are my top picks for sewing clothing, broken down by garment type. Personally, I prefer to use natural fibers as much as possible so my lists do reflect this. However, one thing I don’t recommend is using quilting specific fabrics for garments because they are not designed to have as much drape as is normally preferable in clothing.

All of the fabrics in these photos have been pre-washed so you can see what they will look like. Always prewash your fabrics before you cut (the washing instructions for Spoonflower fabrics are always included in the package).


Best Fabric Types for Dresses, Shirts and Tops

Leila’s Top Pick: Cotton Poplin

Needle size: 80
Material: 100% cotton
Construction: Woven, plain weave

Cotton Poplin is hands down my pick here for versatility. This is what I order if I don’t have a specific project in mind because it works equally well for tops or dresses.

Cotton Poplin fabric draped over a mannequin

Organic Cotton Sateen

Needle size: 80
Material: 100% Organic Cotton
Construction: Woven, satin weave

Organic Cotton Sateen is also very lovely and slightly more structured, as is Perennial Sateen Grand, an option for Spoonflower PRO members. The advantage with Perennial Sateen Grand is that it’s super wide which means you can get away with buying very little yardage!

Learn more about Spoonflower’s PRO membership and how you can gain access to Perennial Sateen Grand and other pro-exclusive perks.

Cotton Lawn

Needle size: 70
Material: 100% cotton
Construction: Woven, plain weave

Cotton Lawn is beautifully crisp and fine. However, be aware that lawn can be slightly sheer, so select your project accordingly.

Cotton Lawn fabric draped over a mannequin

Honorable mention: Organic Sweet Pea Gauze™
Lately we have seen a trend of using double gauze for simple tops and dresses. It’s wonderful to wear, but be aware that it quilts/crinkles up a lot when washed, so I recommend buying a little extra than you need. Simple shapes without closures work the best because it’s a little tricky to sew!


Best Fabrics for Pajamas, Nightgowns and Robes

My fabric choices for nightwear are the same as the ones for tops and dresses, but my top recommendation is Cotton Lawn! It’s so silky smooth and very comfortable to wear. For an all purpose robe, I would go for either Cotton Poplin for warm weather or Organic Cotton Sateen for something cozier.


Best Fabrics for Knitwear

Leila’s Top Pick: Cotton Spandex Jersey

Needle size: 80 ballpoint/jersey needle
Material: 93% cotton, 7% spandex
Construction: Knit, jersey knit

I adore Cotton Spandex Jersey. It is so easy to sew with (great if you’re new to sewing knits), presses well and doesn’t roll as much as some other jerseys (all jerseys have this tendency). It’s a 4-way stretch fabric, meaning it stretches in both horizontal and vertical directions. The spandex gives it this quality (the actual fibers as well as the knit stretches). It’s a wonderfully versatile knit fabric and is perfect for tops, dresses, skirts, light pants and underwear.

Organic Cotton Knit

Needle size: 80 ballpoint/jersey needle
Material: 100% organic cotton
Construction: Knit, interlock knit

Organic Cotton Knit is an interlock and it’s like wearing the softest floofiest cloud. This would be an amazing choice for babies, children or sensory adults. It’s a 2-way stretch, meaning there is mechanical stretch horizontally. This means the fibers themselves do not stretch, but I rely on the properties of the knit. It makes fabulous tops (mainly ones that have positive ease), baby clothes, dresses and looser pants. The fabric has a natural creamy color rather than a bright white.

I sewed two Muna and Broad Atrax tops so you can compare Cotton Spandex Jersey with Organic Cotton Knit. This pattern has positive ease, so you can use either fabric, but as you can see the result is slightly different.

Left: Atrax top by Muna and Broad in Black and White Tie-dye Spots by @carolinadiazb sewn in Organic Cotton Knit
Right: Atrax top by Muna and Broad in Vibrant Black and White Tie-Dye by @carolinadiazb sewn in Cotton Spandex Jersey

Sport Lycra®

Needle size: 80 ballpoint/jersey needle
Material: 88% polyester, 12% Invista Lycra®
Construction: Knit, jersey

Sport Lycra is perfect for swimwear. As with any printed swim fabric, ensure you select your size wisely to ensure the print is not too distorted/stretched out when you wear it!


Best Fabrics for Bottoms, Outerwear and Utility Garments

Leila’s Top Pick: Dogwood Denim

Needle size: 90
Material: 100% cotton
Construction: Woven, 3 x 1 twill weave

It’s hard to make generalizations for this section, but to suffice, I just love Dogwood Denim. It’s the perfect fabric for hats, jackets (chore jackets), jeans, bags and more! It’s such a dream to sew with—a domestic sewing machine can handle multiple layers with ease. addition, Lightweight Cotton Twill is perfect for structured pants or jackets where you want a little more drape, as is Linen Cotton Canvas.

This is a market bag pattern I made for Muna and Broad Patreons—it’s ginormous!
Design is Geometric Qajaq by pangniq on Dogwood Denim.

Lightweight Cotton Twill fabric draped over a mannequin

Overall, there are so many wonderful fabric choices at Spoonflower. I hope this post has given you some ideas and jumping off points. Happy sewing!

DIYs for Days

Now that you know all about our popular fabric options, it’s time to pick a project and get sewing! Explore tutorials from our other 2022 Ambassadors such as Tracey’s stackable floor cushionsMichael’s self-drafted T-shirt or Danika’s caftan cover-up.

More Sewing Tutorials

FAQ

What is the difference between a woven and knit fabric?
Woven fabrics They are created using several warps, or longways fibers, and wefts, or horizontal fibers. Knit fabrics are made by interloping or interlacing a single fiber/thread. Woven fabrics are less stretchy due to the fact that they’re tightly woven, and knit fabrics are known for their stretch since there’s less tension.
Where can I find apparel sewing patterns?
You can find sewing patterns at your local fabric/craft store, or downloadable online like from our friends at Peppermint Magazine, Seaworkand of course, Muna and Broad.
What comes with a Spoonflower PRO Membership?
Click here to learn about the perks of a Spoonflower PRO Membership, such as access to PRO-exclusive fabrics, free standard worldwide shipping, half-price swatches and more.

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