How to Preshrink Fabric

You should preshrink your fabric before sewing on it because it prevents the finished garment from being distorted when you launder it in the future. Some fabrics are more susceptible to shrinkage than others, but it’s still a good idea to preshrink all fabric, regardless of the material.

In general, all you need to do is run your new fabric through a normal wash cycle on your washing machine, and it will be good to go. Many people like to serge the cut edges of the fabric before laundering to prevent ravel, but I don’t usually bother to do this unless I know it will ravel really badly. Some fabrics, however, should not be put in a washing machine because they can be ruined. Basically, you should preshrink your fabric by laundering it in the same method that you will use in the future. For instance, fabric that is dry-clean only should be taken to the dry cleaners to preshrink it.

It’s a good idea to look at the fabric care guide on the end of the bolt when you buy a cut of fabric so you know how to launder it, but if you forget to look, use this fabric care list to help you decide on the proper preshrinking method:

  • Acetate — Machine wash on a gentle cycle (or dry clean). Use a low iron.
  • Acrylic — Machine wash on a normal cycle.
  • Bamboo — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Use a medium/high iron.
  • Cashmere — Dry clean. Use a low iron on the wrong side of the fabric.
  • Cotton — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Iron while the fabric is still damp.
  • Hemp — Machine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash. Use a medium/high iron.
  • Linen — Machine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash. Use a medium/high iron while the fabric is still damp.
  • Mohair — Dry clean. Use a press cloth to iron.
  • Nylon — Machine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash. Use a low iron.
  • Polyester — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Use a low iron, if needed.
  • Ramie — Machine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash. Use a medium/high iron.
  • Rayon — Dry clean. Use a medium iron.
  • Silk — Dy clean or hand wash. Use a low iron on the wrong side of the fabric.
  • Soy — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Use a medium/high iron.
  • Spandex — Machine wash on a normal cycle. Use a low iron.
  • Wool — Dry clean or hand wash. Use a steam iron.

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