All About Fabric

All About Cotton and Natural Fibres, Stitch Tension & More.

cotton fabric
Cotton and Organic fabrics

In this blog:

  • Why we like cotton
  • Other natural fibre fabrics
  • Neatening Raw edges
  • Fabric Grain
  • Sewing Machine Tension

In the first episode of the Great British Sewing Bee 2019, the judges were concentrating on pattern matching, seam matching and general finishing. The fabrics they used were mostly cotton. We are looking at natural fabrics as well as why we like to sew and create with cotton.

Why do we love cotton fabrics?

  • It is soft and strong
  • Retains colour
  • Moisture absorption very good
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Eco-friendly
  • Breathable
  • Blended with other fibres for more qualities
  • Durable

Be aware that

  • Cotton shrinks so pre-wash to avoid disappointment.
  • Cotton fabric wrinkles a lot. This means it needs ironing to retain its shape.

Beautiful cotton fabrics from Croft Mill

Please take note:

Not all fabrics come with labels which identify where and how they were manufactured or dyed. Eco- friendly and Organic fabrics is a relatively new thing. Cotton is a natural fibre, lots of fabrics are made from it.

Organic and Eco-Friendly Fabrics

What is Organic?

  • Grown in controlled settings with no pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals.
  • Use natural fertilizers and the soil and water are monitored.
  • If a fibre is “certified organic” its growing conditions have been monitored and certified by an organic trade association.
  • A fabric can be called organic as long as 95% of the fabric contains the organic fabric.

What is Eco-Friendly?

Eco-friendly do not require the use of any pesticides or chemicals to grow. They are naturally resistant to mould and mildew and are disease free. Hemp, linen, bamboo and ramie are eco-friendly fibers. Bamboo · Bamboo is one of nature’s most sustainable resources; it’s 100% biodegradable and is naturally regenerative.

A List of fibres used in natural fabrics.


This has the most eco-friendly potential

  • Weeds find it difficult to grow because hemp is fast growing and dense. No pesticides or herbicides are needed.
  • Hemp does not deplete the soil and leaves it in excellent condition for any succeeding crops.
  • It has long fibres perfect for spinning.
  • This is an extremely durable fabric.
  • Over time its washing and wearing improve the moisture absorbency.
  • After each wash it becomes softer.
  • Great properties being UV resistant, highly breathable, fast drying, hypoallergenic and nonirritating to skin.


  • Ramie is a highly sustainable eco-friendly fibre. It is very strong and durable.
  • Once the flowers begin to bloom, the fibres can be extracted from the plant for spinning.
  • Because its naturally resistant to bacteria, mould and mildew it does not require pesticides or herbicides to grow healthily.


  • (Lenzing Fibers’ brand name for lyocell) is a new all natural fibre.
  • It is made with wood pulp cellulose from the eucalyptus tree.
  • Tencel is extremely absorbent, irritation free, naturally prevents the growth of bacteria, and is 100% biodegradable, coming from forests that practice sustainability.


  • Linen fibres are taken from the Flax plant.
  • It is a natural fibre, meaning it takes little or no chemical fertilizer to grow.
  • Great for Summer wear as it is cool and very absorbent.
  • Being the strongest of all natural fibers, it is durable and strong.


  • Modal is a processed bio-based textile made from reconstituted cellulose from beech trees.
  • It is considered a type of rayon.
  • The texture is similar to that of cotton and it is soft, smooth and breathes well.
  • Cool to the touch and very absorbent.
  • Holds dye and colour well.
  • It does not shrink like cotton.

The dyeing process.

  • The dyeing process plays a role in the qualifications of organic and eco-friendly fabrics, as the entire production process is taken into account when given certification. A dyeing process is certified with the Oeko Tex Standard 100, product class II, for products with direct contact to skin.
  • This certification requires the results of the inspection to state that these fabrics meet the human-ecological requirements of the standards currently established. They are therefore not harmful to skin or health whatsoever.
  • Along with the fact that eco-friendly and organic textiles are usually non-allergenic and cause little or no irritation this standard allows customers to know that our textiles are safe and skin-friendly.

Cotton Jersey Fabric with OEKO TEX®

Watch a video on Organic Fabric

Neatening raw edges.

There are several ways to neaten raw edges to stop the fabric from fraying. You can oversew by hand, zig zag by  machine or turn the edge of fabric under and machine stitch. An overlocker or overlocking stitches can also be used.

Hand stitch
  • Oversew the raw edges with evenly spaced diagonal stitches sewn by hand.

machine stitch
  • Turn the edge of the fabric under ¼” (6mm) and machine stitch close to the edge of the fold.

Zig Zag edge
  • Select the machine zig zag setting and stitch close to the raw edge and then trim.

Fabric Grain.

  1. Woven fabric consists of length way threads called the warp which runs parallel to the selvedge. The lengthways threads are the strongest most garments are cut so that they run vertically.
  2. The intersecting weft threads run at right angles to the selvedge. Across the fabric width.
  3.  A diagonal line intersecting these threads is called bias.
  4. The true bias is formed when the diagonal line is at a 45-degree angle to the selvedge. Fabric cut on the bias has a lot more stretch than the fabric cut on the grainline.
bias and grain line

When laying a pattern out, match the grain line arrow on the pattern piece to the grain line on the fabric because this keeps your fabric hanging straight.

Sewing Tension

Perfect machine stitching is easy to achieve if you do the following:

  • Use a sharp needle which, is the right size for the project you are working on.
  • Thread the upper thread through the machine correctly.
  • Make sure that you have wound the bobbin correctly at the fastest machine speed to keep it tensioned.
  • Do a trial tension sample.
  • Make sure that the stitch length is correct for the fabric type and the foot pressure is correct. General stitch length is 2.5 for straight stitch.

What does the perfect stitch depend on?

  • The balance of pressure on the fabric, action of the feed dog and tension on the dial.
  • Both top and bottom thread are drawn equally into the fabric and the link is formed midway between the fabric layers.
  • The stitch tension dial determines the amount of pressure on the thread as it passes through the machine.
  • Too much pressure results in too little thread fed into the stitch. This causes the fabric to pucker.
  • Too little pressure tends to produce too much thread and a weak, loose stitch.
  • Most machines have a tension preferred mark on the tension line, this should be the correct tension for most sewing.
Tension right
  • Correct tension and pressure makes stitches that are linked midway between the fabric layers. The stitches look even on both sides. Fabric layers are fed evenly through the feed and the fabric is smooth.
Tension tight
  • Too Tight tension results in stitch links the are near the top layer of the fabric. Fabric is puckered and stitches are easily broken. Turn the tension dial to a lower number. If pressure is too heavy, the bottom layer gathers up and may be damaged. Stitches may be uneven.
tension too loose
  • Too Loose tension results in stitch links that are towards the bottom fabric layer. The seam is weak, correct the problem by turning the tension dial to a higher number. Too light pressure causes skipped and uneven stitches, and may pull fabric into the feed.

TOP TIP: When checking tension, always use a different  colour top and bobbin thread. This makes it easier to see whether it is the top tension or the bobbin tension causes a problem.

Pattern Inspiration

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