844-BIG-Z-FAB (244-9322)

Whether you’re a seasoned fashion enthusiast or a beginner sewer, understanding how to shop for fabric can be both exciting and overwhelming. Here is a comprehensive guide to assist you in navigating fabric stores and making the right choices for your sewing projects.

Understanding Fabric Classification

First and foremost, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with how fabric is classified. Fabric can primarily be categorized in two ways: woven or knit.

Woven Fabric:

This type of fabric retains its shape, featuring interlocked threads similar to a basket weave but on a micro-scale. The main attribute of woven fabric is that it lacks stretch, which makes it easier to sew with and thus, a perfect starting point for beginners.

Knit Fabric:

Think of a large cable knit sweater, where the yarns weave in and out, creating a flexible and stretchy texture. Knit fabrics are typically used for their stretch and movement, although they can be a bit challenging to sew due to this property.

Examples of Knit Fabric

Techno Neoprene

Ponte De Roma Jersey Knit

Rib Knit Apparel Sweater Spandex

Knowing Your Fabric Material

Fabric can be made from different materials which fall under three types: natural, synthetic, or semi-synthetic.

Natural Fibers:

These are harvested and then woven or knit into fabric. Common ones in fashion include cotton, linen, silk, wool, cashmere, and hemp.

Synthetic Fibers:

These are completely chemically manufactured. Common ones include nylon, acrylic, polyester, and spandex.

An 80% Nylon, Solid Stretch Costume Nylon, example

100% Acrylic, Candy Shag Faux Fur, example

100% Polyester, Arctic Rabbit Minky, example

Semi-Synthetic Fibers:

These include rayon and lyocell, materials that are primarily wood pulp or sometimes bamboo. They are modified into a cellulose-based fiber and then woven or knit into a fabric.

For similar physical properties, natural fibers tend to be more expensive. However, it’s essential to consider factors such as biodegradability, animal use, and personal preference when deciding between these materials.

Fabric Types by Weather and Occasions

Here are some fabric types often used for different seasons and occasions:

Warmer Weather Fabrics:

For warmer weather, commonly used fabrics include cotton, rayon, chambray, knits, silk, and linen. Each offers distinct properties, such as cotton’s lightweight nature and rayon’s smooth and breathable texture, perfect for bright, flowing dresses.

Cooler Weather Fabrics:

For cooler weather, you might consider denim, flannel, fleece, wool, faux fur, real fur, and leather. These materials are generally heavier and offer more insulation.

Japanese Selvedge Denim

Heavy Tartan Plaid Uniform Flannel

Solid Polar Fleece

Formal Wear Fabrics:

For more formal events, you’ll find fabrics such as tulle, crinoline, chiffon, satin, lace, and velvet. These are often used for their decorative features, draping, and glossy finishes.

Crushed Chiffon Fabric

Dull Bridal Satin Fabric

Matte Butter Velvet Upholstery Fabric

Tips for Buying Fabric

When you enter a fabric store, keep these shopping tips in mind:

How to Buy:

Fabric is usually sold by the yard or meter. Always ask about the width of the roll to define the length you’ll be purchasing. We try to list the width on every fabric listing. And remember, that unless it says otherwise, you’ll need to use some of the width for sewing/cutting.

Consider Shrinkage:

Especially with natural fibers, some may shrink after washing. Always consider this before making a purchase.

Pre-Wash Fabrics: To avoid any post-sewing surprises, it’s recommended to pre-wash your fabrics.

Understand Directionality: Be aware that some fabrics have a directionality to their pattern or texture. This should be considered when cutting and assembling your project.

Feel Before You Buy: Take time to feel the fabric and envision how it would translate into your final product. The drape, texture, weight, and stretch of a fabric are all critical to the final outcome. That’s why we off SAMPLES on all our fabric. They’re cheap and easy to order and ship quickly. This has saved thousands of customers money and time… we strongly encourage this.

Consider Color: Colors matter a lot. Dark colors can make a project look smaller and light colors can make it seem larger. Patterns can also play tricks on the eyes. Always consider where and when you’ll be wearing the final product. If possible, try to see the fabric in natural light to get the most accurate sense of the color. For many lines of fabric we sell color cards. We’ve seen some impressive color card walls over the year and they really help you decide on exactly which color works best for your next project.

Understand Fabric Care: Some fabrics require specific care, such as dry cleaning or hand washing. Make sure you’re comfortable with the care instructions before you buy. Please ask our team with any questions about caring for and washing your fabric.

Have a Budget: Fabric shopping can quickly become costly, especially when shopping for higher-quality materials. Be clear on your budget before you start shopping. We think that at Big Z Fabric you will learn that we offer amazing quality with some of the cheapest pricing you can find! We are your one stop fabric shop for hobbyists and businesses alike!

Do Your Research: If you’re not sure what fabric to buy for your project, do some research. Look for patterns similar to what you want to create and see what types of fabric they recommend. Our social media channels are a great area to engage and ask. We love hearing about competition and what they are doing right because it allows us to do better too. And, at the end of the day, when you’re done doing your research we feel strongly you’ll still end up using Big Z Fabric for your next project.

Ask for Help: Don’t be afraid to ask the staff at the fabric store for help. They are usually very knowledgeable and can provide valuable advice. We man our chat all day long, we have multiple people in the warehouse monitoring emails, and our social media team is proactive in responding to you. So yes…ask us for any help you need.


Fabric shopping doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a little knowledge and preparation, it can be an exciting part of the creative process. Understanding fabric types, characteristics, and how they fit into your project is crucial. With this comprehensive guide, you are now equipped to navigate your way in any fabric store and find the best fabric for your next sewing project. Happy sewing!


Table of Contents


3400 Slauson Ave Unit A,
Maywood CA 90270

213-745-BIGZ (2449)

844-BIG-Z-FAB (244-9322)

Join Our Newsletter

Copyright © 2023 Big Z Fabric