When shopping for fabric, you’ll find a variety of terms like bottom-weight, lightweight, and heavyweight. While these terms don’t literally tell you how much your fabric weighs, they can give you a general idea about how thick and heavy your fabric will be.
So, what is bottom-weight fabric? Bottom weight fabric is a type of woven fabric that is heavier than most other fabrics. It is often used for things like upholstery, drapery, and jackets. As the name suggests, it goes at the bottom of your fabric pile because it’s very heavy.
In this article, we will go over what fabric weights mean. From there, we will learn what bottom-weight fabric is and what it is used for so that you can find the perfect fabric for your project!
What Fabric Weights Are
The weight of a fabric is not an indicator of its strength; it simply explains how heavy the material is.
The weight of a fabric can be measured in two different ways. In the United States, the fabric weight is measured by OZ (or ounces per square yard), while elsewhere, the metric system is used – GSM, or grams per square meter.
As you can imagine, the higher the OZ or GSM indicator is, the heavier the fabric will be. For example, one square yard of denim fabric will be much heavier than one square yard of silk.
Sometimes, you can tell the fabric weight just by looking at it. Light, flowy, and drapey fabrics like silk, voile, or lace are lightweight fabrics, while velvet or charmeuse are medium-weight fabrics, and heavyweight fabrics are usually canvas or poplin.
Generally, the heavier the weight, the thicker the fabric will be. However, it is important to note that the weight does not tell you the exact thickness of the garment. Some fabrics can be quite heavy without having a lot of volumes (for example, denim or canvas fabric).
Similarly, the weight of the fabric doesn’t indicate the quality. The quality of a material can vary depending on the weave and yarn used. For instance, denim is heavyweight due to its twill weave and cotton fiber, while chiffon is light due to its plain weave, but it doesn’t mean that one fabric is better than the other.
Why Do Fabric Weights Matter?
The weight of a fabric is important when choosing the fabric for a particular project. For pants and outerwear, you’ll want a fabric that is a bit heavier and more hardwearing, whereas for items that will need to touch your skin, you’ll want a lightweight fabric that will feel more comfortable to wear.
In addition, heavy fabrics are more durable and can provide better insulation than lighter ones, so if you are making a jacket that can shield you from the elements, it’s best to go with a heavyweight fabric.
On the other hand, lightweight fabrics are more suitable for clothes that are worn in hotter temperatures because they can feel more airy and comfortable.
Types Of Fabric Weights
The number of indicators can get very confusing and technical, so you’ll often hear the substitute terms: lightweight, medium weight, or heavyweight fabrics instead. In most fabric stores, you’ll see that fabric weights are divided into six categories.
1. Extra Lightweight Fabrics (2 OZ) – Silk, Rayon, Jersey, etc.
Extra lightweight fabrics are used for sportswear, undergarments, or lining fabrics. Some of the most common fabrics include polyester, nylon, and spandex, and are often blended together to create a blended fabric that is sturdy, strong, and flexible.
Extra lightweight fabrics are best suited for use in the warmer seasons due to their lightness. Depending on the fabric, they can be quickly washed and dried, so they are ideal for travel or sports where you might not want to worry about ironing or dry cleaning.
2. Lightweight Fabrics (4 OZ) – Chambray, Cotton, etc.
Lightweight fabrics are usually used for blouses, t-shirts, and men’s underwear. They are made from natural fibers such as cotton or rayon.
Lightweight fabrics can be soft to the touch, and they tend to have a good deal of drape. Many lightweight fabrics are easy to care for and require only minimal ironing. You’ll find that a lot of summer clothing items are made from lightweight cotton, polyester, or rayon.
3. Medium-Weight Fabrics (6 OZ) – Charmeuse, Oxford, etc.
Medium-weight fabrics are ideal for warmer weather, as they provide comfort and versatility without making you feel too hot. They’re often used in the construction of summer jackets, outdoor clothing, pants, or even dresses.
Medium-weight fabrics can be made from a variety of materials; cotton is a popular choice for its breathable composition and durability.
4. Medium-Heavy Fabrics (8 OZ) – Canvas, Linen, etc.
Medium-heavyweight fabrics are used for thicker shirts, trousers, and dresses. Medium heavyweight fabrics have thick fibers, meaning the material is quite heavier than the lightweight fabrics.
These fabrics are less flexible than lightweight ones and don’t wrinkle that much when compared with lightweight materials. Medium heavyweight fabrics are more durable, as they are made of thicker fibers which give them a longer life.
5. Heavyweight Fabrics (10 OZ) – Wool, Denim, etc.
Heavyweight fabrics are often found in winter jackets, coats, blankets, and quilts. They are made of heavyweight fibers to provide thermal insulation against the cold. For example, flannel fabric is woven with thick yarns of wool and cotton to create a dense cloth that is excellent for keeping warm and cozy during the winter.
Some heavyweight fabrics have a “rugged” appearance and can withstand the elements such as rain and sun. They are popularly used in making flannel pajamas, denim coats, uniforms, and other outdoor apparel.
These materials are usually made from coarse or heavy materials woven together in a pattern to produce a thick cloth material. Some of these fabrics include broadcloth, twill, duck cloth, and denim jeans.
6. Extra Heavyweight Fabrics (14 OZ) – Velvet, Tweed, etc.
Extra heavyweight fabrics are woven from fibers that are more tightly packed together, resulting in a heavier weight than most fabrics. They’re used for heavy winter clothing and upholstery, as well as sports jackets and hoodies.
What Is Bottom Weight Fabric?
Even after learning about fabric weight, you don’t hear the term “top-weight fabric” and “bottom-weight fabric” anywhere.
This is because bottom-weight fabric is a general term that indicates medium to heavyweight fabrics that are woven, such as twill or denim. The easiest way to remember this is that bottom-weight fabric usually goes on the bottom of a fabric pile because it is heavier.
The most popular type of bottom-weight fabric is twill, which is one of the original weaves used in the textile industry. It has diagonal rib patterns, which are distinct from the straight weave patterns found in plain weaves. I personally love this tropical-themed twill bottom-weight fabric.
Originally made from cotton, twill can now be made from various natural and synthetic fibers. It is a popular fabric choice for homewares such as curtains or bed sheets.
Another popular bottom-weight fabric is chino. Chinos are made from cotton and are durable and long-lasting. They are similar to denim but can be lighter and have a more formal appearance compared to denim.
Denim is another popular bottom-weight fabric used in the textile industry. It’s made from cotton and features a sturdy weave, and is often seen in jeans, jackets, or overalls.
Tweed is a popular bottom-weight fabric used for making various outerwear items. It has lovely insulating abilities, and therefore, is quite a popular option for winter clothing.
The main advantage of bottom-weight fabric is its ability to hold its shape. Because of this, it is a good choice for structured garments that need to maintain a certain shape, for example, trousers or jackets.
Bottom-weight fabrics do not drape well, so they are not ideal for loose-fitting garments like blouses or shirts. Because they are thicker and more durable, you’ll often see bottom-weight fabrics used in winter clothing rather than summer clothing.
Things To Look Out For When Using Bottom Weight Fabric
Working with bottom-weight fabrics is similar to using other heavy fabrics. There are a few things that you should keep in mind to avoid any issues.
Bottom-weight fabrics like denim, canvas, and corduroy are rarely used for body-hugging pieces of clothing like dresses. The reason is that they don’t drape very well. They sit with a lot of volume on the top and not much weight on the bottom, making them hard to wear.
When sewing with bottom-weight fabric, you should also use bigger and sharper needles. This is because the fabric can be very thick and heavy, so a weak needle, or one that is dull, won’t do a very good job at penetrating the fabric, and you may end up breaking the needle when trying to sew!
In addition, bottom-weight fabrics require thicker threads because they need more strength to keep the seams from coming undone. This is especially important for seams and topstitching, where the stitches need to hold everything together, so you will need to use strong, durable thread to sew with them!