You know how they say the #1 rule in real estate is “location, location, location”. Well, in garment sewing the #1 rule is “fabric, fabric, fabric”. I’ve learned this the hard way several times over. Read the labels of your fabric choices carefully before asking a clerk to make your cut. A great website to research a type of fabric is http://www.denverfabrics.com/pages/sewinginfo/dfsewinghints/fabric-care.htm (a website that holds even better fabric info is http://www.fabrics.net/fabricinfo.asp, but it is difficult to navigate, so it frustrates me). But in all honesty it is going to be a lot of trial and error for the beginner seamstress. If you live close to a fabric store and can make many trips, the best solution would be to ask the clerk to cut you a sample of your favorite fabrics. Take the samples home and launder them (however you feel is best) and then run it through your sewing machine with a few stitching lines to see if it is easy to work with. I, however, don’t like to make repeat trips to the fabric store, so I try to go with my gut instinct on the fabric based on how it feels. For instance, a lot of the fabrics will say 100% cotton, but some feel rougher than others and the weight of the fabric varies. I judge the fabric based on weight, texture, and if it frays easily when I tug on the cut ends. Since I mostly sew for children, I try to choose the softest, most stain resistant, with the least fray, machine washable fabrics depending on the garment that I’m making. Do not depend solely on “suggested” materials! For example, I recently decided to venture in tutu making. I, personally, don’t like tutu’s made of tulle for children because it is scratchy, so I choose to make them of the other “suggested” materials: chiffon and satin. However, there are many different types of chiffon and satin. I did not know this, as I am a moron when it comes to sewing. The chiffon that I bought frayed easily. Thank God that I have a serger (to finish the edges), but this added days (no exaggeration) to the project. I, also, bought a satin which wrinkles and shrinks when it touches water. I had no idea that I was supposed to buy nylon chiffon tricot (I mean, really, why didn’t I just know that) and a polyester satin charmeuse. Notice how specific the titles of the fabrics are. You can’t just go in a store and buy chiffon and satin. You can’t even go and choose nylon chiffon or satin charmeuse because even they are variable.
For your first ventures in sewing, I recommend using 100% cotton, but pick a soft texture. The stiffer cottons are primarily used for quilting and will give garment a potato sack look and feel. Also, don’t be a cheapskate when it comes to the cost of cotton. The more expensive cottons wash well, wear well, last longer, and feel great to the touch. They cost more for a reason!