So you have to buy fabric for a project. It happens to all of us. The fabric store can be intimidating, so here’s some tips for figuring out what type of fabric to buy (and where to find it).
Quilting fabric: A lot of most fabric stores is made up of quilting fabric. This is lightweight printed cotton. It’ll be relatively stiff and have no stretch. Great for quilts, perfectly acceptable for clothes when you want a cute print and don’t need stretch.
Upholstery fabric: Absolutely, 100%, for sure, do not buy this for clothing. It is heavy, it is stiff, it holds up well, but it is terrible for clothes. If you’re working on an upholstery project or a backpack, though, this section is where you want to start.
Fleece: A lot of fabric stores have a wide selection of printed (and plain) fleece. Great for blankets, pillows, and no-sew craft projects.
Flannel: Warm, cuddly, soft. Often available in great patterns. This will hold up better than a quilting fabric for clothing, but much warmer. It’s typically used for outerwear and pajamas, but I’ve used it for other things like skirts and the ruffle on a particularly cute apron.
Sportswear: When fashion people say “sportswear”, what they mean is clothing somewhere between formal (i.e. suits) and casual (i.e. t-shirts, jeans). This section is likely where you’ll spend most of your time if you’re making clothing. It usually has all of the fabric you’d want for a formal dress, as well.
Costuming: Honestly my favorite section. Tulle, sequins, glitter, satin, fun prints. If you’re making clothes, this section is worth checking out if sportswear doesn’t have what you need. Sometimes they hide all of the solid color stretch fabrics in here.
Suiting: This section is full of fabric for suits and other formal wear. It’s usually heavier; some will have stretch and some won’t.
Not intended for use as (children’s) sleepwear: This is a label you’ll find printed on a lot of print fabrics. Some places have regulations saying sleepwear is required to have fire-resistant coatings, others require that sleepwear does not have a coating. You can basically ignore this warning.
Remnants: A+ section. Whenever there’s only a small amount of fabric left on a bolt, usually less than a yard, it will get bundled up as a remnant. You’ll usually see a discount. You have to buy the whole remnant, they won’t cut it any further.
Questions? Need help? Send me a message! I do free consulting for sewing projects, as well as offering sewing lessons, personal styling services, alterations, and custom costumes.