Sewing & Pattern making Terms


As a seamstress or pattern maker, familiarizing yourself with various sewing terms is essential for achieving professional and polished results. One such term to grasp is “nap,” which plays a significant role in fabric selection and garment construction. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what nap is, its importance in sewing, and how to work with it effectively.

What is Nap in Sewing?

Nap refers to the texture or surface fibers of a fabric that have been brushed or raised to create a specific direction or pile. It is commonly found in fabrics such as velvet, corduroy, flannel, and faux fur. When you run your hand over the fabric, you will notice that it feels different depending on the direction you stroke it. Understanding the nap is crucial because it affects both the appearance and functionality of your sewing projects.

The Importance of Nap

Understanding and working with the nap is vital for the following reasons:

  1. Visual Aesthetics: The nap affects how light interacts with the fabric, resulting in variations in color intensity and visual texture. When the nap is brushed or stroked in the same direction, the fabric appears uniform and reflects light consistently. In contrast, if the nap is disturbed or brushed in different directions, the fabric may appear uneven or have color variations, affecting the overall visual appeal of your garment.
  2. Texture and Feel: Fabrics with nap, such as velvet or faux fur, have a distinct tactile quality. By considering the direction of the nap when cutting and sewing, you can ensure that the fabric feels soft and luxurious when touched or worn. Ignoring the nap may result in an undesirable texture or an unflattering appearance.
  3. Light Reflection and Sheen: Nap affects the way light is reflected off the fabric’s surface. When the nap is brushed in a consistent direction, the fabric exhibits a uniform sheen or luster. In contrast, if the nap is disturbed or brushed in different directions, the fabric may appear dull or exhibit uneven sheen, compromising the desired look of your garment.

Working with Nap

When working with fabrics that have nap, it is crucial to consider the following guidelines:

  1. Identifying Nap:
  • Examine the fabric closely to determine the direction of the nap.
  • Stroke the fabric gently in different directions to observe any changes in color, texture, or sheen.
  1. Pattern Placement:
  • Take note of the nap direction indicated on the pattern or create your own arrow symbols to indicate the desired direction.
  • When laying out pattern pieces, ensure that all the pieces are oriented in the same direction as the nap. This consistency ensures uniformity in color, texture, and sheen.
  1. Cutting:
  • Place the pattern pieces on the fabric according to the nap direction.
  • Pin the pattern pieces securely to prevent shifting during cutting.
  • Cut the fabric using sharp scissors or a rotary cutter to ensure clean, precise edges.
  1. Seam Allowances:
  • Keep in mind that the nap may appear differently on the right and wrong sides of the fabric.
  • When sewing seams, ensure that the nap direction is consistent on both sides to maintain a cohesive appearance.
  1. Pressing and Ironing:
  • Be cautious when pressing fabric with nap to avoid crushing or flattening the raised fibers.
  • Place a pressing cloth or a piece of fabric over the nap to protect it while applying heat.
  • Use a low heat setting and gentle pressure when ironing to maintain the desired texture and appearance.


Understanding and working with nap in sewing is crucial for achieving visually pleasing and tactilely appealing garments. By considering the direction of the nap when selecting, cutting, and sewing fabric, you can enhance the overall aesthetics and texture of your creations. Remember to take your time, practice on scraps, and pay attention to the details. Incorporate the knowledge of nap into your sewing repertoire, and enjoy the beautiful results it brings to your sewing projects.

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Melissa Villegas
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