Fabric for Sewing: Fibers

I am no expert in fabric.  There are fabulously heavy and huge books on the subject.  For definitions, try this link.  Today, I’m just going to write about the fibers I like and the little bit I know.  Nothing deep or profound. 🙂 Lots of links though to places where I go to read about my favorite fabric fibers.

I love natural fibers. I like the way they breath and that they are renewable in their source.

Wool is one of my favorites.  In a colder climate, especially a dry cold climate, wool is my hands down favorite of all except silk.  I like a light summer weight wool for most uses but I have had wool blends that I enjoyed.  Wool has a nice heaviness to it and yet can drape.  It makes really nice skirt and jacket combinations. Another link to an article on wool is here.  Wool dyes well and is easy to handle in sewing projects.  The down side is the fact that even if you pre-wash your fabric, you will still need to plan on drying your wool items flat and that takes space and a dry enough environment that things dry before they get musty.

Linen and cotton are wonderful, cool, breathable fabrics.  Cotton broadcloth is a great way to pre-make a skirt pattern so that your muslin is wearable.  I once made a skirt from broadcloth before cutting the more expensive fabric and to my surprise, I liked that particular pattern in the cheap broadcloth so much I never did use the expensive fabric for that pattern.  Linen is a wonderfully cool fabric but it does tend to wrinkle horribly.  I like it for undergarments though as nothing else is as comfortable except silk. Here is wikipedia on Linen.  Blends between cotton and linen are also nice useful fabrics.  The ability to wash a garment in the washer and dryer is always a solid reason for choosing cotton and cotton linen blends.

I also love silk.  The fascination of silk is how the growers produce silkworms for future generations and other silkworms whose lives end at the pupae stage for the long strands of silk. A four ply silk is wonderful in weight, drapes as only silk will drape and was the fabric in my favorite skirt of all time.  If I could only have a single fabric for everything I would choose silk in various weights.  It is the best of all fabrics but also very expensive.  Silk Road Foundation has a wonderful long article on silk and its history. One of the glories of silk is that it will retain the brightness of the dyes used on it.  COLOR!  However, there is work being done to find more environmentally friendly ways to color silk. One of the most fascinating has the worms create colored fibers.

Finally, we come to a wood fiber fabric that is another wonderful fabric to use in sewing, it wears well, and it drapes almost as nicely as silk. The brand I have owned is Tencel.  It is wash and wear like cotton but drapes more like silk and resists wrinkles.  I’d rather have real silk but this stuff is really nice. It is not a natural fiber being a type of rayon but the durability and machine washability is a real winner.

I find myself wearing mostly cotton and cotton blends simply because that is what I can afford to buy.  I purchase summer weight wool for nicer garments and winter wear.  I want to buy silk, lots of silk, especially the heavy fabrics of silk.  Expensive but worth it!   Alas, unlike the government, I must keep to a budget.

Enjoy!  And if you want, share your favorite fibers in the comments!


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