Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Three Brushed and Napped Fabrics We'll Be Using This Fall

While most shopping is visual by nature, there is something wonderful about the tactile aspect of fabric shopping.  We love to feel the slubby threads in our handwoven ikats, the cool fluidity of a rayon challis, or the cushy thickness of a wool coating.  And who doesn't love a soft, brushed flannel or a smooth, luxurious velvet?  These kinds of fabrics may be the softest to the touch, but this also means they are dealt with differently in our sewing.

Velvet is a prime examples of a fabric with a "nap," which refers to the direction in which the "pile" goes.  Pile refers to the fibers that are upright or raised from the base cloth.  Think about a sueded jacket or a velveteen couch:  if you brush the fabric with your hand one way, it will be soft and smooth.  But go the opposite way, going against the grain,  and the fabric will feel rougher, while also looking different.  The easiest way to see this is with a high pile fabric, like fur.

The top portion shows the faux fur brushed with the nap, along the pile.  It looks smooth and feels soft.  The bottom half shows what happens when you brush against the nap.  The pile of the fur stands up, and you can see more of the undercoat and backing.

What kinds of fabrics have a nap?

Velvet, corduroy, velour, velveteen, moleskin, flannel, flannelette, and suede are all fabrics that are napped and/or brushed, and these are all fabrics we are loving these days!  After a long hot summer, we can't wait to cuddle up with soft and fuzzy fabrics.  Here's what we're excited about working with right now!


Velvet may be more luxurious, but velveteen is not without its perks!  Since it's usually 100% cotton, sewing and caring for your projects will be easier.  It has a shorter pile than velvet, so it's not so delicate or tricky to work with.  And it's not just for garment sewing; velveteen lends itself beautifully to home decor.  We're loving these beautiful Lush Velveteens, both for their soft hand and rich colors.

Lush Velveteens in Cabernet, Gold, and Celestial


We haven't seen a lot of moleskin out there for awhile, but it's having a comeback!  And it's not hard to see why.  Moleskin is a 100% cotton fabric with a very short pile, so its nap is almost imperceptible.  It's super soft but simultaneously has a great weight to it.  This densely woven fabric makes amazing bags, and we're dreaming up how we can use it for garments too.  A boxy coat or a jeans style skirt perhaps?

Cotton Moleskin in Moss, Tan, and Coffee

Plaid Flannels

Cotton flannels don't exactly have a nap, but they are brushed, which makes the cotton soft and fuzzy.  Unless there is a very noticeable nap, you can work with flannel like any other woven cotton.  Just keep in mind that it shrinks a lot!  We all love flannel pajamas and robes, but we're also thinking about making the men in our lives some cozy flannel shirts.  Or maybe even lining a coat in flannel!

Mammoth Flannel - Adventure, Mammoth Flannel - Evergreen, Primo Plaid Flannel - Harvest

So how does this affect my sewing?

Napped fabrics actually affect your planning and cutting more than anything!  It's important to cut a napped fabric with all the pattern pieces in the same direction, or else your finished garment will look and feel "off."

Cutting Napped Fabrics

Some patterns may have different fabric requirements and cutting layouts for napped fabrics.  You may see stars or asterisks indicating these differences.  Ultimately though, it's about making sure the nap is going the same way on all the pattern pieces, as shown in this diagram from a great Threads article on pattern layouts:

See how the tops of the pieces (the shoulder seams and sleeve cap) are all facing the same way? 

In More Fabric Savvy, Sandra Betzina recommends to use a single thickness, rather than folding in half, when cutting out velvet.  She also notes that cutting in the direction of the pile will lead to smoother cuts.

Pressing Napped Fabrics

Pressing napped fabrics is also done differently, so as to not crush the pile.  In general, avoid ironing on the right side, which has the pile.  Ironing on the wrong side is usually enough precaution to take with low pile fabrics like velveteen or moleskin, but further steps should be taken with higher pile fabrics like velvet, corduroy, or velour.  Using a velvet or needle board will allow you to press seams or darts without crushing the beautiful pile.  A velvet board is comprised of a bunch of dull needles, which gives your pile room to breathe while you iron the wrong side.

With the right side down on the velvet board, you can be more confident in pressing higher pile fabrics.  You can also try using a thick fluffy towel.  And it's always a good idea to use a pressing cloth or a piece of organza between the wrong side of the fabric and your iron!

Sewing Napped Fabrics

If you've been careful in your cutting, you're in good shape for sewing your napped fabric.  You may not run into any problems with low pile pieces, but again, the higher the pile, the more caution you should take.  We recommend using thin, high quality silk pins or no pins at all, since some holes may not come out.  Try using a basting tape instead!

Using a walking foot can be very helpful here, so that the fabric evenly feeds while sewing.  (If you're unfamiliar with this foot, read our earlier blog on presser feet!)  It's best to sew in the direction of the pile, and you may want to raise the presser foot every few inches to allow the fabric to relax as you sew.  Topstitching is not recommended, and it's easiest to use sew-in interfacings since ironing these fabrics can be tricky.

Is it Fall yet??

We'll be posting more blogs with our fall favorites and tips for sewing them.  Keep an eye out for a blog on boiled wool and wool coating coming up next!

What fabrics and patterns are you planning for your fall sewing?

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