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        How to Find the Right Side of a Woven Fabric





        Guidelines to Help You Choose the Right Side of Fabric


        I know you’ve done this …You set your fabric under a bright light, taken it outside, folded part of it over to compare sides, examined the holes in the selvedge, wishing and hoping they will help direct you. And still, you’re not sure which side of the fabric is the face side. With eyes glazed over, you finally decide to just pick a side and be done with it. But wouldn’t it be nice if we had some clues? 

        Finding the right side of printed and textured fabric can be a bit easier to figure out if you know what to look for. Clearly, if you have a digitally printed fabric the design will be on the face side of the fabric. The wrong side of the fabric will usually be white with some of the print visible.

        A jacquard or brocade can be a bit of a challenge, but thankfully both sides of the fabric are usually quite beautiful. The face, or right side of the fabric, will usually have the brighter more distinct design. You may decide to use both sides of the fabric in your garment perhaps using one side as an accent such as in piping, or as a design element where the sleeves and bodice pieces highlight the different sides of the fabric. Since both sides coordinate, it can be quite stunning and a true designer’s touch to make use of the fabric this way.

        What about solid fabrics? At one time the small, tinter holes running along the selvedge could help you choose the right side of the fabric. Some would determine the right side of the fabric as the side with the raised-up tinter hole. Since practices differ among manufacturers, we really can’t rely on this method any longer. However, a little knowledge can help us figure things out.

        When working with textures such as twills, napped or piled fabric, raised or puffed designs, ribs, cordings, or slubs, the more textured side is usually the fabric face, or right side of the fabric. When working with twills, twill lines run to the right along the lengthwise grainline in wool and silks. Cotton twill lines may run in either direction so, pick the side you like and stick with it throughout your project. It is a bit easier to determine the right side of a twill-like gabardine since it will only have lines on the face of the fabric.

        For fabrics with a textured design element, examine the fabric to determine the direction of the design. You will then cut your pattern out according to the nap direction guidelines, all pattern pieces should be laid out in the same direction. This ensures that pattern design of the garment, when sewn together, will be in the same direction.

        On fabrics such as velvet and corduroy you will notice that when you run your hand up or down the length of the fabric it feels different. Running your hand up the fabric, you will notice more resistance and the fabric appears darker. Most choose to lay out the pattern on the fabric so that the nap is smooth as it is heading down towards the hem of the garment. However, that isn’t a steadfast rule. Whichever direction you pick, make sure you are consistent throughout your project and layout your pattern per the nap directions guidelines on your sewing pattern. Otherwise, it will look like you were using two different fabrics. 

        If you are working with a solid linen or a silk shantung or dupioni you can choose either side, but it is a good idea to choose the side with fewer imperfections as the face side.

        Tailors will often make it a practice to mark the fabric on the wrong side with tailor’s chalk to avoid confusion. Of course, test out your marking tool so that you know it will not leave a permanent mark on your fabric. In fact, it’s a good idea to use white chalk on white fabrics. Whatever method you choose, be consistent so that you develop good sewing habits that will help you create garments you love!

        How to Choose the Right Fabric When Shopping Online

        Do you struggle when shopping online for fabric? 

        We have tips to help make your next online fabric shopping experience a breeze!


        As sewists we tend to be tactile in nature so choosing a fabric from an online source can present challenges for us. So, how do we know we are making a good choice when purchasing fabrics online? The good news is you can come away with a wonderful selection of fabrics if you know what to look for and have educated yourself.

        It is helpful to think about the fabrics you feel comfortable in and what would suit the purpose of the garment you are sewing. This will help you narrow down your fabric and pattern choices as you will have the most success when you consider them in tandem. I would call this thoughtful sewing, as the time you spend now in the planning will make sewing your garment so much easier, and the finished garment something you love. This really doesn’t take very long to do, and it will help you avoid fighting the fabric to work with the pattern. That’s no fun.

        This article will focus on what to look for in the fabric description and photos online. We’ll address why you should consider the fabric recommendations on the pattern envelope as a guideline, not a rule. And how the sewing pattern photo can help you choose a fabric.


        What to Look For on the Pattern Envelope

        Since many start out with a pattern in mind, it is probably helpful to talk about this first. Many patterns will have recommended fabrics listed on the back of the envelope. Sometimes the suggestions make sense and sometimes they don’t. In those cases, we can look at the suggestions as a guideline.

        There are times when the suggestions seem to just list the fiber content and not the weave of the fabric. (We will talk about fiber and weave more extensively in another post). This can be confusing if we aren’t familiar with the various types of weaves available and what we can expect from them. For example, the skirt pattern pictured above lists suggested fabrics as lightweight wools, rayons, denim, linens, and cottons. While that is helpful to a degree, you may find this list lacking and feel a bit lost. What we can take away from the suggestions is that lightweight natural fibers are recommended. So, what to do next?


         Some Questions Worth Asking

        Let’s look at the photos on the front of the pattern envelope below. Can you identify the types of fabrics pictured? Is the garment fitted, or is it a looser fit on the model? What about the drape of the fabric? Does the fabric appear to be standing away from the body, or is it draping closer to the body? Do any of these fabrics appeal to you? Would you feel comfortable in the fit of the garment pictured? Are there any soft folds or pleats in the pattern? These are some of the questions you will want to ask yourself when choosing a fabric for your garment.


        In our pattern example, the design of the skirt is a basic A-line pattern with the option to place the fabric on the bias if desired. The A-line style stands away from the body at the hemline. Are you comfortable with that? Do you know how you can control how much it stands away from your body? There is the option to cut the fabric on the bias, that will be more form fitting. Your choice of fabric will also determine how far the fabric will stand away from the body. For instance, you will see a difference in how a denim will hang on the body vs. a wool crepe vs. a crisp cotton. 

        In our example, the skirt has an attractive biased overlay that makes for a very nice design detail however, we can see that the overlay is optional and could potentially add bulk. If you decide to incorporate the overlay, consider a lighter weight or thinner fabric. A lightweight fabric with some drape will lay softly against the body here. If you want to create a bolder design element, choose a crisper fabric that will stand away from the body a bit. Either way, you will want to consider how the fabric for the overlay will work with the fabric you have chosen for the body of the skirt and how comfortable you will be wearing it. Developing an eye for these details will help you enjoy the process, as this is where you are the designer.

        Our model is wearing a plaid suiting. Suitings come in various fibers, weight, weaves and textures so, you will need to keep that in mind. I just love how the overlay contrasts with the skirt fabric. The overlay and skirt are made from the same fabric, yet the bias cut of the overlay drapes beautifully and creates a nice contrasting design feature. The other skirts pictured may be rayon or wool challis, a lightweight denim, linen, and cotton. Other fabrics that would work well would include: a tropical wool, wool crepe for a dressier look, a gabardine would drape nicely, chambray, a moleskin or lightweight faux suede would also be attractive. If you have a stash of fabric, take a moment to become familiar with weight and drape by holding the fabric to up to yourself or your dress form. For this particular skirt pattern, look for soft folds in the fabric for an attractive look.


        Did You know?

        Keep in mind that there are specific patterns for knits and woven fabrics, and you really would not be happy with the result if you chose a fabric and disregarded this information. The pattern will sometimes indicate that it is designed for knits. If it doesn’t, check the recommended fabrics on the back of the pattern envelope. The only exception might be choosing a stable knit like a Ponte for a woven pattern. If a stable knit is recommended on the pattern envelope, then you can feel comfortable selecting it.


        What to Look for in the Online Fabric Description and Photos

        Couture and designer fabrics, fancy laces and sequins, fine wool basics and gorgeous 4-ply silks, there are so many lovely fine fabrics available online for today's sewist. So, are you ready to start shopping? Typically, you will find most of the information you need to know in the fabric title and descriptions and what isn’t said can be more clearly seen in the fabric photos.

        The fabric title will often include the fiber, color, and weave of the fabric ie., light blue cotton sateen, or French Blue silk shantung. The description will provide more information to include content, width, weight, care, stretch, and usage of the fabric.

        Once you know the fiber, weight, and usage of the fabric, you can begin narrowing down which fabrics appeal to you. It is a good idea to develop the practice of examining the fabric photos with a thoughtful eye. Learn to assess the photos to determine how the fabric body and drape will work with the garment you are making. Let's explore this further.

        Our online boutique typically includes a close-up photograph of the fabric, a picture of the selvedge, the fabric draped on the dress form, the fabric swirled tightly, if the fabric has a print there will be a photo of it with a ruler, and then we include a photo a bit further away on the form.

        So, what can you take away from these photos?

        A close-up is great since you will get a closer look at the weave, colors, and pattern of the fabric. We include a picture of the selvedge because it can give you an idea of the fabrics thickness, it helps demonstrate the fabric body, and sometimes it stands out as a design feature that you can use in your project.

        The fabric on the dress form has quite a bit of information for you too. First, you get to see the scale of a pattern or print, and you also get a glimpse at how the fabric lays on the body. This is the information you need to determine if the fabric will hug the body or stand away from the body.

        When you look at the other photos on the dress form that zoom out, examine how the fabric is draping. Is it forming several smaller soft cones or are the cones falling fewer, wider, and stiffer. To achieve the look of the design and function of the garment, you’ll want to pay attention to these photos to achieve the look of the garment you are sewing. The soft cones falling closer to the form mean you will achieve a softer drape, while the stiffer and wider cones will stand away from the form. This means the fabric will stand away from your body. These pictures also show the fabrics transparency or opaqueness.

        Does the garment you are sewing have soft folds or crisp pleats? If so, you will want to look at the photos where the fabric is swirled in a twist. This is done to give you an idea of the fabric body. Look at how crisp or how soft the edges are and how close the layers of fabric are in the twirl. If your project has pleats, choose a fabric that is close together in that swirl and appears a bit crisp. If you want soft folds, you’ll be able to discern this if you see that the fabric can gently drape into folds from this picture.

        Assessing the information and photos on the pattern envelope and comparing it with the fabric descriptions and photographs online can help you narrow down your fabric choices. You will have a better idea of the fiber, drape, and weight you will need to help you achieve a pleasantly fitting garment you will want to wear for years to come.

        I hope these suggestions will help you develop an eye to make an informed fabric choice. Make it a practice to apply these tips, you'll be happy you did! For our more experienced sewists, feel free to share this post with your less experienced sewing friends.


        Until next time...sew something fancy!


        Choose Fabric with Confidence

        Selecting the fabric for a project can be one of the most exhilarating choices we make or, we may be stuck and not know where to start. 

        To help you in your sewing journey it seems fitting to provide some advice, resources, and additional information about fabrics that will help you choose wisely. 

        Read more

        How To Sew Knit Fabric - For Beginners - Part 4

        Welcome to the last of our series on sewing knit fabrics on your standard sewing machine.  We hope you have enjoyed some of the tips and techniques.  So, far we have discussed fabrics, patterns, cutting, tools and some best practices. Today we'll be focusing on sleeves and hems. 

        Read more

        How To Sew Knit Fabric - For Beginners - Part 3

        How To Sew Knit Fabric with a Standard Machine

        20 Tips For The Beginner Sewist


        Our last post discussed techniques, tools, and practices to help you sew knit fabrics. We're moving along in our series discussing additional tools and techniques to help you along.

        Today's blog post is part three in a series of four, to help you sew knit fabrics on a standard sewing machine. Ready!  Let's go!


        Part 3: Sewing Knit Fabric: More Tools and Practices for Successful Sewing


        Have you been practicing various zigzag stitches on your knit fabric? If you have been using a regular foot on your machine and haven't changed your tension settings this may have been a bit of a challenge. But, if you attached your walking foot on your machine, you're ahead of the game! And, for my first tip this week:

        1. Invest in a walking foot for your sewing machine. It is well worth it. It will help prevent the knit fabric from stretching and distorting while you sew, and it will help you sew textured fabrics more easily as well. 

          Since we are using a zigzag stitch for our seams, you will want to avoid using the straight stitch plate with the small needle hole on your machine. Use the stitching plate suited for the zigzag stitch...it has a wider hole to allow for the needle shifting back and forth. (See your machine manual for details).


        1. Slinky knits have a habit of getting caught and bunching up in the machine when you start sewing. Placing a scrap of fabric before you start sewing along the seam allowance can help. Start your stitching on the scrap and continue feeding right to the garment seam line. Just cut off the scrap piece when you are done.

          Many sewists find it helpful to use paper placed under the fabric. I believe Kenneth D. King* uses adding-machine paper, I use gift wrap tissue that I can purchase in large quantities. When done sewing up the seam, tear away the paper. Any pieces left in the seam will come out in the wash, no need to fret. This technique will also prevent tunneling too! (I have more about that in the last post of this series). 

          * www.kennethdking.com/about

        2. Knits are great because they stretch.  But we don’t always want to take advantage of that stretch in the shoulder area so, it’s a good idea to stabilize this seam to prevent stretching. A couple of notions that can help here are clear stretch elastic or, knit stay tape. Try each and see which one works best for your fabric.

          My preference is Knit Stay Tape from the Emma Seabrooke website: www.emmaseabrooke.com/product/more-than-extremely-fine-ssi-knit-stay-tape-1-2-inch/   

          This tape maintains the drape of the fabric without adding weight. You can also use their fusible stay tape.  To apply, line up the raw edges of your fashion fabric and place the tape on either the front or back shoulder seam and center it on the stitching line, then sew the shoulder seam together.

          If you chose the fusible option, fuse one strip of tape to either the front or back pattern piece at the shoulder seam, and center over the seam line and fuse in place with your iron. Next, line up the raw edges for your pattern pieces at the shoulder (right sides together) and sew the seam.  (Keep in mind you are placing the stay tape on the wrong side of the fabric).

        3. Are you in the habit of holding your fabric taut while sewing?  When sewing knits be careful not pull or stretch your fabric while sewing. You want it to lay flat. And remember, just allowing your fabric to lay off the sewing table can cause it to stretch. It can be helpful to fan fold your fabric when working with longer lengths.  For heavier knits, you can extend the surface area at the machine by placing a tailor’s ham in front of the machine and allow the fabric to lay on it while sewing.  If the ham isn’t allowing the fabric to move smoothly enough, you can wrap it in a silky fabric and your garment fabric should slide smoothly over it.

        4. Use just a few anchoring pins to match seams and other pivotal matching points and use your fingers as pins to gently hold your fabric in place while sewing. This technique sews up more accurately and quickly. Have you seen Janet Pray of Islander Sewing demonstrate this technique on the Craftsy* platform? It’s quite liberating!



        I can't believe we've only one post left in this series.  We hope our tips are helping you along in sewing up some of your gorgeous knit fabrics. And don't forget, we have a lovely collection of designer knit fabric be sure to check it out!

        Keep your eye out for our last post in this series: 

        Part 4: Sewing Knit Fabric- Sleeves, Hems and More!




        If you ever have a question about one of our fabrics we will be more than happy to help!  Just shoot us an email: contact@fancyfrocksfabrics.com