Beginner’s Guide to Fabrics — Everything to Know

There are a seemingly endless amount of options to choose from when it comes to fabric! With many types and qualities to consider, narrowing down which option is best for your custom products can be difficult.

In this handy guide, we’ll help you narrow your choices and better understand what fabrics suit which uses.

Fabric Composition

One of the most important things to understand about fabric is its composition. Below, we’ll talk about manmade versus natural fibers and fabric blends. This will help you better understand the material you are looking at before purchasing to determine the right choice.

Manmade vs Natural Fibers

Natural fibers derive from animals or plants. They will also biodegrade over time, making them an environmentally friendly option. Not only that, they are also breathable and comfortable. However, they might lose some colors or shrink in the wash. It’s a good idea to pre-wash these fabrics for that reason. Some natural fibers include wool, cotton, and linen.

To contrast, manmade fibers are typically manufactured through a chemical process. Some examples are spandex, nylon, and polyester. In many cases, they will be less likely to lose color or shrink but aren’t usually as breathable and might be warmer to wear.

What Are Fabric Blends?

In many cases, you’ll find fabric blends. One example is polycotton, which combines the comfort of cotton with the benefits of polyester. Examples of blends can go on and on, and each will have its specifications to set them apart.

Viscose (or rayon) consists of wood pulp that machines have heavily processed to convert into woven fibers. It has the breathability of a natural fiber and drapes very nicely but has been quite processed to make cloth from wood.


Fabrication refers to the fabric’s construction. We’ll cover woven, knitted, and non-woven fabric below.

Woven Fabric

With a woven fabric, the fibers have been woven together, interlocking and ultimately forming the cloth or fabric. Weft and warp threads interlock together, resulting in materials of different feels, appearances, and strengths.

Woven fabrics can be constructed from either manmade or natural fibers.

Knitted Fabric

In the woven fabric we just discussed, the weft and the warp are two threads that make up the fabric.

In a knitted fabric, however, only one thread knitted together creates the cloth. While knitted fabric comes in many types, they have one thing in common: stretchability.

Like woven fabric, knitted fabric can be made from either manmade or natural fibers.

Non-Woven Fabric

Non-woven fabrics have long, bonded fibers using mechanical, chemical, heat, or solvent treatment. Examples of non-woven fabric include interfacing and felt.

Most Popular Types of Fabric

Below, we’ll cover some of the more common fabric types you’ll see. They are included here in no particular order.

We’ve also included a brief explanation to help you better understand and care for each. If you’re looking for your fabric to do something particular, it’s a good idea to look into your choice further to ensure it has the qualities you are searching for!


It’s easy to understand why cotton is one of the world’s most widely used fabrics; it’s a versatile choice that works for household products and garments alike. It breathes well, is easy to care for, sustainable, and soft.


Like cotton, linen is a natural fiber, but harvesting and manufacturing linen takes longer. It’s an adaptable and durable fiber often used for items common in a household, including curtains, towels, and furniture. It’s also a good choice for skirts, shirts, beanies, and shorts.


A manmade fabric, polyester comes from petroleum-based products. It’s popular in apparel and is durable and stretchy. However, this fabric raises concerns about sustainability as polyester is one of the biggest causes of pollution in the fashion industry. Recycled polyester is a better option.

Synthetic Fleece

This fabric uses polyester but can contain different fibers, such as wool, cotton, and rayon. Combining these fabrics can improve the texture. Fleece fabric is a good substitute for wool as it’s soft, water-resistant, and light.


This synthetic fiber is made from nylon and polyester. As far as water-resistant fabrics go, this is one of the best – durable and stretchy. This hypoallergenic fabric is a good choice for mops, bathrobes, swim trunks, mats, towels, and more.


This fabric type includes tweed, denim, polyester, linen, and a variety of woven cotton using a twill pattern. The most recognizable use is in jeans. It features a diagonal weave pattern; the front side is darker, while the back is lighter.


Insects produce this material for cocoons and nests. This organic and breathable fabric makes beautiful gowns, blouses, skirts, and more. It can be pretty durable when blended with other fibers (cotton, for example).


If you want the drape and feel of silk without using actual silk, viscose is a good option. This semi-synthetic material comes from wood pulp, including pine, bamboo, eucalyptus, and beech. This silk alternative comes with a lower price tag and higher durability.


This highly elastic material is known by different names, including Lycra and elastane, as well as spandex. They are constructed using both polyester and polyurethane, which is a type of plastic material that is flexible. This material commonly incorporates into other fabrics, including polyester, nylon, wool, and fleece.


This refers to a fabric that has been woven using a jacquard pattern. Typically, these patterns are created with polyester, wool, silk, or cotton. One must clean these delicate fabrics with care; they are suitable for formal attire, ribbons, drapes, tablecloths, jackets, dresses, and more.


Natural and durable, leather comes from tanned animal skins. Different treatment methods and diverse animal skins result in various types of leather. It comes in a range of styles, colors, and grades. People have used leather for a long time throughout history. This fabric is a good choice for wallets, patches, belts, bags, jackets, shoes, and more.


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Looking for something lightweight and soft? Then tulle might be for you. It can be made from various fibers such as nylon, silk, cotton, and polyester. It’s frequently used in evening dresses, lingerie, and wedding gowns. Other uses included tutus, veils, petticoats, and more.


This material is strong and stretchy and offers temperature resilience. It’s a good choice for yoga pants, leggings, stockings, swimwear, and more. It can be safely machine-washed, is water-repellent, tough, light, and wrinkle-resistant. These qualities make nylon a great fabric option for various uses.


Velvet is a durable and breathable material often used in eveningwear, robes, curtains, and more. It isn’t very stretchy but is heavy and shiny. It’s an excellent option for winter wear as it’s good at retaining heat. It’s also a sustainable and biodegradable option when made with organic fibers.


Sheer and light, chiffon refers to a wide variety of fabrics that are woven using identical techniques. It was once constructed exclusively from silk and reserved for the upper class. However, since versions have been manufactured from nylon and polyester, this synthetic option rose in popularity thanks to its durability and lower price tag. It’s often used as an overlay on garments.


Another sheer and light fabric, organza uses silk in traditional manufacturing methods but can also come from synthetic options such as polyester or nylon. With a bit of a shiny quality and very lightweight, it’s typical to see this fabric used as an overlay for thicker fabrics. You’ll see it often used in eveningwear, blouses, and wedding gowns. Take care of this very thin fabric, as it it’s very easily damaged.


Yet another sheer material commonly made using silk, this material can also come from polyester, rayon, and viscose. Organic georgettes will offer more breathability. Like other sheer fabrics we’ve discussed, it’s often layered over more solid materials. It’s typical to see it used for bridal wear, evening gowns, or special occasion apparel.


This fabric is a heavier option typically used for items like jackets and upholstery. It’s an organic fabric with a knotted, curly appearance. Often containing wool, one can also make it from silk, linen, and cotton. It’s a highly durable fabric option.


Known as either polypropylene or olefin, this plastic is often used in consumer goods like sunglasses, plastic straws, food packaging, and more. As a fabric, it’s a nonwoven fabric common in military clothing as it won’t absorb moisture. Some downsides include that it’s challenging to shape or dye and is given to sustaining UV damage.


Made using natural fibers from the fleece of animals, this fabric is quite versatile. You can find options that are soft and light or heavy and coarse. It’s easy to care for and is an insulating fabric choice. You’ll find it used in all types of things, including jackets, gloves, carpets, hats, and more.

Vinyl Fabric

This faux leather is constructed using plastic resin. This is an alternative to leather and offers similar characteristics without the necessity of harming animals to obtain it. This fabric is water-resistant and soft and has better resistance to cuts and abrasions than actual leather. As a result, it’s an excellent option for upholstery.


A common substitute for silk or cotton, this semi-synthetic material is typically more eco-friendly than alternatives like polyester. You may find it blended with other materials such as polyester, wool, or cotton. It won’t pill as much as cotton and is both strong and soft.


This type of fabric features a unique rippled texture. Some characteristics include its durability and stretchiness. You might find it made from either synthetic or organic fibers. It’s recommended to hand-wash and air-dry your crepe fabric for the best results. You’ll see this fabric used for everything from dresses to pillow covers.


This web-like fabric first came about in the sixteenth century in Europe. Initially a luxury item, lace is now made by machine and is much more affordable. To care for lace properly, it’s recommended to be hand washed. Spandex is sometimes added to lace to increase its durability.


In the past, satin was always made using silk. However, now it’s sometimes made of polyester or nylon. This fabric is shiny and soft on one side, while the other side is duller in appearance. You’ll find satin used today in everything from lingerie and ballet shoes to eveningwear and bedding.

And more!

Other popular types of fabric include:

  • Lamé
  • Non-woven
  • Woven
  • Neoprene

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Most Common Type of Fabric?

Cotton is the most popular material! It’s a soft, light, and breathable natural fabric. Cotton has a wide range of uses. However, the type of fabric that is best for your project will depend on what you are trying to accomplish.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plentiful options available for all types of purposes. At The/Studio, we offer custom products, including apparel, such as socks and hats, giving you tons of control over the final product. Get started with your design today!


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Get started with your design today!

Why wait? Select your options, share your artwork, and we’ll get you started on your custom products.


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