How to Choose the Right Spoonflower Fabric for Pants

JAN 8, 2020 updated Jun 5, 2021

If you’re feeling a little fancy this month, we don’t blame you. All of this talk about sewing fancy pants is giving us the urge to swap out our universal needles for denim needles and hunker down for a Saturday in the sewing studio. For those new to Sew Fancy Pants, the mission of this friendly month-long “challenge” is to get members of the sewing community making pants that are their own definition of “fancy” and have a little fun while we’re at it.

But what if you’re new to sewing and don’t know what types of fabric work best for pants? Katie is here to give you the inside scoop on all of the bottom weight fabrics available at Spoonflower. For an added bonus, she’s even rounded up her pick of Marketplace designs and patterns from indie sewing pattern companies to help get your started. So what are you waiting forit’s time to sew some fancy pants!

Find out what pants the Spoonflower team is sewing this year in our Make Nine round-up.

Katie: It’s January, which means it’s time for Sew Fancy Pants! Started by Nicole F. Merritts of Merritts Makes, Sew Fancy Pants is the perfect time to dive right into sewing something that many people find tricky or scary—PANTS! All throughout the month we’re sharing blog posts featuring tips and advice for sewing pants with a little help from our friends Brad Schultz, Rumana, and Sierra Burrell. Be sure to go check them out and follow along! 

Feathers in Paradise

Today I’m here to talk all about choosing the right fabric for your pants. I will talk about the substrates that Spoonflower offers and bottom weight fabrics in general so you can make an informed decision on which type of fabric to choose for your pattern. Are you ready? Let’s GO!

If you go to my curated pants collection you will see a wide variety of prints ranging from subtle to bold. My hope is that even those who are timid about wearing prints on their pants can find something they love! 

A small print will read almost like a solid color from afar and an animal print is mainstream enough that I think anyone could be confident in those. So, if you want to dip your fingers into something a little fun, go for a subtle print! 

If you want to make a statement though and want a pair of pants no one will forget, then go for the bright, big-shaped print that makes you feel like a star!

Choosing the Right Spoonflower Fabric for Pants

I have rounded up all the pants sewing patterns I own so that I can give you an idea of the types of pants that work well with each fabric. These are all pants that I have personally made and can attest to, but I will also give suggestions of other patterns I have not yet tried. 

Linen Cotton Canvas

The Linen Cotton Canvas is technically a home decor fabric but it has been one of my favorites to work with lately—I also made a Tamarak Jacket out of it!—for apparel. It has the luxury of linen, and the weight of a light canvas, making it perfect for pants and overalls! When making structured non-stretch pants, I have found canvas is a good substitute for denim with most sewing patterns. I used it to make these Jenny Overalls!

  • 54″ wide printable area (137 cm)
  • 6.2 oz per square yard
  • Thread Count: 100 x 48
  • Estimated Shrinkage: 2-4% in length, 0-2% in width
Green Painted Rainbow by katiekortman

Additional Pattern Suggestions
Yanta Overalls, Kendrick Overalls, Persephone Pants, Dawn Jeans, Morgan Jeans, Jutland Pants.

Lightweight Cotton Twill

Twill is an obvious choice for pants, it’s what chinos are made of normally. It has a diagonal parallel rib on the front side and smooth back. There are different weights of twill, and the weight will dictate what type of pant pattern you want to use. This lightweight twill would work for chinos, but because it is light you could use it for an elastic-waisted pant or even boho-inspired wide leg pants like the ones featured in this DIY tutorial.

  • Printable width: 58″ (147 cm)
  • 5.8 oz per square yard (195 gsm)
  • Estimated shrinkage: 4-6% in length and 1-2% in width

Additional Pattern Suggestions
Tully Pants, Flint Pants, Jedediah Pants

Dogwood Denim

Fable Floral by nouveau_bohemian | Philippa Pants 

Denim is an obvious choice for pants. It is durable, gets softer overtime and holds up when you want to adventure. Denim has a wide range of weights, but medium weight denim is in the 12-16 oz range. Spoonflower’s Dogwood denim is 11.7 oz and perfect for your high-waisted jeans patterns. It will provide structure to your waist and hip area—that’s a nice way of saying “it’s gonna hold it all in”. I loved it for the Philippa pants (pictured below) and can’t wait to make more in other prints!

  • Printable width: 56″ (142 cm)
  • 11.7 oz per square yard (395 gsm)
  • Estimated shrinkage: 7-8% in length and 1-2% in width

Additional Pattern Suggestions
Persephone Pants, Dawn Jeans, Morgan Jeans, Quadra Jeans

Cypress Cotton Canvas

Cypress Cotton Canvas is a looser, basketweave home decor fabric that I also like for apparel! It is similar to bark cloth which I have used to make Burnside Bibs in the past. I think it would be fabulous for some wide-legged pants. It does loosen as you wear it, because of the weave, so use it for pants and overalls that you don’t need to be tight.

  • Printable width: 56″ (142 cm)
  • 10.6 oz per square yard (360 gsm)
  • Estimated shrinkage: 3-4% in length and 0-1% in width

Additional Pattern Suggestions
Yanta Overalls, Burnside Bibs, Jessa Trousers, Peppermint Wide leg pants

 Organic Cotton Sateen

Think of Spoonflower’s Organic Cotton Sateen as an elevated cotton. It has a softness and drape along with a slight sheen that makes it feel more luxurious than plain cotton. I have used it for dresses but think it would be perfect for a drapey, loose pant. I went with a bold print for this fabric because I think it suits this type of pant! 

  • Printable width: 56″ (142 cm)
  • 3.8 oz per square yard (130 gsm)
  • Estimated shrinkage: 3-4% in length and width

Additional Pattern Suggestions
Tierras Woven Joggers, Emerson Pants, Rose Pants

Cotton Poplin

While this substrate would traditionally be used for shirts, dresses and skirts, I think you could use it for light, summery pants as well. The Emerson and Rose pants are both staples in my summer wardrobe and blend the cross between skirt and pant. They would be perfect in a fun print in breathable Cotton Poplin! It is crisp and smooth, but has a nice drape when laundered.

  • Printable width: 42″ (107 cm)
  • 3.3 oz per square yard (115 gsm)
  • Estimated shrinkage: 5-6% in length and 3-4% in width

Additional Pattern Suggestions
Tierras Woven Joggers, Tully Pants, Free Range Slacks

Poly Crepe de Chine

It is no secret that this is one of my very favorite Spoonflower fabrics! I use it for shirts and dresses, and now I realize I need it for some swishy, fancy culottes in the summer—or with tights in the winter? I also think that when you have a flowy fabric such as this, you can go bigger on your print and it will almost look like a fun printed skirt! The Poly Crepe De Chine is breathable despite being synthetic, and it doesn wrinkle when you travel (I know from experience!). It is slightly sheer white so pick prints colored backgrounds and darker prints if you don’t want to line your culottes.

  • Printable width: 52″ (132 cm)
  • 1.9 oz per square yard (65 gsm)
  • Estimated shrinkage: 0-1% in length and 1-2% in width

Additional Pattern Suggestions
Tania Culottes, Ultimate Culottes, Samara Pants

Sport Lycra

Africa Africa by booboo_collective | Sloan Leggings

Lycra is a fave for swimwear and athleisure. The Sport Lycra available at Spoonflower is high quality and withstands workouts in and out of the water. It has good “recovery” and will let you do those squat jumps without batting an eyelash or wick away moisture so no-one-is-the-wiser if you sweat a little.

  • Printable width: 56″ (142 cm)
  • 8.5 oz per square yard (290 gsm)
  • 4-way stretch, 75% in width and 50% in length
  • Estimated shrinkage: 1-3% in length and 0-1% in width
  • Colorfast to chlorinated and salt water

Additional Pattern Suggestions
Avery Leggings and Super G Tights

Adding Pockets to Your Pants

Another fun way to add print to your pants is on the inside! Who doesn’t love to see pretty pockets and trims when they slip their pants on? It’s a great way to add a fun pop of color or whimsy, or an inside joke (and keep it on the inside)! I sewed some plain black jeans recently, and wanting them to have fun details, I added a pair of pockets from a fat quarter of Spoonflower’s Petal Signature Cotton™.

You can sew the fun print so you see it from the inside of the pants, or for when you peer into your pockets. I chose to keep the swan print on the inside of the pocket, but I’m thinking I need to keep them pulled out like this for all to see.

One last word on wearing prints on your pants

Whether you go with a bold print or subtle design—just know that if YOU feel confident in what you’re wearing, no one will question it (and if they do—who the heck cares!) That’s my two cents. I used to care what people thought too, and I still lament over the bright orange overalls and patent-leather yellow platforms I only wore once in 9th grade because of some stupid remarks from 10th grade boys.


About the Guest Author

Katie Kortman is a sewist, artist, and self-proclaimed dancing queen. Over the years she has sold her artwork in galleries, worked as a display artist for Anthropologie, taught high school art, had a handmade accessories company called Blue-Eyed Freckle, and mothered her four children.

Katie enjoys combining her passions into one by using her artwork to design fabric on Spoonflower, that she can then sew up into clothing (and DANCE). She blogs at katiekortman.com and over on Instagram you can find her @katiekortmanart where she dances around in her handmade wardrobe.

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  • I am extremely interested in different ways to use 100% cotton decor fabrics in clothing. Some of the above inferred it is more usable than most would guess. Can you give more detailed information on what can and cannot be ‘worn’ in this fabric line.

    • Hi Colleen,

      We offer a variety of 100% cotton fabrics that are great for apparel! Thicker fabrics like Lightweight Cotton Twill, Dogwood Denim, or Cypress Cotton Canvas would be best for sturdier pieces like wide-leg pants or a floppy hat. For things like blouses or skirts with less structure, we recommend fabrics like Cotton Poplin, Organic Cotton Sateen, or Organic Cotton Knit.

      Best,
      Anna
      Spoonflower

  • Delores Fisher

    I am interested in having women’s trousers, pencil skirts, jackets (work/career) manufactured. What is the best material to use? Is Poplin a good option?

    • Hi Delores,

      We recommend looking at more sturdy fabrics for work pants/skirts, like Cotton Twill.

      Best,
      Anna
      Spoonflower

  • This article was very helpful to me. I was wondering all along, if fabrics like the linen cotton canvas, which was proclaimed for other uses, could go for pants as well. Now I know. 🙂 Thank you!

  • This was so useful! I’ve been thinking about boilersuits recently and this information really helps. In my mind most of these fabrics would work for slightly different looks, depending on the bulkiness/structuredness of the pattern and I’m leaning towards cotton twill but if you have any thoughts I’d really like to hear them. Thanks! Also I love the bright prints which look great!

  • This article is really interesting! Later this year I plan to make some Closet Case Pietra Pants, and I was thinking I could make them in Lightweight Cotton Twill. Would you say this is a good choice, or would you advise using another fabric?

    • Hi Juliette,
      The Lightweight Cotton Twill would be a great option for a structured pair of Pietra Pants. We do recommend starting with an 8″ sample swatch of your final design on your chosen substrate to make sure it’ll work!

  • I’d use any kind of bulky fabrics for slacks! I would rather either choose my own designs, or another fellow user’s design…recently, I’ve come across designs that really caught my eye, next to one of my own, “Look at Her…!” It’s cool to be unique, and different!

  • Sherry Berbit

    So enjoyed this! Very helpful/useful. Have been following Katie on IG, have also been a lifelong “patterned pants” advocate- love me some unexpected prints on the bottom. People often say – “only you could get away with that”- bah!!! Keep your boring black, I absolutely love Spoonflower prints, so novel, so unique, so delightful!! Just did my dining room in fable floral black wallpaper, have made the most beautiful men’s, women’s and kid’s tees in the organic cotton jersey, such a yummy fabric to see and to wear. Spoonflower is my new addiction. Nothing like it anywhere.

  • Oh, this is informative and so all around gorgeous! I’d like to try the Dogwood Denim for pants.

  • Fabulous information on your fabrics and pants patterns. Katie is so inspirational and I have enjoyed and learned so much from following along. Thank you! The printed fabrics I have received from you are always beautiful😄🌈💗

  • I’d love to try cotton sateen for pants. I have made a top out of that fabric and it was so nice to sew with. And as much as I like fitted pants I find myself drawn more to more flowy silhouettes lately.