It is important to consider the style and use of the garment when choosing the fabric you will use. Your personal sewing skills should also be taken into account, as some fabric types require experience in order to get the desired result.
Two items can be made from the same pattern, but by using different fabric, the look can be very different. Using the type of fabric recommended in the pattern will usually give the best result, but once you have experience with patterns and the different types of fabric, you can completely change the look and feel of a garment by simply changing the fabric you use.
It is important to differentiate between the fibre and the weave. The weave tells us how the fabric was put together, while the fibre tells us what it was made from.
There are three main sources of fibre for garment fabric: animal (wool, silk), plant (cotton, flax, jute, bamboo, rayon), and synthetic (nylon, polyester, acrylic). These fibres can be knit in the same way, but result in completely different fabrics.
Jersey is a fine and smooth knit with different right and wrong side. It is the most common type of knit fabric weave. While usually made up of Cotton Lycra blend, it can have bamboo or rayon in place of the cotton, and come in a variety of weights, which will greatly impact its feel, drape (and cost!), and therefore its suitability for different garments. It is used in a variety of different garments that require stretch, such as blouses, tee shirts, tops and dresses.
Single/Double Brushed Poly Lycra is a 4-way stretch knit made of 96% polyester and 4% spandex. It has also undergone a process where either one side (single) or both sides (double) of the fabric are brushed, creating that characteristic suede like feel. It has excellent recovery and lovely drape, making it an excellent fabric for tops, dresses, skirts, and especially leggings.
French Terry is smooth on one side (usually the right, or patterned side) and has tiny loops on the underside, which are soft and help provide warmth. The fibre content can change the feel - Cotton Lycra french terry can be thick, soft and structured making it suitable for tracksuit pants, etc while Poly Rayon french terry can be very soft and drapey making it more suitable for dresses, tops and cardigans. French terry is also sometimes called stretch or jersey terry, and is ideal for tops, pants, jumpers and cardigans as well as sleepwear.
Interlock is a popular knit, made with 2 plys, giving it similar right and wrong sides. It is used in all sorts of garments, such as t-shirts, tops and sportswear.
Ponte has a double knit construction which is heavier and sturdier than jersey knit. It tends to be easier for beginners to sew with than other knits due to its stability. It is ideal for dresses, skirts, and pants.
Scuba is a type of double knit made specifically from polyester and spandex, with a very fine thread, and has a smooth texture and nice drape. It is not at all like the neoprene used in wetsuits for scuba diving!
Liverpool is a polyester spandex blend that, unlike almost other knits, is textured on the right side of the fabric and smooth on the wrong side. It typically has only a 2-way stretch, a thick drape, and good recovery. It is good for more structured, or formal garments.
Hacci Sweater Knit feels very soft, like sweater material, but is generally much lighter in weight. It’s soft and stretchy and sews up just like normal knits, with lovely drape. It is ideal for soft, light jumpers, sweaters and cardigans.
Ribbed Knit is easy to identify because it has lines (or “ribs”) running vertically on the fabric. It’s most often used for cuffs and necklines because it’s super stretchy, but also works very well for tee shirts.
Stretch Fleece or Sweatshirt Fleece is a soft polyester or polyamide knit with a deep pile texture, smooth on the outside and fleecy on the inside, with very little stretch. It is mostly used for sports and outerwear. Fleece is easy to sew.