A Guide to Fabric: Natural Fibers



When shopping for clothes it?s important to consider various factors: the cut, colour, pattern, and most importantly, the fit. But it?s also important to think about the kind of fabric you?re buying so that the garment that you choose will not only fit well today, but will last longer than the summer too!

Before we get on to discussing fabric, it is important to get an understanding of the fibers that go into it..

Fibers are made into fabric either by weaving or knitting.

Woven fabric is made with two sets of yarn, consisting of spun fibers crossing over and under each other. Think twill, denim, corduroy, and velvet.

Knits, on the other hand, are created by repeatedly knotting the yarn in one direction. Here we have rib knits and jersey fabrics.

We can judge fabric on many different aspects, including its colourfast-ness, appearance, strength, durability, and required care. Knowing the characteristics of fabrics of a certain garment can aid you in making informed decisions about which pieces to invest in.

I would say that if the garment is not made of high-quality fabric, it shouldn?t be an investment piece. This is not to rule out ever purchasing pieces made with inexpensive fabrics, but it?s important to know exactly what is it you?re buying. This is where reading the care labels on clothes before you buy them comes in. They?re not just there for scrutinizing after the $500 sweater you bought shrinks in the wash! If you can?t or don?t want to take care of the item the way the label recommends, choose something else – the fabric, and your wallet, will thank you for it in the long run.

On to natural fibers..



The most common natural fibers are cotton, wool, flax (linen), and silk.

Cotton – used in Ancient Egypt, cotton has been around for centuries. Nowadays, it is most often used for denim, terry, velveteen, and corduroy and is strong and absorbent (and easily washable!), although it does shrink and wrinkle when it?s not properly cared for.

Wool – while this can also refer to any animal hair fabric, sheep fleece is used most often. It is immensely absorbent and shrinks if not properly handled. Due to its weak fibers, it is commonly blended with other, stronger fibers to strengthen the overall fabric. We can see wool in flannel, crepe, felt, as well as the wool sweater you got for Christmas last year.

Linen – also called flax, and is made from the fibers inside the stem of the flax plant. Almost twice as strong as cotton, but tends to hesitate in going back to its original shape when pulled out excessively. Linen must be dry-cleaned, so be wary of this when purchasing these types of garments.

Silk – produced by the lovely silkworm, silk always comes from Asia when in its pure form. It is the thinnest natural fiber, and is used to create chiffons, silks, and brocades. Silk required hand washing or dry-cleaning, and must be handled with care at all times. It is quite strong and wrinkle-resistant, which definitely keeps the iron away a little bit longer!


While natural fibers are often more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, they are also generally of a higher quality. When looking for an item that will last a while, my advice would be to look for fabrics made with a high proportion of natural fibers.

Over the next few weeks, I?ll be taking you through other fabric types and everything you need to know about them, as well as a guide to caring for your clothes – especially important when washing that Karen Walker dress for the first time..!

– Lena Aseeva

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