How To Wash Different Fabrics Before Sewing
Whether its a newly purchased fabric or something you’ve dug out from the stash, it can be tempting to jump right in & get to work on your next project. However, there’s an important step that you absolutely have to consider before getting started- washing & drying your fabric. We’ve seen the most amazing projects fall apart, simply because the material was not washed, prior to sewing.
The following article discusses methods for washing and caring for different types of fabrics. You should however, check the fabric suppliers wash details before committing to the advice given in this article.
We’ve put together a guide, that should help you determine how to wash every fabric you come across.
How To Wash Cotton Fabric
Cotton is a natural fibre and will shrink. When washing a fabric like cotton, you want to maximise the shrinkage on the first wash to ensure that the fabric is more stable after you have sewn it into a garment.
- Cotton Poplin- Wash at 40˚ using non-bio liquid. Iron using the appropriate setting for cotton on your iron. This tends to be quite hot with plenty of steam. Dry naturally by hanging on a clothes horse or a gentle setting in the tumble dryer.
- Cotton Lawn- Wash at 40˚ using non-bio liquid. Lawn is a lightweight fabric, so ironing out all the creases will really help you cut out accurate pattern pieces. Iron using the appropriate setting for cotton on your iron. Dry naturally by hanging on a clothes horse or a gentle setting in the tumble dryer.
- Brushed Cotton / Flannel Cotton- This fabric is known to shrink. Wash at 40˚ using non-bio liquid. Dry in the machine on a high heat setting & repeat the process if you have any doubt that the fabric may shrink further.
- Quilting Quality Cotton- Quilting quality cotton can vary massively in quality. Always follow the instructions provided by the seller, however, if details are not provided, you can wash at 30˚ using non-bio liquid.
- Cotton Canvas- Wash at 40˚ using non-bio liquid. Depending on the weight of the canvas, there can be a lot of wrinkles and creases introduced to the fabric when using a tumble dryer. To avoid having to iron out the stiff creases, you can naturally dry the fabric by hanging on a clothes horse.
How To Wash Denim Fabric
- Both stretch and non stretch denims require pre-washing. You can wash denim fabric at 40˚ but be sure to wash separately from other fabric, because denim fabric will bleed on the first wash. Use a simple washing powder and avoid brightening detergents as this will affect the look of the denim. After washing the fabric, you can dry it in the machine on the regular setting. It is often a good idea to repeat this process with denim, as further shrinkage can occur, however the first wash will certainly have done most of the work.
*Remember to unfold your denim fabric before putting it into the washing machine.
How To Wash Fleece Fabric
- Fleece does not shrink, fade or run so there is no need to prewash the fabric. However, plenty of sewists recommend washing just to see the effect that a wash has on the feel of the fabric. However, if you’re short for time, this is certainly a fabric that you can skip the washing step on.
How To Wash Jersey Fabric
- If there is one fabric that you absolutely have to pre-wash, its jersey! Wash both cotton and viscose jerseys at 30˚ on a gentle cycle. You can try pushing it to 40˚, so that the garment can be added to your regular wash cycle, however this could result in damage to the fabric. If you are uncertain, simply wash a small sample piece and see what effect the higher temperature has on the material.
How To Wash Linen Fabric
- Linen can be machine washed with no problems at all. You can wash linen fabric at 40˚. Feel free to throw the linen fabric straight into a hot machine dryer after. Linen fabric will soften up considerably after washing and will give you a true feel for the fabric. If you do use a dryer, you will have to iron out some wrinkles (be sure to use the steam option to remove stubborn creases). We definitely recommend using the dryer as it ensures the fabric shrinks completely before you start your sewing project.
How To Wash Polyester, Nylon & Other Man-Made Fibres
- You will often hear that polyester, nylon and other man made fibres do not need to be washed as they do not shrink. Although this is true, we still recommend running your fabric through a normal wash cycle. Many of these materials contain finishes that may wash out and affect the feel and hang of the fabric.
How To Wash Rayon (Viscose) Fabric
- This fabric shrinks a lot when washed. You can wash this at 40˚ on a regular wash cycle. You can then add this to a dryer to shrink it further, but be warned, rayon fabric wrinkles quite badly. The reason why this is an issue is because you can not use the hot iron setting on rayon as it will melt the fabric. The best tip we have is to remove the fabric before it has dried completely and let it finish drying naturally whilst hung up. This removes the need for ironing whilst ensuring you have got the maximum shrinkage out of the material.
How To Wash Silk Fabric
- In this case we are discussing pure silk fabrics. There are many opinions out there on how to handle silk and with it being such an expensive, luxurious material, we understand why! You can wash almost all silk fabrics by hand with baby shampoo in warm water in the sink. You can also use colour safe shampoos (shampoo for coloured hair). Make sure you gently clean the silk and follow this with hang drying. This is the same method you can use to care for the fabric even after sewing (although dry-cleaning is always on option too!).
How To Wash Wool Fabric
- Wool contains natural fibres that can be blended with other fibres. Dry cleaning is the most common method advised for washing wool and we also recommend this wherever possible. However if you never go to the dry cleaners and know that this isn’t an option for the final garment, there may be a solution. Cut a sample piece from the wool fabric and finish the edges. Measure the piece and run this through the washing machine at the temperature you plan to wash the garment with. After removing from the machine, let the sample dry naturally and measure the piece again. If you are happy with the feel of the fabric, go ahead and preshrink the rest of the fabric.
- Although this guide contains wash details for the main fabric types, always check with your fabric supplier, in case any of the materials require special treatment.
- If you’re ever unsure about how to treat a fabric, cut a sample piece and run this through a test wash first. It adds more time to your project but is certainly worth it.
- Always prewash your fabric in the same way that you intend to wash the sewn garment. If you prewash at a lower temperature than you intend to wash the garment, there is a risk of shrinkage.