Bottom weight fabric is a type of fabric that is commonly used for making garments like pants, jeans, shorts, skirts, and dresses. As the name suggests, bottom weight fabric is heavier and more durable than regular apparel fabrics, which makes it ideal for constructing garments that need to hold their shape well.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about bottom weight fabrics, including:
Table of Contents
What Is Bottom Weight Fabric?
Bottom weight fabric, also sometimes called bottomweight fabric or bottoms weight fabric, refers to fabrics that are heavyweight and dense compared to regular light or medium-weight fabrics used for clothing construction.
The term “bottom weight” comes from the fact that these sturdier, thicker fabrics are ideal for making bottoms or garments for the lower body, like pants, shorts, skirts, and dresses. The heftier weight helps these garments maintain structure and silhouette.
Here are some of the key characteristics of bottom weight fabrics:
- Heavyweight – Bottom weight fabrics are thicker and heavier than regular suiting or apparel fabrics. The fabric weight is usually 10 oz or above per square yard.
- ** Sturdy and durable** – The dense weave and heavier weight make bottom weight fabrics very sturdy and resilient. They are less prone to wrinkling or losing shape.
- Provide structure – The stiffness and sturdiness of the fabric provide structure and shape retention to garments, especially bottoms. This prevents sagging.
- Opaque – Bottom weight fabrics tend to be opaque rather than sheer. The tight weave does not allow light to pass through easily.
- May have stretch – Many bottom weight fabrics incorporate spandex or other stretch fibers to allow movement while retaining structure.
- Commonly used for bottoms – The combination of durability, structure, and opacity make bottom weight fabrics ideal for pants, jeans, shorts, skirts, and dresses.
Bottom vs Top Weight Fabric
Bottom weight fabrics are often contrasted with top weight fabrics, which are used for tops, blouses, and shirts. Here’s a quick comparison:
|Bottom Weight Fabric
|Top Weight Fabric
|Heavier, thicker, and stiffer
|Lighter weight and more drapey
|Provide structure and shape retention
|Move with the body
|Sheer or translucent options common
|Used for bottoms and dresses
|Used for blouses, tops, and shirts
Types of Bottom Weight Fabrics
There are many different types of fabrics that qualify as bottom weight. Here are some of the most common:
Denim is arguably the most popular and iconic bottom weight fabric. It’s known for its signature diagonal twill weave, which creates a sturdy, structured fabric perfect for jeans. Most denim uses cotton warp yarns and weft yarns in an indigo blue color for its signature look. Stretch denim incorporates elastane fibers to add flexibility while retaining shape. Denim ranges from 10 oz to 15 oz in weight.
Twill is a woven fabric known for its instantly recognizable diagonal pattern. The twill weave creates durable, sturdy fabrics perfect for bottom weight uses. Twill fabrics like gabardine or cavalry twill have a distinct diagonal line pattern. Twill made from wool is common for suiting and uniforms. Cotton and polyester twills also work well for bottom weight needs.
Canvas is an extremely heavy, durable, plain weave fabric perfect for bottom weight uses. It is thick and stiff. Canvas comes in both cotton and cotton-polyester blends. It can be found in weights from 10oz and up. Duck canvas is a common heavyweight type used for pants and shorts.
Corduroy is a durable, mid-weight fabric with its recognizable raised vertical cords. It is commonly used for pants and skirts. Wide wale corduroy is the heavier bottom weight variety, while pinwale is lighter. Cotton is the most common fiber, but corduroy also comes in cotton/polyester blends.
Flannel is a warm, soft, brushed fabric that makes excellent durable bottom weight pants and shirts. Cotton flannel is the most common, but it also comes in wool or wool blends. Flannel is typically napped on one or both sides for extra softness and warmth.
Velveteen has a short, dense piled weave that creates a soft napped finish ideal for skirts and pants. Cotton velveteen is the most common type, but it also comes in blends. It is perfect for creating soft yet structured bottoms.
Ponte is a knit fabric with the feel and drape of a woven. It incorporates spandex for stretch and recovery. Ponte has a smooth, flat face and comes in medium to heavy weights perfect for fitted dresses, skirts, and pants. It is usually a polyester, rayon, or viscose blend.
Fleece is a napped insulating fabric that makes warm, casual bottoms and outerwear. Polyester fleece is common, but fleece also comes in cotton and wool blends. It comes in a range of weights from 7oz to over 15oz. Heavier options work well for pants.
Suiting fabrics like wool tropical, wool gabardine, or wool crepe are often used to make tailored pants, shorts, and skirts. These fabrics are designed to hold structure while allowing movement and comfort. Polyester and wool blends are also common.
Chino cloth is a durable, mid-weight cotton fabric in a twill or plain weave. It is known for being breathable, comfortable, and perfect for making chinos and other types of pants. Chino comes in weights from 6oz to 10oz typically.
Drill is durable thick cotton fabric with a strong diagonal twill weave. It has a flat, harsh feel originally designed for workwear. Drill cloth is often used to make jeans, overalls, cargo pants, and other hardwearing bottoms.
This table summarizes some of the common bottom weight fabric types:
|10oz – 15oz
|Strong, structured; twill weave
|Wool, cotton, polyester
|6oz – 15oz
|Durable, diagonal twill weave
|10oz – 18oz
|Extremely durable and stiff
|Medium to heavy
|Vertical raised cords
|Medium to heavy
|Soft, brushed nap
|Medium to heavy
|Short dense piled weave
|Polyester, rayon, viscose + spandex
|Medium to heavy
|Knit with woven feel
|Polyester, cotton, wool blends
|7oz – 15oz+
|Warm, napped pile
|Wool, polyester, blends
|Medium to heavy
|Structure with drape
|6oz – 10oz
|Strong diagonal twill
How to Choose Bottom Weight Fabrics
Here are some tips on how to select the right bottom weight fabric for your needs:
- Garment type – Consider the type of bottom you are making. Workwear and jeans call for very sturdy denim, drill, or canvas. Tailored pants and skirts do better in suiting fabrics. Everyday wear often uses chinos, twills, flannel, or ponte knits.
- Structure vs drape – Do you need a very stiff, molded structure like with jeans? Or gentle drape like in a skirt? Suiting fabrics provide both structure and fluid drape. Denim and canvas are very stiff. Knits like ponte allow for more flow.
- Opaque vs sheer – If transparency is a concern, steer towards more opaque bottom weights like twill, canvas, denim, or chino. Stay away from lighter suiting or tropical wool fabrics. Ponte knits are also opaque.
- Stretch – Consider if you need stretch for comfort and flexibility. Many bottom weights like ponte, denim, and tropical wools incorporate spandex or stretch fibers. Or choose an inherently stretchy knit like ponte.
- Weight – Fabrics on the lighter end of the bottom weight spectrum like chinos or tropical wools are good for warmer climates and more relaxed garments. Super heavy denim, drill, and canvas are great for durable workwear and cold weather.
- Fabric feel and texture – Do you want a smooth, uniform feel like ponte or twill? Or interesting textures like corduroy or velveteen? Brushed flannel and fleece are ultra-soft. Denim, canvas, and drill have a stiff, rugged feel.
How to Sew with Bottom Weight Fabrics
Sewing with thick, dense bottom weight fabrics differs from sewing lighter garments. Here are some top tips to successfully work with bottom weights:
Select the Right Needles
Choosing needles specifically designed for heavyweight fabric is essential. Use thicker, stronger needles to pierce through dense bottom weight fabrics without bending or breaking. Size 16/100 or 18/110 are good options for most bottom weights. Denim and canvas may need extra heavy duty needles like size 21. Be sure to check your sewing machine manual for its recommended needle sizes for heavy fabrics. Dull needles can damage and shred thick seams.
Use the Correct Thread Weight
Pair heavy duty needles with thicker all-purpose thread created for heavy fabrics. A thread weight of 30 or 35 is a good match for most bottom weights. Higher numbers indicate thicker threads. For heavyweight denim or canvas, move up to a 40 weight thread or a special denim thread. The thread weight should be heavy enough to pass smoothly through the needle eye and fabric without excessive friction.
Engage the Presser Foot Pressure
Increasing your sewing machine’s presser foot pressure will help feed stiff bottom weight fabrics smoothly and prevent layers from shifting. Check your manual on how to adjust the pressure for heavy fabrics. Do not crank it too high, or it may damage delicate fabrics. Ease it back down for lighter materials.
Consider a Rolled Hem Presser Foot
A rolled hem foot specially designed for heavy fabrics can help you achieve neat narrow hem finishes on thick seams. The specialized foot feeds the fabric smoothly and folds the edge over evenly. Look for rolled hem feet rated for heavy fabrics or denim.
Baste First for Tricky Areas
For tricky areas like curves, corners, or drapes, consider basting or pinning the pieces first to hold them in place. The extra stiffness of bottom weights can make manipulating curves tough. Basting prevents layers from shifting while sewing. You can remove the basting stitches once the permanent seams are sewn.
Finish Seams for Durability
Finishing raw edges is especially important with bottom weights to prevent fraying and strengthen seams. Consider extra stitching options like flat felled seams, or use seam tape, zigzag stitches, or serging to secure edges on high-stress areas. Belt loops, crotch seams, and waistbands need extra reinforcement.
Check for Fabric Shifting
Periodically stop sewing and check behind and under the presser foot to make sure the heavy fabric layers aren’t shifting while stitching. Shifting can throw off seam alignment and lead to crooked lines. Adjust presser foot pressure if slipping occurs.
Press as You Sew
Be diligent about pressing seams flat as you sew, especially when joining heavy pieces like denim. This helps seams lie flat and reduces bulk. Invest in a high heat iron if working with thicker bottom weights to ensure proper pressing. Always test iron heat on fabric scraps first.
Use Clips Not Pins
Thick fabric is hard to penetrate with pins. Clips or quilting clips do a better job of holding stiff bottom weight layers together while sewing. Check that clips are gripping fabric well before sewing to prevent slippage.
Following these tips will lead to professional-looking garments that hold their shape beautifully when sewing with bottom weight fabrics. Take it slow, use the right tools, and don’t be afraid to handle stiff fabrics. With practice, you’ll get the hang of managing heavier bottom weights for stellar finished pieces.
What is bottom weight fabric?
Bottom weight fabric refers to heavyweight, dense fabrics used for constructing garments like pants, shorts, skirts, and dresses. The thickness provides structure and durability ideal for bottoms.
What are common examples of bottom weight fabrics?
Some examples are denim, twill, canvas, corduroy, ponte knits, suiting fabrics like tropical wool, velveteen, flannel, drill, fleece, and chino. Almost any sturdy, opaque fabric in a heavier weight can work as a bottom weight.
How heavy is bottom weight fabric?
Most bottom weight fabrics range from 10 oz per square yard up to 18oz or higher. This compares to dress shirt fabrics that can be as light as 3-5oz. Sturdy denim is usually 12oz-15oz while canvas can be 18oz+. Suiting fabrics often fall in the 9oz-12oz range.
Why are they called bottom weights?
The term “bottom weight” refers to the fact that heavier, thicker fabrics are ideal for garments worn on the lower body. The heft and structure helps pants, shorts, jeans, and skirts hold their silhouette without sagging.
What’s the difference between bottom and top weight fabrics?
Bottom weights are thick, stiff, opaque fabrics that hold structure well. Top weights are lighter, drapier fabrics with more fluidity that move with the body. Top weights are commonly used for blouses, shirts, and other garments worn on the upper body.
How do you sew with heavy bottom weight fabrics?
Use heavy duty needles and thread. Increase presser foot pressure. Baste tricky areas first. Use sturdy clips instead of pins. Reinforce seams with flat felling or serging. Check for shifting fabric. Press frequently as you sew. Take it slow and don’t force layers.
Bottom weight fabrics encompass a wide range of heavyweight, opaque fabrics ideal for constructing durable bottoms that hold their structure and shape over time. From stiff denim and canvas to drapey suiting fabrics and stretchy ponte knits, bottom weights are available in many fibers, weaves, and weights. While the density and thickness of bottom weight fabrics makes them more challenging to sew than lighter materials, having the right tools and techniques makes all the difference. With heavy duty needles and thread, appropriate presser foot pressure, and strategic clipping and pressing, sewists can create impeccably tailored pants, jeans, shorts, skirts, and dresses that maintain their silhouette. When you need a garment that will stand up to repeated wear without losing shape, remember to reach for sturdy, resilient bottom weight fabrics.