Firstly, treat your fabric with care. Before you make it up into the final garment, it needs to be treated with some love and attention, so that you can get the best out of it. Make sure that when you put in all that hard work and creativity, you will be happy with your finished garment. The right preparation is important.
Before you start your project, it’s a good idea to consider how or if , to prepare your fabric.
My advice – Don’t put your new fabric in the washing machine.
Well it’s up to you, but I like to cut into new fabric which hasn’t been tumbled around in my machine. The selvedges are all nice and neat, the fabric is smooth and new. No risk of the loose threads being caught in the machine or mysterious holes developing as if by magic. Plus, I don’t want to start my fun sewing project with a ton of ironing.
Don’t get me wrong. You do need to prepare your fabric before you sew. Sometimes fabric may shrink a little, or perhaps a lot. A range of about 2% to 10% is probably what you should allow.
If it is a woven tweed, silk or special fabric with lots of different fibres. Steam only. On the wrong side. Do not wash it. Put a cloth over it to protect the fibres, hover over it or close to it. Don’t press or crush.
If it is a boiled wool, steam it carefully. Boiled wool can shrink again, so you do need to prepare it.
If it is a silk crepe de chine, satin, habotai or similar, don’t wash it , just gently steam it, with a cloth, hovering over it and not pressing down.
If it is cotton, linen, denim or other woven fabric, even if it is washable, I would not put it in the machine at this stage. Just give it a good steam and away you go.
Jerseys with a bit of stretch will probably shrink, so it is really good to steam that before you start too.
Anything else – you’ve guessed it – steam it.
Once your garment is made up, then if it is a natural woven fabric or a polyester woven fabric and washable, then you can pop it in a laundry bag and give it a gentle wash. If it has a lining, then you want to consider if it should be dry cleaned instead, as often the main fabric and lining might not behave in the same way when washed in water.
Lined jackets and coats should be dry cleaned.
If in doubt – you can take a spare piece of the main fabric, measure it and then give it a wash. This will help you to see if it will shrink or run and to decide how to launder it in future.
If you are an experienced sewist and happy to sort out your fabric as you see fit, that’s great. Ignore me and keep on doing what you are doing.
If you are on the wonderful learning curve and on the way up, then a bit of caution at this point won’t go amiss and you will be super happy with your garment once you have made it.
That’s my wish for you. It is a wonderful feeling.