Phillip Moorman
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Are you are dreaming of designing a custom line of clothing or accessories? Do you have ideas for clothing styles, but no idea what fabrics to use? Maybe you just want to make your own clothes and let your style finally come out.

No matter what your plans may be, if fabric is involved, it’s a good idea to know exactly what type of fabric you will need for your projects.

What Are the Most Common Fabrics Used in Textile Manufacturing?

When it comes to clothing fabrics, you could spend hours looking at the wide array of color, textures, and patterns available.  Each type has its own feel and weight. Knowing what type works best for your products will make the selection and process go much more smoothly.

Here are the most common types of clothing fabrics available today and how they are best used.

Cotton Lawn

Lawn and voile often get mixed up. Lawn generally has a higher thread count and smaller yarns. It has a crisper feel than voile but both are categorized as lightweight cotton.

One thing to keep in mind with lightweight and lighter colored fabrics is that they are often more transparent. Despite the lightness, lawn resists wrinkles and keeps its shape.

How to Use it

This fabric works well for blouses, dresses, skirts, soft dresses, and shawls.  You could also consider it for loosely fitted slacks like gaucho and palazzo styles.

Cotton Voile

Voile is a lightweight, semi-transparent fabric with a better drape factor than Lawn.

How to Use it

Very good for the same types of clothing that Cotton Lawn can be used for.

Cashmere Wool

Most of us know that wool is made from sheep.  So what makes Cashmere wool so different (and expensive).  The short answer, Goats.

Cashmere wool comes from cashmere goats, and they are the only animals able to produce the soft and luxurious fibers that make cashmere, well, cashmere.

And, it’s not just any type of cashmere goat fur that used in the wool.  The required fibers are only available on the undercoat of each goat. This is the fur closest to the goat’s skin and must be separated from the outer coat before it can be used.

According to cashmere goat farmer Pam Haendle, “it takes about four goats to make one sweater.”

How to Use it

Wool, especially cashmere wool, is primarily used for cold weather wear such as sweaters, socks, scarves and heavier dresses.

Chambray

Chambray is lightweight fabric but doesn’t drape as well as cotton voile or lawn. Sometimes viewed as a very lightweight denim it traditionally is made with blue and white yarns (hence the denim appearance).  Recently it has become available in a wider array of colors ranging from soft grays and earthy greens to reddish tones.

How to Use it

Typically used in more rugged outerwear like work shirts, slacks, lightweight blazers and even bandanas.

Denim

Denim is a heavy fabric that has very little give unless it is woven with another type of thread, like spandex.

How to Use it

Probably one of the most recognizable fabrics around the world.  Denim is most commonly used for very durable slacks patterns (blue jeans, jeans, etc.)  but has also been used for coats, jackets, shirts, skirts, and even casual suits.

Double Gauze

Double gauze literally two layers of gauze weaved together. The double layer of fabric makes it less transparent than single layer gauze, allowing it to be used for more practical purposes.

How to Use it

Because of its light weight and versatility, Double Gauze can be used for just about anything.

Flannel

Flannel is a soft woven fabric created in a variety of thicknesses. Originally made from worsted yarn or carded wool it can now be found made from cotton, wool, synthetic fibers and even scots pine fiber.

How to Use it

Flannel could be used for just about anything.  Its most common uses are for cold-weather outerwear, coat linings, pajamas, and scarfs.

Jersey

Jersey is a knit fabric originally made from wool.  Now it can be made with wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers.  Typically, a lightweight knit fabric, it’s occasionally confused with cashmere.  Its manufacturing process produces one flat side and one piled side.

How to Use it

Jersey has a wonderful drape effect and is very stretchy, like other knits.  It can be used for dresses, skirts, blouses and anything else you want to include a nice flow.

Knit

In the knit fabric category, there are several types of knit, varying from lightweight to medium weight. Knit fabric is your go-to for any garment that needs to have a great deal of stretch.

How to Use it

Most Knit fabrics can be used for any garment that you want to have stretchiness and flow.

Linen

Linen is a medium-weight fabric with very little elasticity that makes it prone to wrinkles.  Its lightweight breathability, however, makes it ideal for wearing in warm weather.

How to Use it

Linen is used most commonly in natural colors as pants, skirts, suits, blouses and button-down shirts.  Often woven with other materials like silk or cashmere to produce an even more luxurious and less wrinkled effect.

Model

Modal has gained recent popularity for its lightweight feel and sustainable materials.  It’s made by using reconstituted cellulose usually from beech trees.

How to Use it

The model can be used to make pretty much anything.

Satin and Silk

Both Satin and Silk are lightweight, delicate fabrics that drape well. They both have a shimmery appearance and are very slippery. Satin is a synthetic fabric that was first created as a substitute for the more expensive silk fabrics.  Silk fibers are made as a result of the silk worm’s cocoon threads. The fibers are harvested before the worms can go dormant, forcing them to start the “spinning” process again.

How to Use it

Satin and Silk are often used interchangeably and can be used to create just about any garment or accessory.

Wool

There are over 40 different breeds of sheep that can produce over 200 different types of wool. The weight of each wool varies according to its type.

How to Use it

Wool is extremely durable and versatile. It’s very warm and an excellent option for cold weather clothing.

How the Digital Age Has Revolutionized the Availability of Custom Printed Fabrics

Custom fabrics have become much easier to acquire.  Once, the only way to create a pattern on a particular fabric was through conventional screen printing.

With conventional screen printing, the process requires a separate screen for each individual color in the design.  And, each color will need to be mixed and tested before production can begin.

So, if you have a pattern with 10 colors in the design, 10 screens would need to be created, and 10 colors would need to be mixed.  This involved process is the reason why only large runs of a design are produced.

If you’re planning to design and produce a large number of pieces to be sold over a substantial area, then this process would probably still be your best bet for obtaining a custom print design.

However, if you are interested in producing a limited numbers of pieces, or don’t want the hassle of storing inventory, digital printing provides an alternative to committing to huge amounts of custom fabric.

What is Digital Fabric Printing?

Essentially, any image you can put on a computer screen can also be printed onto fabric.

With digital printing, there is no need for screens or mixing colors.  This flexibility means you can order just about any amount, large or small, and get a very good approximation of what your original design looks like, every single time.

A good example of how this process is being used can be seen in the online clothing collections at shopvida.com.

At Vida, artists have the opportunity to upload images of their work on pre-selected items of clothing and accessories.  Once a collection is created, the fabric is printed, then the product manufactured after it has been ordered.

Since the products are only manufactured when an order comes in, nothing is ever out of stock.  Additionally, as long as the artists keep a pattern in their collection, it will always be available.

What Type of Fabrics Work with Digital Printing?

Depending on the manufacturer’s printers and preferred ink, digital printing can be done on cotton, model, silk, linen, nylon, wool, and more.

What this Means for Your Business

Digital printing on fabric has made the production of custom patterns and limited runs even easier to achieve.  It also allows you to “Protect the Planet” better by not being required to keep larger amounts of stock on hand.  Instead, you can order custom printed fabric according to your demand at the time and without the hassle of dealing with minimum order requirements.

Now You Know What You Need to Choose the Right Fabric for the Right Project

For many, choosing a fabric can be as enjoyable as clothing shopping itself.  Just like an artist’s paints, the array of colors, textures and patterns can provide an infinite number of ideas and inspiration.

Knowing what will work best for your product or project will make moving forward much easier.

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