Menu

Pre-shrinking

There is a great temptation to skip all boring fabric preparation steps and start cutting and sewing immediately. However, proper fabric preparation will make your sewing experience much more successful and enjoyable. You can also avoid some nasty surprises such as your garment losing its fit, getting twisted, discoloured or shrunk after the first wash. Therefore, do not neglect the pre-shrinking.

Always read carefully the information label on the fabric bolt (or a tag hanging from the roll) to determine fiber content, specifics on shrinkage and a general guidance on how to handle your fabric. If it is not stated that the manufacturer has shrunk the fabric or if according to the label your fabric will shrink more than 1%, you are strongly advised to preshrink your fabric. If you are not sure –  it is always safer to take this step rather than discover a shrinkage problem after your garment has been completed.

sewing_patterns
sewing_patterns

Just to list a number of reasons why you should preshrink your fabric:

1. New fabrics can simply change when washed or dry cleaned. The shrinkage (can happen both length- and width-wise) is the most common alteration.

2. If you combine various fabrics in one project (difference in texture, quality etc) be aware that fabrics may shrink at different levels, which could negatively impact the final product.

3. You wash away chemicals used during production processes. Consider this especially when making clothes for children (!). The production process usually involves coating the fibers with some type of chemicals to strengthen the fiber, give it a specific finish, make it resistant to fading etc. Fabrics get also simply dusty during transportation and storage.

sewing_patterns
sewing_patterns

4. New fabric might have become stretched out of square during processing or (especially inexpensive fabrics) might have been treated with some chemicals to achieve sizing. Sizing is used to add a bit of stiffness and “style” to fabric that would otherwise be too floppy, making it appear like a higher quality fabric. This is mostly the reason why after that first washing some fabrics are never as crisp as before.

5. Washing or dry cleaning can help to remove residuals used for finishing some knitted or woven fabrics that could cause for example skipped stitches or problems with adhesives used for attaching appliques and other items.

6. Even if you are not concerned about your project losing its fit and size (quilts and oversize garments) – think about fading. The first time you wash your garment the colours may fade, run from one part of the garment to the other or it may reveal some discoloured spots or lines (e.g. edges of the fabric, due to incorrect storage process). You may not always see them before washing.

7. Fabrics like cotton may be pre-treated with starch to make it stiff and shiny. Pre-washing fabric helps to remove starch showing the real texture of the fabric, making it easier to handle and in general revealing its true colours.

sewing_patterns
sewing_patterns

Defining the correct pre-shrinking method to apply is pretty logic. You should always pre-wash your fabric the same way you would treat the final product. As simple as that. If you plan to dry clean your silk garment, then the silk fabric should also be dry cleaned before sewing. If it will be machine washed (hand-washing is of course an option, too) you should do the pre-shrinking in the same manner. By the way, you can pretty safe skip pre-washing for 100% polyester fabrics such as polar fleece, vinyl or faux leather (the risk of getting shrunk is here close to 0, but consider other reasons for pre-shrinking). An alternative to (dry-) washing would be steaming your fabric – not the same as washing, but at least something would be done to prevent the shrinkage mainly. You can use wet pressing cloths with your iron or use a lot of steam while pressing (double check the fabric specification before doing so). Depending on the type of fabric, this steaming process will deliver desired preshrink results …..or not.

Defining the correct pre-shrinking method to apply is pretty logic. You should always pre-wash your fabric the same way you would treat the final product. As simple as that. If you plan to dry clean your silk garment, then the silk fabric should also be dry cleaned before sewing. If it will be machine washed (hand-washing is of course an option, too) you should do the pre-shrinking in the same manner. By the way, you can pretty safe skip pre-washing for 100% polyester fabrics such as polar fleece, vinyl or faux leather (the risk of getting shrunk is here close to 0, but consider other reasons for pre-shrinking). An alternative to (dry-) washing would be steaming your fabric – not the same as washing, but at least something would be done to prevent the shrinkage mainly. You can use wet pressing cloths with your iron or use a lot of steam while pressing (double check the fabric specification before doing so). Depending on the type of fabric, this steaming process will deliver preshrink results – or not.

sewing_patterns
sewing_patterns
sewing_patterns
sewing_patterns

Some useful tips for fabric pre-shrinking would definitely include preventing the cut edges from fraying. You can use a zig-zag stitch or overlock stitch on your sewing machine or use a serger to overcast the cut edges prior to pre-washing. You can also try simply cutting the edges with pinking sheers. Even more, overcast the cut edges of your fabric together before you toss it in the washing machine. This will prevent you fabric from twisting into a knot. Especially when preshrinking knits, attach the two cut ends together to form a tube.

sewing_patterns

While truly understanding your excitement about the new project and being anxious to start sewing right away, the general advice is to pre-shrink (all) fabrics. The best thing to do so is to wash your fabrics immediately when you get home from the fabric store. They will be ready to use when the inspiration comes and creativity strikes. Remember to label your pre-shrunk fabrics prior to storing to avoid mixing the ready to sew fabrics with the ones still requiring the pre-shrinking step.

sewing_patterns

Getting this stage of the sewing process right is of the utmost importance. What matters is not only the accuracy of your cutting, but also the way your pieces are cut out from the fabric.

Leave a Reply

error:
preloader