choosing fabric

Fabric Bases 101 – How to Choose the Best Fabric

Fabric Bases 101 – How to Choose the Best Fabric

Picture this. You’ve found the perfect fabric for a new dress. Anticipation mounts as you receive the package in the mail and sit down to sew it. But, after spending hours on it, it doesn’t fit or feel like you imagined!

Sound familiar? Choosing fabric online can be difficult because you can’t physically feel or stretch it. We want to make buying fabric online as seamless and easy as possible. We’ve compiled all of the fabric bases as well as how they feel and stretch. You can end up with a beautiful dress that you feel good in!

What Makes the Fabric Bases Different?

We all know how cotton and polyester feel. But what about 95% Polyester/5% Spandex which is a very common content ratio? Not all fabrics act the same! There are many factors that play a part in how a fabric base feels and acts. 

  1. Whether it’s woven or knitted
  2. How tightly its woven or knitted
  3. How heavy the fabric is (its GSM)
  4. The thread content of the fabric (polyester, cotton, spandex, etc.)

This can feel confusing if you aren’t familiar with these terms. Don’t worry, I’ll give you an overview! We are not always able to get the exact content percentages and gsm so I’ll include a description of the fabric without the technical terms so you can envision how it will feel and act in real life. Feel free to skip over the technicalities and straight to the descriptions and pictures of each fabric type!

What is GSM?

GSM stands for grams per square meter, which refers to the weight of a fabric. In general, the higher a fabric’s GSM, the thicker it’s likely to be. 

Though fabric weights appear straightforward (a heavy fabric will result in a more structured garment, etc.), there are some caveats to consider.

For example, many knit fabrics have some spandex content, which adds extra weight but doesn’t make a knit feel or act heavier. Therefore, a knit that weighs 200 gsm can feel more lightweight than a woven fabric with the same weight. Therefore, fabrics with different fibers or weaves with the same weight may not have the exact same thickness. GSM is generally most helpful when comparing woven fabrics.

In general, it can be difficult to get an accurate idea of knits even when you know the weight because of how they are made. Knitting uses more fiber or threads than weaving. A knitted piece of cloth will weigh more than a woven piece that is the same size and content.

You may be new to using GSM as a fabric weight measurement and there are a few fabric types that we don’t have the GSM, so we also include our own assessment of whether the fabric is light, medium, or heavy weight. As a reference, the GSM of jeans is usually 340-450.

Woven Fabrics Vs. Knitted Fabrics 

Whether the material is knitted or woven makes a big difference on the stretch and give of a fabric.

Here’s a diagram of the difference between woven materials and knit materials. Because of the way knit fabric is made, it will have a slight give even if it is 100% polyester. The looping design of knit fabrics can allow even non-stretchy threads (like polyester) to condense and straighten out when pulled, which lengthens the fabric in the given direction. 

 Additionally, the tightness of the knit will affect the thread’s ability to straighten out and will thus affect the amount of stretch. Knit fabrics can also have different ways of arranging the loops together to form different textures or looks to the fabric.

Woven fabrics are also more likely to fray while knit material will not fray and does not need to be serged. 

Our Woven Fabrics 

Lightweight Pineskin (AKA Cloud Poly)

Lightweight Pineskin is smooth. Although it does contain spandex, it is a woven fabric. Which means that it has a slight give but does not stretch like a knit.

  • Content: 95% Polyester / 5% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium to light
  • GSM: 155
  • Stretch: None
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts, Shirts, Blouses

Cotton Gauze

Thin cotton fabric that makes beautiful baby blankets and swaddles. Also works well for cardigans and sweaters. You can even make custom scrubs! This material makes lovely, breathable little girl’s dresses. If you want to use it for an adult dress, you may want to consider lining some of it.

  • Content: 100% Cotton
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Very lightweight and breathable
  • GSM: 118
  • Stretch: None
  • Uses: Baby Blankets and Swaddles, Cardigans, Sweaters, Scrubs
White – Double Gauze Muslin. Pink – Cotton Gauze

Double Gauze Muslin

Double Gauze Muslin is very similar to the Cotton Gauze but is a double layer. It also has more texture than the Cotton Gauze. Since it is loosely woven, it works best for projects like baby swaddles and cardigans. However, it does look beautiful in a dress. It is 100% Cotton but has some give due to how loosely it is woven. 

  • Content: 100% Cotton
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Very lightweight and breathable
  • GSM:
  • Stretch: Slight
  • Uses: Baby Blankets and Swaddles, Cardigans, Sweaters, Skirts, Dresses

Opaque Swiss Dot and Linen Swiss Dot. 

These Swiss Dots are 100% polyester but are woven with an elastic thread, so while they have a slight stretch, they have an excellent snappy recovery and are not a knit. They are opaque with excellent drape and do not cling or show underwear lines. They are lightweight which makes them nice and cool to wear.

The Opaque Swiss Dot and the Woven Swiss Dot both feel and stretch the same. The difference being that the one has a woven linen look and the other is plain. Both types come in a small and penny size dot. They are very dressy which makes gorgeous wedding and formal dresses.

  • Content: 100% Polyester 
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Light to Medium Weight
  • GSM: 135
  • Stretch: None
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts, Blouses, Shirts 

Diamond Swiss Dot 

Similar to the Opaque Swiss Dot but the dots are in a diamond pattern. Has the same drape as the rest of the poly swiss dots.

  • Content: 100% Polyester
  • GSM: 165

Our Knit Fabrics 

DTY

DTY is a soft lightweight knit with quite a bit of stretch. It’s perfect for little girls. It is not quite as clingy as double brushed can be but is great with gathers or elastic.

  • Content: 95% Polyester / 5% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Lightweight
  • GSM: 215
  • Stretch: Lots of 4 way stretch
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts, Shirts, Baby Blankets and hats, Baby headbands

Flannel Knit

Flannel knit is a very soft, comfortable fabric! Makes fabulous winter projects and dresses.

  • Content: 95% Polyester, 5% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium/Heavy
  • GSM: 220
  • Stretch: Minimal vertical stretch, fair amount of horizontal stretch
  • Uses: Dresses, Blankets, Sleepers, Swaddles, Bedsheets

Sweater Knit

Sweater Knit is a comfortable knit with a gray back.

  • Content: 96% Polyester, 4% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium/Heavy
  • GSM: 200
  • Stretch: 4 way stretch. Slight vertical but more horizontal
  • Uses: Dresses, Cardigans, Sweaters, Shirts
Sweater Knit

Wide Rib Knit 

This is a poly rib knit with wide ribs that makes beautiful dresses. It has nice drape, however, you will want to be aware of lines.

  • Content: 95% Polyester/ 5% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium
  • GSM: 220
  • Stretch: 4 way stretch. Some vertical/a lot of horizontal
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts

Narrow Poly Rib 

This is a poly rib knit that is equally colored on both sides. Makes beautiful dresses with nice drape although you may need to be mindful of lines.

  • Content: 87% Polyester/ 13% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Lightweight
  • GSM: Unknown
  • Stretch: 4 way stretch. Some vertical/a lot of horizontal
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts, Baby Blankets and hats

Variegated Rib

Beautiful, comfortable rib knit. I do not know the exact content of this fabric so although it feels like a cotton/spandex blend, I can not say for sure that’s what it is. It works very well for dresses because it has a nice drape like a knit, but doesn’t cling or show lines.

  • Content: Cotton/Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium
  • GSM: Unknown
  • Stretch: Some 4 way stretch. Not a lot either way
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts
Variegated Rib Knit

Cotton Rib Knit

This rib knit is very similar to the variegated rib knit but the ribs are all the same size. It feels like a cotton/spandex blend although we do not know for sure. Has nice drape without showing lines.

  • Content: Cotton/Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium
  • GSM: Unknown
  • Stretch: Some 4 way stretch. Not a lot either way
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts

French Terry

French Terry has a very smooth texture on the front and looping threads on the back. It is very comfortable and warm so it makes great winter dresses.

  • Content: 80% Polyester / 15% Rayon / 5% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium-heavy
  • GSM: 230 GSM
  • Stretch: Some 4 way stretch. Not a lot either way
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts

Wave Knit

Beautiful textured knit. The texture adds interest without overbearing the print. Very comfortable fabric with nice drape. The wave texture also helps to hide the appearance of underwear lines.

  • Content: Polyester/Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium
  • GSM: Unknown
  • Stretch: 4 way stretch
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts
Wave Knit

Knit Swiss Dot 

Knit Swiss Dots are beautiful, graceful fabrics. They are knits, so they do have some stretch although not a lot. There are two kinds of knit swiss dots. One has the dots closer together and has more stretch (but not alot) and the other has more spaced dots and has less stretch.

Both make pretty dresses and have beautiful drape without clinging and showing lines.

  • Content: Cotton or Polyester/Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium-light
  • GSM: 230
  • Stretch: Minimal
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts

Pointelle Knit (Missonia Knit) -Knit

Pointelle Knit is a breathable lightweight knit that makes beautiful dresses! No worries, though, it is opaque. Makes very comfortable dresses the are structured and won’t stretch out. It has nice drape but is not clingy. Lovely for summer!

  • Content: 97% Polyester/3% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Lightweight
  • GSM: 150-160
  • Stretch: 2 way stretch. Horizontal stretch/Minimal vertical stretch
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts

Liverpool Knit

Liverpool is a slightly heavier, textured knit. Works very well for winter dresses. Liverpool is very opaque, so you probably wouldn’t need to wear a slip (within reason). This is a long lasting, durable knit. that works well for school dresses etc. Because it is a knit, it has good drape but it doesn’t cling or show lines!

  • Content: 95% Polyester/5% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Medium/Heavy
  • GSM: 200
  • Stretch: 2 way stretch. Horizontal Stretch / no vertical stretch
  • Uses: Dresses, Skirts
Liverpool Knit

Waffle Knit

Waffle knit is a thin, breathable fabric. Since it is thin, it would work best for baby blankets and projects. That being said, it does work as dress material. It is very comfortable. However, it does not have a lot of body so you may want to think about lining it, especially if you have a lighter color. Makes beautiful projects!

  • Content:
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: Lightweight
  • GSM:
  • Stretch: 4 way stretch. Lots of horizontal stretch /some vertical stretch
  • Uses: Baby Blankets, Sleepers, Hats, Dresses, Skirts, Cardigan, Sweaters

Double Brushed Poly (DBP)

Double Brushed Poly is a knit that has been brushed on both sides, and is known for its ultra soft feel. It is very comfortable and stretchy! Has good drape but tends to be more clingy and may show underwear lines if using a lighter color. 

Looks beautiful with a gathered or elastic waist. You may also want to flair your skirt instead of trying a pencil skirt.

  • Content: 95% polyester, 5% Spandex
  • Average width: 58”-60” inches
  • Weight: lightweight
  • GSM: 180
  • Stretch: Lots of horizontal and vertical stretch (4 way stretch)
  • Uses: Dress, Skirts, Blouses, Shirts, Baby Blankets and swaddles, Baby hats, bedsheets, nursery items 

Tips on choosing the best fabric for a dress

 If you love a lightweight fabric like rib knit or DBP, but don’t want the possibility of underwear lines, get a darker color! Dark colors hid so many flaws. Sewing mistakes and possible lines alike!  On the other hand, if the fabric base isn’t color fast (like Liverpool) a lighter color will be best. You won’t run the risk of white shining through. Also take into account the size of the dress you are making. A lightweight knit like Double Brushed Poly will look much cuter as a size 6 dress then a size 18. 

Selvage

Sometimes fabric has a wide white selvage which might look concerning. We understand! You don’t want to pay for unusable fabric! Good news! No matter how wide the selvage is, there is still 58”-60” inches of usable, printed fabric!

We want to hear from you! What type of fabric do you want to try next? What is one thing you learned that you didn’t know before? Let us know!