Cotton, the fabric of our lives. You’ve probably seen those commercials and know the jingle. Actually when I first started sewing, when I thought “cotton” I just thought T-shirts and didn’t know what else cotton was good for. Then I would be wandering around JoAnn desperately searching for a rack that just said “cotton” and not all these other weird fabric names like “broadcloth” and “seersucker.”
Little did I know that cotton can be shaped and molded into many different fabrics with many different names. It’s helpful to learn these before you start picking out fabrics so you know which are good for apparel, which are for home decor, etc.
The first time I went to buy fabric for a sewing pattern, I had to ask a random woman for help finding fabric that would work for clothes because I didn’t understand all the names! I want to help you avoid that feeling of silliness and embarrassment, so I’ll be making a few posts about the most common fabrics and what you can use them for.
In doing my research for this post, I found there were so many different useful types of cotton that I’m going to have to split them over multiple posts, and here goes part one!
Broadcloth is a medium-weight cotton fabric that’s tightly woven and very sturdy. It’s a little thin and light for pants but can be used for shirts, blouses, skirts, bed linens, quilts, and lots of other crafts. Broadcloth can be found in pure cotton or in a poly-cotton blend. I think broadcloth is great for a beginner because it doesn’t stretch and is very affordable. Also it only comes in solids, so you don’t have to worry about matching patterns or anything.
Chambray is a woven fabric made with one colored yarn as the warp (vertical strands) and white yarn as the weft (horizontal strands). It is lightweight but durable, and is easy for beginners to sew. You can use it to make spring or summer clothes like shirts and dresses or work shirts and sportswear.
Corduroy consists of twisted woven fibers that form cords, hence the name. You’ve probably seen this fabric used in pants, jackets, jumpers, and more. It isn’t a particularly difficult fabric to sew, but you have to coordinate naps (making sure all the fabric is going in the same direction) and pressing can be a delicate process, so I would recommend holding off on trying any corduroy projects for now.
I’m sure you’re familiar with denim. It’s a form of twill that’s very durable and most often used in jeans but occasionally in bedspreads and curtains. I feel like denim is a little heavy to start sewing with as a beginner, and most items that are meant to be denim would probably be difficult to sew.
You’ve probably seen a flannel shirt and are somewhat familiar with this fabric. It’s a very soft woven fabric with a slight nap, and is used in pajamas, sheets, lumberjack shirts, quilts, and more. It’s not particularly difficult to sew but can stretch and distort very easily, and it dulls needles quickly. I would recommend that beginners hold off on flannel and stick to thinner, stiffer woven fabrics for easier sewing.
This concludes part one of your journey into cotton fabrics! There are many other types of cotton fabrics to learn, so part two will be posted soon. Have a great day and happy sewing!