The Different Types of Fabric and How to Care for Them

Fabrics have been woven into the fabric of our daily existence, becoming an integral part of our lives. They play a pivotal role in not just clothing but also in the world of home decor and an array of other products. It’s no secret that fabrics have a story to tell, one that revolves around comfort, style, and functionality. To truly appreciate and make the most out of these textile wonders, it is crucial to delve into the world of fabrics, understanding their diverse types and mastering the art of fabric care. In the following discourse, we will embark on a journey through fifteen distinct fabric types, uncovering their unique characteristics, and uncovering valuable insights into their proper maintenance and care. So, join us in this exploration of the colorful, textured, and often underappreciated realm of fabrics.

Fabrics Made from Natural Fibers

Let’s delve deeper into the exquisite world of textiles woven from nature’s very own offerings. These textile treasures, derived from the likes of cotton, wool, and silk, have graced humanity with their remarkable qualities for centuries. Unlike their synthetic counterparts, these fibers are nature’s gifts, not the creations of human ingenuity.

Cotton – An Ancient Elegance

Cotton, a timeless classic, stands as one of the most ancient textiles known to mankind. This wonder is sourced from the cotton plant, renowned for its exceptional attributes. Cotton fabric boasts breathability, remarkable durability, resistance to tears, and exceptional heat tolerance. Yet, it also harbors a slow-drying nature and tends to wrinkle easily in its untreated state.

However, through various treatments, cotton’s character can be transformed. Mercerization, a process involving caustic soda, renders the fibers more robust and imparts a subtle sheen. Such treatments come at a cost, though, making cotton more expensive. It is worth noting that selecting the appropriate sewing needle for cotton is essential for successful stitching.


How to Care for Cotton

When it comes to maintaining cotton, the approach depends on the fabric’s color and finish. White and light-colored cotton can endure machine washes at temperatures of up to 95 degrees, while colored cotton fabrics should not exceed 60 degrees. Finer, specially treated cotton fabrics demand more gentle handling, usually capped at 40 degrees.

Easy-care cotton requires minimal fuss post-wash; a good shake is often sufficient, and ironing should be done at a low ‘wool’ setting or skipped altogether. Tumble drying should be reserved for instances where the care label explicitly permits it.


Linen, on the other hand, carries its own unique charm, despite its notorious penchant for wrinkles. The creases that define linen are a product of a natural substance within its fibers, resistant to the smoothening effects of processing or treatment. Linen presents a smooth, matte-glossy surface and is celebrated for its impressive resilience, especially when wet.

This fabric’s remarkable absorbency and rapid moisture release make it a preferred choice for summer attire, despite its wrinkle-prone nature.

How to Care for Linen

Caring for linen involves some nuances. While it can withstand washing at temperatures up to 95 degrees, the specific treatment and dyeing of linen may necessitate lower temperatures. Adhering to the manufacturer’s care instructions is vital, especially for lined garments that may require dry cleaning.

Tumble drying linen poses a risk of shrinkage, so it’s advisable to opt for gentle ironing when slightly damp or with ample steam for the best results.


Wool, often celebrated as one of the most exquisite natural fibers, emerges from the woolly coats of sheep, though traces of other animal hairs like cashmere, mohair, angora, alpaca, llama, and camel may sometimes mingle within its strands.

Within the realm of wool, distinctions matter. For instance, if a wool fabric boasts the title of ‘new’ or ‘virgin’ wool, it signifies that it contains no more than a mere 7% of foreign fibers. A more stringent label, ‘pure new wool,’ primarily found in the United Kingdom, permits a minuscule allowance of just up to 0.3% of other fibers.

Now, when you encounter fabrics described as ‘100% wool,’ ‘pure wool,’ or simply ‘wool,’ it’s worth noting that these may encompass lower-grade wool or even reprocessed wool, reclaimed from previously used woolen products. To identify the pinnacle of woolen excellence, look for the prestigious Woolmark; it signifies an exceptional standard, with pure virgin wool rigorously examined and certified by the International Wool Secretariat.

What’s more, wool possesses remarkable qualities. Its resistance to wrinkling is almost legendary, ensuring you stay impeccably neat even in the most demanding situations. Wool also functions as a natural thermostat, providing unparalleled warmth while remaining breathable and comfortable.

Now, let’s explore the art of caring for this magnificent fiber.

How to Care for Wool

Wool, though resilient in many aspects, demands delicate attention when it comes to maintenance. To keep your woolen treasures in impeccable condition, follow these expert tips:

  • Airing Out: After each wearing, expose your woolen garment to a moist environment. This simple practice works wonders in banishing small blemishes and lingering odors.
  • Machine Washing: Only if the manufacturer’s label grants the privilege of ‘machine washable’ should you consider this method. Employ the wool program, and let your machine handle the rest. For other cases, opt for gentle hand-washing without any vigorous rubbing or wringing.
  • Drying Ritual: The tumble dryer is an enemy of wool; never subject it to such treatment. Instead, lay your beloved woolens flat on a towel to air dry gracefully.
  • Dry Cleaning: For premium woolen attire, such as men’s and women’s suits, dry cleaning is the unequivocal choice. Trust professionals to maintain their luster and shape.
  • Pressing Perfection: If the occasion demands a crisp look, you can press wool garments with an iron set to the wool setting. To safeguard your precious fabric, place a pressing cloth between the iron and the wool, or utilize a steam iron for impeccable results.


Silk, a fabric in a league of its own, stands as a testament to opulence and refinement. Unlike its counterparts, silk is a singular, elongated fiber, derived from the delicate cocoons spun by the mulberry silkworm.

What sets silk apart is its unique ability to provide a sensation of unrivaled comfort. In the sweltering heat, it offers a refreshingly cool embrace, while in the chill of winter, it becomes a cocoon of warmth. Additionally, silk has a remarkable affinity for moisture, effortlessly wicking it away from the skin, ensuring a dry and comfortable experience.

How to Care for Silk

Nurturing the elegance of silk demands a touch of finesse. Here’s how you can ensure your silk garments remain as exquisite as the day you acquired them:

  • Hand Washing: For those who dare to embark on the journey themselves, silk can be gently hand-washed in water no hotter than 30 degrees Celsius. However, if the prospect of any mishaps unnerves you, entrust your silk to the capable hands of professional dry cleaners.
  • Adhere to Labels: The wisdom of silk maintenance lies in following the guidance laid out on the manufacturer’s label. These instructions are your roadmap to preserving the fabric’s splendor.
  • Separation Strategy: Dark-colored silk items harbor a propensity to release dye. To prevent the unsightly discoloration of other clothing items, it is advisable to wash dark silks separately. Rinse silk thoroughly, concluding with a final rinse enriched with a dash of vinegar. This simple step not only revitalizes the colors but imparts a subtle sheen as well.
  • The Tumble Taboo: Under no circumstances should silk garments find their way into a tumble dryer. Such a venture would be a grave disservice to the fabric’s delicacy and elegance.

Different Types of Fabrics Made from Artificial Fibers

The world of fabrics unfolds a fascinating tapestry with an array of options crafted from artificial fibers, creations of human ingenuity that defy nature’s limitations.

Viscose, a Remarkable Choice

Within this realm, one finds the intriguing visage of viscose, a textile composed of pure cellulose—the very essence of plant fibers. Yet, it is no ordinary member of the fabric family; it belongs to the extraordinary league of artificial fibers, sculpted by the hands of human innovation.

Its journey to existence is marked by a rigorous chemical transformation, involving caustic soda, carbon disulfide, and sulphuric acid. From this alchemical process emerges a versatile material that can emulate the luxurious textures of silk, the rustic charm of linen, or the comforting familiarity of cotton. Viscose, with its unique ability to transition from a subtle matte finish to a dazzling sheen, never ceases to amaze.

But it is in its drape that viscose truly shines. Whether in its most ethereal form or its heaviest guise, the flowing grace of this fabric remains constant, a testament to its synthetic brilliance.

Caring for Viscose

Nurturing this remarkable creation demands a gentle touch. Viscose can withstand a machine wash at temperatures of 30–40 degrees, provided one selects the ‘delicates’ program and employs a mild detergent. However, heed the label’s guidance and refrain from tumble drying, unless otherwise stated.

When it comes to ironing, treat viscose with the delicacy it deserves. The silk setting on your iron is a safe choice, and occasionally, you can venture into the realm of the cotton setting. For the best results, iron this fabric when slightly damp, preserving its elegance.

Acrylic, Polyamide, Polyester, and their Transformations

In this enchanting world of artificial fibers, acrylic, polyamide, and polyester take their places, each bearing the potential for transformation under various trade names like Perlon, Nylon, Dralon, Orlon, Trevira, and Diolen. Recent years have witnessed a metamorphosis of these synthetic materials, casting off the shadows of a tarnished reputation as their quality continuously evolves.

Interestingly, some purely natural fibers have proven less comfortable to wear due to inferior processing methods. In contrast, the recent advancements in artificial fibers have opened new horizons. Among these innovations, microfibers stand tall—a testament to technological prowess. These exceptionally fine artificial fibers are meticulously crafted to yield threads of unparalleled delicacy.

The Age of Microfibers

Microfiber textiles, born from the depths of scientific ingenuity, find their niche in functional attire. Woven with exceptional density, they stand as bulwarks against wind and rain, yet remain breathable, allowing sweat to escape and leaving the skin comfortably dry.

Nurturing the Synthetic Elegance

Caring for artificial fibers, though straightforward, requires attention to detail. Keep the temperature in check—gentle machine washes at 30 degrees with a mild detergent are the order of the day. Most artificial fibers are also amenable to tumble drying, but with microfiber, a word of caution: avoid fabric softeners, for they may diminish its water-repellent properties, and let’s not compromise on function.

In this universe of artificial fiber fabrics, we witness the marriage o


Different Types of Fabrics Made from Mixed Fibers

The realm of mixed fibers encompasses an astonishing variety, surpassing the combined scope of both natural and artificial textiles. This domain ingeniously intertwines the inherent strengths of natural fibers with the synthetic counterparts, orchestrating a symphony of versatile fabrics tailored to specific purposes, all while minimizing their respective weaknesses.

Imagine a world where the marriage of synthetic and natural fibers yields results far greater than the sum of their parts. For instance, when seamlessly blended with artificial fibers, the creasing propensity of natural textiles can be tamed, and their tear resistance can be elevated to new heights. The marriage of wool’s warming embrace with nylon’s unyielding durability creates a fabric of extraordinary endurance. Further enhancing this blend with the elasticity of modern marvels like elastane, also recognized under the monikers Lycra and Spandex, transforms any textile into a snug, comfortable material perfect for form-fitting attire.

In this ever-evolving landscape, the potential for novel fabric combinations is boundless. Innovations continually emerge, pushing the boundaries of what’s achievable.

Care for Mixed Fibers

As a general guideline, managing mixed-fiber fabrics proves remarkably straightforward, as they often endure machine washing with ease. Nevertheless, it remains imperative to heed the manufacturer’s specific care instructions. When in doubt, opting for a delicate care regimen is a prudent choice.

For those who prefer a hands-on approach, handwashing offers a gentle alternative.

It’s worth noting that the character of the resultant fabric isn’t solely determined by the type, purity, and proportions of the constituent fibers. The artistry involved in transforming these fibers into the final textile also wields significant influence, adding yet another layer of complexity to the rich tapestry of fabric possibilities.

Let’s now delve into an illuminating overview of the myriad fabric types that arise from these captivating mixed fiber unions

Overview of Woven Fabrics & Their Uses

  • Acetate – Soft-flowing lining material with a dull sheen, similar to viscose or satin.
  • Batiste – A very fine transparent fabric made of cotton, linen, artificial fibers or mixtures.
  • Brocade – A high-grade Jacquard weave, often made with shiny thread.
  • Chenille – Similar to velvet, but the pile is visible on both sides.
  • Chiffon – Wafer-thin, transparent fabric, usually made from silk or mixed fibers.
  • Cord or corded velvet – Lengthways ribs of various widths from needlecord to jumbo in velvet look with a directional nap.
  • Crêpe de chine – Fine, soft-flowing material with a slightly grainy feel, usually made from silk or mixed fibers.
  • Crinkle or crash – Fabrics that have been permanently creased during or after weaving.
  • Denim – After a number of washes, the twill weave with a colored warp and white weft produces the typical look of faded jeans.
  • Duchesse – Very glossy satin fabric made of silk, viscose or artificial fibers.
  • Felted wool – Woollen fabric that is tumbled and roughened after weaving, giving it a felt-like surface.
  • Flannel – A fabric usually made of cotton, viscose or wool. The roughened reverse side is very warming and soft to the touch.
  • Gabardine – Thick, high-grade cloth with an effect of fine diagonal lines created by the way it is woven.
  • Georgette – Fine, flowing fabric, usually made of silk or wool and with a slightly grainy feel.
  • Muslin – Light, loosely woven fabric made from cotton or wool. Often used for scarves and nappies.
  • Organdie – Crisp, transparent material made from cotton.
  • Organza – Similar to organdie, but made of silk and slightly crisper to the touch.
  • Poplin – Smooth fabric with fine crosswise ribs created by the way the threads link during weaving.
  • Satin – Very shiny fabric with a soft feel and flowing drape. Especially fine when made of silk, but often made from artificial fibers.
  • Taffeta – Shiny, stiff and rustling. Taffeta is popular for grand evening dresses. Made from silk or artificial fibers.
  • Terry toweling – Fabric with woven-in loops. In velour toweling, the loops are cut.
  • Tulle – Crisp, transparent fabric, often used for underskirts or for decoration.
  • Tweed – Mottled, nubbly threads, often in two colors, are woven together to make this fabric.
  • Twill – Similar to gabardine, but the diagonal ribs created by the weave are coarser.
  • Velour – Soft pile fabric, usually made from wool, often used for coats and jackets.
  • Velvet – Heavy fabric with a silky feel and thick pile on one side. Made from cotton, silk or viscose.
  • Voile – Transparent, soft-feel fabric, often made from cotton.

Overview of Knitted Fabrics & Their Uses

  • Ajour – Fabric with a very fine hole pattern. Often looks as if it has been embroidered.
  • Faux fur – Imitation fur that can either look deceptively like real fur or be very imaginatively patterned.
  • Jersey – Stretchy knitted fabric, from fine, thin cotton to thick wool jersey.
  • Knit – Fabric that looks like hand knitting.
  • Nicki Velour – Stretchy jersey fabric with a velvety surface.
  • Rib-knit – Has the stitch pattern of knit 1, purl 1 rib and often looks as if it has been hand-knitted.
  • Sweatshirt fabric – Jersey or knitted fabric, often fleecy on the inside.

Overview of Non-Woven Fabrics & Their Uses

These do not need to have the edges neatened as they do not fray.

  • Felt – A fabric pressed together from sheep’s wool and animal hair.
  • Plush – Very soft, thick fabric, which often has a fur-like surface and is very light.
  • Polar fleece – Fleecy microfiber fabric, which has the breathability of microfiber and also keeps you very warm.

Right and Wrong Side of Fabric

When working with different types of fabrics you will often come across instructions such as ‘right sides together’, ‘right side to the wrong side’ etc. You can tell which is the right or wrong side of the fabric as follows.

The wrong side of the fabric is always the side that will not be seen from the outside when the garment is finished — i.e. the side facing the body. With printed fabrics the wrong side is usually pale in color; on woven fabrics, the pattern looks the ‘wrong way round’ and with knitted fabrics, you can recognize the sides that look like plain and purl stitches.

The right side is the ‘good’ side, visible from the outside. On printed fabrics, you can recognize it by the stronger colors, and the patterns appear the right way round. Woven fabrics often have a stronger structure on the right side.

On many fabrics, it may be hard to distinguish between the right and wrong sides. This is often the case with plain-colored woven fabrics. The best thing to do is decide for yourself and mark all the wrong sides of the pattern pieces with a cross using tailor’s chalk. When cutting out and sewing up, take care to put the same sides together.


Acquiring a profound understanding of various fabric types and their optimal care is pivotal in preserving their longevity and quality. By adhering to appropriate care instructions, you can extend the lifespan of your clothing and fabric items, ensuring they maintain their excellence for years to come. Embrace the art of textiles, and you’ll unlock a world of creativity and functionality in your hands.


Hannah Nelson

Hi, there! I am Hannah Nelson, your host on this website. I started this blog to teach my lovely readers how to master the art of sewing effortlessly and how to turn this hobby into an income generating business.

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