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What is Fabric Nap?

All about fabric nap

 
When you select a fabric for a garment, especially if the fabric is corduroy, velvet, velour, or has a 'pile' then you need to understand what the 'nap' of the fabric is and how to deal with it when preparing your pattern pieces for cutting. 

 

Nap on Liberty cords

 Liberty Rossmore and Kingly Cords from Sewbox 

 

What is nap?

 Put simply, the nap is the texture of the fabric and describes which way the fibres align. You can see the texture of the cords in the image above.

 

Checking direction of nap


Run your fingers over a corduroy and you can feel which way the fibres go smooth and flat and this is the direction of the nap. If you run your hand the other way, it feels rough and the colour of the fabric may change as the light hits the fibres in a different way. 

To make sure you can easily identify the direction of the nap, one tip is to draw a big arrow on your fabric with tailor's chalk in the direction of the nap so you can turn the fabric the correct way when cutting.

 

Pattern instructions

 
Check your pattern

When you select a sewing pattern that is suitable for sewing with a napped fabric, you must check the fabric quantities required. In the pattern above, fabric requirements have already allowed for the nap so you should have sufficient material to cut the fabric all in the same direction.

This not always the case and some patterns specify that you will need to allow extra fabric in order to lay it out so the pieces are running in the same direction. 

 It is recommended that you cut the pattern pieces so that the nap goes down the garment away from you for the most comfort as you run your hand down the garment. Most patterns suitable for napped fabrics will include a specific layout to allow for the nap. 

If you don't have a specific layout, you will need to pay particular attention to areas of the garment that will change direction when they are sewn; for example, collar pieces which may be turned over. If you don't get the nap in the right direction, it will affect how the garment looks and will spoil your hard work!

 

Pressing fabrics with a nap

You will need to press your seams at some point when making a garment with a napped fabric but the less pressing you can do, the better as the fibres will be easily crushed. 

It is a good idea to press your seams on the reverse of a napped fabric and lay it face down on a towel so that the fibres don't get crushed. 

Gently press with the point of the iron just along the seam so that your iron has minimal contact with the fabric to reduce the chances of crushing it. 


For further techniques on handling different types of fabrics see here.

Handling special fabrics