Sew, What's Up

Sew What’s Up Presents

The Sew What’s New Archive

This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: Kew
Date: 02-01-2007, 02:17 PM (1 of 12)
Years ago when I took 4-H sewing I had binders of swatches and a description of what each fabric swatch was. Then I had little samples of different kinds of sewing that were done on scrap material. I wish I would of kept by binders to refresh myself. How do you tell the difference in the material and how do you know what textiles are in it? Thanks to anyone that can tell me or direct me to a website that tells a person how to determine what is what in material.:Canada: kew
User: Kew
Member since: 10-19-2000
Total posts: 58
From: searose
Date: 02-01-2007, 11:55 PM (2 of 12)
dear kew we are on the same wave length. i was thinking this morning of the very same thing. a list of fabrics with their content and handling advice would be invaluable. There is so much choice out their in the marketplace that it can get very confusing. lynne
User: searose
Member since: 09-30-2006
Total posts: 45
From: MissTaraTara
Date: 02-02-2007, 02:04 PM (3 of 12)
I don't know if this site ( will be of any help to you but I do remember reading through it when I first got internet access. The first page is busy but other pages are a bit calmer. There are also three books that contain actual fabric samples as well as their descriptions/handling etc. All About Wool, All About Cotton, All About Silk. I don't know how easy they are to find or if they are still in print. I have them and although I don't open them often, they are very informative and I wouldn't dream of parting with them.:smile:
User: MissTaraTara
Member since: 01-24-2006
Total posts: 227
From: BettyF
Date: 02-03-2007, 07:37 PM (4 of 12)
Sandra Betzina's book "More Fabric Savvy" ( been invaluable to me as I try to figure out how to treat and work with various materials. Also, Emma OneSock has wonderful sewing guides ( for a host of fabrics.

As for figuring out what you have when it is unlabelled, I am not much help. I do know, however, that there is something called a "burn test" which you do by burning a few fibres. Natural fibres leave an ash, polyester leaves a blob of goo. That is the entire extent of my knowledge, but I am sure somewhere in cyberspace, there are directions and insight into this.

Good luck
User: BettyF
Member since: 11-15-2006
Total posts: 2
From: IsabelleB
Date: 02-06-2007, 05:56 AM (5 of 12)
Fabric knowledge is my major challenge as well. I read somewhere about a book with actual fabric swatches in it - that sounds genius. Hmm, it's also very pricey - I just found the books on Amazon :
All About Cotton (

All About Silk
All About Wool (

Sewing blog: Kitty Couture
User: IsabelleB
Member since: 10-25-2006
Total posts: 265
From: paroper
Date: 02-06-2007, 07:52 AM (6 of 12)
Claire Shaeffer has a book called the "Fabric Sewing Guide" that is textbook of sorts about fabrics. It does not have fabrics but gives enough information that you can understand a great deal without swatches. When I purchased it I paid over $50 and that was 15 years ago! I see that Amazon has a decent price on this book.

Bernina 200e, Artista V5 Designer Plus, Explorations, Magic Box, Bernina 2000DE & 335 Bernette Serger, Bernina 1530 Sewing Machine, Bernina 1300 DC Overlock (with coverstitch)
User: paroper
Member since: 02-03-2004
Total posts: 3775
From: morningrose
Date: 03-09-2007, 12:25 PM (7 of 12)
I think understanding fabric types is the hardest part of sewing, especially for beginners and with all the new types of fabrics out there. To add confusion, some retail stores do not have the actual content on the bolt end. does have an entire section on identification and properties.

I took a class (online) a couple of years ago on this, but apparently the company is not around anymore since I can't find the website. It did teach basics - warp/weft, naturals and synthetics with all tests and properties for each. Unfortunatley, they did not have a source for a swatch set at the time.

What I do now is get free swatches when I can from specialty stores (,,,, etc) and, if they are not marked or on a card, make a card and attach it with the name, content, care instructions, etc. I keep all this in a notebook that I can refer to when getting ready to make a new garment.

This also helps if you work with clients, as you have something they can feel without dragging them to a store.
User: morningrose
Member since: 12-16-2004
Total posts: 15
From: Kew
Date: 03-09-2007, 12:35 PM (8 of 12)
Thanks Morningrose, that's a great idea making a little card to attach to the fabric. It's just nice to know what you are working with. Like you said with the different fabrics available today. I find it difficult to know what's in them. Kew
User: Kew
Member since: 10-19-2000
Total posts: 58
From: jmm
Date: 03-09-2007, 06:31 PM (9 of 12)
It has been a long time since I have made a fabric swatch book, which was very useful. The end of the bolt usually contains most of the information that I look for. Things keep changing, and it is hard to keep up. The one thing that still remains the same is the breath test. I drape some of the fabric over the palm of my hand, and then blow on it. It I cannot feel anything, then I know it isn't a cool fabric ........ or sometimes it will feel hot, then I know it is a warmer fabric. If I cannot feel anything, I know it is going to be a winter type fabric since it won't let air circulate.
User: jmm
Member since: 02-23-2007
Total posts: 2
From: Kew
Date: 03-10-2007, 12:53 AM (10 of 12)
wow, I've never heard of doing that before. I'll have to see if it works for me.Thanks. kew
User: Kew
Member since: 10-19-2000
Total posts: 58
From: emrysambrosius
Date: 03-11-2007, 12:11 AM (11 of 12)
I use the list of fabrics, what they are,etc. at, but Stephen doesn't have a lot of the
newer fabrics listed as well as some of the ones
I remember as a child, too many years ago. Example
is cupro, tencel that come to mind now. I wish
there is a website that has all that info as well
as care and maintence of the fabrics. It would save
all of us a headache or ruined fabric. I don't care
if they put it in pdf form and you paid a reasonable rate to download it. In the long run it
would sure be worth it.

User: emrysambrosius
Member since: 10-08-2004
Total posts: 4
From: paroper
Date: 03-11-2007, 08:44 AM (12 of 12)
"Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide" is a very good source of information about many fabrics, care, uses, techniques, etc. The copy I have is many years old. I don't know if it has been updated or not. I have seen copies for much less than I paid. I paid over $50 at the time I purchased it. The book was published by the Chilton Book Company.

Bernina 200e, Artista V5 Designer Plus, Explorations, Magic Box, Bernina 2000DE & 335 Bernette Serger, Bernina 1530 Sewing Machine, Bernina 1300 DC Overlock (with coverstitch)
User: paroper
Member since: 02-03-2004
Total posts: 3775
Sew, What's Up
Search the “Sew What’s New” Archive:
Visit Sew What’s Up for the latest sewing and quilting tips and discussions.
This page was originally located on Sew What’s New ( at