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Know your fabrics

Whether you’re an aspiring fashion designer, or just love making clothes to suit your own unique style, knowing your fabrics will get you on the right track to sartorial success.

When selecting fabric for a project start by asking yourself “what am I making, and why?” The answers to these fundamental questions will give you an idea of the qualities you need your fabrics to have, and you will then be able to look for these qualities as you shop. For example, if you’re looking to make a sundress to wear on a beach holiday you’ll need to find light, breathable fabric that feels comfortable against the skin. If you’re designing swimwear or activewear, you’ll want fabric with stretch and flexibility.

If you’re looking for durability, affordability, and the broadest range of colours to choose from, try fabrics such as rayon, nylon, and polyester. These materials wash and wear well, and give you freedom to experiment as you develop your garment making skills.

For pieces that are warmest in winter, coolest in summer, and have the most luxurious feel, look for wool, cotton, linen and silk. These natural fibres can be pricier than synthetic fabrics, but they produce comfortable garments with that high-end finish and feel.

When stretch and flexibility are top of your priority list, find knit fabrics with an elastine component. Conversely, for more stable fabric that produces a structured finish, opt for wovens.

Know your style

Before you go fabric shopping, do a little research on the style you’re hoping to achieve. Look through blogs and magazines for examples of what’s on trend. Find illustrations and patterns from historical fashions that inspire you. Examine the style of people you admire and think about what defines their look. As you go, take note of the distinctive details you see. Many designers will make sketches or create mood boards as part of this process as a way of developing and editing design concepts, and these are a great tool for beginners too.

Once you have a broad idea of the style you’re after, look at the key features that define it and shop accordingly. If you’ve done your research you’ll find that fabrics with the right prints, colours, textures, and finishes will jump out at you, and you’ll be able to make confident choices to achieve the looks you’re after. 

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Buy what you need

Always make sure you buy the right amount of fabric for your garment. If you buy too little, you run the risk of not being able to find the right fabric again when you go back for more. All commercial clothing patterns come with suggested fabric quantities, so make use of this information. If you’re not working from a pattern, find one that is similar to the garment you’re planning to make and use it as a guide for estimating the amount you need.

Most garments are made of more than fabric. They may have buttons, zips, studs, trim, or any number of other elements both functional and decorative. When you choose your fabric, make sure you select one that you can find matching elements for.

Make it yours

At the end of the day, a large component of fabric choice comes down to personal taste. The best way to settle on your final choice is to visit a store like Spotlight and look at their range.

Put colours and prints side by side and see which you like best. Hold fabrics in your hands and see how they feel, how they drape, and how heavy they are. Look for matching buttons and zips and see how they work with your choices. Garment making is a very hands on, tactile process, and that should start from the very beginning. Enjoy it. Play. Put your unique stamp on every item you create by making choices that reflect your taste and style. 

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