If you’re just starting out in the world of sewing, you might be intimidated at the amount of fabric types out there. Trust me, I’ve been there; I’ve done that. At one point, I didn’t even want to begin reading up about fabrics because it looked like there was so much information to process.
Lucky for you, I’ve done the hard work and put it in a guide — this guide. Look no further, because in this article, we’ll be looking at the best fabrics for beginners — complete with notes on features of a good beginner fabric, what you benefit from sewing beginner fabric, the top fabrics to start off with and the ones to avoid.
Are you excited to get into it? I know I am!
The Merits of Easy Fabrics to Sew
Don’t think that picking the easy fabrics to begin with is taking the easy way out. In fact, I highly recommend both beginners and advanced sewists to go with easy fabrics when possible. Why? There are a couple of perks when you opt for easier fabrics:
- You’ll have a better sewing experience. If you’re picking up any new skill, it’s going to be difficult in the beginning. If you’re not strong-willed, you might get easily disheartened and give up before giving it a proper shot. Why make it harder for yourself when you can make one factor to be in your favour? It’s the first step to building up your sewing journey.
- You’ll be more confident. When you’re not making mistakes every other second, it naturally makes you think, “oh, I’m getting the hang of this”, or “oh, I’m not as bad as I thought I was going to be”. These tiny thoughts help to boost your confidence in this new skill, which does wonders for your sewing progress.
- Your sewing becomes more accurate. Speaking of progress, with a boost in confidence equals more practice, and with more practice comes more accuracy in your sewing skill. You’re not going to beat yourself up for mistakes because you’re not making many anymore, because you’re slowly improving!
- You’ll spend less money. Because you’re not making as many mistakes and sewing more accurately, you won’t have to buy extra fabric in case you cut out the wrong piece or sew something the wrong way and have to redo the entire thing. At the end of the day, you’re saving your wallet a couple of extra bucks.
- Your product turns out better. Can you see how all of the points above join together? If you’re more confident in sewing and in turn your sewing becomes accurate, then your final product is much better in quality. You’ll be well on your way to creating professional-looking products!
What Makes A Fabric Good For Beginners?
So what exactly makes a fabric good for beginners? First of all, it’s easy to sew. Some call this type of fabric as “forgiving fabrics”, because that’s exactly what they are: forgiving. If you make a mistake, they’ll forgive you instead of acting out and giving you tons of problems on top of your bad sewing.
Easy fabrics are generally not as stretchy, but enough to assist you in your sewing. It’s also easier to handle when it comes to ironing, cutting and pinning. When the fabric is generally more convenient to undergo all the various sewing-related tasks, you’ll be more focused on improving your sewing skills rather than dealing with the fabric.
Fabrics that are easy to work with are also the right thickness — not too thick nor too thin. If it’s too thin, it’s more likely that you’ll have skipped stitches, which makes it even harder to handle the fabric.
Of course, an easy fabric requires no extraordinary presser feet — just the normal one will do. Specialty presser feet are required when the fabric needs it: if it’s a sticky fabric, then you’ll need a non-stick one. If you’re required to get a different type of foot instead of using an all-purpose one, then consider that as a huge hint that the fabric isn’t easy.
When sewing with trickier fabrics, even experienced sewists encounter problems along the way. So why put yourself, a beginner, through all that trouble at the start when an expert can’t 100% avoid them either?
Fabrics To Go For As A Beginner
So now that you know why you need to go for certain types of fabrics more than others, let’s have a look at the top 9 fabrics to go for as a beginner. These are listed in order of ease — with the first few being the easiest of them all.
1. Shirting (Cotton or Cotton Blend)
Shirting fabric is also another way of saying cotton or cotton blend fabrics. There are tons of cotton fabrics out there, but shirting cotton is specifically one of the easiest to sew and perfect for beginners. It’s not too smooth but not rough either, so the friction makes it easier to handle. It’s a breeze to cut, pin and sew shirting — it doesn’t get bulky under the needle and foot, and it doesn’t stretch too much.
2. Cotton Lawn
Another easy-to-handle fabric is cotton lawn. Similar to shirting, this fabric is crisp and smooth — even smoother than the other. Some say cotton lawn is similar to quilting cotton, which is without a doubt one of the best types of fabric for beginners. The only difference, I would say, is that cotton lawn is for apparel and quilting cotton is for home decoration. So if you’re looking to sew apparels, go for cotton lawn; if you’re looking to sew home decorations like pillow cases or, well, quilts, then quilting cotton is your best bet.
Linen is, to this day, my favorite fabric to sew. It’s just so easy and the final product is so luxurious! This natural fiber is not stretchy at all, but some types of linen do have a bit of stretch that’ll help you in your sewing process. It’s easy to cut because it’s not slippery at all, and because it’s not slippery, pattern pieces tend to stick to each other. That means there’s less pinning to do and it cuts down the preparation time before sewing. Oh, and don’t get me started on the ironing — you’ll get a fabulous crisp line without putting too much effort at all.
This next fabric is a plain weave fabric that’s a type of cotton — muslin is used by fashion designers, students and other types of sewists as a prototype piece (or toile) before making the actual garment. They’ll experiment with the patterns and practice on muslin before cutting the real fabric. That’s because, not only is this fabric so easy to handle, but it’s also the cheapest fabric on the market! You can make basically anything from muslin: dresses, quilts, blankets and blouses are just to name a few. I do recommend not using this for the long run, but rather just as you’re starting out. It’s not the comfiest of fabrics, I’d say.
5. Chambray (Denim Shirting)
Don’t worry if you don’t know the name of the fabric. Chambray is what they call denim shirting fabric, which is a lightweight version of denim fabric. Compared to normal shirting, chambray provides more friction and weight. That’s in no way a bad thing — in fact, it might actually be better for some. You’ll have more control when sewing, and because it’s made of natural fibers, it’s easy to iron. I personally love chambray as it gets softer the more you wear it!
Flannel is thick in comparison to all the other fabrics we mentioned so far on the list. The best part about sewing flannel is that it has the right amount of stretch that’ll help you in your sewing rather than hinder you. It’s perfect for beginners because, just like linen, it sticks together — easier to sew, cut and iron!
There are a lot of polyester fabrics out there — everything from polyester blends to 100% polyester. Regardless, this synthetic woven fabric is one of the best fabrics for beginners. It’s lightweight and crease-resistant, which is why a lot of sewists opt for this material — you don’t have to iron the garment every time you want to wear it! Polyester can make a variety of things including shirts, pants, jackets, home decoration and accessories. Not only is it easy to handle but it’s also a cost-efficient alternative to natural fabrics. You don’t have to splurge too much when starting out!
8. Lyocell (Rayon)
I personally won’t recommend a beginner to go straight for lyocell in the beginning. Being a type of rayon, this fabric has a similar silkiness to that of satin but not as slippery. In fact, it’s heavier and easier to handle than rayon itself. I would give this a shot if you’re confident to step up from the likes of cotton and linen.
9. Scuba Knit (Neoprene)
Some might argue that this isn’t the best fabric for beginners because it’s stretchy. I agree, but it’s only really stretchy when you really pull on it. In my opinion, this is a great fabric to try as a beginner as it’s a heavier fabric than your average T-shirt knit fabric. The stretchiness helps you rather than make it difficult for you.
What Fabrics To Avoid As A Beginner
Other than fabrics to try as a beginner, there are a few fabrics that you should definitely avoid. Even I have problems with it to this day, after almost a decade of sewing.
Satin is one fabric you should not try out as a beginner. Sure, it’s beautiful and silky — the end product will definitely look glamorous. But there’s a price to pay: it’s so slippery and negatively unstretchy. It’ll slip through your fingers and it’s the hardest to pin and cut. It’s a hassle to even put two pieces of satin together, let alone sewing them down.
Another fabric to avoid as a beginner is denim. We love our denim jeans and jacket, but it’s quite a thick fabric. If you don’t have the right type of needle and foot, it can be rather difficult to handle. Your needle will break every so often and you might even have machine jams. That’s no way to start off your sewing journey.
So there you have it — what to look out for in a fabric that works best for beginners, and what to avoid. You’re all set to go fabric-hunting for your next beginner sewing project!