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 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 a number of fabrics with a crepe textured surface. Most of the crepe fabrics are very soft and thin. Crepe de chine is a very light weight 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 makes it great for dressmaking.
4 Cotton Voile
Another sheer, thin and very soft fabric made of highly twisted cotton fibers. It has a slight crispy feel like organdy but with great drape. It is not as sheer as chiffon or georgette though. Cotton Voile is a favourite 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 if you are looking for that kind of drape. The combed cotton fibers that form this fabric gives 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.
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 beautiful lustrous look.The face of a 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
This 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 bastiste is a favourite fabric for making dresses especially summer wear. This fabric is a favourite 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.
More tips on sewing thin fabric can be found on the post on Sheer Transparent fabrics