I believe that the success of a sewing project lies not just in purchasing the right fabric and accessories. The way the fabric is cared for before the start of the project also has a profound influence on the result of the sewing project. This includes pre-washing fabric and usually ironing the fabric before beginning the project.
Why should the fabric be prewashed?
There are various reasons why fabrics should be pre-washed
- Some fabrics tend to shrink once they are washed, so if you stitch the fabric first and then wash it, the final product may be two sizes smaller than what you had planned.
- If you combine a quality fabric with a less expensive fabric, the fabrics tend to shrink at different levels, creating an uneven finish to the final product.
- Some fabric fades or bleeds once washed and so, in my opinion, it's always advisable to pre-wash the fabric instead of going through the entire sewing process only to be disappointed when you find that the finished product fades after a wash or the color runs from one part of the garment to the other.
- Fabric like cotton may be pretreated with starch to make it stiff and shiny. Pre-washing fabric helps to remove starch showing the real texture of the fabric and making it easier to handle.
Tips for Pre-washing Fabric
You should always pre-wash fabric the same way you would treat the final product. For example, if you plan to dry clean your silk blouse, then the silk fabric should also be dry cleaned before sewing. The washing instruction given with the fabric should also be taken into consideration.
Always zigzag the cut edges of the fabric before washing so that the yarn does not unravel or entangle during the washing process.
For fabric like voile, hand wash or machine wash in hand wash mode is enough. This is because voile is a very delicate fabric and tends to tear off if washed in a machine with high temperatures.
Cotton fabric can be washed in the washing machine at the right temperature or slightly higher temperature to prevent shrinkage in the future, or you can wash it multiple times to make it really soft.
Silk, being a delicate fabric, is better to have dry cleaned rather than washing yourself in the machine.
Knitted wool can be washed by hand and laid flat to dry.
Chiffon and georgette, being delicate fabrics, should be hand washed.
Once the washing and drying are done, remember to iron the fabric before the actual project begins. This makes marking and cutting the fabric easier.
If by any chance, you are in a hurry and don't have time for pre-washing fabric, it is often wise to stitch the final product at least 2 sizes larger than the normal size. This way you leave provision for shrinkage when it is washed.
For some other thoughts on mistakes to avoid when cutting fabric, please refer back to this article.