I just received all this beautiful fabric that I ordered and it is so tempting to dive in and start sewing! Or to just stack the excess (did I just admit to excess???) on the shelf with the rest of my fabric I’m saving for later.
However, that would be considered “last stepping” myself. My husband has pointed out that I have this tendency to do a task all the way up to the last step and then stop. Yep, guilty as charged. For example, I may empty the trash, take it outside to the outdoor trash can, and then leave the indoor trash can without a new bag.
I’ve taken the time to pick a pattern, decide who it’s for, calculate how much fabric I need, search for fabric, order/buy fabric, then….. ugh. Who wants to take the time to seam the cut edges and wash? *sigh*
That’s what I did today. I know, boring, but it really should be done. MOST fabrics are best washed before sewing to minimize shrinkage after a project is completed. Some people who are more experienced just factor shrinkage into their measurements before cutting, but the uncertainty of EXACTLY how much causes me too much anxiety. If I’m going to put all that time, energy (and sometimes $) into sewing something, I don’t want it to shrink and be unusable. There are some fabrics (polar fleece, minky, etc) that don’t require pre-washing.
Tips learned from experience:
1. Pre-wash the same way the fabric will be washed afterwards. If you wash your clothes on hot and dry on medium, pre-wash the same way. If you intend to hand wash or dry clean, same deal.
2. If you are using multiple different types of fabrics (i.e. knits with wovens), I highly recommend washing in advance. Different fabrics have different amounts of shrinkage. Ask me how I know!
3. Take those fabrics to your sewing machine or serger and finish the edges before washing. Trust me. Sometimes fraying will be minimal, but I can attest that having a beautiful piece of fabric that frayed, twisted, and became knotted after washing is far less desirable than the few minutes it takes to prep before. Just use a zig zag stitch (or overcast stitch, if your machine has one) or your serger on the cut seam and proceed with washing. Certain fabrics, like knits, won’t fray, but the rolling of the edges can sometimes be annoying. That one is up to you! Live on the wild side, if you must.
4. Use the right detergent for your fabric
5. Flannel and some knits shrink, a lot. Consider adding slightly extra yardage than your pattern requires (unless you know the specific pattern accounts for it). I picked out a beautiful flannel to make my daughters matching nightgowns for Christmas. Yay! However, after washing the fabric, I had the pleasure of realizing I didn’t have enough for both due to shrinkage. In this case, I was lucky enough to have some plain white flannel that I was able to use to salvage the project, but I was lucky. I am pretty sure I would have shed tears if it was a fabric that was out of stock or I had to make another trip to the fabric store for some other solution. I know, I know. First world problems.