SHOULD YOU PRE-WASH?
In this post, we’ll give a super quick rundown of how to prepare your fabric before you start your next project!
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Pre-washing … the great debate!
Until you enter a community, their age-old questions might seem meaningless or even silly. That’s the case with pre-washing fabric before a sewing or craft project. I mean, who really cares? If you’re not someone who works with fabric then it doesn’t seem like a big deal!
Well, I care (since I do a lot with fabric) and so do a lot of other habitual makers. So what’s behind the big debate?
From what I can tell, there is NO RIGHT ANSWER! Seems like you can do whatever you want and just deal with the end success or issues. What I can summarize, however, are the bigger points in the debate.
shrinkage … not the seinfeld type (lol)
Some fabrics tend to shrink A LOT when they are washed and dried. So the logic goes that you need to know how the fabric will be (in terms of size) AFTER all or most of the shrinkage has occurred.
This makes sense, right. It’s really quite vital for garments but we don’t do that HERE so I’m going to ignore you wonderful clothing tailors (you’re way too talented for me to join your ranks).
When it comes to quilting and crafting, I’ve heard that as long as you use the same type of fabric for the entire project it’s not a big issue. OKAY, point for no pre-washing.
If you use different types of fabric together, which I tend to do, then I suggest pre-washing. This will avoid one component shrinking and warping the entire project out of shape. Point to pre-washing.
I’ve also heard that if you buy a charm pack or fat quarters, that sometimes pre-washing them makes them much harder to use. Apparently, they may no longer be big enough for the quilt pattern. Point for NO pre-washing.
chemicals on the fabric … yuk!
In the manufacturing process of a lot of fabrics, there are chemicals used (for what I don’t know). If you’re using the material for a display piece, this really doesn’t matter much.
If, however, you’ll be putting the fabric on your skin (e.g., blanket or throw pillow) AND have sensitivities to chemicals then definitely wash it before use. If you do this before or after you make your project is (to me) personal preference!
softer or older … looks are in the eyes of the beholder
Washing DOES breakdown the fibers of material. I try to tell my teenager this ALL the time as she puts EVERYTHING in the wash after a single use. It’s a fact. Whether this is good or bad for your projects is a personal taste.
Some people like the softening of the fibers that comes with pre-washing. It may make the entire tactile experience of working with the material more pleasurable.
Others feel that pre-washing makes a project look OLD (who wants that??!!). So maybe if you’re selling something then you shouldn’t pre-wash it for that reason. I do recommend, however, that if you are selling your goodies that you wash at least one to see what happens to it. You need to be prepared for your buyers to wash your goods and that means you need to advise them on what to expect.
I use the Cricut Maker a lot. Cricut recommends pre-washing. I’ll admit that I’ve skipped this step in the past. What I’ve noticed, is that the HTV (heat transfer vinyl) isn’t weeding as well as I’d like. So now I’m pre-washing to see if that makes a difference.
Other fabric manufacturers will make recommendations so check the end of the bolt and see what is suggested for the fabric you’re using.
team: no wash
If TEAM: NO WASH is your groove then try to keep all of your materials and notions of the same composition. All cotton, all poly-cotton, all poly, etc… Yes, even the thread!
Some projects won’t survive well in the wash. If this is the case, spot clean them according to the fabric instructions.
I’m more on TEAM: PRE-WASH although not compulsively so. I like how it makes the fabric feel when I’m working with it. I DON’T pre-wash when its for a home decor project that won’t be washed by the end user. That’s because I feel it does make the piece look warn and that’s not what I’m going for at this time. When shabby-chic comes back into my world (the styles always have a way of coming around again) then this may change.
I do tell my buyers to spot clean only for these pieces.
don’t pre-wash without sealing the raw edges!!
BEFORE you pre-wash, one thing is definitely VITAL for most fabrics. You need to prepare the raw edges for the abuse of the washing machine. Otherwise, you’ll get a stringy ball of knot and a lot less fabric than you ever expect. (I know, again from the in-experience of getting experienced.)
All you need to do is add a stitch to the end of your raw edges with a sewing machine or serger. Almost any stitch will do but make sure the length is relatively small to make sure the threads can’t escape.
I have two pictures here, one with the raw edges and the other with a serger treatment. I had NO problem in the wash.
Another preference I have is to remove the fabric from the dryer just before it’s totally dry. That way I can iron it without steam and starch. Others do say to keep it in the dryer as long as possible to get the absolute MOST shrinkage possible. You decide!
This is fabric from the America Banner tutorial. To get more information, take a look at this introductory post!
no string (or thread) goes untied!
In doing my research for this post, I came across a really well-done post that gets into a lot of different types of fabrics and how they should be treated before a project. This is a great website with super useful information so definitely add them to your read list.
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Happy making! XOXO ALI.