Fabric for fashion - book review.
Reviews,  Sewing books

Fabric for Fashion – a book review

Choosing a right fabric for your sewing project is essential if you really want to succeed with your project. I have written a little about how to recognize different fabric types when you are shopping for fabric for your sewing projects. However, there is so many fabrics and so much things to learn that when I got these two books as a birthday present, I was super excited! They are Fabric for Fashion – The Complete Guide and Fabric for Fashion – The Swatch Book by Clive Hallet and Amanda Johnston (Laurence King publishing, 2014).

These two books work best together. The first is a wonderfully illustrated book that explains the properties of different fabrics, their history, use and characteristics. The latter is a swatch book that has 125 genuine fabric swatches that can be touched and examined with more concise descriptions. I think that even a beginner seamstress could use these for both inspiration and information.

About the authors

The back cover of The Complete Guide has a little summary of the authors stating:

Clive Hallet is a freelance design consultant and a senior lecturer on a post-graduate course in Fashion Management at Northmubria University. He also lecturesa at several other universities. He has worked in the fashion industry since 1972 and has been a freelance design consultant since 1978.

Amanda Johnston has worked as a freelance design consultant since 1982 and currently teaches at London College of Fashion. She has also presented at the Royal College of Art and for the British Council. Since 2010 Amanda has acted as consultant and curator to The Sustainable Angle, a sustainable textile sourcing organization.

The Fabric for Fashion – The Complete Guide

The book has 272 pages and it has been divided into five sections. An Introduction, Animal Fibres, Plant Fibres, Man-made Fibres and Useful information.

The Introduction explains the production stages from fibres to fabrics. There is also a chapter about colour and the approach to colour in fashion design.

The chapters in Fibres-sections go through a short history of the fibres, the properties and production. Did you know that 100 million households around the world are currently involved in cotton production? Or that the tibetan antilope produces such a fine wool that it was hunted nearly to extinction to produce luxury shatoosh shawls and that nowadays, to protect this endangered species, it is illegal even to own a shatoosh shawl?

There is a lot of information also about the ethical and ecological impact of the different fibres. I like these since it allows the reader to make more informed choices.

I must admit that I have huge holes in my knowledge what comes to the man-made fibres category. I really didn’t have a clear idea what for instance lyocell fibre (above) was. Some of the newer fibres raised a lot of questions that I did not really have answers for. Like, what is milk fibre and how it is made?

The illustrations have been chosen well. The pictures from fashion designers showcase the range of different garments that can be achieved when taking advantage of the properties of different fabric types. Ever thought of making a hemp-satin wedding-gown? Me neither!

This is just an amazing book to have if just for inspiration. This is one of those books that you can open from whichever page and just start reading. You can buy it from Amazon.co.uk and it costs currently only  £16,88.

The fabric for fashion – The Swatch Book

Fabric for fashion – The Swatch book has 88 pages and the same structure as The Complete Guide. The fabric swatches are the reason why you really should buy this book. The number of fabrics that the book goes through is not as extensive as in The Complete Guide, but still good.

The animal fibres section handles only lambs wool and silk. However, there are 12 samples of different wool fabrics and whooping 20 different samples of silk fabrics! With this book I no longer need to feel confused when trying to decide between silk habotai or crêpe-de-chine when shopping fabric online.

In plant fibre section there are 5 different types of linen and 21 types of cotton fabrics. Even more cottons can be found in the Introduction where cottons are mainly used to describe different weaves and knits. I like how there are some cottons that I have never seen before, such as cotton moleskin and cotton organdie.

Furthermore, there are some alternative fabrics such as hem, bamboo and ramie. (Remember the ramie dress I made a while ago.)

Man-made fibres section covers both synthetic fibres and artificial fibres, where the latter term describes the fibres that have their origins in nature but that require chemical processes to make the actual fibres that can be used in garments. Viscose or rayon is one of fibres like this.

Synthetic fibres section swatches range from nylon netting to PVC-coated poly-cotton to wadding. There are also mixed fabrics such as polyester-cotton and viscose-cotton. All in all, this section has 24 fabric swatches.

The book is ring-bound and the presence of fabric swatches requires some care when turning the pages. The swatches seem to have been fastened with some kind of double-sided tape. The swatches stay in place but they may get wrinkled if you do not pay any attention.

I think this book is amazing resource that every sewists should have in their collection! Right now Amazon sells it for £36.75. Btw. the book is much more expensive at Amazon.com or Amazon.de so it pays to compare the different sites, before making your purchase!


If you only want to buy one book of these two, I’d recommend the swatch book. No description can beat the actual touching of fabric swatches. However, this does not mean that I do not recommend the other book, too! I haven’t yet had time to read it through properly but I have found very hard to put it down every time that I have picked it up and started reading.

Thank you for reading! Come back soon and in the meantime, Happy Sewing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • Jenna

    This is great! I’m so glad you reviewed these books since I’ve had them on my Amazon wish list for several years but couldn’t decide whether to get them or not. 🙂

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