Right Side vs. Wrong Side of Fabric

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When you’re getting dressed, you have clues to help you figure out whether or not your clothes have the right side facing out. Tags, labels, buttons, zippers, and seams are some of the ways we know whether or not our clothes are inside out.

When you’re working with fabric in a sewing project, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between the right and wrong side of fabric.

Why It Matters

Laying out pattern pieces, marking fabric, and even actually sewing, directions often refer to the right side and wrong side of fabric.

Look at a few directions I pulled from a pattern I have:

  • Fold fabric RIGHT SIDES together and pin the pattern to the WRONG SIDE of the fabric.
  • Pin pattern to the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric.
  • Lay one piece of tracing paper FACE UP under the WRONG SIDE of fabric.
  • With RIGHT SIDES together, pin sleeve to armhole edges…

Without knowing the difference between the right and wrong side of the fabric, sewing would be very frustrating. Who knows how a project would turn out!

Woven Fabrics – How to Tell the Right side from the Wrong Side

Woven Fabric with Printed Designs

It’s usually easy to tell the difference between the right and wrong side of a woven fabric with a design or pattern printed on it.

The colors on the right side are brighter. The wrong side of the fabric looks like a faded version of the right side.

woven fabric with print
This woven fabric has a pattern printed on it.

Designs Woven in the Fabric

Some fabrics, like plaids and gingham, have different colored lines woven into the fabric. When fabric is woven this way, there isn’t a difference between the right and wrong sides. Both sides are identical.

woven plaid
The colored threads in this plaid are woven so both sides are identical. I picked one side to be the right side. So the other side is the wrong side. You want to mark one side of the fabric when working with a fabric like this.
woven blue gingham
These blue and white threads are woven together in this gingham. Both sides are identical and I chose a side to be the right side. NOTE: The side labeled “wrong side” looks slightly darker in the photo than the “right side” because the fabric is somewhat sheer.

Caution: Some plaids and gingham can have the lines printed instead of woven. If you come across one of these fabrics, there will be a definite right side with colors that are brighter than on the wrong side.

printed gingham
This gingham has been printed. The wrong side is lighter in color than the right side.

Batiks

Batik is the name of a process for making designs on woven fabric using wax and dye. Batik is also the name of the fabric that is made from this process.

Because the fabric is dyed all the way through, there really isn’t a right or wrong side.

batik fabric
In this batik, I picked one side to be the right side. So the other side is the wrong side. You want to mark one side of the fabric when working with a fabric like this.

Solid Color Fabrics

Some solid color fabrics have a definite texture on one side, like velvet and corduroy. Usually, the side with the texture is the right side.

corduroy

However, it may be more difficult to determine the right side from the wrong side of fabrics that don’t have a noticeable texture.

solid color fabric without a texture
This fabric is twill. Is the labeled “right side” really the right side? It may depend on the look you want.

When you compare both sides of a woven fabric that doesn’t have much of a texture, there may be a slight difference in the weave (like in twill) or both sides may look identical. This depends on how the fabric was woven.

Either way, it may be obvious which side is the right side or you can decide based on how you want the finished project to look.

Knit Fabrics – How to Tell the Right side from the Wrong Side

Note: If you’re new to working with knits, take a look at A Beginner’s Guide to Different Types of Knits. With the info you find here, you’ll be able to tackle your first knit project!

The first item I made with knit fabric was a comfortable pair of stretch pants. The construction was simple so I could focus on working with the knit fabric. See if The Pippa Pants are for you, too.

Single Knit Fabrics

Single knit fabrics look different on the right and wrong side. This may be difficult to see if the stitches are very small.

The right side of a single knit fabric will look like rows of v’s (like the knit stitch with yarn).

knit stitches with yarn on the left and knit jersey on the right
Left: Knit stitches made with yarn. Right: The right side of a knit jersey.

The wrong side of a single knit fabric will look like small curves or bumps (like the purl stitch with yarn.)

purl stitches with yarn on the left and knit jersey on the right
Left: Purl stitches made with yarn. Right: The wrong side of a knit jersey.

Single Knits with Printed Designs

Just like a woven fabric with a printed design, it’s easy to tell the difference between the right and wrong sides of a single knit fabric.

The colors on the right side are brighter. The wrong side of the fabric looks like a faded version of the right side.

knit terry with a print

Jersey Knits

Jersey knits are considered a single knit fabric. It’s easy to tell the right from the wrong side of a jersey if there is a design or pattern printed on it.

But if it’s a solid color and the stitches are small, it may be difficult to tell the difference.

If you’re working with a jersey knit, there is a neat trick to determining the right from the wrong side.

  • The cut edge will curl toward the right side.
  • The selvage will curl toward the wrong side.
right and wrong side of a jersey knit

Double Knit Fabrics

Most double knit fabrics look the same on both sides because two layers of knit are up against each other and bonded when they are being made.

double knit Ponte
I didn’t label this Ponte double knit because both sides are identical. I couldn’t tell the difference!

It will more than likely be easy to tell the right side from the wrong side of a double knit fabric that has a print or design on it.

The brighter, more vibrant colors will be on the right side just like for a single knit or woven fabric.

Some fancy double knit fabrics may have a novelty stitch on one side so it will look different on the reverse. In that case, if there isn’t a print or design, you could pick whatever side you wanted for the right side.

Mark One Fabric Side

Whether it’s a woven or knit fabric, if both sides of the fabric look almost identical it’s important to mark either the right side or the wrong side of the pieces you cut, especially if the fabric has a subtle nap or sheen to it when the light hits it.

Marking the fabric helps you keep the sides of the fabric the same as you lay out the fabric, pin pattern pieces, and construct your project. As a result, the finished project will have a consistent look on the outside.

Marks can be made with tailor’s chalk, pens/pencils that disappear with heat or water, or even a regular pencil.

Solid color fabric with marks to identify wrong side
The top pen’s marks disappear with water. The tailor’s chalk below it brushes off over time. The next pen’s marks disappear with exposure to air or water. The marks from the quilting pencil will wear off over time.

If you mark the right side, you’ll want to make sure the marks will come off the fabric. Test this on a small piece or corner before marking up the fabric.

You don’t need to worry about removing marks on the wrong side because they won’t be seen.

Regardless of the fabric you’ve selected for your project, make sure you pay attention and follow pattern directions related to the right and wrong sides of the fabric.

Let’s Connect

My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.

Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at nicki@theruffledpurse.com and we can work together to get it figured out!

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