Prepping fabric is one of those steps that many novice sewers and aspiring designers tend to forget. It's also one of the steps that make or break a garment. So what does prepping your fabric actually mean? I'll start from the beginning! From the beginning I mean from that moment when you're standing in the aisles of the fabric store and you target in on the fabric that you’re taking home for your project. Hold for a second after you check the price! I’ll come back to that in a bit.
First, I want you to think about the amount of times you’ve washed a new article of clothing and it shrunk in the wash! Ring any bells? What about when it shrinks and it’s also off grain! Oh my gosh it’s the worst and really annoying! When this happens to your garment and you can’t wear it’s called disposable fashion. Companies such as Forever 21 and H&M are the biggest manufacturers of disposable fashion. It’s a topic for entirely different blog post so let’s focus back on prepping fabric.
Below I have listed some simple steps on what you should do to prep your fabric before cutting it.
Okay! So remember how I mentioned to hold for a second after you check the price of the fabric? Well, I want you to start paying attention to the fabric content label! Seriously, it tells you exactly how to care for the fabric right on the label! Pull out your phone and take a picture of it so you remember how to wash it later. If you happen to be buying multiple fabrics then you’ll have a reference of each fabric on your phone!
Wash your fabric just like you would as if it was already a garment! Yes! I know it seems weird right? And at first you’ll think to yourself “Am I suppose to be doing this?" Well, why not? What’s the difference whether the fabric is in one uncut piece or a full garment? It still doesn’t change the fact that it’s fabric. So go ahead and toss it in the washer BUT by itself! Don’t mix your regular laundry in with the fabric for two reason; 1. the dye might fade into your clothing and 2. there could be massive fraying! Trust me when I tell you that the fraying can get out of control on some fabrics and you don’t want to spend an hour trying to untangling your clothes from fabric. Not only will it slow you down from getting started on your sewing project but it will also kill your excitement. It's a total drag.
Machine dry fabric if possible. Woven fabrics such as cotton should be machine dried because of their high shrinkage factor. You may even want to buy just a tad more fabric because some fabrics shrink a lot! By the way, if your fabric is not machine washable such as wool and silk, then you’ll have to dry clean those fabrics.
Sometimes you’ll also have to wash some of the sewing components like linings and bindings if they are the types of material that will shrink. Sometimes you can shrink them by pressing them with steam. In general you want to keep your garment from getting weird after its been sewn.
Iron your fabric to get all the wrinkles out before you start putting your pattern pieces on it. Any wrinkles in your fabric will end up giving you too much ease. Save yourself the headache and iron first! Steam it if your fabric can handle it. Be careful with wools and silks. Steam will scorch silk and give it a wrinkled look that’s nearly impossible to remove and wool will shrink a lot. Try to save the steaming for molding and shaping. You also want to have a pressing cloth when you’re ironing these types of fabrics and put hem on a lower heat setting. A pressing cloth can be something as simple as a piece of muslin to place over your fabric so the iron won’t damage or mark your fabric. Make sure you double check your iron setting, especially test the heat on a scrap piece of fabric if you have some left.
So there you go! Follow these 5 tips the next time you go fabric shopping! You'll be happy that you took the extra time to prep your fabric. The best part is being able to wear your garment more then once! Isn't that the purpose after all your hard work?
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