An In-Depth Guide To Fabrics That Hold Their Shape

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Stiff fabrics that hold their shape well include canvas, brocade, burlap, denim, duck cloth, and oilcloth.

Finding the perfect structured fabric to make clothing, curtains, crafts and more can be a challenge. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the world of stiff, shape-retaining fabrics so you can select the right material for your next project.

What Is Meant by Fabrics That Hold Their Shape?

Fabrics that hold their shape are those that maintain their original form and structure even after being stretched, worn, or laundered. These fabrics are known for their ability to resist wrinkles, creases, and sagging, making them highly desirable for various applications, including clothing, upholstery, and home textiles.

Rigid, Thick Fibers

One of the key factors that contribute to a fabric’s ability to hold its shape is the use of rigid, thick fibers. Fabrics made from fibers such as cotton, linen, wool, and certain synthetic materials like polyester and nylon tend to be more resilient and less prone to stretching or distortion.

These fibers have a natural elasticity that allows them to bounce back to their original shape.

In addition, the thickness of the fibers also plays a role in the fabric’s ability to hold its shape. Thicker fibers provide more support and structure, preventing the fabric from losing its form over time.

Fabric Construction Methods

The way in which a fabric is constructed also determines its ability to hold its shape. Certain weaving or knitting techniques can enhance the fabric’s stability and durability.

For example, fabrics with a tight weave or knit, such as twill or jersey, are known for their ability to resist stretching and maintain their shape. The tightness of the weave or knit limits the amount of give in the fabric, ensuring it retains its form even with regular use or stretching.

Additionally, the use of certain finishing techniques, such as the application of starch or other stiffening agents, can further enhance a fabric’s ability to hold its shape. These treatments provide additional support and structure to the fabric, making it more resistant to wrinkles and sagging.

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Benefits of Fabrics That Hold Shape

When it comes to choosing fabrics for clothing or upholstery, finding ones that hold their shape is crucial. Fabrics that maintain their structure offer several benefits that make them highly sought after by consumers. Let’s explore some of these advantages:

1. Durability

Fabrics that hold their shape tend to be more durable compared to those that easily stretch or sag. They can withstand repeated use and maintain their original form for a longer period of time. This is especially important for items such as furniture upholstery or garments that are subject to frequent wear and tear.

2. Wrinkle Resistance

One of the key benefits of fabrics that hold their shape is their resistance to wrinkling. These fabrics have a natural ability to bounce back to their original form, reducing the appearance of wrinkles even after prolonged use or sitting.

This makes them ideal for clothing items that need to look crisp and professional, such as suits or dresses.

3. Enhanced Comfort

Fabrics that hold their shape often provide better support and comfort. They offer a firmer and more structured feel, which can be particularly beneficial for upholstery or seating applications. This added support can help prevent discomfort and promote better posture.

4. Easy Maintenance

Another advantage of fabrics that hold their shape is that they are generally easier to maintain. These fabrics tend to resist stretching and shrinking, making them less prone to distortion after washing or cleaning.

This means less effort and time spent on ironing or reshaping the fabric to its original form.

Types of Fabrics That Hold Shape Well

When it comes to choosing fabrics for various projects such as upholstery, clothing, or home decor, it’s important to consider their ability to hold their shape. Some fabrics have a natural stiffness and structure that make them ideal for creating tailored and structured designs.

Here are some types of fabrics that are known for their excellent shape-holding properties:


Canvas is a durable and sturdy fabric that is commonly used for making bags, shoes, and outdoor furniture. Its tight weave and heavy weight give it excellent shape retention, making it perfect for items that require structure and stability.

Canvas is also known for its resistance to stretching and sagging, making it a reliable choice for projects that need to maintain their shape over time.


Brocade is a luxurious fabric that features intricate patterns woven into it. It is often used for formal wear, upholstery, and drapery. The tightly woven fibers of brocade give it a firm and rigid structure, allowing it to hold its shape exceptionally well.

Whether it’s a tailored jacket or a decorative pillow, brocade adds a touch of elegance while maintaining its crisp appearance.


Burlap, also known as hessian, is a coarse and rough fabric made from jute fibers. While it may not seem like an obvious choice for shape retention, burlap’s natural stiffness and texture make it an excellent option for crafts and home decor projects.

From sturdy tote bags to rustic table runners, burlap retains its shape effortlessly, adding a charming and rustic touch to any design.


Denim, the iconic fabric used in jeans, is renowned for its durability and ability to hold its shape. Its tightly woven cotton fibers and twill weave create a sturdy and structured fabric that withstands repeated wear and washing.

Whether it’s a pair of jeans or a denim jacket, this fabric retains its shape and offers a timeless appeal.

Duck Cloth

Duck cloth, also known as duck canvas, is a heavy and tightly woven fabric that is commonly used for making workwear, bags, and home decor items. Its dense weave makes it highly resistant to stretching and sagging, ensuring that projects made with duck cloth maintain their shape.

From durable aprons to sturdy upholstery, duck cloth is a reliable choice for designs that require shape retention.


Oilcloth is a waterproof fabric that is often used for tablecloths, aprons, and outdoor items. It is made by coating a cotton or linen fabric with oil or wax, giving it a shiny and slightly rigid surface.

The coating provides oilcloth with excellent shape retention, making it a practical choice for items that need to withstand spills and outdoor conditions.

When selecting fabrics for your projects, consider the specific requirements of your design. These fabrics mentioned above are just a few examples of materials that hold their shape well. By choosing the right fabric, you can ensure that your creations maintain their structure and look great for years to come.

Tips for Sewing Stiff, Structured Fabrics

Use the Right Needles and Pins

When working with stiff and structured fabrics, it’s important to use the right needles and pins to ensure smooth sewing. Opt for sharp and sturdy needles, such as universal or jeans needles, which can easily penetrate through the fabric without causing any damage.

These needles have a stronger shaft and sharper point, allowing them to glide through the fabric with ease. Avoid using fine or delicate needles, as they may bend or break under the pressure of sewing through stiff fabrics.

In addition to the right needles, using the correct pins is also crucial. Longer pins with a thicker shaft, such as quilting pins, are ideal for holding stiff fabrics in place. They provide better stability and prevent the fabric from shifting or wrinkling during the sewing process.

Add Interfacing for Extra Structure

Interfacing is a great tool to add extra structure and stability to stiff fabrics. It is a layer of fabric that is attached to the wrong side of the main fabric to provide support and shape. There are different types of interfacing available, such as fusible and sew-in.

Fusible interfacing is applied using heat, while sew-in interfacing is stitched directly onto the fabric.

Before attaching the interfacing, it’s important to pre-shrink it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will prevent any shrinkage or distortion after the garment is sewn. Cut the interfacing slightly smaller than the fabric piece to avoid any bulkiness or visible edges.

Once attached, the interfacing will give the fabric the necessary structure without compromising its drape.

Take It Slow

Sewing stiff, structured fabrics requires patience and precision. It’s important to take your time and sew slowly to ensure accurate stitching. Rushing through the process can lead to uneven seams and puckering.

Start by testing your stitches on a scrap piece of fabric to ensure the tension and stitch length are appropriate for the type of fabric you are working with. Adjust them if needed before sewing your actual project.

When sewing, guide the fabric through the machine using gentle pressure and let the machine do the work. Avoid pulling or stretching the fabric, as it can distort the shape and compromise the structure.

Use your hands to guide the fabric smoothly, making sure it stays in place and feeds evenly under the presser foot.

By following these tips, you can successfully sew stiff, structured fabrics and create garments that hold their shape beautifully.

Projects Well-Suited to Structured Fabrics

When it comes to choosing fabrics for your projects, selecting the right type of fabric can make a significant difference in the final outcome. Structured fabrics are known for their ability to hold their shape, adding a polished and professional look to any project.

Whether you’re a seasoned crafter or just starting out, here are some project ideas that are well-suited to structured fabrics.

Bags and Totes

Structured fabrics are ideal for creating durable and functional bags and totes. These fabrics provide stability and help the bag maintain its shape, even when carrying heavier items. Whether you’re making a stylish handbag, a roomy tote for groceries, or a practical backpack, structured fabrics such as canvas, denim, or leather are excellent choices.

They offer both durability and style, ensuring your bag looks great while standing up to everyday use.

Outerwear like Jackets

When it comes to outerwear, structured fabrics are a fantastic option. They add structure and body to jackets, making them look more tailored and polished. Fabrics such as wool, tweed, and leather are great choices for creating structured jackets that hold their shape.

These fabrics not only provide warmth but also give a fashionable and put-together look to your outerwear. Whether you’re making a blazer, a coat, or a bomber jacket, structured fabrics can elevate your outerwear game.

Curtains and Drapes

If you’re looking to add a touch of elegance and sophistication to your home, structured fabrics are an excellent choice for curtains and drapes. These fabrics have a stiffer drape, allowing them to hang beautifully and maintain their shape.

Fabrics such as velvet, brocade, or even heavy-weight cotton can add a luxurious and tailored look to your windows. Structured curtains and drapes not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of your space but also provide privacy and control over light entering the room.

When working with structured fabrics, it’s essential to choose the right sewing techniques and tools. Consider using a sturdy sewing machine and appropriate needles and threads to ensure smooth sewing and professional-looking results.

Remember, the key to successful projects with structured fabrics lies in their ability to hold their shape, adding that extra touch of quality and sophistication to your creations.


Stiff, shape-retaining fabrics open up many possibilities for sewing, crafting, and home decor projects. By selecting the right material for your needs from options like canvas, brocade, burlap and more, you can create structured garments, accessories, furnishings and crafts that hold their shape beautifully.

Just be sure to follow some best practices when working with these rigid fabrics. We hope this guide gives you the knowledge you need to start your next shapely project! Let us know if you have any other questions.

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