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Why isn't cotton fabric pre-shrunk?

Posted by meldy_nva (My Page) on
Sun, Aug 18, 13 at 16:23

Is this just a habit that the manufacturers are happy to continue (I'm sure preshrinking is a bit more expensive) or is there a better reason? I do note that fabrics with metallic designs don't shrink, also their cost is similar to what I pay for non-metallic material... which sort of knocks out the manufacturers cost-saving excuse.

I've bought material that had very little shrinkage, but that was definitely the exception to the rule. Recently got a stack (10"x10" pieces) of very good quality, big-name manufacturer and, after hot/cold preshrinking, 2 (yep, two) of 40+ pieces shrank less than 1/4". Several pieces shrank over an inch and most shrank about 1/2". I haven't figured out a way to tell which fabric is going to shrink the most/least before purchase and actual washing, but if I could, I promise that I would *never* again buy shrinking material.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Why isn't cotton fabric pre-shrunk?

I just assume it will all shrink and pre-wash it. Then I don't have to worry. With a color catcher, it takes care of bleeding at the same time.

RE: Why isn't cotton fabric pre-shrunk?

I've been reading a lot of the modern quilting blogs recently and it seems to go back and forth on pre-washing fabric. The quilting guru's who have lots of fabric sponsors tend to lean to not pre-wash...but then the fabric they use I suspect is mostly provided by the sponsors...soooo
While fabric is easier to work with when it's not prewashed, I figure why chance it?

RE: Why isn't cotton fabric pre-shrunk?

Pre-washing for the manufacturers would add a huge cost I think. Now it's just printed, mechanically folded and wrapped on bolts. Shrinking it would mean a water or steam process, then drying before folding and wrapping. I'm also guessing it's equipment the manufacturers don't have so it would take a huge amount of money to change the process.

RE: Why isn't cotton fabric pre-shrunk?

I doubt that seeing 'pre-shrunk' on fabric would keep me from washing it anyway. You know, like those bags of veggies that has 'washed and ready to eat' on them? I don't even buy them! Should I buy fabric for a special project, I always buy a bit more than suggested. There are any number of things that could go wrong....even when bought from a quilt shop.

I don't know the exact process from cotton boll to cotton fabric, but it seems like, somewhere along the line, it would have gone through a few hot water baths. Might be an interesting tour to take. :-)


RE: Why isn't cotton fabric pre-shrunk?

I actually prefer to work with un washed fabric. It seems to have a finish on it that gives it body, and I feel this makes it easier for me to sew with. For strong colors, I do a little test to make sure it's colorfast, and I always use color catchers. As far as shrinking goes, I like the old fashion look you get when you was and dry a quilt, and it kind of puckers.

RE: Why isn't cotton fabric pre-shrunk?

I'm a technical nerd, and went looking at trade publications regarding cotton and shrinkage. I'm linking to that site. It's more than you'd ever want to know about fabric shrinking. If you don't want to wade through it, in a nutshell when fabric shrinks, it is essentially 'relaxing' to its natural state, having been stretched through the various process used in its manufacture. How much it shrinks will depend on the quality of the cotton fibre itself, how tightly it was spun as a thread, the tension it was put under when looming it, the type of weave it is, if the processes to make it were wet or dry, and would include the dye application, etc. etc. etc. IOW there is a tremendous amount of variability to how much a piece of cotton fabric will shrink, initially and over time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Guide to improved shrinkage performance technical bulletin

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