Whatever you have decided to sew, one thing is a constant in sewing – the fabric makes all the difference. Sometimes you want a fabric that is very thin but not an open weave; a little bit see-through but not fully transparent, very lightweight but not as light as a net. If this sounds tough, you will be happy to know that in the fabric world you have a lot of choices, whatever the requirement. Here are the top 10 thin and lightweight fabrics
If you are looking for open weave fabrics which are thin and sheer, you may be looking for net fabrics -check out these posts on the different types of net fabrics here and different types of tulle fabrics.
Best lightweight fabrics for dressmaking.
Chiffon is used as a general term for many light and sheer fabrics. The chiffon fabric that we use for dressmaking maybe made of silk, rayon, or a synthetic fiber like polyester. Because of the use of multifilament yarns, it has a lustrous appearance in addition to being sheer, lightweight, and very soft to touch. It is a great fabric for making gowns and evening dresses because of its drape and free-flowing nature – it is usually used as an outward layer.
The disadvantage is that you cannot make form-fitting tailored garments with chiffon, which is true with most of the thin fabrics mentioned here. Chiffon made with polyester fibers will wrinkle less than one made with silk fibers.
Mousseline de soie is the french term for a beautiful silk chiffon fabric; it is used to make wonderfully free-flowing scarves. Know some more details about chiffon fabric here.
Georgette is a very thin, free flowing, soft, loosely woven fabric made of silk yarns/ synthetic yarns. The fabric has a beautiful drape which makes it a designer favourite. It is very similar to chiffon but not as smooth as chiffon.
The sandy texture is its most distinctive characteristic, other than its drape. One other difference between chiffon and georgette is that georgette is more opaque than chiffon but just as drapey. Silk Georgette is a beautiful silk fabric.
Crepe fabric is a term used to describe several fabrics with a crepe textured surface. Most of the crepe fabrics are very soft and thin.
Crepe de chine is a very lightweight fabric with a crepe texture ( different weight fabrics are also available). It is not see-through though it is very light and free-flowing. The soft lustrous quality of the fabric (without the over shining in satin fabric) and fluid looks make it great for dressmaking.
4. Cotton Voile
Another sheer, thin, and very soft fabric made of highly twisted cotton fibers. It has a slightly crispy feel like organdy but with a great drape. It is not as sheer as chiffon or georgette though. Cotton Voile is a favorite for making summer clothes.
This crisp almost stiff cotton cloth is also sheer smooth and fine. It is not a free-flowing fabric so avoid it if you are looking for that kind of drape. The combed cotton fibers that form this fabric give it a crisp feel and an open weave.
You can choose a soft organdy for dressmaking instead of the more stiff one. The advantage of organdy is that you can pleat it well. The disadvantage is that it wrinkles a lot unless it has a special antiwrinkle finish
Related post: Organdy fabric.
6. Silk Fabrics
Flat Crepe Silk, China silk and Silk Habotai are very thin and fine silks.
Silk Organza is a thin, sheer, slightly crisp fabric made of silk fibers with a beautifully lustrous look. The face of sheer organza sparkles beautifully. It has a stiff finish which makes it a favorite as a lining fabric that will hold shape, as well as for making slightly exaggerated shapes like a voluminous skirt.
The surface is slightly grainy, not completely smooth to the touch. Organza is also made with polyester fibers, other than silk.
7. Cotton Lawn
Lawn is a lightweight sheer, fine cotton or linen fabric. It can be either soft textured or crisp textured and has a lustrous appearance.
8. Handkerchief linen
The best quality linen is the finest one.
A handkerchief linen is the finest quality linen fabric with a sheer, pure look – can say it is lawn made with linen fibers. The translucent smooth textured linen fabric is usually used for making fine handkerchiefs though they are also used in dressmaking. It is very suitable for heirloom sewing because of its crispiness.
9. Viscose fabric
You can get a very thin lightweight fabric which is made of viscose fibers – it is made of the finest of fibers.
Batiste is an almost sheer fabric made of wool cotton silk, rayon, or linen- very similar to voile but finer. Lightweight batiste is a favorite fabric for making dresses especially summer wear. This fabric is a favorite for making children’s christening gowns embellished with heirloom embroidery.
You can also check out other fabric suitable for making kids wear here
All these fabrics, though breathtakingly pretty, needs careful handling – while sewing as well as in maintaining clothes made with them.
They should be cut with care because some may also be slippery.
They ought to be stitched with a sewing machine needle of number 8-9-10. The normal 14 No needle may be too big for them.
When maintaining clothes made with these lightweight fabrics avoid spin-drying in the washing-machine.
Do not iron directly by putting a hot iron on the face of the fabric; Keep a damp cloth between the fabric and the iron.
If you are looking for see through fabrics you will want to check out this post – See through fabrics.
More tips on sewing thin fabric can be found on the post on Sewing Transparent fabrics
Related posts : 10 best Thick & heavyweight fabrics ; 10 best fabric for sewing shirts.; Popular dressmaking fabrics; Durable fabrics -list
Updated on September 28, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
As an author trying to realistically dress her characters, lists like this are invaluable. Thank you and bookmarked for future reference!
Have you heard of Nida or Nidha fabric mused to make abayas? I read it’s 100% polyester but can’t find anything like the loom and feel of Nidha in the USA
I would also like to know this. For a breathable nicely draping summer sun dress.
APRIL 26, 2020 AT 10:02 AM
I’m trying to find out which is a lightweight breathable non-sheer nicely draping fabric. Any ideas?
Cotton voile is an almost transparent fabric, great for lightweight scarves and printing is usually done on this, as far as I know. Bestwishes.
I’m looking for something lightweight and cool to use for a scarf for driving (as in a convertible vehicle). It gets rather hot out in the sun here!
I would like to have a logo printed on the fabric, and the printing process uses high heat (150 celsius).
Would any of these (https://sewguide.com/thin-lightweight-fabrics/) be suitable?
Cotton or cotton blends. No thin lightweight fabrics – definitely not, for a beginner. You will stop sewing altogether : )
Hi, I am new to sewing and would like to make a simple dress with long sleeves that poof our and have a cuffed the wrist— not sure what to call it. like a “pirate” shirt! What kind of fabric do you recommend for a first time dress maker— perhaps linen? what’s relatively easy to work with? thank you!
I made a free flowing, simply oblong mask w ear loops at top corners only. It drapes over nose, mouth n chin but is not fitted to my chin which allows for airflow much like a face shield would. I am simply sharing what worked for me due to my own needs.
I am a little hesistent to give advice for a medical condition, sorry. But from whatever I know,If a person has breathing problem you should make masks only with 100% natural fabrics like cotton. Muslin cotton is a thin cotton (after it is pre-washed). You can maybe use many layers of this fabric. Have you thought about using face shields instead of masks (or if they should be used with masks, use with surgical masks which are very breathable)
Then there are masks available in shops with breathing valves- have you checked them out? They are called Valve masks – they have a one-way valve which allows exhaled air to pass through a small round filter disc.
Can you check out these posts Different types of masks ; How to sew a fabric mask ; Mask fabric 101 for whatever I know about this.
Would any of these fabrics feel soft on your face and allow you to breathe? My mom needs something special for a face mask. She has copd and is being forced to wear a mask. Thanks for any help.
Sorry, I do not know about Kate silk – but there are two silks that sounds similar. Katan Silk and Kota silk. Kota silk is a thin silk with check patterns as part of the weave – it is fine and lightweight. Kota silk is used to make long ethnic mens shirts in India. Then there is Katan silk which is a sturdier sari fabric with zari/brocade patterns.
More on silk fabrics here
Recently seen an Ad for a shirt that claimed to be made from Kate Silk. Any idea what Kate silk is?
Soft wool are my best fabrics for jumpsuit. You can ask other opinions from some experts in fashion designing
Can you check these pages 13 types of fabric suitable for baby clothes & children’s clothes and Frock design ideas : Tips for Cutting & stitching simple Frocks for kids
I’d like to make my 8 year old grand-daughter a jumpsuit but I’m not sure which fabric would be best for comfort and with minimum of dressing. Any ideas please? Thanks
I’m trying to find out which is a lightweight breathable non-sheer nicely draping fabric. Any ideas?
That is nice to know. Glad this post was helpful to you. You can find the names of more fabrics in this post – Fabric Glossary. Hope you will share the site with your friends in Brazil too.
OOh this is amazing. I’m graduated in fashion college in Brazil. The fabric names are diferent and i was having a hard time trying to buy fabrics in foreign sites, cause i know what i was looking for but didn’t know the names in english. And is so great you put on pictures so i know what fabric is in portuguese and now i know them in english too. Most sites don’t do this, you have to guess what fabric they’re talking about. Wow. thank you!!!
Thanks for the nice words; Have you read this post on the curtain fabrics. . Maybe a muslin curtain – it is thin but not see through but drapey. But it will wrinkle. If you want wrinkle free look for cotton- polyester blend fabrics. Hope this helps
What a wonderful resource. I’m here because I need to make a curtian for my nephew’s garage play. My only prerequisite is that it is light and have the pleated flowing effect without being see through. Which fabric would you recommend?
May be you would like to read this post on lining materials. Or You can use the same fabric (chiffon itself) as lining – it will be very drapey.
Most of the chiffon clothes from shops have thin voile lining or polyester satin lining
I am so happy that I found this site and just at the perfect time. I am making an evening gown of grey chiffon. It will be form fitting although not tight, as not to have any give whatsoever. I can not figure out the best lining to use. I keep going back and forth or I can’t find something that matches. I need to get started. Would you ming giving me your opinion as to what would be the best lining? The dress will be 4 parts with a zipper in the back, appliques down the front and sides going around to the back and a very modified trumpet bottom. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thank you; Very happy to know the website is helping you.
So pleased I came across this website. Came back to sewing a few years ago after seeing an advertisement for a sewing class in my village.
This website is filled with fantastic information and tips. I think it’s the best one I’ve seen. And I’m learning so much which will improve my sewing I’m sure. The section on fabric types was a great help, and it’s those little comments you don’t find in books that are often the most informative.
But interfacing will ruin the drape and fall of the fabric, don’t you think. If you have enough fabric you can use the same fabric as lining
I have enough navy sheer fabric that has a checked pattern in it to make a blouse. It’s to sheer and I have heard there is an interfacing in black or dark gray that can be ironed on to make the fabric opaque. It is a knit type fabric used to line garments that you do not want to use a separate silk type lining.
This website is beautiful,
Thanks for sending me.
Thank you so much. I am just reuniting with sewing again (it’s been almost 30 years!!), so this above article was a badly needed review for me. This type of basic knowledge organizes my thinking when confronted by so many glorious fabrics of colour, fibre, texture and weight. Again, thank you.
What type of lining should for Irish Linen. Also Worsted
Thanks for your reply.