Consider the “Wrong Side” of Fabric

three fabrics wrong side

All fabric is described as having definite right and wrong sides as defined below:

  • Right side: When instructions mention the “right side” of fabric, they are talking about the “printed” or “pretty” surface of the fabric. You usually sew things with right sides together so the stitching will be on the inside of the finished project.
  • Wrong side: The other surface is the “wrong” side of the fabric. The fabric design is sometimes visible on the wrong side of the fabric, but it will be more faded than on the right side.

There are moments in sewing when creative minds look for the rich subtlety of patina, that quality that speaks of age, even a certain degree of graceful wear and tear. The word “patina” comes from the Latin for “shallow dish”; the implication is of a sort of dignified layer of darkening or fading, usually seen on the surface of metal or wood. Fabrics have patina too: the faded beauty of old damask; the needlepoint upholstery in an English stately home; a venerable calico in an older American dwelling.

For a fabric to express age, designers can – in many cases – use its “wrong” or reverse side. Not every fabric is capable of this role reversal. Some tapestry fabrics for example have too many loose threads (or ‘floats’) on the reverse side to be either attractive or useful. Some printed cotton prints like those we have in the store, are faded on the reverse side and can reveal a startling new option when we turn to its reverse, including a surprising transformation of the intensity and balance of color way.

Some fabrics are good candidates for a role reversal of using the wrong side as your new right side. Here are a “few” examples to this concept:

  • If you’re using solid fabrics, there isn’t always a clearcut right or wrong side. Kona solids and or Bella Solids look almost identical on both sides.
  • Batiks have very little difference between the right and wrong sides.
  • Homespuns, which are woven from already-dyed threads, look the same on both sides.

Here’s an example and some pictures. Right now we are busily gathering fabrics for a kit we are going to offer for Valentine’s Day. Whilst looking for just the right background, we decided on a nice polka dot print fabric to use as our background for pieces to be appliquéd onto. The “right side” seemed too strong, however the “wrong side” was a lot more subtle and just right to put our shapes onto.



See how the top half of the photo with Cupid looks more subtle? That’s because it is the wrong side of the fabric which we are going to use for our project. Now, if you really want strong polka dots and prefer a bolder look, go ahead and use the right side of your fabric. It’s just neat to audition the wrong side of a fabric to compare a look.

Remember: Fabric has no wrong side. You bought both sides. You can use both sides.

2 thoughts on “Consider the “Wrong Side” of Fabric

  1. Thanks for this reminder. We used to do this years ago, when the popularity of Hawaiian fabrics was at it’s peak. Using these very bright fabrics for shirts and dresses gave them a softer look which was often more agreeable for our completed project. The bright side could often be used for contrast trim.

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