Firstly, it’s a good idea to 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. You will put in a great deal of hard work and creativity into your sewing, and you will want to be happy with your finished garment.
The right preparation is important.
Before you start your project, it’s a good idea to consider how to prepare your fabric.
It is normal for most fabrics to shrink during the preparation and you want this to happen before you start cutting and sewing. Sometimes fabric may shrink a little, or perhaps a lot. A range of about 2% to 10% is probably what you should allow. Build this into the length before you order.
Invest in a good steam generator iron which will deliver the right amount of steam and has good temperature control for the plate which won’t get too hot. These can be quite different from your usual iron, which sometimes won’t provide enough steam for the job. Pressing techniques for dressmaking are quite different too and its worth looking up some tips
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 you are unsure then play it safe and have it dry-cleaned with a good professional.
If it is a boiled wool, steam it carefully. Boiled wool can shrink again, so you do need to prepare it well before cutting.
If it is a silk crepe de chine, satin, habotai or similar, don’t wash it , just gently steam it, with a pressing cloth, hovering over it and not pressing down.
If it is cotton, linen, denim or other woven fabric which is washable, you can give it a good steam and away you go. Or you can wash it on a gentle wash cycle. Its best to overlock the raw edges to prevent pulling and to put it in a bag to prevent any mishaps. I don’t recommend putting it in the usual wash, with all your other laundry, as zips and fasteners can catch on your new fabric and cause damage.
Jerseys with a bit of stretch will probably shrink, so it is really good to steam or if it is machine washable, gently wash that before you start too.
Viscose fabrics vary a great deal and some can shrink by 10%, so in particular, make sure you wash or steam this before you start.
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.