A Guide to Buying Fabrics Online: Fabric Construction

Following on from my last blog post, we looked at the most common fabric fibre types. This blog will cover the different types of fabric construction including knitting, weaving, and more. 

Mastering the ins and outs of fabrics is one of the most important aspects of designing.  Without a fundamental understanding of fabrics and their construction, it can be difficult to know what fabrics to look for.  

All fabrics are made from a type of fibre and type of construction. Different fibres include silk, wool, cotton, and acrylic to name a few, read my most recent blog post to find out more about fibres. 

Weaving:

Weaving is the process of interweaving two sets of thread, the warps which run vertically, and the wefts which run horizontally on a weaving loom. The threads can be woven in different ways to create varying fabric types.  

Woven Fabric Construction

The most common weaves are plain, twill, pile (corduroy or velvet), and satin weave. 

The plain weave is the most basic and oldest weave construction. The wraps and wefts criss-cross each other at right angles. You may also see plain weaves referred to as taffeta weaves. Plain weaves are commonly used for clothing and furnishing fabrics, particularly providing a structured appearance to shirts and furniture.  

Plain Weave Construction

Pile weaves are where yarns protrude from the surface as either loops that can be left or cut. Examples of pile fabrics include corduroy and velvet. 

Cord Fabric

Satin weave has a high sheen and reflects light, while sateen has a dull sheen and does not shimmer. 

Twill weaves have a different appearance from the face to the back. They are usually harder wearing than plain weaves and, therefore, ideal for utility and casual wear. 

Twill Weave Construction

Felting:

Felt is a unique non-woven cloth crafted through the process of matting, condensing, and pressing wool fibres.  

The traditional wet felting technique involves stimulating natural fibres through friction, coupled with water and alkaline substances like soap. This process encourages the fibres to interlock and mend together to create a structure for the fabric. 

On an industrial scale, felting is achieved through chemical treatments or utilising felting needles. 

It is also important to note that inexpensive felt is typically made from man-made fibres, however, a minimum of 30% natural wool fibre is essential to ensure the fabric maintains its ability to hold together. 

Felted Fabric

Knitted:

Knitting is the method of creating fabric by interlocking one or more yarns or threads through rows of interconnected loops using two or more needles. 

Knitting can be done by hand, using hand-operated machines, or by powered industrial machines. 

In knitwear, the term ‘gauge’ is used to describe the fineness or thickness of the fabric. It indicates the size of needles in machine knitting. Higher gauge numbers correspond to finer needles, resulting in a finer knitted fabric.  

Knitted Fabric Construction

Other factors that determine the touch, weight, and handle of the fabric: 

Yarn Count:

The strand of fibre used in processes of weaving, knitting, and more construction methods is known as yarn.  

Yarn count refers to the thickness of the yarn, this can be thick, fine, or somewhere in the middle. As an example, a silk yarn is finer than others, resulting in a lower yarn count.  

Thread Count:

You may often hear about thread count, especially when purchasing bed linen. Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch of fabric. Fabrics with higher thread counts are denser, whereas lower thread count fabrics are softer, lighter, and airier.  

This concludes my overview of the varying fabric constructions. Familiarising yourself with different construction methods is key to selecting the perfect fabric for your designs. Look out for my next blog, where you can find out more about the all-important fabric certifications.

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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