Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Working with Napped Fabrics

This is some fabric from a jacket that I have been working on off-and-on for awhile. Notice the nap.
Working with Nap

If your fabric looks different shades  from different angles, it has a nap.  Velvet and velour fabric are prime examples of fabric with nap. When cutting out fabric look for layouts with the with nap and the without nap. With nap directions are usually different to allow all of the with nap pattern pieces to lie in the same direction. (Fabrics with a one way design will also use the with nap cutting layout.)

Why worry about the nap of your fabric? Well, if a dress is made of a napped fabric, such as velvet, and it is not cut out with all the pattern pieces going in the same direction, the dress will look like it was made with two different color fabric. 

How to Tell if the Fabric Needs a Nap Layout:

If you rub your hand from cut end to cut end, one direction feels smooth and the other doesn’t.

When you brush the fabric in each direction, does it look different? It has nap.
·         Many one way designs benefit from a nap layout.

How It's Made

A fabric with “nap” has gone through a finishing process that raises the fiber ends to the surface. The ends are then brushed or left upright. This creates surface texture. The raised fibers of napped fabrics all lie in one direction; this makes the fabric look and feel different when touched or viewed from different directions.  It’s important to lay out pattern pieces so the nap runs in the same direction on each garment piece or you’ll end up with odd color shading as well as other problems. (unless you are looking for that sort of effect).

Pile fabrics are woven or knit with an extra yarn to create their raised surfaces and are not true napped fabrics because they do not undergo a finishing process. They do, however, have “nap” and are usually grouped with napped fabrics. For the most part, pile fabrics require the same fabric preparation and sewing techniques as napped fabrics.  Corduroy is an example of a pile fabric with nap.

Sewing Tips: 

To revitalize fabric that has been stored, use the steam from a shower. Do not touch the fabric while it is damp, or you could leave a mark.

Don't disturb the effect of the nap with pin marks. Eliminate them by placing all pins in the seam allowance. (Or sew without pins!)

Be careful with the iron! Press napped fabrics from the wrong side with the fabric face down on a thick towel, or use a needle board.

Look at the direction of the nap. Napped fabrics are normally cut so that the nap runs down the garment, from the top down toward the lower hem. This feels softer, and the fabric tends to pill less and wear better. However, when the nap runs up, the color is richer.

If you want to use the nap for design effect, cut some pieces (like
patch pockets and yokes) in different directions to create shading.

After cutting each piece, mark the fabric on the back. You'll know which side is the right side and you haven't damaged the fabric.

Avoid garments or items that have more decorative details; let the fabric create the interest. Simple designs showcase the fabric better and are easier to sew. 

Napped fabrics tend to be bulky and the fewer details, the better.

Use a universal needle or a heavier needle for denim if you think it will be very bulky.

In general, avoid excessive top-stitching and limit the number of buttonholes, which can distort the fabric. 

Snaps, zippers and other fasteners are preferable to buttons.

To offset bulk, if the garment has facings and the fabric is heavy, cut the facings from lighter weight fabric.


  1. I avoid one way designs and plaids because they are too much trouble.

  2. You are brave Nothy. You have pets and you wear fabrics with nap? I hope you have lint rollers everywhere!!!

  3. I avoid napped fabrics like the plague. But I do use a lot of one-way designs.

  4. Good post! I love the blog!



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