Wash, Rinse, Repeat

My tip of the day is PRE-WASH YOUR FABRIC!

All fabric. Every time.

“But, but…” I hear you say, “I’m impatient to get started. It will make my fabric curl/fray. Is is really that important?”

Well tough, yes it will and yes it is.

Pre-washing is vital before starting on any project. The main reason is because fabric can shrink when washed. Natural fibres will shrink far more than synthetic, but most dressmaking fabrics can shrink to some extent or other.

You should pre-wash your fabric in the same way you will wash the final garment. Yes, you will have to wait a little longer after a fabric shopping spree before starting to sew, but trust me, it’s worth it!

To demonstrate I cut a 20″ square (approximately 51cm) from two different fabrics. One (the orange) is cotton-lycra jersey and the other (the green) is cotton denim. Both are good quality from one of my favourite suppliers. I washed both at 40 degrees with my regular detergent.

The denim frayed a little and the jersey curled a little at the edges. Neither are enough to cause any trouble. If you are washing a fabric with a particularly open weave then you can stop fraying by overlocking or zigzagging around the edges.

The orange shrank by 1/2″ (over 1cm) in one direction but not at all in the other.

The green shrank by 1/8″ (about 3mm) in one direction and 1/2″ (over 1cm) in the other.

These might not seem like large amounts, but could easily be the difference between one size and the next. Imagine how frustrating it would be to carefully sew something which fits perfectly, only to have it shrink down and become un-wearably small. Because the fabrics don’t shrink equally in all directions, you can’t just simply make one size larger and hope that it shrinks down to the right size.

So there’s no way around it. Pre-washing is the way forward!


  • heidibmuller says:

    Even softshell fleece??

    • Jacks Mum says:

      Whilst softshell is highly unlikely to shrink, I do still pre-wash. Before I start sewing I like to know how the finished garment will withstand regular washing. There’s nothing worse than wearing something once, washing it and discovering it fades or distorts badly.

  • Bananatoo says:

    Also, fabric is treated with chemicals so bugs don’t eat it when it’s shipped. Another reason to wash!

  • Joan McDougall says:

    I learned this one the hard way. I made a nursing nightgown when expecting my second child.. It shrunk the first time I washed it. Fortunately since it was a loose fitting nightgown it was still wearable and usable, but not as comfortable as I wanted. Now I wash all fabrics before I use them.

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