Your Guide To The Best Fabric Types For Making Clothes

Your Guide To The Best Fabric Types For Making Clothes

When it comes to sewing your own clothing, the sheer amount of materials available can make choosing what kind you'll use a little daunting! Different fabric types have different properties that will affect how they feel on your skin, how they drape over your body, how well they keep you warm or cool and even what colours they can come in. Not to mention some types of material are much easier to sew with than others.

At Spotlight we're delighted to offer sewists a fantastic range of clothes materials both in type and in colour. We know such a wide selection can make finding the perfect fabric types tricky - that's why this blog will walk you through some of the different fabric types we have available, whether they're best used for creating clothing for warm or cool weather, plus how suitable they are for beginners.

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Fabric Types For Cooler Clothes

If you've ever had your summer's day ruined by clothing that is clingy, itchy and stifling then you know the importance of choosing summer clothes made from the best clothing material for heat. The types of materials you use for summer clothing should work on keeping you cool and refreshed - qualities like breathability, moisture-wicking and a stiffer drape can all help with this.


This natural fibre is one of the most commonly used types of clothing material for making garments, and for good reason. Cotton fabric types are always a light and soft material that can absorb moisture from your body, wicking it from your skin into the cotton itself. Cotton fibres have gaps in them that allow air to circulate, which makes clothing made from cotton breathable as well!

Clothing made from cotton is also long-lasting and durable. You can wash it in your washing machine (although keep in mind cotton clothes can shrink - prevent this by washing it on a gentle cycle using cool water) and it will drape comfortably over your body without being clingy - perfect for flowing summer dresses, skirts and blouses!


The poster child for summer clothes materials is linen, thanks to its gorgeous texture and light, rustic feel. Made from the flax plant, linen is a durable material that has a stiff drape that keeps it from clinging to your body. However, if you are wearing tight-fitting linen clothing, you will be able to enjoy its cool and ventilated feel on your skin. Like cotton, linen will absorb any dampness from your skin, but linen's quick drying time ensures you will feel fresh and dry much faster than other clothing materials.

Linen has a stiffer and tougher feel compared to the softness of cotton, but linen will become softer every time you wash it so make sure to persevere if you don't love the initial feel of this material. Linen is known for being a wrinkly fabric, but many consider that to be part of its easy-breezy summer charm! Of course it can be ironed if you need to - it is easier to iron linen if it is slightly damp, so let it only partially dry after washing or give it a quick spritz with a water-filled spray bottle before ironing flat.


Traditionally chambray has been made from beautiful silk fabric types as well as cotton and linen, but these days you'll find this soft and light clothes material usually woven from cotton. Because it is often made with blue and white threads chambray is often mistaken for denim, but you'll know the difference once you feel it - chambray is airy, soft and light, perfect for all sorts of summer clothing! Because it is made from cotton realistically chambray can be dyed any colour, but you'll most often find it on shelves in the classic light or medium blue.

Chambray, thanks to its lightness, has a lovely flowing drape that makes it excellent for dresses, cascading tops and loose pants. Like cotton, it should be washed on a cold setting in your washing machine, and your chambray garments can be ironed once dry to smooth out any wrinkles.


Rayon is one of those curious clothing material types that sits between what is normally a clean divide between natural and synthetic fibres. Rayon is made from cellulose fibres from plants (natural) that have been heavily treated and converted with chemicals (synthetic) to a wearable material. Rayon has been compared to cotton and silk in its look and feel - it is very soft, shiny and drapes fluidly over the body for a close, flowy fit.

Rayon is a breathable material that is actually more absorbent than cotton - it is often used to make activewear that is perfect for keeping you cool and dry while you exercise. It is a wonderful alternative to silk and can be used to create elegant dresses, shiny blouses and even lingerie. It is prone to shrinkage, so hand-wash your rayon fabric to keep it in its best condition.

Fabric Types For Warmer Clothes

Being warm in winter is a key way to staying healthy throughout the colder months of the year, but luckily you have more fashionable options than just wrapping yourself in a huge puffer jacket every time you step outside! The best types of material for clothes in winter are those with a thick, warm or fuzzy feel that can keep you warm without turning you into a sweaty mess.


Surprise - it's cotton again! Thick cotton clothes made from dense cotton fabric types (much denser than your breezy and thin summer cotton garments) are great for winter as they are durable and soft but also allow your body to breathe. This will prevent sweat from building up inside your layers and leaving you feeling cold and clammy.

Because it absorbs water so well, be careful wearing cotton garments when there's a chance you'll be rained on - the cotton will absorb the moisture and leave you wet and miserable, as it won't be able to wick moisture into the air that is already full of water!


One of the warmest fabric types that's ideal for winter clothing is wool. All wool fabric types (such as sheep's wool, goat and alpaca wool) have air pockets that will insulate you from the cold air outside, and its moisture-wicking properties will pull any sweat from your skin through the wool and into the air. Wool is also water-resistant, durable and quite light considering how bulky it can look!

Wool garments can be washed using the delicate cycle on your washing machine, although if you have a very bulky wool item like an overcoat you can spot clean small stains using a wool-friendly detergent and cool water. Make sure to machine wash woollen garments inside a mesh bag and avoid vigorous spin drying at the end - instead, lay them flat on a thick towel and let them dry naturally in the air.


Whether it's used for pyjamas or sheets, flannel is a much-loved winter fabric material that is known for its soft and fuzzy texture. Flannel has a napped texture that feels oh-so-cosy when worn and will get even softer the more you wash and wear it. As a knit fabric, it also doesn't wrinkle easily!

Flannel can be made from cotton or wool, and how you wash it will depend on which type you have. Cotton flannel garments should be washed in cool water with a mild detergent, and be mindful if you are washing them with other clothes as they can shed lint in the machine. Wool flannel can be washed in hotter water if you need as it resists shrinking better than cotton. Wash both kinds in a delicates bag so none of the fluffy napped fibres catch on the sides of the washing machine's drum!


Made from synthetic polyester, fleece is fuzzy and soft just like the woolly coat of a sheep. It has a piled surface on both sides that can hold small pockets of air, helping insulate you in a similar fashion to natural wool. As a synthetic material it is also water-resistant and lightweight, so it's great for use as a light jumper or jacket when you're trying to go for your morning run in the winter drizzle.

Fleece is quite durable and can be washed in your machine, like many other winter clothing, on a cold cycle with gentle detergent. Turn your fleece clothing inside out before washing and avoid washing them with clothing that features zips, hooks or velcro patches, as these can grab onto your fleece's napped fibres and pull them loose. A delicates bag can help with this!


Ultra-durable and an excellent insulator, leather clothing like jackets and gloves are durable, not to mention stylish! Leather clothing has a small amount of water resistance, but applying a leather conditioner protects them from water damage and also makes them waterproof.

Leather clothing moulds to your form, providing you with a snug fit that prevents cold air from slipping in between your layers to freeze your skin. Continue to maintain your leather clothing to prevent it from cracking or fraying, and enjoy being warm while also looking fabulous throughout winter!


Made from the fine undercoat hairs of goats, cashmere is extremely soft and lighter when woven into clothing compared to wool. However, it is more delicate than wool so care needs to be taken when wearing and cleaning any cashmere garments. Like wool, it is good at wicking away moisture and odours from your skin, and it feels lighter on the body when compared to pure wool which can feel scratchy on sensitive skin.

Because it is quite soft, cashmere needs to be cleaned carefully. You can choose to hand wash it or clean it using a washing machine, but either way, make sure you are using a detergent suitable for delicate garments and avoid vigorous drying and wringing out, as this can stretch the cashmere. You may like to lie it flat on a towel and roll up the towel to absorb excess moisture - otherwise, leave it to dry flat on a drying rack. Avoid line drying as this can also cause it to stretch.

Assorted patterned flat fat cotton bundles and single pieces

Easy Fabric Types To Sew With

If you are a beginner sewist, then learning to sew on easy fabrics will make your sewing journey much more pleasant to begin (we have a helpful guide if you're a new sewist just starting out!). Here are some types of material we recommend learning with:


Cotton is one of the great all-rounder fabrics, and one of its many good qualities includes it being a lovely material for new sewists to work with. Most cotton fabric types are light and smooth materials that won't slip around a sewing machine as you work and are also resistant to stretching. Cotton can be light, medium or heavy, so make sure you adjust the type of stitch and the width of the stitch to compensate.

Cotton is prone to shrinkage and sometimes the dye can run after a wash, so it's important to prepare your cotton fabric by giving it a wash in cool or warm water. Cotton fabric is also prone to wrinkling, so make sure to give it an iron before sewing with it so you have a smooth and stable material to work with.


Stylish and durable, linen is a dream to work with and is easy to handle when using a sewing machine. It isn't slippery and can be guided easily over the feed dogs as you work - just remember to guide your fabric through and not pull it!

Like cotton, linen should be washed to prevent your finished garment from shrinking when you first need to clean it. Washing it in hot water will shrink your linen to the maximum amount, which will prevent it from ever shrinking again. If you plan on only ever washing your linen in cool or warm water then pre-wash it at this same temperature, as it won't shrink too much. Keep in mind linen gets softer every time you wash it, so your linen fabric garments will feel better on your skin after every wash!


Flannel can be made from either cotton or wool and is known for being a warm and cosy fabric ideal for winter. It is a bit thicker than cotton or linen so you'll need to use a stronger needle in your sewing machine, but it won't slip as you work. You'll want to use longer stitches when sewing with flannel, as short stitches can cause the fabric to fray.

Like cotton and linen flannel fabric is prone to shrinking in the wash, so you should prepare it no matter if it is wool or cotton. Wool flannel doesn't actually need to be washed - rather, you can steam the wool flannel to shrink it using a steam iron. Remember not to actually touch the iron to the flannel!

Cotton flannel is best prewashed at a high temperature but on a delicate cycle. The high temperature will get all the shrinkage out of the way, but the delicate cycle will prevent the flannel fabric from pilling or fraying in the wash. You may even like to wash it in a delicates bag for this reason.

Press both kinds of flannel flat with an iron when dry. Do not run the iron across your flannel as this can cause it to stretch.


This thick material can be likened to a synthetic version of flannel as it is made from polyester instead of a natural material like cotton or wool. Because it is synthetic, fleece won't fray and it is much more resistant to shrinkage, except when exposed to very hot temperatures. It's a bit stretchy, but not so much that it should impede your sewing - use a zig-zag stitch to help prevent your stitches from popping in areas where extra movement is needed.

It's best to use a polyester thread when sewing fleece and use a fresh needle when starting a fleece sewing project, as synthetic fabrics will blunt your needles faster than natural fabrics. As a synthetic material you shouldn't need to iron it, and this is great because as a man-made material, it can melt under high temperatures. If you really need to iron your fleece material, use a cotton pressing cloth between your iron and the fleece material to protect it.


All wool fabric types do need to be pre-treated before sewing, but once you've done this they're quite easy to work with. Like with wool flannel, you need to shrink it first - you can do this with a steam iron, or, if you have a dryer, pop it in the dryer on the highest heat setting along with another garment that is wet. The wet garment will produce steam to shrink your wool fabric.

When sewing wool using a sewing machine, use a heavy needle with a ballpoint tip. This allows the needle to slip easily through the fibres of the wool without snagging on the fluffy fibres. Wool comes in different weights, so make sure you're choosing one that suits your type - choose lightweight wool for garments like skirts and pants, and heavyweight wool for jackets and coats.

Advanced Fabric Types To Sew With

Certain clothing material types should only be used by sewists who have a bit of experience under their belt. Here are some of the trickier types of clothing material you can find and some tips on sewing with them:


Satin isn't actually a kind of material, but rather a style of weaving that leaves one side of the material smooth, silky and shiny. It can be used to make luxurious garments and accessories, but due to its slippery nature, it can be quite tricky to work with. You may be tempted to use many pins to keep it in place while you work, but satin shows needle holes very easily - always use very thin needles for sewing satin, and also use thin pins that will have their marks hidden in the seam allowance when you need to anchor the fabric. Or use safety pins, which won't leave holes in your satin material at all!

Water and oil stains will show up horribly on satin, so you won't be able to steam it or use water-based markers that you're hoping to wash off later. If you need to mark your satin material, use tailor's chalk on the underside (the not shiny side) of the satin. You should also avoid using heavy hand creams before handling satin, as they can cause oily marks to mar the surface of your satin fabric.


Strong, durable and soft, leather can be an intimidating material to sew with if you don't make the necessary adjustments to your machine before you begin. A presser foot will catch on the surface of leather, so change it to a roller foot or a Teflon foot made from a non-stick plastic material. You should also make sure you have special leather sewing needles on hand - these thick, strong needles have a specially shaped tip for piercing leather, and you'll want multiple on hand in case one snaps when going through a particularly thick section of leather.

Make sure to use synthetic threads like nylon or polyester when sewing with leather, as the chemicals in leather will erode threads made of natural materials like cotton. Needle marks are permanent in leather, so make sure to test your sewing machine's settings on a scrap piece before starting your project for real, and use fabric tape instead of pins to hold your leather pieces in place while you sew.


While it's made from cotton, which is one of the easiest materials to sew with, denim is a little trickier to work with due to its thickness and strength. For starters, the tools you use to create your denim garment need to be strong - a special denim needle will punch through the material without breaking, while a strong nylon or polyester thread will bind your denim material together sturdily.

Denim is prone to fraying and snagging, so make sure to use very sharp dressmaking scissors or a sharp rotary cutter when slicing through your denim fabric. And when you're deciding what closures you'll use for your denim clothing, make sure to choose strong, heavy-duty ones! The buttons and zippers you use for denim pants or jackets need to be able to hold the garment together without popping off the garment or tearing it off.

Sequin fabrics

Sequined fabrics are shiny and eye-catching and are often used for costumes or statement pieces and accessories like bags, trims and dance outfits. But those same sequins that make the material so gorgeous can make sewing very tricky - sequins can dull your scissors, so use older ones that you can sharpen easily. If your sequined material has very small sequins (we're talking less than 5mm) a strong and sharp needle will be able to pierce straight through the sequins as you sew, eliminating the need to remove sequins individually before sewing a section.

Sequined fabric can feel scratchy against your skin, so many sequined clothes will include a lining on the underside - make sure to choose patterns that include linings or make sure to add your own. You will also find that many sequins will be shed as you work - not enough to ruin the look of your fabric, but enough to make cleaning up afterwards a nightmare! You may like to lay down a tarp or cloth over the floorspace of your sewing station, which you can then bundle up and use to pour all loose sequins into the bin once you're finished.

Velvet material in rich ruby, deep blue, blush mauve and earth tones

Find All The Types Of Materials You Need At Spotlight

We hope this guide has helped you decide what kinds of different fabric types you'll use in your next sewing project! Browse our full range of fabrics and sewing supplies online, where you can quickly pay and have your order home delivered. You can also visit your nearest Spotlight store, where our friendly team will help you choose the best clothing material for your project.

For more information on sewing and the best clothing materials for dressmaking, check out our buying guides on sewing machines, sewing needles and dressmaking fabrics. And if you need some sewing inspiration, tips and tricks, read through our handy blogs on 5 common sewing machine problems and how to fix them, mechanical vs computerised sewing machines and 5 types of sewing machine foot types explained.




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