If you’re new to sewing, you might not know there are things you need to do to your fabric before sewing on it. Some fabric needs to be preshrunk, some needs to have the grain straightened, and most needs to be ironed. Taking these three steps ensures that your finished sewing project looks great and doesn’t shrink the first time you wash it.
Step 1: Preshrink Your Fabric
Some fabrics shrink when you wash them, particularly cottons. So, you should wash your fabric once or twice before sewing on it. This is simple to do; just run your fabric through a cycle on your washer and dryer. You can use laundry detergent if you want, but you don’t have to.
Some fabric will get ruined if you put it in your washer and dryer. So, you should check the fabric care directions on the bolt of fabric at the fabric store before buying. If your fabric is supposed to be dry cleaned, you should take it to the dry cleaners before sewing on it. Similarly, if your fabric is supposed to be hand washed, you should do that before sewing on it.
Preshrinking fabric is important because it prevents stretching and shrinking in your finished sewing project. Have you ever bought a shirt at the store that fit perfectly and then it was smaller and shorter after you washed it? That’s what can happen if you don’t preshrink your fabric. You’re OK to skip this step if you’re making something that will never get wet or washed, but it is important for everything else, especially clothing.
If you buy several cuts of fabric at the fabric store, you should wash them all individually. This is because the dye in the fabric can stain other fabrics. That extra dye can also leave residue in your washer and dryer, so you might want to rinse particularly dark or vibrant colored fabric in the sink to get out excess dye before putting it in your washer and dryer.
Step 2: Straighten the Grain of Your Fabric
After your fabric is washed and dried, you should straighten the grain to make it easier to fold and layout pattern pieces. What I mean by this is to line up the selvage edges and make sure the fabric has a straight edge on both of the cut sides.
Straightening the grain is important because raveled edges can cause the fabric to be uneven on your cutting table. Plus, you might not notice that plaids and other patterned fabric are off when cutting out pattern pieces. Once you’ve straightened the grain, you may want to serge the cut edges to prevent raveling. You could do this before washing and drying, too.
Every type of fabric requires a different method to straighten the grain. First, you need to find the crosswise grain by looking at the threads that run perpendicular to the selvage edges of the fabric. Plaids and stripes are the easiest to spot, but some fabrics also have very visible crosswise threads. Once you’ve found the crosswise grains, use one of the following methods to straighten the grain:
- Cut Fabric Along the Pattern: If you can spot the crosswise grain because of a pattern on the fabric, use that as a guide for cutting a straight line that is perpendicular to your selvage edges.
- Pull a Thread as a Guide: If you have a loosely woven fabric, you can pull out one of the threads that runs perpendicular to the selvage edge of your fabric. Then, you can cut along the line that is left behind by the missing thread.
- Tear the Fabric: If you have tightly woven fabric, you can sometimes tear straight along the crosswise grain of your fabric. All you need to do is make a small cut into the selvage edge of your fabric and rip across the crosswise grain. Be quick for the straightest tear.
Step 3: Iron and Fold Your Fabric
After you have preshrunk your fabric and straightened the grain, you should also iron it. Use the correct setting on your iron so you don’t damage the fabric. Then, simply fold your fabric so it is ready when you want to lay out your pattern pieces.
Yes, it does take extra time at the beginning of your project to prepare your fabric for sewing, but it makes your finished project come out better and last longer. Do you have any tips for people when they are preparing their fabric? Leave a comment below.
Image credit Kellyhogaboom via Flickr