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When I was looking through my collection of fabric, there were several pieces where I couldn’t tell the difference between the right and the wrong side. So I decided to do some research to find out the easiest way to tell the difference. 

How to identify the right and wrong side of fabric can be easier than you think.  If the fabric has a print or design, the right side will have a bright, colorful side. But the wrong side will be lighter and dull. It’s harder to decide the right side if the fabric looks very similar on both sides. You must compare how each side and selvage looks and feels.

In the rest of this blog, I will share with you some tips that can help you as you compare each side of your fabric. There are some guidelines that will help you to see subtle differences between the right and wrong sides.

So let’s get started on our adventure.

Tips to Find the Right Side of a Solid Fabric

Compare Both Sides of Your Fabric

The right side may look richer or shinier. The wrong side will look slightly duller. But the contrast won’t be as extreme as a fabric with print.

The right side will feel smoother and sometimes you will notice an added finish. The wrong side will feel rougher and sometimes even a little hairy.

But if your fabric is textured, the right side may feel bumpy and even a little rough. While the wrong side will feel slightly smoother. In this case, you may even want to use the wrong side as the side that will be seen on the outside. But this is up to you.

Compare the Selvages

There are two ways to compare the selvages.

The first way is to look at the holes that are in the selvage. These holes are made during the manufacturing process and will not affect the wear of the fabric.         

I thought I remembered being taught that if the holes are being pressed up and the edges feel rough then that is the right side.             

But I thought that I better search online to make sure that my memory was right.

Well, I found out that some people were saying that the opposite was true. They were saying that the right side was where the holes in the selvage were pressed down and the selvage felt smooth.

So, I decided to check some samples of fabric that I had in my collection.

I found out that I had samples showing that both theories are correct.

For some reason, some fabrics are manufactured with the selvage on the right side smooth. While others produce fabric with the selvage edge rough.

I haven’t found out why yet. But for our purposes, I guess that it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that checking the holes in the selvage isn’t a reliable method. 

So I won’t be using this selvage test anymore to tell which side of my fabric is the right side.

The second way to test for the right side using the selvage is much more reliable. 

This time look at the stitching of the selvage.

The right side should have stitching in the selvage that looks the same as the piece of the material. The wrong side will have stitching that is different and appears to be textured.

Test with an Iron

Some dark colored, solid fabrics (especially black) may shine on the wrong side when it is ironed.

If you are using a dark, solid fabric, I suggest that you try ironing both sides to see if one side does get shiny. If one side is shiny, that is your wrong side. You won’t want the shine to be seen on the outside of your garment.

Doing the ironing test won’t harm your fabric. Even if one side now has a shiny spot, it is the wrong side and won’t be seen. It’s a lot better to find out now than after you have finished sewing your garment.

I remember one of the first dresses that I sewed. I didn’t know about doing the ironing test. But I sure found out about it when I was half way finished sewing it. There was a lot of shining going on especially along the seam line. I was so disappointed.

What Is the Sure Way to Tell the Right Side of Any Fabric?

The best way to know for sure which is the right and wrong side of a fabric is to take notice of how the fabric is displayed at the store.

When I first starting sewing, the fabric that came on bolts had the right sides folded to the inside. But nowadays, you will usually find that the right sides are facing out. 

Be sure to double-check which way the fabric is folded on bolts in your store. This is easy if you look at the printed material. If the brightest side is facing out, the right side is on the outside.

Fabric that comes on rolls will have the right side face up.

So the smart thing to do would be to mark the wrong side as soon as you get home. But I must admit that sometimes I’m not always smart. But I’m trying to start this new smart habit.

If you didn’t mark your fabric right away, you may still be able to tell the wrong side if the fabric is from a bolt. Most fabrics will have a sharp, crisp fold line down the center. This fold was made when the fabric was wrapped on the bolt. Therefore, the right side should be on the outside.

But if you have washed the fabric, there’s a good chance that the fold is no longer there.

What Should You Do If You Can’t Tell the Difference Between the Right and Wrong Side?

If you can’t tell the difference between the right and wrong side, then just choose one side to be your right side.

The one thing you need to watch out for is that you are consistent. Make sure that you use the same side as the right side for each piece of your garment.

As you get ready to use your fabric, I recommend that you mark the wrong side with a safety pin if you plan to pre-wash your fabric.

Before you cut out your pieces, look for the safety pin that is marking the wrong side. Then make sure you fold the material so that the right side is folded to the inside. 

As you cut your pieces, make sure that you mark the wrong side of each piece. This will be easy because the wrong side will be on the outside.

You can use painter’s tape, safety pins, chalk or a sliver of bath soap to do your marking. Just use what is easier for you and what works for the color of your fabric.

Related Questions

How do you tell the right side of knits?

There are two major types of knits.

  • Single knit (jersey)
  • Double knit (interlocking)

You should be able to tell the difference between the two types.

Single-knit has a definite right and wrong side. Finding the right side is easy. First, look at both sides. The right side will have little “V”s. In some cases, these “V”s will form a little vertical rib pattern. The wrong side will have straight, horizontal stitches. 

After looking at the jersey knits in my stash I found another helpful tip. I found that most of them curled toward the right side on the cut edge.

But I wondered why I had one piece of jersey that didn’t curl. After a little investigation, I found out that some jerseys don’t curl because of:

  • the weight of the thread
  • the tightness of their weave
  • the type of threads used to weave the fabric

If your knit is not already curled along the cut edge, you can try to stretch it. The fabric should curl toward the right side.

ouble-knit is the same on both sides. So it doesn’t matter which side is on the outside of your garment. But remember to be consistent.

Is there a way to tell the right side of fleece?

Most standard types of fleece have a right and wrong side. Most of the time it is easy to distinguish each side. The right side will have fluffy nubs. The wrong side will still be soft but smoother.

“Anti-pill” and “Blizzard” fleece can look the same on both sides. In that case, you can stretch the cut edge to help you find out which side is which. The fleece will curl to the wrong side. Or feel free to just choose a side to be your right side.

Is there a right side and wrong side of flannel? 

If you are working with a single-sided flannel, the right side will be softer than the wrong side. But now you need to decide if you want the soft side next to your skin. Using flannel with either side out is perfectly fine. It’s whatever you prefer.

Double-sided flannel is the same on both side. Soft! Therefore, you won’t need to worry about which is the right side. Or which side should be on the inside.

I’m thinking double-sided flannel is the way to go. Soft on both sides! Oh, yes!