It’s helpful to know as much as we can about the fabrics we work with. We’ll end up making better fabric choices
and caring for our finished items better. So here’s a list of some of the most common fabric fibers with
information about each.

Note: The care guidelines given are general. Follow the specific care instructions provided with your fabric.

Natural Fibers
Natural fibers come from plants and animals.


    Cotton comes from the seedpod of the cotton plant.

    Fabric characteristics
    Cotton fabrics have a soft hand and come in a variety of textures and weights.

    Positive qualities
    Cotton is strong, durable, and absorbent. It takes dye well, draws heat away from the body, and can
    withstand high temperatures.

    Most cottons wrinkle easily unless treated with a special finish. Cotton also shrinks when laundered,
    so it’s important to preshrink cotton fabric before sewing. Cotton is also weakened by excessive
    exposure to sunlight.

    Care requirements
    Most cotton fabrics can be laundered, but hand washing is recommended for some weaves (read your
    care label). Most white cottons can be bleached. Iron cotton fabrics slightly damp using a high

    Examples of cotton fabrics
    Flannel, broadcloth, twill, damask, denim, poplin.


    Linen comes from the flax plant.

    Fabric characteristics
    Linen fabrics have a course, natural looking texture and a slight sheen. They're available in various
    weights and weaves.

    Positive qualities
    Linen is strong, absorbent, draws heat away from the body, and can withstand high temperatures. It
    is also a smooth fiber that’s lint free.

    Linen tends to wrinkle easily unless treated with a special finish. It can also shrink and soften if
    laundered. Linen also has poor elasticity – it tends to stretch without recovering its shape.

    Care requirements
    Since linen fabrics can shrink or soften if laundered, dry-cleaning is usually recommended. Iron linen
    using a high temperature.


    Silk comes from the cocoon of the silkworm.

    Fabric characteristics
    Silk fabrics drape well and have a smooth texture.

    Positive qualities
    Silk is very strong, absorbent, and holds in body heat. It’s wrinkle-resistant, takes dye well, and has
    good recovery.

    Silk can shrink if washed (unless the fabric has been preshrunk prior to garment construction). Silk is
    also weakened by sunlight and perspiration.

    Care requirements
    Dry-cleaning is recommended for some silk fabrics, and some may be hand or machine washed (read
    your care label). Machine drying is usually not recommended. Press silk using a low iron temperature
    and a press cloth. Do not bleach.

    Examples of silk fabrics
    Brocade, chiffon, organza.


    Wool comes from the fleece of sheep, and also from the coats of other animals, such as goats, camels, and

    Fabric characteristics
    Wool fabrics come in many textures and weights, from very smooth to nubby.

    Positive qualities
    Wool is absorbent, holds in body heat, and is wrinkle-resistant. It takes dye well and retains its shape.

    Wool is a relatively weak fiber, it’s vulnerable to moths, and shrinks if laundered unless treated with a
    special finish.

    Care requirements
    Dry cleaning is usually recommended for wool fabrics, but some can be washed by hand or machine
    (read your care label). Do not use bleach.

    Examples of wool fabrics
    Merino wool, felt, flannel, gabardine, jersey.

Next: Fabric Fibers Part 2 - Synthetics>>
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Fabric Fibers