Do you always pre-wash fabric?

aunt_louJune 2, 2009

I know that I have always been taught to wash the fabric first before cutting out and sewing. Is this still the standard practice? I haven't sewn for a while and I just purchased some pretty new cotton prints for summer tops and hate to have them fade at all before I have even made them---even though I would wash in cold water. So what happens if you don't pre-wash? Does anyone here skip that? Hope this doesn't seem too silly of a question. :)

Thank you.

Aunt Lou

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I always wash 100% cotton before cutting, if it's for making garments. I don't worry as much about fading as I do shrinking. Dark blues and blacks are the fabrics I have trouble with fading. If you don't prewash first, you will have a big chance of the fabric shrinking when you've washed the garment the first time after it has been made. Plus, fabric is treated with chemicals so you need to wash it first to get that stuff out.

I've always wondered, though, about drapery fabric. I do not wash that. Do others wash drapery fabric first?? You most likely buy several yards of drapery fabric. Won't you have to iron it after its been washed and dried?? To me, that's alot of fabric to have to iron wrinkles out of.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 1:05PM
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I have always pre-washed fabric. Shrinkage and shifting are the main reasons. I usually buy a little extra to allow for shrinkage, about 1/4 yard. If you don't know what the content is, it can be heartbreaking to make a garment, then have it twist, shrink, or crinkle after the first wash. I like to know what the fabric is going to do before I use it. I try to buy machine washable fabrics for most things, especially for garments for the GK's.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:20PM
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I always wash before cutting out, and sometimes even before deciding what I want to make. Some fabric nice and crisp in the store sometimes comes out really floaty and soft. Also it gives you a good idea what it will do in the wash. You do not want to pick out a pattern that you do not want to iron, and then make it in something that has to be ironed, and ironed and ironed to get it right. Also even these days and with something expensive, I have found material that has bled all over itself. I would not want to put in a lot of work on something you have to immediately throw out.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 10:57PM
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AuntLou, I never wash fabrics. This topic was being discussed last week on this forum. You can see it here:Tried to make a knit jammie top, and this neckline is yucky ... I don't wash ready-made garments before I wear them, either. Well, I wash underwear.

Someone on the other thread said this....I made DH a flannel shirt many years ago and did not prewash. The shirt came out great, "best shirt ever"! Then I washed it and it shrank, and each time I washed it, it shrank a bit more. Needless to say I think DH was able to wear the "best shirt ever" 4 times before it was too small. I think that proves the point about pre-washing.

I think the chore of finishing the cut edges, washing, drying, finding the true grain and ironing the fabric takes all the joy out of sewing for a risk that is negligible. I make garments for adults, and handling two or three yards of uncut fabric on an ironing board is next to impossible! How do you keep the grain straight? I've been sewing for 40 years, made probably thousands of garments out of every fabric imaginable, and shrinkage is just not a problem. I can't think of a single garment I've made that shrunk. I prefer to sew natural fabrics like wool, linen, 100% cotton, silk, flannels because I think they are easier to handle than synthetics.

I seem to be in the minority here, but this is a long-held opinion and one I hope you'll consider. The risk of shrinkage in a finished garment is so small that it makes pre-washing unnecessary.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 11:04AM
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I think you have to take into consideration what it is your making and how it will be treated afterward. I know that once I make something for a Grandchild, it is going to be washed and dried over and over. Same for garments for myself, as I never use the dry cleaners...everything goes into the washer, and is folded or hung right out of the dryer...I hate ironing.
Even dressy stuff...I made Christmas dresses for my GD's two years ago out of washable velveteen instead of velvet, with contrast fabric that was metalic threaded cotton, also washable.
I agree with Birdtalker about the uses of fabric after it's washed. I've changed my mind many times about using a fabric after I've seen the drape/hand after washing, and thought "this would work better for that".
I don't find that the preparation takes the joy out of sewing, but gives me more pride in the finished product. Although, many times, for just my own things, I will take shortcuts, ie, skip finishing seam allowances, leave out interfacing, use velcro or a tie instead of buttons, BUT, I always pre-wash. That's just me. I had too many shrinking, twisting things happen when I was starting out. My hat is off to those that have never had that happen!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 12:44PM
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hmmmmmmmm???? Well, I sure appreciate all of the advice. I like my clothes to be larger---especially tops---nice and roomy-----so I wouldn't worry about it shrinking so much. I buy and try to make a size bigger than I am---sometimes two! :) I would hate for the material to "twist" that noinwi talked about. I have never had that happen. Anyways, Thanks again and I will take all of these opinions into consideration.

aunt lou

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 12:59PM
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I agree about ironing, noinwi. I hate it, too, and rarely iron any garment. And, of course, I take shortcuts. But I seriously have never had a problem with shrinking, and I make lots of clothes for myself, husband, adult sons and dtrs, and 6 little grandkids.

You wrote: "I've changed my mind many times about using a fabric after I've seen the drape/hand after washing, and thought "this would work better for that." Oh, so have I, even though I don't wash first!! I often buy fabric because I like it but have nothing in mind for it at the time. You should see my stash, especially now that I've inherited my mom's!

I wish you the best of luck, Aunt Lou.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 1:51PM
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"If you ever plan to wash the garment, you should pre-wash the fabric first." That is what I have always heard and have always followed and I also pre-wash my quilting fabric too.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 1:31PM
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That's a good point, Teresa. It will eventually have to be washed anyway. Maybe I will do one piece without pre-washing and see how I like it and the rest following the standard practice.

I thank everyone for their opinions and have enjoyed the various responses.

Aunt Lou

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 4:37PM
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It is best to pre-wash. If the material is going to change during one washing, such as wrinkle, shrink or fade, then I may change my mind about using it for a garment. Too much time is spent on sewing to make clothes out of poor fabric.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 8:26PM
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When I was much younger, I did not. Now that I am older and wiser, I do. Not only for shrinkage, but it shows how well the fabric (hopefully) washes and a good time to clean up and take care of raveling.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2009 at 1:01PM
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Another pre-wash person here, also press it before cutting and if a cotton like gingham I spray starch. Red is another color that can give you a problem, ask me how I know. Also pre-shrink zippers and interfacing.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2009 at 9:46PM
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I have some fabric for curtains for my living room that I am thinking of Not pre washing. I hopefully won't need to wash them for a long time. But after reading this I think I will figure out where I can take a square or rectangle of a certain size, hem the edges, wash it and not only see if the color changes but measure it after. I'm thinking a foot square if I can get away with it, tho 6x12 might be fine. The fabric has big red flowers and if the color runs for example, I may still make the curtains, but Never wash them, lol.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 12:00PM
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Concretenprimroses, I have been sewing for over 40 years. I am getting ready to make kitchen valances. I will not wash the fabric because I love the hand. When they get dusty, I will put them in the dryer on low for a few minutes and hang them back up. By the time they start to look bad, I will be ready to make new ones.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 4:04AM
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Speaking of kitchen curtains/valances....I am without kitchen curtains of any kind at the moment....I put up some lace panels when I first moved in this house over ten years ago. When I took them down to wash a few months ago, the interfacing that I used to make the insert for the rod just disintegrated and pulled off the lace. I won't make the mistake of using interfacing again. At least they lasted for those ten years. (sigh)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2009 at 8:18PM
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I always prewash and dry, due to painful experience. But to do it in a way that minimizes post-washing problems and avoids having to finish the raw edges first, I neatly flat fold my fabric and place it in a mesh bag that zips shut before putting it into the washer and the dryer. This makes starching (if desired) and ironing much easier.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 3:45PM
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Its not necessary but cotton fabric get stretched or tighten after wash hence to get accurate fitting it is better to wash it first.

Here is a link that might be useful: junior plus size clothes

This post was edited by SadieBell on Sat, Nov 9, 13 at 0:39

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 6:11AM
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I always wash and dry all of my cotton and suede fabric first thing before storing them. Also I never add softener to these when I dry them. I do a lot of applique sewing with iron on interfacing and found out that they don't fuse together if any of the sizing is still in the fabrics. When I go to my stash I know that they are pre-washed and ready to sew.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 12:24PM
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I always wash all of my fabrics first. I find it takes out the guess work in accounting for shrinking or tightening and it helps me have a better final product.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2013 at 1:09PM
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I wash and press nearly all my fabric...there might be an exception like drapes or curtains but for anything else, yes....wash first.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2013 at 5:50PM
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