Day 17: Prepping your fabric

Today is Day 17 of 31 Days of Sewing School.

Once you’ve picked out your fabric, you’re almost ready to start on your project. I thought we’d talk about cutting out your pattern, but then I realized this post should actually come next. You do have a little more prep work to do.

Today’s post is a simple one though.

So what should you do after you buy or otherwise acquire your fabric? 

Wash it. Dry it. If necessary, press it.

Why wash?

This is to avoid shrinkage later, keep your fabrics even (all pre-shrunk), and set the colors. If you sew together fabrics that are both pre-washed and not, the garment or quilt could shrink funny later.

My mom has noticed pre-washed fabric (even high quality) shrinking up to two inches in width (she had to buy more of the same fabric for a quilt once and compared the new piece with the pre-washed piece that was originally the same size).

Fabric manufacturers use stiffening chemicals and sometimes even formaldehyde to keep bugs from growing in the fabric (ew, maybe this is also a reason to buy organic fabric if possible?). So pre-washing also is a good idea to get those chemicals out. You’ll notice the way a fabric softens up after washing.

A few things to note about pre-washing your fabric

  • This rule does not apply to polyester material. Polyester will not bleed (usually) or shrink.
  • Wash your fabrics in the way you will wash the finished garment, quilt or project- if you always use cold for laundry, stick with that, if you’ll wash your future quilt in warm, use that.
  • Set the color so it won’t bleed later: wash fabric in your desired water temperature and splash in some vinegar, up to a quarter cup. This applies to dark colors like black, purple and navy and of course, red. Wash them separately or with similar-colored items.
  • Before drying I like to rip off or cut off any long, loose threads so that they don’t get the fabric all twisted and wrapped up in the dryer.

{How cute are those embroidery hoops in the top photo?! Find them in the Hey Paul Studios shop on Etsy.}

Not everyone pre-washes their fabric, but I highly recommend it. Tomorrow we’ll talk about cutting out your pattern!

About Nicole

Nicole can be found blogging at her lifestyle blog, and is the editor of Simple Homemade. She loves to read, sew, make ice cream, take pictures, watch baseball and go for walks by the beach with her hubby and three little kiddos. She loves anything handmade and is affectionately known as a bit of a hippie among family and friends.


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  1. [...] What’s your favorite fabric to wear or to tack on? Tomorrow we’ll plead getting your fabric prepped. [...]

  2. [...] Day 14: A few sewing links Day 15: Deciphering pattern terminology Day 16: Guide to fabric types Day 17: Prepping your fabric Day 18: Cutting out your pattern and fabric Day 19: Sewing with straight pins Day 20: Choosing a [...]

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  7. […] What”s your favorite fabric to wear or to sew on? Tomorrow we”ll discuss getting your fabric prepped. […]

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