Fabrics are a basic human need to make clothing. History books tell us that thousands of years ago people living on earth used to make clothing from animal skin and other fabrics. Over time this has evolved, with many new fabrics being made, and each with its own use.
Whether you are making new garments from fabric, or trying to figure out the right way to clean your dirty clothes, acknowledging the fabric is important.
Understanding your fiber content can help you learn how to care for your item, stain removal and how the item should be cleaned.
I’ve made a list of fabric types to help you understand them a little better.
In this article...
Types Of Fabric
Bamboo is made from the pulp of the bamboo grass. It is light and strong and has excellent wicking properties and some antibacterial properties to reduce odors.
Bamboo fabric has insulating properties to keep the wearer cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Bamboo fabric can be seen in tops, pants and socks as well as bed sheets and pillow covers.
NOTEPandas eat around 20 different species of bamboo, including bamboo that we may use to make our bamboo fabric from!
This fabric can be knit or woven fabric but it is made with white cotton stuffing yarn. The finished fabric has protruding loops or curls on the surface. Care must be used when cleaning to prevent snagging.
You will see Boucle most commonly in tweed style winter coats.
A soft fuzzy fabric developed in France where chenille translates to “caterpillar”. The fabric created from cotton or a blended synthetic fiber can be recognized with it’s soft fluffy texture, and Chenille can be found in fashion and home décor.
Here’s a video showing you what the fabric looks like and how you can use it
A sheer fabric which is lightweight and soft made from silk, polyester, rayon and other synthetic fibers. It is made of highly twisted filament yarns. Known for its sheer, floaty shimmery nature, silk chiffon can be seen in wedding dresses.
Chino is a type of twill fabric. Most of these fabrics are yarn dyed with a khaki color but can be navy, black or live drab. Most commonly you would see chino material in the trousers known as chinos.
A natural fiber that grows in the seedpod of the cotton plant. Fibers are typically one-half to two inches long.
The longer staple fibers, including the Pima and Egyptian varieties produce the highest quality cotton which is known to be a delicate fabric.
Cotton is extremely absorbent and one of the most suitable fabrics seen in towels and bed linens as well as t-shirts, jeans, and sweats.
Denim is the thick fabric you find in jackets and jeans. It is made from cotton filaments which have been tightly woven into denim using a plain weave of twill fabrics which creates a subtle diagonal ribbing pattern.
Denim comes in a different thickness, with the thicker denim being tricky to sew with.
Knitted fabrics in which two layers of loops are formed that cannot be separated is called double knit. A double knit machine requires two complete sets of needles for this construction.
Double knits are suitable for pants, skirts, dresses, sturdy leggings and cardigans.
Also known as spandex and a classic fabric used in 80’s activewear such as unitards. The word elastane is used in Europe while spandex is used in the United States.
It’s trademark names are Lycra or Dorlastan. It is a lightweight and soft fabric but stronger and more durable than rubber and is used in compression garments, swimwear and bras.
Jersey is a generic term for a plain knit fabric without a distinct rib. Originally made from a plain weave of wool, jersey fabrics were first manufactured on the Isle of Jersey.
Today jersey can be knit from many different types of fibers and is found in close fitting garments like sweaters.
Knit fabrics are made by knitting – the process that loops a piece of yarn in a row a few times, then links those loops with another row of loops and so on.
Knit fabrics are naturally stretchy because of the loops, whether made from natural fibres or man-made fibers. Knit fabrics are found in leggings, t-shirts and sweaters.
A netlike ornamental fabric – which can be difficult to sew with – made by looping, twisting or knitting cotton thread in patterns created by hand or machine.
The fabric can be made from natural or synthetic fibers. Lace can be used to embellish clothing, wedding dresses, curtains and tablecloths.
Latex is made from rubber and thus has rubber-like qualities. It is used in some fabrics to provide greater elasticity.
Latex can be found in bodysuits and leotards as well as other garments like gloves and stockings.
Latex is an expensive material, and is really difficult to work with. You don’t actually sew latex, but go through a fusion process to connect different parts.
Linen is a fabric made from fibers obtained from inside the woody stem of the flax plant. The fibers are much stronger and more lustrous than cotton.
Linen is one of the world’s oldest textile fibers and is a super lightweight fabric. Linen can be seen in aprons, bags, clothing and used as an upholstery fabric.
NOTELinen fabrics are very cool and absorbent but wrinkle very easily unless blended with manufactured fibers.
An open twill weave knit or plain woven fabric that produces a net or sheer-like effect.
Mesh can be made from many different types of fibers. It’s an almost transparent fabric which can be seen in an under or over layer skirt or slip dresses.
Fabrics made with microfiber means that the fabrics filaments are extremely fine and usually a blend of polyester or nylon fibers.
Microfiber is a man made synthetic fiber, and the fabrics are lightweight and look and feel luxurious.
Microfiber can be found in cloths and towels as well as active wear and reusable sanitary products.
A completely synthetic fabric, nylon is known for its superior flexibility and excellent resilience.
Nylon synthetic fibers can be seen in swimwear, activewear, underwear and hosiery products.
This is both the name of a fabric and a fiber and is one of the most common synthetic fabrics seen in clothing.
Polyester fibers have high strength, excellent resilience and high abrasion resistance.
The low absorbency allows the completely synthetic fiber to dry quickly making it a versatile fabric. Polyester is seen in all kinds of apparel from loungewear to formal evening wear.
A silk-like fabric made from wood pulp or other vegetable matter. It is a weak but comfortable fabric against the skin and absorbs moisture.
Rayon is one of the major textile weaves perfect fabric for summer clothes and floral prints such as kurtas, shirts and on flowing dresses. It is not as warm as other natural fibers such as wool.
A satin weave is a type of fabric with the characteristic of being highly lustrous on one side and matte on the other. Satin is not made from a fiber, it is actually one of the three major textile weaves and is made when every strand is well knitted.
Satin is commonly used for clothes such as lingerie, nightgowns, blouses and evening gowns.
Silk is natural fibers produced by the silkworm in the construction of it’s cocoon.
Most silk is collected from cultivated caterpillars and comes from Asia. Silk can be found in scarves, shirts and blouses.
Due to its soft attributes it can be used in lingerie, bed sheets and underwear for men. Silk can be tricky to sew with as it’s extremely soft and slippery.
Suede fabric is a type of leather made from the underside of the animal skin, giving it a soft surface. Suede is softer, thinner and not as strong as full-grain traditional leather.
It’s usually made from lambskin but can be made from other types of animals including goats, pigs, calves and deer.
Suede is popular in fashion items like shoes, jackets and bags. Due to its thickness, suede needs a special sewing machine and won’t sew on a domestic sewing machine.
This word comes from the French word – “tricoter” which means to knit.
Tricot fabric is a finely knit fabric that stretches in both lengthwise and crosswise directions. It can be made from nylon, wool, rayon, silk, cotton or other fibers.
Tricot is a great fabric for sweaters.
Velvet fabric is a woven fabric made of silk, nylon, acetate or rayong with a soft dense pile of cut or uncut loops. A similar fabric, velveteen, is made the same way but from cotton. Velvet is seen in evening and occasion wear.
Wool is a natural fiber that comes from the fleece of a sheep, goat, llama or alpaca. It can be knitted or woven.
Wool fabric types include tweed, cheviot fabric, cashmere and merino wool which come from different animals.
All kinds of wool are suitable types of fabrics for sweaters, suits, hats, gloves and other outer garments.
What are the types of fabric?
There are two main types of fabric, which fall under categories of natural and synthetic.
Natural fabrics such as cotton, silk and linen are made from the seed pods of cotton plants, silkworms and flax (fiber from the stalk of a plant). Wool is made from animal coats.
Synthetic types of fabrics created by man include nylon, spandex, rayon, polyester and acrylic.
The fabrics can differ in a number of ways such as warmth, breathability, dying properties, softness, luster, elasticity, and dying properties.
How many types of fabric are there?
You could probably name off the top of your head around 12 different types of fabric.
But there are hundreds of different types of fabric in this world. Different types of fabric have different uses and this list has just scratched the surface.
What are the main types of fabrics?
The common types of fabric we see today include cotton, polyester, rayon, linen, jersey, lawn, silk, canvas and denim.
Cotton fabric feels crisp and sturdy and can be knit or woven. Cotton doesn’t typically drape as well as wool or viscose. It’s easy to care for and durable, therefore cotton makes great everyday clothes.
It shrinks easily so it is usually pre-shrunk before sewing.
Comes in different forms such as jersey and nylon. Polyester can withstand wear, washing and it is crease resistant. It’s not quite as warm as natural fibers and can feel sweaty when it’s hot.
NOTEYou can make almost any garment out of polyester if you choose the right kind of polyester. Polyester satin weave makes pretty blouses and pajamas, whereas polyester suiting makes nice trousers and skirts.
Rayon or viscose is somewhere between a manmade and natural fabric since it is made from wool in a chemical process. It’s not as breathable as cotton but it drapes beautifully.
Rayon shrinks when it is wet and it’s also heavier than cotton or polyester. Viscose is a good choice for draped tops and dresses.
Linen is commonly seen in summer garments. It feels rustic and creases very easily. It can stand high temperature when ironing but is much easier to iron when it’s wet.
Linen clothes don’t often stay wrinkle free!
Jersey is a knitted fabric whilst most fabrics are woven yarn.
The interlooped stitches make the jersey material stretchy and comfortable, however the synthetic fibers of Jersey greatly depend on the fiber content.
Jersey is great for comfortable t-shirts, leggings and dresses.
Lawn fabric is a very fine fabric that is made out of a high thread count yarn. It’s smooth and silky and makes very comfortable shirts, summer dresses and light pajamas.
Lawn is always a bit sheer so any garments may need to be lined. Lawn is really easy to work with and doesn’t fray badly.
Silk feels warm and luxurious and has a clear sheen to it. Silk often requires dry cleaning or at least hand washing, so always check the label carefully before buying or washing.
There are different kinds of silk that can range from jersey to tulle and velvet.
NOTEIt can be hard to tell the difference between real silk and polyester satin. Silk doesn’t feel as ‘cold’ as satin and it is more expensive.
Canvas fabric is a plain-weave fabric typically made out of heavy cotton or linen yarn.
Canvas is known for being a heavy duty, strong and durable fabric. It can become water resistant when synthetic blended fibers meet canvas, making it a good option for outdoor wet weather clothes.
To get you started with canvas sewing, here’s my collection of bag sewing patterns.
Wool including cashmere, merino wool and knit blends feels almost a bit hairy, it is warm and drapes well. Wool can be more expensive and may need dry cleaning.
Wool is a suitable fabric for warm high quality wool clothes.
What is the softest fabric?
While cotton, bamboo and silk are known for their softness, the softest material most commonly known is cashmere.
However, there is another type of fabric which is even softer than cashmere called vicuna. It’s a rare fabric named after the animal it comes from – a llama-like animal from Peru with orange fur and white patches.
But, it’s unlikely we will ever see or be able to afford such a luxurious fabric with vicuna jackets sold as low as $3,195 and as high as $18,595!
What type of fabric is used for clothes?
There are many fabric types used for clothes today, that can depend on a lifestyle choice or the place you live in the world.
Lots of traditional materials such as cotton, leather and linen are still used, but most fabrics can be made from synthesized materials and chemicals.
What type of fabric for exercise clothes?
Polyester fabric is the workhorse of fitness fabrics. It’s durable, wrinkle free, lightweight and non-absorbent which means moisture from your skin will evaporate instead of sinking into the material.
It’s also extremely breathable so you won’t feel like you are suffocating when you are wearing it.
What type of fabric should I buy?
Fabric types you should buy or subscribe to depend on the purpose of use.
As a rule of thumb woven fabrics such as cotton, linen or cotton linen blend makes a great choice for a beginner sewist as these fabrics don’t slip or stretch too much when you sew.
If you are intermediate or advanced, you could try types of fabrics such as silk, rayon, cotton jersey or crepe fabric.
I hope you found this post about fabric types absorbing. Who’d have thought there would be sooo much to learn about different fabrics?
I hope that this will prevent you from shrinking anything in the wash in the future or help you make the best decision when choosing which fabrics to work with.
Which types of fabrics are your favorite? While you’re here, why not share with someone who’s curious about fabrics too!