Everything you need to know about fabrics for Sewing Beginners

As a beginner, walking into the fabric store was extremely overwhelming. There are different types of fabrics and I did not know their names or if they will be appropriate for the project I wanted to make. But fabric shopping is fun, more than feeding the eyes, and if I had the money, I would end up buying every beautiful fabric I see.

If you want to learn to sew or already know how but you’re looking for some tips, fabric is probably something that makes you salivate. There’s just something great about heaps of pretty fabric. Let’s talk about how to buy fabric and what you’re looking at when you walk through that fabric store.

This tutorial will break down different types of fabric and what you need for different projects.


You walk into your fabric store and you will see rows and rows, heaps and heaps of fabric. What are they all and what do they mean? Let’s take a little tour of the fabric store. However different stores are arranged differently and if you need assistance navigating a store, you can always ask for help from the store attendants.


Typically, the most prevalent fabric is going to be your basic cotton, also sometimes called calico in the fabric world. Along at least one wall of the store you are likely to see fabrics arranged by color something like this:

A picture containing book, shelf, indoor, stationary

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Kind of pretty looking isn’t it? Those are arranged like that so that they can be easily found. Often these calico fabrics will have small all over prints like dainty little flowers, but some of them have more bold prints like large polka dots and floral prints.

Throughout the store on shelves, you will probably find many more cottons in a variety of styles. You may find a baby section, a designer fabric section, seasonal prints, etc. Just browse for what you are looking for. These are going to be great fabrics for many of your sewing projects like bags, aprons, quilts and blankets and so many, many things.

On another wall of the store, you are likely to find fleece and other plush fabrics typically used for blankets and pajamas and other cozy things. These fabrics will also be more expensive.

A stack of books

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An overlook of the rest of the store might show you something like this. You can see lots of different types of fabric indicated by the various signs.

In a good high-end fabric store, you’ll see shelves and shelves of fabric and at the top a sign indicating what type of fabric you are seeing. Shown above are specialty type fabrics that you would use for fancy dresses, clothing and other special occasions.

In still another section you will find trims like ribbon and lace that you can buy by the yard. Just take them up to the cutting counter just like any fabric and have them cut it for you:

And there will be a corner with interfacing varying in texture and colour

And then the rest of the store will be filled with things like thread and notions and any other sewing supplies that you might need:

OK, so you browse all of the different types of fabric and notions and find something you want. Now what?


Let’s have a quick overview of types of fabric you will find at the store.

Cottons or Calicos: 100% cotton fabrics (that will probably shrink and ideally should be pre-washed) and are going to be very plentiful at most stores. Available in many different styles including designer fabrics with bold and trendy prints, baby fabrics, quilting fabrics, seasonal fabrics and lots more. Use: most basic projects like bags, aprons, quilts, items for around your home, and many more.

Heavyweight fabrics like duck, canvas, and denim: These will be heavier thicker than your basic cotton calicos and more sturdy, so they will hold up longer, making them great options for outdoor projects or things that need a little weight to them. Use: Can be great for things like throw pillows, outdoorsy type things, tote bags, or anything else you want a heavier weight for.

Plush {like fleece and mink}: Soft and cozy and perfect for things like blankets and pajamas or all things baby. They will be a little more expensive. They may pill a little after washing. Some will have a nap to them as well which you will need to be mindful of while sewing. Use: Perfect for baby blankets or any blankets really, pajamas, stuffed animals or anything that needs to be snugly.

Flannel: Usually you will find a flannel section with lots of baby prints as well as other prints. It won’t be nearly as thick as the fleece, it’s more like a basic cotton, but one side of it will be soft to the touch. Soft and snuggly but will most definitely shrink and pill after it’s washed a few times. Use: Pajamas, blankets, things that you want to be soft but not bulky.

Special Occasion Fabrics: You will find a section with things like satin (soft and silky), tulle (like netting) and silks. These are usually used for dresses and other fancy things. One warning-they are quite a bit harder to sew on than regular cotton and will take some practice because they are so slippery. Use: special occasions, dresses, clothing.

Jersey Knits: Soft and stretchy like a t-shirt. Also can be a little harder to sew on because they stretch, but not too difficult. they often come in wider sizes than a typical bolt of fabric so pay attention to that. You may need less fabric because of this.

Home Decor: They are usually on larger rolls, wider and more expensive than other fabrics but also much higher quality so it will hold up better and also won’t let light through (if it’s curtains for example) as easily. Use: curtains, rugs, pillows.

OK, what do you think? You ready to go fabric shopping now?

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