HOW FABRIC CHOICE AFFECTS FIT
Have you ever sewn up a garment only to be surprised that it doesn’t fit quite the same on you as you’ve seen on others? Does it feel too tight or too loose, or maybe it feels a little short or too long? Fabric choice has a lot to do with how a garment is going to fit your body.
Pattern designers design their garment with a certain type of fabric in mind to get the fit they’re wanting to create. They will usually suggest certain types of fabric with specific percentages of stretch in order to get that intended fit. See our 101 blog posts about intended fit here.
I’ve picked the Nora Swing Top pattern to do a comparison with 6 different types of knit fabrics – I know by looking at the listing photos that the top portion is fitted and the bottom portion flows away from the bottom at the hips, but what type of fabric will give me the best fit?
You will find out more information about recommended fabrics and required stretch in the tutorial of the pattern. This is the fabric information for Nora:
**Fabric content will affect the drape and fit. Bodice is drafted for light to medium weight knits with at least 40% horizontal stretch and good drape. Brushed polyester, ribbed knit, waffle knit, rayon spandex, modal, bamboo lycra, ITY, etc. work well. Cotton lycra is not recommended for this pattern. Fabrics with less recovery such as rayon spandex may “grow” with wear and fit longer than intended.**
I chose to sew up some double brushed poly, ribbed knit, brushed hacci sweater knit, cotton spandex, liverpool and scuba to give a good comparison from a wide range of drape, stretch, and recovery of fabrics.
You can see that the lighter weight fabrics with more stretch like the double brushed poly, ribbed knit and the hacci all have a more flowy hemline. The cotton spandex has drag lines under the bust. The liverpool and scuba, both heavier weight knits, are both a little more snug in the chest and the hemline is more structured.
Want to see the fabrics in motion? Check out the video below:
PERCENTAGE OF STRETCH
To determine the stretch of a fabric (for both knits and wovens) so you can make sure you have the required stretch needed for your garment, all you need is a ruler and a piece of the fabric you’re intending to use. We’ll use an 8-inch section of the ruler. Grab a section of your fabric from the middle and fold it over to create a straight fold to align with the ruler. The second photo here shows which way to fold the fabric in conjunction with your selvage to check for horizontal stretch.
Place your finger at the “0” and put a pin where the “4” is. Pull the fabric from the “4” towards the right – make sure you’re not pulling too hard and stretching the fabric past its natural stretch. Where does the pin end up? If it’s 1″ past the “4”, then divide 1 by 4 (which is .25) and then multiply by 100 giving you 25. So 1″ past the “4” gives you 25% stretch. Check the vertical stretch the same way, folding the fabric over the opposite way.
Here’s how the fabrics I used stretched:
You can also follow along in this video:
The finished measurements chart is great if you’re wanting to see how much ease is built into the pattern, which will also help determine what type of fabric you should use. Look at the finished measurement compared to the size chart and you will see if there’s positive ease or negative ease. Want even more information about using the finished measurements? Check out our Finished Measurements 101 blog post here.
For the Nora Swing Top, a size Red has a waist measurement of 43”- 46” and the finished measurement shows 41”. Since the finished measurement is smaller than the sizing chart it means that the finished garment has negative ease and will have a fitted waist. (There are metric measurements included with the tutorial as well). If you have a fabric with less stretch, the Nora will feel even more snug at the waist. If your fabric has a lot of stretch, more than the 40% recommended, then it will fit less snug.
The weight or GSM (grams per square metre) of a fabric is also useful to consider when sewing up a garment. A heavier fabric (higher GSM) will be more structured and denser and not flow as well as a lightweight fabric (as seen in my comparison at the hemlines). Here is a quick visual of how the weight some woven fabrics can appear. This is a quilting cotton on the left, rayon challis in the middle and a crepe woven on the right. The quilting will hold in the position you form it to. The rayon challis collapses, but still has some structure to it. The crepe falls into a soft pile.
There is a lot to consider when you are choosing a fabric for a pattern – or pattern for a fabric. Use all of the information given to you in the tutorial including suggested fabrics, required percentage of stretch, and finished measurement charts to choose the best fabric for a fabulous fit.
Kelly is an avid pattern tester and fabric hoarder. She loves to post about her makes and what works for her curvy body on her Instagram at kellygonthierart.
P.S. There is a great “Sewing with Knits 101” free pdf that you can download from the Made for Mermaids website, which has some helpful information on sewing with knits, different types of knits, and also a printable guide to measure the stretch of your fabric.