Before you get started laying out your pattern pieces and cutting your fabric, you will want to prepare your fabric. There is nothing more upsetting than investing your time and effort into sewing a project only to have it shrink the first time you wash it. Fabrics may also shrink differently in each direction, which can also make for a strange looking project in the end. To avoid this, pre-washing or pre-shrinking your fabric before you start to sew can be very helpful.
Fabrics that do not generally require any pre-washing:
- 100% polyesters
- Other synthetics
I will generally skip pre-washing if I am using a very light weight cotton such as a voile, where the finish on the fabric adds some stiffness which can be helpful when sewing. However, the other benefits to pre-washing your fabric is to remove any left over residues from the manufacturing process, to remove excess dye, as well as other elements that may be sitting on your fabric. Preparing your fabric will include a few steps.
It is important to note that when you pre-wash your fabric it may change the look and feel of the fabric. Refer to the fabric bolt at the time of purchasing for the care instructions. Following the care instructions for the fabric is very important.
You can use a washing machine, hand wash or dry clean. Wash the fabric separately to ensure that the colour does not run into other items or test a small piece of fabric prior to washing to determine its' colourfastness. Dark or very bright colours can be pre-rinsed in cool water until the water runs clear, before washing. If you have a dry clean only fabric, you may want to consider finishing the raw edges and then dry cleaning. An alternative to dry cleaning is to use a steam iron in the direction of the grain.
Tip! If you have a fabric that may unravel, you can finish the raw edges with a serger or zigzag stitch before washing.
Drying Your Fabric
Dying the fabric past the point of dryness can help to increase shrinkage. However, I have found that taking the fabric out of the dryer slightly damp and then ironing can be a great way to get wrinkles out. You can also put your dryer on a hot setting and remove fabric promptly after dying to reduce wrinkles. Ideally use the dyer setting that best suites your fabric. Some fabrics will require you to hang dry or to lay flat to dry.
Tip! You can hand wash silk with a gentle detergent and hang dry or dry clean.
If in doubt use a dry iron. Some fabrics will end up with water spots if you use a steam iron. It you are not sure about seam ironing, test a small piece of fabric. Try not to distort your fabric when ironing. The safest approach is to iron in the direction of the grain and avoid pushing and pulling against the fabric.
Tip! You can pre-shrink your notions, ribbons, interfacing and zipper if necessary.
Straightening Your Fabric
The next step in preparing your fabric is to straighten the raw ends of your fabric. The goal is to make sure that the lengthwise and crosswise threads of your fabric are at right angles. There are a few ways you can straighten your fabric:
- Fabrics with a pattern - identify a repeated motif along the cross grain and cut a straight line along the pattern.
- Woven fabric - make a small cut at the selvage (self-finished edge of fabric) and pull a crosswise line of thread, then use this line as your cutting line.
- Alternative method - fold the fabric along the grain with the selvage edges together and smooth out wrinkles in fabric. Use a rotary cutter or scissors and a straight edge to cut a straight line across the fabric.
Now your fabric is ready for your sewing project!
If you have a tip or suggestion on straightening your fabric, please comment below.
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