Whether to pre-shrink your fabric before beginning a sewing project can be a dilemma. Which fabrics can you pre-shrink, and which method is more effective?
Pay close attention to the care label and washing instructions when choosing your fabric, which are located at the bolt of the fabric. Should it be hand washed, machine washed, machine dried or hang dried?
The general advice is to wash your purchased fabric according to the stated instructions. Never delay washing your fabric until you start your sewing project, as you will be likely to run out of time or forget!
100 per cent cotton is well-known for shrinking. Any cotton fabric, such as cotton poplin fabric or cotton blend fabric available from stockists such as Higgs and Higgs, should be washed and dried prior to sewing.
Upon inspecting the cotton again, you will notice that is has shrunk and shrivelled a small amount. Cotton can shrink several inches across the fabric; on average, it shrinks between quarter and half an inch per yard of fabric. This is largely dependent on the characteristics of the fabric.
To work out exactly how much your fabric will shrink, wash and dry a sample of the fabric. By measuring before and after, you can apply a formula that will tell you the overall shrinkage.
Don’t fret about frayed edges after the wash, as this is perfectly normal and often unavoidable. Trim off the long threads, which can tangle together, and cut off the frayed edges when you begin to cut the pieces for your sewing project.
When you can’t pre-shrink
If you are in a rush to complete a project, or simply can’t wait to begin, ensure that you make your item slightly bigger than needed. Around half an inch extra will insure your item against shrinkage; however, this does carry risk.
Iron or steam
After washing your fabric, make sure you steam or iron your fabric flat. This gives the fabric a crisp finish. Ironing will help you to be precise when cutting your pattern pieces and beginning work on your project, aiding the measuring and arranging of your pattern pieces.
It is also important to continue ironing the fabric throughout the progression of your project to maintain its beautiful appearance.