When I want a thick fabric, I head off to the upholstery store near my home – they stock lots of super thick fabrics which I use willy nilly, not knowing the names of any of them but the fact that they serve my purpose to the T makes me ignore all details. No rhyme or reason whatsoever other than that they are thick and quite heavyweight.
Writing about fabrics has made me think more on the lines of how that particular fabric can stand up thick and stiff without needing any interfacing or question about its fabric weave and structure that makes it so and, why does it look like this etc.
These are the best 10 fabrics you should look out for and ask the salesperson of your showroom, when you particularly want a thick heavyweight fabric.
10 best thick and heavy fabrics
When you think ‘Thick’ canvas is the fabric name that first comes to my mind. It can have a basket weave or a twill weave and has a slightly ribbed surface and is available in many weights.
Canvas is tightly woven with a rigidity /stiffness to it that is suitable for many applications like upholstery, bag making, to make awnings. You can also make pants with the canvas fabric.
100% Cotton canvas used in bag making is usually treated to be water resistant. If you want a very stiff canvas buy Nylon canvas. Polyester canvas, Hemp canvas are other combinations
Denim is a very strong twill weave fabric and is used for making sturdy durable long lasting garments. The most famous example being jeans. It is also used to make jackets, bags and upholstery. Finishes added to the denim fabric can add more stiffness.
Denim can be made of 100 percent cotton fibers or blended with spandex fibers. Sometimes Denim may be made entirely of hemp or even linen fibers.
You can learn more about the 12 different types of denim fabrics here.
3 Duck cloth
This fabric is very heavyweight, in fact, maybe as much as canvas fabric which it closely resembles. It is coarse as well, so it is not used for making garments. The Duck cloth fabric is used to make bags.
Corduroy is a thick fabric with a cross-grain texture with fine ridges running across its length. The channels that accompany the ridges are called ‘wales’.
There are different types of corduroy fabric categorized according to the wales on them like Micro wale corduroy, wide wale corduroy. Corduroy fabric is a favorite for making pants, jackets, bags, cushions and other upholstery. It is especially used in making kids clothes. Spandex is sometimes added for stretch.
5 Ottoman fabric
This is a heavy weight fabric with ribbed texture similar to corduroy. It is used usually for upholstery and to make outerwear.
6 Wool Tweed fabric
Wool Tweed is a very thick fabric usually used to make jackets and coats and also bags. It has a slightly coarse texture. Wool tweed is made from coarse homespun wool.
7 Chenille fabric
The characteristic property of chenille fabric is the tufts of fibers on its surface resembling velvet. The resulting fabric is very thick, warm and heavyweight. The fibers used may be synthetic , silk, cotton or wool.
8 Suede and Sueded fabric
Suede is thick fuzzy leather with a napped finish and Sueded fabric is man made to resemble real suede. Suede made from thick hides of cow and deer are especially thicker than the suede from lamb goat or calf. They are used to make garments like pants, vests, and accessories like belts and hats.
9 Polyester fleece
This is a thick fabric with a furry surface. The soft nap of its surface makes it warm and insulating. It is used to make winter jackets, outdoor clothes.
There are many weights of fleece – termed fleece weight, this scale is used to buy fleece according to your needs. A fleece weight of 300 or above gives you super thick fleece.
10 Coated fabric
The coated fabric refers to densely woven fabric that has a second layer of fabric fused to the back – they have a plastic PVC backing with a waterproof coating – this fabric finish is done to make it dense, abrasion resistant and or water resistant / water proof. They are heavy weight fabric because of this. They are used to make raincoats, hoodies, and other outerwear.
Here is a list of other waterproof/water resistant fabrics
Sewing tips for thick heavy fabrics
Some fabrics might look thick and stiff because of the starch added to them but this stiffness is misguiding. It will wash off after you wash it a few times. Always pre-wash fabrics.
When you have a heavy weight fabric to sew, and you find that your home sewing machine refuses to move forward when the fabric is under the needle you realize you need some extra tricks to survive this kind of heavy weight sewing. A walking foot is a savior in these situations. When you have to sew more than two layers of these thick fabric you really need one.
Another tip is to use these thick fabrics to sew patterns with not many small parts, and not sewing thin corners/tubes with them really helps. You can avoid some frustrations this way.
When sewing seams, you may want to grade /trim/clip the seam allowances all over the place to avoid the bulky seam phenomena. You may even have to pound the seams ( when cross seams are there) with a rubber mallet to make the fabric behave.
Use a thick/denim needle to sew these thick heavy fabrics and clips instead of pins to hold the fabric layers together. For more tips like this check out this post on sewing thick fabrics and many layers.