Monday, April 26, 2010

Tuesday's Tute: Fabrics: The What and Where

This is not a photo of my stash, but a nice looking one found on google pictures.

Two of the questions I get most often, are what types of fabric can I use and where do I buy it. Getting quality fabric is getting harder and harder to find at a good price.
For the past year, I've been searching for different types of fabrics to suit a varied number of purposes. I've been searching for the best prices and highest quality for the price. Although, what I've found is, I am sure, not a final list, it's worth sharing at this point.
Today I'm going to share some of the fabrics we use, what I do with them, and where I get them. Hopefully some of what I've learned this year will help you as you create for your family, and save you some money.
Cotton woven (quilter's cottons):
I use these for blouses, skirts, and pants. Basically anything I sew that has much of a print to it, and isn't knit is cotton woven. They are easy to sew with come in a huge variety of prints. Their one draw back is that they can wrinkle. I wash them in cold, dry in the dryer for about 10 min., then hang them to dry. Some pieces are good to wear, others need a light iron. I only buy these from a quilt store. The pieces that I've purchased from the chain stores wrinkle much, much more and have shrinkage to a larger degree.
I buy many of the prints we use at They have a wonderful clearance section online with prints prices from 1.98 and up. I often find everything I need for $3.98 or less.
Twill: I use this for jumpers, pants, skirts, and shorts. This fabric has more body than the woven cotton. I get most of my twill from or reclaim it from a garment purchased at the thrift store for that purpose. Nice prints can be easily found in the clearance section of the chez ami site.
Knit: I use knits for anything that should/could use stretch or extra softness. We've done shirts, dresses, nightgowns, shorts, and bathing suits.
I get knit from in their clearance section, mostly. I do buy select pieces in their regular priced section when they have a sale. It pays to get on their mailing list. Their colors cross over years and lines very well, so stocking up and being able to use some with a later print isn't a problem.
The knit section I'll separate some for more clarity.
Interlock: T-shirts, polo shirts, dresses. Two way stretch (horizontal). Comes in a variety of weights 11 oz.-16 oz. (light weight is good for shirts, heavy weight is good for jackets/pants).
Jersey: Dresses, skirts, pants. Two way stretch (horizontal).
Cotton/lycra: Shirts, leggings, etc. Four way stretch (horizontal and vertical). Great for leggings as it springs back well for the knees. No baggy knees. This can also be used for bathing suits, but can get heavy when wet.
Tactel/Spandex: Bathing Suits, dance wear. This is the slippery fabric that most bathing suits are made from. It can be tricky to sew with because it is slippery. But, bathing suits aren't as hard as I thought they'd be and the fabric and I got along very well. (I've only used this type of fabric from ChezAmi and can't speak for other companies. However, I am going to order some for me from Needlenook as soon as we locate what I'm looking for.)
ITY knit: Dresses, tops, skirts. This works nicely for anything you want to have a nice flow and stretch. It's soft and silky on the skin. I use this mostly for my things that need some stretch to them. I've purchased ITY knits from and from Anne St. Claire at Anne doesn't sell from her site, but is very accommodating and will help you choose what you'd like from her wide variety of fabrics. You can email or call and describe what you want. She'll help you find it. Her prices are very reasonable. She's a wealth of information also.
Denim: Skirts, jeans, shorts. I get all my denim from thrift store items. I buy larger than I need and cut up the garment to reuse. It's already preshrunk and is a much better quality than I can buy at a fabric store. I also like the feel of the worn denim, so do my children. They also love to choose pocket designs.
Velour, velvet, and corduroy: Tops, dresses, jumpers. We get this by reclaiming thrift garments. We look for pieces with lots of yardage or at least large pieces (dress with no waist).
Satin/Taffeta: We reuse satins/taffeta from formals at the thrift store. There is plenty of yardage for a beautiful dress in the skirt of a formal. We've even found a dupioni silk dress there for about $20. It's usually more than that per yard. These fabrics can also make wonderful curtains. After silk is washed and dried (shrunk), it is forever washable.
Sheets: Dresses, tops, pjs, curtains, bedding, shopping bags, and gift bags. Reclaimed sheets are soft and easy to work with. Depending on the print they can become nearly anything and per yard are an unbelievable bargain.
Fleece: Mittens, scarves, hats, jackets. We watch the thrift store for this too. A fleece coat can make many mittens, and such and is already washed up so you can see the pilling you'll have, if any. We do buy some at the chain store for special prints. Although we learned that anti pill just means pills more slowly than regular. It still pills.
Sweater knit: Tops, dresses, mittens. We buy large women's sweaters at the thrift store and make cute sweater dresses. You just have to be careful not to unravel the weave after you cut the sweater apart. We cut and sew quickly and gently. Wool sweaters are wonderful fabric after washing. Yes, buy big wash in hot and dry (repeat until the weave is tight). You can make mittens, hats, purses, small clothing pieces that are now washable.
I do buy some fabrics from chain stores, but they have to be a type that doesn't wrinkle or shrink (no cottons/no knits). The Simply Lovely dress was made from a polyester fabric found on the $1 table at Walmart three years ago.
This is not an exhaustive list of fabric types or where to get quality fabrics. It is a list of the types I use most often and where I've found them. I hope it was/will be helpful to you.
Happy Sewing!
PS...We're getting close to follower #75. Watch for the next e-pattern winner!


  1. Debbie--
    What great information--I've sewed for many years and this is the first time I've seen such detailed info about types of fabrics--esp knits. I like the fact that you use alot of thrift store/reclaimed fabric. Thanks for the links to your fabric "stores". With only a JoAnn's near me I have been doing alot of fabric purchases online.
    Don't you wish that picture was of your fabric stash--I do!!!!

  2. Any recommendations for linen? I've been dying to use it in a quilt or bag project, but there are so many kinds! I've been told that 100% linen is hard to work with and that a linen/cotton blend is best. What do you think?

  3. Elena-Linen...well, my limited experience is not positive. I've not enjoyed using linen in sewing or ready to wear. All of the linen I've owned to date has had a wrinkle problem. In fact, I have 4 pieces in my stash that not only wrinkled in the prewash, they've lost their straight of grain and shrunk quite a bit.
    I didn't write about it, because I either haven't found a good supplier, or don't have anything good to say about it yet. I do intend to keep learning, as there are many good uses for the fabric, if I can get it to wash well. (That's one of my main sewing criteria.) I don't like to spend as much time ironing a garment as I spent sewing it.


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