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Importance of Fabric Selection in garment making

Fabrics, new developments, common categories of fabrics used for apparels

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In dressmaking and designing, fabric selection is vitally important and integral part. Different fabrics for required for different ages, purposes, and occasions. Wedding dress, uniforms, undergarments, casual wears all require a different kind of fabrics and at times a combination of many.

What is fabric?

Fabrics are made up of fibres. These fibres have either been twisted into yarns and then knitted or woven together to make a length of the fabric, or they have been formed into a web and heat pressed or glued together as a non-woven fabric.

Fabric can be made up of one or more fibres and could have a special finish applied. There are thousands of fabrics to choose from and new fabrics are being developed all the time.

Fabric Specification

A fabric specification is a detailed list of the requirements for the fabric of a particular product. This is often written by the manufacturer rather than the designer so that the designer understands the limitations when selecting fabrics for the prototype.

Sample Fabric Specification for a Child’s Party Dress

  • Must be a shade of Pink
  • Must have lustre/sheen
  • Should be machine washable
  • Should be stain-resistant or Watermark-resistant
  • Should be reasonably cheap to buy
  • Should be woven to keep its shape
  • Should be smooth and comfortable to wear
  • Should hold dye well and not lose colour through washing
  • Should be easy to sew on a machine
  • Should be lightweight but not see-through

Both specifications list requirements, making selecting fabric easier for the designer who must choose a fabric which best meets the needs of the project.

Getting ready for production

  • Fabrics: It is a good idea to list all the things the fabric must be if it is going to be suitable for your product, e.g. non-stretchy, washable. If you are not sure about a fabric’s properties you may have to test it first.
  • Components: Including threads and fastenings. See what is in the shops, test things out and make sure they give the right effect and their job.
  • Costing: When you have considered your choice of fabrics and components you will need to do a cost chart to see if your idea is feasible. It is a good idea to seek public opinion.
  • Aftercare: Care labels and other details
  • Sustainability, environmental, and Social issues to be taken care of.

How to choose the best fabric?

There are many factors to consider and questions to answer when choosing a fabric, including the following:

  • What must it be able to do when made into the product?
  • What would look good for this product?
  • How much of a budget have I got to spend on fabric?
  • What is a fashion in fabric at the moment?
  • What have other designers chosen for similar products?
  • Does anyone have any demands on my choice? (Customer/company restraints)
  • What choices of fabric are available to me?
  • Can I get the fabric in the colour or pattern that I have designed?
  • Are there any special properties that I would like my fabric to have?
  • Are there any new developments in fabrics that would improve my design?
  • Will my fabric choice affect the popularity of my product?
  • Will my fabric choice affect the quality and/or the care of my product?
  • Will I still be able to make my product if I use this fabric?
  • Will I need to buy any special equipment to work with is fabric?

The answers are important; the decisions made can completely change the design for the better – or for the worse if taken too lightly.

Common scenarios of fabric selection

Infant Clothing

Baby skin is very sensitive. Clothes must be soft and pliable to be really comfortable. Hence soft, knitted, fabrics are popular. Cotton fabrics are suited to babies. Synthetic is not absorbent and causes irritation for summer, simple cotton dresses are suitable for the winter, a cotton dress is worn and on over it, the woollen garment can be worn for comfort.


The clothes for a toddler should be designed so that it gives mainly protection and comfort. A toddler learns to stands, sit, creep, crawl, walk and climb. The clothes toddler wear should allow them to move freely and comfortably. The clothes should be light in weight but should give warmth. A soft, smooth, fabric which does not collect soil and dirt would be ideal.

Pre School Child

At this age of 3 to 4 years the child becomes interested in its clothes, so selection should be done carefully where the child learn mostly through clothes. Bright colours and their favourites colours red, yellow, blue and green are preferred by children. Play clothes should be more in their wardrobe.

Preschool child clothes should be appropriative, durable and comfortable. Cotton for summer wear, woollen for winter and tricot, silk material can be worn with cotton lining.

For Adults

Petticoats are generally are underwear garments which are worn next to the skin. They should be absorbent and smooth which give comfort to the wearer. Generally, cotton, poplin, thin cambric, satin or rayon varieties can be worn. Slightly thick variety of cotton handloom material can be used for petticoats for children.

Major fabric categories and their importance

Clothing refers to the various articles used to cover the body. Apparel may be divided into two classes. First one the desire for warmth and for protection against elements, Secondly the desire for the satisfaction we receive from wearing clothing that makes us appear to advantage. Baby’s clothes need not be full of frills or elaborate since the baby’s comfort should be the main criterion. Their clothes are meant to protect them from colds and chills while allowing enough freedom of movement for the limbs. Clothes should not be tight as they will hamper the circulation and breathing

The appearance of a garment is greatly influenced by the fabric used for construction, not all fabrics are suitable for all garments. To choose a suitable fabric for a specific end use calls for basic knowledge in fabric construction and types of fabrics available in the market. Fabrics are produced mostly from yarns. Few fabrics are directly produced from fabrics. Fabrics are made from yarns and are constructed mostly either by weaving or knitting. In the Indian market, seventy per cent of the fabrics is produced by weaving. Among the other fabric constructions, lace making is worth mentioning. Felts are fabrics made directly from fibres without making yarns.

Woven Fabrics

Woven Fabric

Woven fabrics are made by using two or more sets of yarn interlaced at right angles to each other. Much variety is produced by weaving. Woven fabrics are generally more durable. They can be easily cut into different shapes and are excellent for producing styles in garments. However, the raw edges ravel or fray easily and need to be protected. Fabrics having more fabric count (number of wrap and weft yearns present) keep the shape well. Low count fabrics are less durable and may snag or stretch.

Woven fabrics are manufactured in different widths depending on the end use. The fabrics used for apparels usually contain 90 cms width. The Sheeting materials are generally made having a width of 160 cm/140cms and 150cms/180 cms.

Knitted Fabrics

Knitted FabricKnitting is the construction of an elastic, porous fabric, created by interlocking yarns by means of needles. Knitted fabrics can be made much more quickly and easily than woven fabrics at comparatively less cost. Knitted fabrics are generally light in weight, comfortable in wear even during travel, but yet require little care to keep their neat appearance. The tendency of knits to resist wrinkling is another factor to boost up their popularity. Knitted fabrics are used for designing active clothing such as sports clothing. Their elastic nature permits for abundant physical activity. Knitted fabrics are produced by two general methods. Warp knitting and weft knitting. They are made as flat or tubular fabrics depending on the end use. Tubular fabrics may not have any seams at the sides whereas flat fabrics are treated just like woven fabrics.

Lace Fabrics

Laced FabricLace is an openwork fabric consisting of a network of threads or yarns formed into intricate designs. Laces are developed for beauty and adornment. Lace which looks so delicate is made out of strong yarns looped or twisted together in a more complicated manner than any other methods of construction. Thus they are expensive too. They are manufactured in many widths, shapes and in the limitless variety of patterns.

Handmade laces are more expensive than machine-made laces. As expensive goods are preferred only by few, the machine made laces are more popular among consumers. Laces are produced either in the form of a fabric or in a shape suited for particular end use. They are mostly used as trimmings, on apparels and home furnishings.

Non-Woven Fabrics

Non-woven fabrics are made in two main ways: they are either felted or they are bonded. The fabrics use fibres rather than yarns; these are laid randomly or in a uniform way to make web-like layers. They are held together by either the felting or bonding process.

Blended Fabrics

Blended FabricsIt is important to observe that production of staple yarn is not limited to composition from one kind of fibre the staple of two or more kinds of fibres may be combined for blended at different stages. When different types of fibres are blended, the properties of these fibres are also combined in the blended yarns.

Smart Fabrics

A fabric that can respond to outside influences without human intervention is considered a smart fabric.

  • A smart fabric can sense certain conditions
  • A smart fabric can react to certain conditions
  • A smart fabric can adapt to certain conditions

Smart Fabrics Trigger Points

  • Heat

    Thermochromic colour encapsulated into the surface of fabrics or printed on the surface will react to heat and change colour.

  • Moisture

    Solvation chromism has been developed mainly for disposable non-woven textiles where a fabric changes colour when wet, for example, babies nappies.

  • Light

    Photochromic fabrics are dyed to respond to light conditions and change colour. These are particularly good for military use, to reduce the need for camouflage net or change of uniform.

  • Other conditions

    Fabric can be activated by power or time, and in the future, there could be many more developments in these areas

Interactive Fabrics

An interactive fabric incorporates electronics that are reactivated by a power source. These are still smart fabrics – they just require power.

One important fabric development is in conductivity; where the fabric is electrically conductive while being soft and comfortable. This conductivity can be added with metallic fibres, conductive printing inks and metallic coatings on the fabric surface. Gorix is a carbonised fibre with conductivity, used in heated car seats and for motorbike clothing. Philips has developed Soft Switch, which as conductive threads, woven or knitted structures incorporating pressure sensors that can be sued as audio devices. Developments making use of solar energy are popular for power solutions.

Examples of interactive fabrics include:

  • A waistcoat that has conductive fibres so differently abled children can communicate
  • The life shirt, which monitors blood pressure
  • Tagging technology, which can track a garment
  • Paramedics’ headwear that can film the patient and be sent to doctors in the hospital
  • Garments with built-in mobile phone technology
  • A tracksuit that can monitor your performance
  • Gloves with lights to allow cyclists to be seen at night heated gloves.

Other developments

  • Ways of mimicking nature have been widely researched in textile technology. Some examples include the popular Fastskin developed by swimwear manufacturer Speedo to be like the surface of a shark’s skin, so it channels water away from the body making the swimmer more aerodynamic.
  • Biomimetics means imitation a living biosystem. This process has been used in textile technology by mimicking the natural way a leaf breathes and regulates temperature. Stomatex fabric keeps the wearer dry and comfortable during exercise.
  • Micro-encapsulation has been developed in textiles to allow fibres and fabrics to be impregnated with microscopic bubbles of perfumes, anti-bacterial properties, anti-allergic properties, mosquito repellents and carbon digesters to absorb unpleasant fumes.
  • Buoyancy and Inflatable textiles have been developed such as thema-float for use in buoyancy aids and life jackets, and inflatable yarns in swimwear for children and blow-up bras.
  • Reflective textiles are used for enhanced safety in cycling and for pedestrians out walking at night, and for sportswear.
  • Phosphorescent textiles are used for glow-in-the-dark fashions.
  • Fibre optics are used in trainers for illuminated logos, and fibre-optic sensors are inserted in military garments to detect harmful chemicals.
  • Nanotechnology in textiles is in its very early stages and is being developed to improve the performance of fabrics through controlling practices in fibres and fabrics. Nano-tex is one of the first manufacturers to help clothing firms such as Leve and Gap to develop stain-resistant, more durable fabrics.


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