Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Tip of the Day... Pre-washing

Have you ever purchased or created a garment that you absolutely adored?

You know the kind of garment that makes you feel sweet and the sweetness continues as the compliments come in.  And then you wash it and the most devastating thing that could possibly happen happens.  It shrinks.  Deep breath.

Don't fret, pre-washing your fabric before you cut and sew will prevent this scenario from occurring.  I know the excitement to get to work on a new project but this is one step that you don't want to skip.

You need to consider the type of fabric that you are planning to see and how you plan to care for it.

Cottons, like denim, can be washed in the washing machine and dried in the dryer.  Drying a denim fabric can give it a new softness.


I also find that dark denims tend to bleed their dye sometimes.  Prior to the pre-washing process you can also treat the fabric to prevent this.

Dissolve 1 cup of salt in about 4L of cold water.  Pre-soak your denim for about 45 minutes before pre-washing your fabric.

Still on the topic of preventing dyes from bleeding... I often worry about red dyes.  For this colour, I tend to take a different approach and use vinegar as my secret tool.  I mix 2 cups of regular white vinegar with about 2L water and pre-soak my fabric for about an hour.  Then I can continue with pre-washing my fabric.

Linen fabric I would pre-wash in the washing machine and put into the dryer but I also use one more step.  I gather the fabric and fold it in long lengths matching the salvage edge and I safety pin through all the thicknesses.  This way the fabric does not become tangled during the washing and drying process.  And if you are quick enough to grab it out of the dryer as soon as it stops you will find that the linen fabric will not develop any wrinkles from being left in the warm dryer sitting in a tousled state.    

Silk and other delicate fabrics I would typically hand wash.  I would recommend a gentle laundry detergent like Zero.  And I would hang to dry delicate fabrics or garments.

Wools I would treat completely different.  If you are going to invest in some good quality wool for a winter coat or suit, I would treat it exactly how you would as if you purchased the garment ready-made--Dry-clean it before you proceed to cut it.  

When I was learning to sew it was recommended that pressing your fabric was an alternative to pre-washing.

Well, I'm not really a fan of ironing but seriously it is not the reason that I won't recommend this method.

Past experience has revealed that this is not necessarily a reliable method.  I found that I have avoided disappointment if I take the time and care to pre-treat my fabric of choice.  

Now we're on a road to happy sewing...

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