May 20, 2011

Pre-laundering Fabric

Many of you have uploaded your fabric picks to the flickr pool and are ready for the next step! Hurrah! Make sure you jump over and have a look and leave a comment on some of your favorite fabric picks. If you haven't picked your fabric yet, don't worry. There's still plenty of time. When you do spare a minute, rush out to your local fabric store or better yet, if you've built up a small sewing stash, go shopping in your own fabric stash for fabric for your skirt.

Vicki Kate's fabric picks / nettevivante's plans for her piped trim

As beginners, you may not know that its a good idea to pre-launder your final fabric. Why pre-launder? To minimize and stop shrinkage when you finally have to wash your garment after you've sewn it and worn it a few times. Now, there are many different ways to go about this and there are many different (and sometimes opposing views) about pre-laundering. So, I'm going to tell you what I do - which you are welcome to do too - and also point out a few articles of what others do too.

image source

What do you mean by "pre-laundering?" Prelaundering, prewashing, pre-getting wet, preshrinking - for me, there is a difference between pre-laundering and washing after I've sewn a garment. I do all of my own pre-laundering for fabrics, but not necessarily all of the washing after a garment has been created. Does that make sense? For example: I wash all my wool fabric on gentle cycle in cold water and hang out to dry, but I dry clean the garment that was made from my pre-laundered wool. I grew up in a household that didn't have a lot of money, but we had a lot of taste for fine fabrics. My mom never believed in the "dry clean only" label except for certain items and it rubbed off onto me. There are actually very few garments in my wardrobe that I don't clean myself. So let me break down my usual routine for certain fabric types:

Cotton - Pre-launder: I pre-rinse cotton fabric, in warm water and let tumble dry in a dryer on medium heat. The final garment: I wash in cold, on gentle and hang dry.

Wool - Pre-launder: I wash wool fabric on gentle cycle, in cold water (many times wool is pre-treated with chemicals to prevent moth eating, so it usually smells) and let hang dry. The final garment: I used to do the same as the pre-launder for wool, but have found that wool tends to shrink a little each time I wash it, so it is spot cleaned, steamed, brushed or dry cleaned sparingly.

Silk - Pre-launder: I hand rinse silk fabric in cold water and let hang dry. The final garment: hand wash, however if the garment is very structured, like a jacket, it would be dry cleaned sparingly.

Rayon - Pre-launder: I pre-rinse rayon fabric in cold water on gentle cycle and let hang dry. The final garment: wash in cold water on gentle cycle and let hang dry.

Linen - Pre-launder: I pre-rinse linen fabric on gentle cycle in cold water and let hang dry. The final garment: wash in cold water on gentle cycle and hang dry.

Synthetic fibers like polyester, acetate and nylon - Pre-launder: I still like to freshen it with a pre-rinse in cold water and let hang dry. The final garment: wash in cold water and let hang dry.

You might be asking what is a pre-rinse? I find that shrinkage is caused by the fiber's reaction to water, so I usually on pre-rinse as opposed to running a fabric through an entire wash cycle. I'll also say that my way does involve more work. Most fiber types you see here are hung out to dry, that also means that I have to iron everything too, and that's OK with me because I do actually enjoy ironing. Ultimately the decision for how you want to pre-launder something is up to you. Here are a few more articles on more ideas to incorporate into your pre-laundering adventures:

The Prewash - Colette Patterns

Prewashing Your Fabric -

Preshrinking Fabrics: Methods and Mishaps - Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing

Regardless of what pre-laundering method you use, the fabric must then be pressed. I did post on this not too long ago, so jump over and have a look. OK! Let me know if you have any questions about this sewalongers. I'm very happy to help. Tomorrow, I'll be back with a pre-post on picking your pattern size and the flat pattern adjustments. Next week - its time to get sewing our skirts. Hip Hip Hooray!


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