Finding the Right Fabric for Your Design – What are You Making?

You’ve done your research and you’ve sketched out ideas for the perfect garment you want to make. Now it’s time to take that design from paper (or your head) to fabric, but the question is, what fabric? We’re going to talk about how to determine the right fabric for your design, how to describe it like a professional, and how to go about sourcing it.

Sourcing fabrics is the first step in bringing your design to life. There are lots of things to consider when looking for fabrics, and, in this post, we’ll go through a list of questions you can ask yourself to guide you in finding the right fabric for your design.

What kind of garment is your design?

It seems obvious, but it is actually an important question to consider. Not every fabric will be suitable for every design. Even if the fabric technically would work in your design, it may not have the look, feel, or function that you had envisioned. Think about the overall look you want your design to have. Will it be sculptural with structure of its own or will it drape softly around the body? Will it be loose and boxy or form-fitting? Casual or formal? Referencing other garments similar to your design is a great way to see what fabrics you like and don’t like the look of.

What components does your design need?

Your design will also determine what materials you need. Some garments use only one fabric, while other garments may need a contrasting color, lining, interfacing, as well as trims or fastenings in addition to the main fabric. Think through your design inside and out and make a list of all the components you will need to make it. 

Also make a list of any colorway options or different print options you are planning on offering for the design. If you are offering multiple colorways or have a design that uses more than one color, you will either need to source fabric that comes in those colors, or buy a blank fabric that you can get printed or dyed yourself.

How much will you sell the finished product for?

You should have an estimate of your design’s retail price point before looking at fabrics. This will guide you in creating a material budget. If you aren’t sure what the final price point will be, look at what other similar products are selling for. Also, know your customer! What price points does she purchase? What stores does she usually shop at? What is their pricing like? Choose a fabric that fits within your target price point so you ensure you’ll be able to make a profit off of selling your finished design. 

Along with the price point, you have to consider what quality of fabric your customer will expect when paying a particular price for your item. The quality you’d expect from a $10 tee-shirt is very different from the quality you’d expect from a $100 tee-shirt. Think about what your brand is known for and whether your customer invests in your clothing expecting it to be a staple in their wardrobe for years to come.

What activities will your customer be doing while wearing your design?

The end use of your design will influence what fabric qualities you need to look for. Garments intended for everyday use benefit from being easy to care for and launder. Apparel made for outdoor or athletic use may require special properties such as sweat-wicking, anti-microbial, or UV protection. Write down a list of all the fabric features, properties, or finishes that would enhance the function and usability of your design.

Now that you’ve thought through what you will be making and have made a list of materials and colorways, target price points, performance features, and quality required for your design, it is time to start your fabric search. In the next post we’ll cover the basics of different fabric types and how to accurately articulate what you are looking for like a professional.

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