Perhaps one of the more common questions that are asked in the world of sewing is this: Should fabric be washed before stitching?
It’s certainly easier to simply start stitching or designing without the extra step of pre-washing and ironing.
The answer all depends on the type of fabric you’ll be using. You can skip pre-washing for 100% polyester fabrics, faux leather, and vinyl fabrics.
To determine the best fabric for your project, visit our Beginner Guide to Buying Fabric Online.
You also don’t need to pre-wash a fabric that will be used to hang on the wall. Otherwise, we highly recommend that you do wash and square your fabric before stitching.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of pre-washing your fabric, and why you should always do it.
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The Importance of Pre-Washing Fabric
Nearly all other types of fabric need to be laundered before stitching. Let’s break down the top four reasons as to why it’s absolutely necessary to pre-wash your fabric.
Fabrics like cotton, wool, silk, and linen almost always shrink when washed. When designing a piece of clothing, you’ll want it to perfectly fit the first time you wear it, which is why you need to pre-wash them first.
Prevents Colors From Running or Bleeding
Pre-washing fabric prevents it from damaging other fabrics when thrown in the wash after sewing. This is especially important if the fabric you’re using is made with a multitude of colors.
Eliminates Fabric’s Chemicals
Most fabric comes soaked with resinous solutions that make them look more vibrant and appealing. Eliminating these chemicals prevents an allergic reaction to those with sensitive skin.
Pre-washing a fabric softens the material, which makes it easier to iron later on.
Before Pre-Washing Fabric
Now that you understand the importance of pre-washing, here are two things to note before throwing your material in the wash.
Loosely Hem Your Fabric
To ensure you don’t lose too many inches to fraying, it’s a good idea to stitch around your fabric with very loose zig-zag or straight stitches.
Separate Your Fabrics
New fabric is guaranteed to bleed. Separating dark and light fabrics prevent the colors from mixing and ruining your clothing. If you have a particularly bright and colorful material, it’s best to wash it on its own.
We recommend using a Shout ColorCatcher to trap dye during washing in a washing machine.
You can also consider adding a few droplets of vinegar to prevent the colors from running. It also brightens and softens fabric, which is definitely a plus!
Choosing the Right Washing Method
There are three main methods of pre-washing. This is either done by hand, by a laundry machine, or professionally at the dry cleaner’s. Choosing the right washing method entirely depends on your fabric’s material.
Here are our preferred methods for each individual type of fabric.
Cotton is commonly known to shrink during the laundry process.
The ideal approach to avoid cotton shrinkage is to wash them by hand in cold water. You can otherwise utilize a washing machine’s delicate washing cycle by selecting the “Cotton” option.
A mesh laundry bag is helpful for protecting the fabric and preventing fraying during washing.
Wool is a type of fabric made that’s commonly obtained from sheep, goats, and other similar animals, such as bison, rabbits, and camelids. Despite it being very durable, it’s still susceptible to shrinkage in warm water.
Our preferred method would be taking this material to the dry cleaners. However, you can also wash it by hand using a type of gentle soap or baby shampoo before sewing.
Linen shrinks because it is made from fibers of a flax plant, regardless of what temperature you use.
As linen can be considered one of the strongest and most durable natural fibers, you don’t have to worry about which method to use for washing. You can freely toss it in your laundry machine if you wish, take it to the dry cleaners, or wash it yourself by hand.
Silk is one of the more luxurious fabrics on this list and is formed by specific kinds of insect larvae, like silkworms. Besides being one of the more expensive textiles available, this type of cloth is also very delicate.
Washing this material by hand is the best option to prevent damages, tear, and wear, preferably with baby shampoo.
After Pre-Washing: Ironing
Wrinkled fabric is a tailor’s worst nightmare. It not only makes it difficult to cut, but it also makes for inaccurate measurements. This may result in your end product to be too short, long, loose, or small! This is why ironing after pre-washing is very important.
In conclusion, yes, it’s absolutely necessary to pre-wash fabric before stitching.
Fabric care instructions are commonly found at the end of your fabric bolt. If found in yours, follow these instructions as much as possible.
If not, follow the above tips to ensure that your garment or sewing project doesn’t look homemade and wonky.
Don’t forget to pin this information for later, and check out some more sewing tips and techniques for beginners listed below.