February 12, 2018

4 Favorite Fabrics From Joann's & How I've Used Them

Here in the United States, fabric stores other than Joann's are getting harder and harder to come by, especially if you live out in suburbia in the mid west like me. So what's a seamstress to do? Sure you can buy fabric online, but it's just not the same when you can't touch and feel and see the textiles there in front of you. When you only have Joann's small selection of apparel fabrics to choose from, which are the best? One can't make everything out of quilting cotton after all...

If they offered 5% of the adorable quilting cotton prints they have at Joann's in an apparel weight as well (a nice voile perhaps? Sateen?) I would be more than happy to buy yards and yards of them, but seeing as modern fabric and craft stores cater to quilters and occasional textile crafters (and once a year Halloween costume shoppers) and not apparel seamstresses, we're just out of luck most of the time. Unless you love polyester, and who loves polyester?

So today I thought for those of you who are stuck in the same Joann's dominated wasteland predicament, or are perhaps just new to sewing and would like some fabric recommendations, I would go over my top 4 favorite fabrics available at Joann's and explain why I return to buy more of them again and again.

Sew Classic Bottomweight Stretch Sateen Fabric - $12.99 a yard

This is my top favorite pick from Joann's. Granted I love me some cotton sateen in general, but the weight of this particular sateen is perfect for so many projects being neither too heavy for dresses, nor too lightweight for more structured pieces. The amount of stretch (97% cotton, 3% spandex) is just enough to not be annoying and allows things move nicely when you've made something more fitted. As a rule I never buy stretch fabrics, I like structure, but this fabric is the exception to that rule for me.

At 49" wide, I feel I get a little more for my dollar with this sateen since many Joann's fabrics are only 45" wide. This slightly wider width means I can eke out fuller A-line skirts and longer sleeves without having to buy more yardage. I find this fabric washes well for me, and for a sateen it's not too shiny. When I'm buying sateen fabric I prefer they not be too shiny despite the name, if I wanted a true satin finish after all, I'd buy satin. This fabric currently comes in 7 solid colors, but they need to add at least one green, come on Joann...

I've made a lot of projects with this fabric over the past few years. Most notably I like it for crisp full circle skirts, I have one in black, bright red, and the dark purple. I also have used the dark red/burgundy shade to make a sheath dress and a pencil skirt, have a dress out of the black (seen below), and used the navy and red colorways to make a dress inspired by of one of Peggy Carter's dresses (seen above). Then I've got a basic black pencil skirt out of this sateen too, it's really all over my closet! I only wish they would add even more colors to the range, but I don't hold out hope.

Sew Classic Bottomweight Cotton Twill Solid Fabric - $12.99 a yard

Another classic bottom weight (what does this even mean? Like, it's thick enough for pants? ... okay.) is cotton twill weave of course. Similar to denim in many regards, since denim is woven with a twill weave as well, twill fabrics have a small diagonal ribbed texture up close. Supposedly this weave structure is both strong and helps hide dirt, which is why it's used for more rugged apparel sometimes. Twill is a great fabric for more structured summer projects, which is what I have mainly used it for in my sewing.

In 100% cotton, this particular twill from Joann's has no stretch, which as previously noted is fine by me. They actually have a smaller different selection of cotton twills at Joanns and they all have their uses. I've used another version from them that's a bit thicker to make a more utility looking army green a-line skirt before and liked the results. Perhaps a little too bulky/weighty for something like a circle skirt, I like using Joann's twills to make pencil skirted suits for the summer time like the two you see below here. I've also used them to make more skirts all on their own, but something I always do now with this sort of fabric is to add top-stitching for that extra rough and tumble looking (ahem, safari ready) effect, even if the actual garment style is tailored. 

Sew Classics Linen Look Fabric 54''-Solid - $12.99 a yard

If you are sensing a theme, its because all the best apparel fabrics at Joann's tend to be on the same aisle, the bottom weights are where it's at in Joann Fabrics. Of course you can find some nice rayon challis or a wild voile or cotton eyelet in their seasonal ranges, but the reliably in stock apparel fabrics in natural fibers tend to be of a heavier weight. Which is why it's nice that they have this rayon linen blend available in so many colors (14 shades) when you need something with just a bit more drape. It's got the crisp slightly slubbed natural texture of the linen, with the the added benefit of the silkier rayon helping out with linen's stubborn wrinkle factor.

At 54" wide this fabric also helps you economize on yardage for budget friendly projects. Iv'e used it to make two bolero and A-line skirt suit combinations in natural and black, for a fluted turquoise 30's skirt, and to make my dark red 1930's inspired wrap dress. I'm always trying to find time to make a 1930's dress in the rusty orange color of this fabric with nice vintage carved wooden buttons to wear in the summer. I know this is a fabric I will be returning to again and again as the texture is just perfect for making warm weather apparel with that natural linen look.

Fashion Brocade Fabric 45" - $9.99-$14.99 a yard

Okay, to be fair, this last one could be rather polarizing. Some people just find polyester Chinese brocades like these cheesy, and that's totally fine, it's just I disagree. I think the fabrics and resulting garments can be really fun if used in the right way, which I have tried to do with my more recent projects.

Of course vintage styles out of similar fabrics have several advantages going for them. The brocades of the past were more likely to be real silk or at least rayon, instead of the polyester Nylon blends we get today. Real silk fabric just looks a hell of a lot nicer, and feels nicer, but polyester is much less expensive of course. I do think the Chinese brocades at Joanns really vary in quality these days compared to the standard quality that were available 10 years ago when I first started sewing with them. Sometimes you can still find one with a higher thread count and nicer structure, but it's rarer these days. I'll be looking into other sources for similar fabrics soon, but I still have my eye on some new dark plum purple brocades Joann's have in stock online.

I have used Joann's poly brocades to make several dresses and a few pencil skirts over the years, and I want to make a circle skirt out of the aforementioned dark purple fabric soon. Of course more typical (or stereotypical really) apparel items made in this fabric would be vintage style cheongsam dresses or jackets with frogged closures, but be careful with projects inspired by garments that may have possibly been culturally appropriative in their time and can remain so now. It's important to just be aware these fabrics and projects can easily come off costumey which is something to avoid when making real clothes of course.

So those are my top picks from Joann's! What are your favorite fabrics from America's most pervasive fabric store? The only US state without a Joann's store location is Hawaii by the way, but they do still ship there. Are you lucky enough to live near real fabric shops with nice apparel fabrics? Feel free to brag about that and make me want to move ;) I am lucky that here in Colorado we do have two main other fabric shops near enough to Denver that I don't go too mad stuck with Joann's small selection. I do love shopping from Mood Fabrics online as well, and though sometimes I still get surprised with just how the fabrics look and feel when they arrive in the mail, I have yet to be actually disappointed with anything I have ordered from Mood.

Also-- I know I usually post a new ensemble on Mondays, but it's been snowy and too cold to stand outside for photos so I hope you can forgive me for not documenting my pajamas since I'm staying inside! Stay cozy my friends!


  1. Really helpful! It's always nice to read about someone's favorites. Joann can be overwhelming in its mediocre apparel choices. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for these suggestions. I miss having a Hancock's Fabrics. They catered to apparel sewers. I do shop online and for more economical choices I use fabric.com. the send generous swatches vs postage stamps and throw in end of bolt cuts if you have the lucky order. Mood and Fabric Depot are great too.

    1. I never even got to visit a Hancock's before they closed! I still haven't tried fabric.com since the prices seem too good to be true sometimes and it scared me off, I'll have to give them a shot :)

  3. Thank you for this post I really enjoyed it. We don't have Joann's in the UK. All I have near me is a tiny little all things needlework shop. Where I've actually managed to buy more sewing machines than fabric I think! The sound of plum purple brocade gives my heart a flutter so I can't wait to see and garment you make from that.

    1. Fabric shopping in the UK was such a new experience for me while I was studying in London. I'd go out to Shepard's Bush and all the little shops seemed intimidating, but the shops on Berwick street seemed so expensive! Then there was Liberty's gorgeous haberdashery department, but again-- too far out of my price range! I never got to visit any fabric shops outside of London, an all things needlework shop does sound adorable though :)

  4. Thanks so much! Joann's is my nearest apparel store, and it's even two hours away. So when I get to go, it can be overwhelming. Your post gives me some great ideas.

    1. Yikes! That's quite far, you must have to make a game plan when making the trip ;) They moved the other apparel fabric shop in my town about a half hour further away from me and now I almost never get around to trekking over there, but that is probably a good thing for my wallet!


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