It’s helpful to know as much as we can about the fabrics we work with. We’ll end up making better fabric choices and caring for our finished items better. So here’s a list of some of the most common fabric fibers with information about each.
Note: The care guidelines given are general. Follow the specific care instructions provided with your fabric.
Natural Fibers Natural fibers come from plants and animals.
Cotton comes from the seedpod of the cotton plant. Fabric characteristics
Cotton fabrics have a soft hand and come in a variety of textures and weights.
Cotton is strong, durable, and absorbent. It takes dye well, draws heat away from the body, and can withstand high temperatures.
Most cottons wrinkle easily unless treated with a special finish. Cotton also shrinks when laundered, so it’s important to preshrink cotton fabric before sewing. Cotton is also weakened by excessive exposure to sunlight.
Most cotton fabrics can be laundered, but hand washing is recommended for some weaves (read your care label). Most white cottons can be bleached. Iron cotton fabrics slightly damp using a high temperature.
Linen fabrics have a course, natural looking texture and a slight sheen. They're available in various weights and weaves.
Linen is strong, absorbent, draws heat away from the body, and can withstand high temperatures. It is also a smooth fiber that’s lint free.
Linen tends to wrinkle easily unless treated with a special finish. It can also shrink and soften if laundered. Linen also has poor elasticity – it tends to stretch without recovering its shape.
Since linen fabrics can shrink or soften if laundered, dry-cleaning is usually recommended. Iron linen using a high temperature.
Silk comes from the cocoon of the silkworm.
Silk fabrics drape well and have a smooth texture.
Silk is very strong, absorbent, and holds in body heat. It’s wrinkle-resistant, takes dye well, and has good recovery.
Silk can shrink if washed (unless the fabric has been preshrunk prior to garment construction). Silk is also weakened by sunlight and perspiration.
Dry-cleaning is recommended for some silk fabrics, and some may be hand or machine washed (read your care label). Machine drying is usually not recommended. Press silk using a low iron temperature and a press cloth. Do not bleach.
Examples of silk fabrics
Brocade, chiffon, organza.
Wool comes from the fleece of sheep, and also from the coats of other animals, such as goats, camels, and llamas.
Wool fabrics come in many textures and weights, from very smooth to nubby.
Wool is absorbent, holds in body heat, and is wrinkle-resistant. It takes dye well and retains its shape.
Wool is a relatively weak fiber, it’s vulnerable to moths, and shrinks if laundered unless treated with a special finish.
Dry cleaning is usually recommended for wool fabrics, but some can be washed by hand or machine (read your care label). Do not use bleach.