Understanding Fabric Nap for Sewing Projects

Fabric Nap - Valour Fabric in Two Directions
Valour Fabric in Two Different Directions. Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com

When you are reading a pattern envelope or getting ready to buy fabric for a project, understand fabric nap is essential. A pattern envelope will list fabric with nap or fabric without nap and in most cases, you will notice different fabric requirements depending upon fabric nap.  If you fabric has nap, all of the pattern pieces must be laid in the same direction or it will look like you are using two different color fabrics.

Definition: A fabric with nap is one what usually has a pile and will look different color shades from different angles. Velvet, velour, terry cloth, corduroy, and suede fabric are prime examples of fabric with nap.

When cutting out fabric, the with nap and the without nap directions are usually different to allow all of the with nap pattern pieces to lie in the same direction.
Fabric with a one way design will also use the with nap cutting layout, so that the design on the fabric all runs in the same direction on the finished item.

If you are in doubt about a fabric having a nap to it, there are a couple ways to test the fabric. 

  • One is to lay the fabric on a surface and brush it with your hand. Now brush the fabric right next to where you brushed it, in the opposite direction.  If there is a nap to the fabric the fabric will appear different depending up on what direction you have brushed the fibers.
  • You can also take a length of the fabric and fold it up on itself so the fabric is going down in one and up in the folded section. If there is nap, you will see the fabric as it fit were different colors, as it does in the photos included in this article.

When in doubt, play it safe and use a nap lay out, rather  than regret it later.

Pronunciation: n- ah- p

Also Known As: with nap, without nap

Examples: If a velvet gown is not cut out with all the pattern pieces going in the same direction, the dress will look like it was made with two different color fabrics.

A pattern envelop lists different amounts of fabric that is needed depending upon if the fabric is with or without nap, because if the fabric has nap you must lay the pattern pieces in the same direction.