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Sewing Tips: Pre-Washing

The holidays seem to have treated many of you very well. I have heard many of you say that you received new sewing machines, silhouette’s, sergers, and/or sewing tools of some sort for Christmas.  Or for Hannakuh or Three Kings Day, etc.  Whatever the occasion………..Hooray!  And with that has come many questions in my inbox.  Most of them are sewing questions.
I have a sewing tips category under the tutorials tab up at the top of the blog, found here.  But there are always more questions.  And now seems like a great time to add to that category.  Because there are lots and lots and lots of questions right now.  Which I love.  Because that means many of you are cracking those new machines out of the boxes and gearing up for new projects.
Now the disclaimer.
Whenever I receive questions……………well, I chuckle to myself.  Because who am I to answer your questions?  I’m no pro.  Honest.  So keep in mind, that whatever I share on here, whatever advice I bubble out with……’s only from this gal’s experience.  Nothing more.  Whew.  But if it helps you out……perfect.  And if you know more about it, please share in the comment section.  Deal?
Onto the tips……
I get asked a lot about pre-washing.  It seems to really puzzle some of you whether it’s necessary or not.  So it must be shared as one great big post.  How I feel about it, anyway.
If you’re anything like me, you head to the fabric store (or online store) looking for one yard of a certain texture and color of fabric……
And you come home with this………..
Yummy fabric, yummy colors, yummy sales.  It really makes a seamstress happy.
So my advice is yes, wash all of your fabrics, before cutting them up to sew with.   Machine wash, hand wash, machine dry, hang dry………whatever the washing instructions are for that particular fabric.
Right when you bring them home.
Don’t wait until it’s time to begin making your project…….or you may forget.  Or even run out of time.
The pile of fabrics shown above is all 100% cotton, and cotton is notorious for shrinking.
So for sure throw those cottons (or cotton blends) in the washing machine………
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Then in the dryer………….
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And then you’ll see, yep, it has all shrunk up and shriveled a bit.  (Not a ton.  Don’t worry about it shrinking several inches all around.  I’d say maybe a 1/4-1/2 inch on a full yard of fabric.  Depends on the quality of the fabric.)
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And don’t worry, frayed edges are normal.  And inevitable.  Just trim off any long strings that get all tangled together…..but don’t worry about those little frayed edges until you start cutting out pieces for your project.
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And then iron/steam your fabric flat.

This step helps a ton if you really want to be precise before cutting out your pattern pieces or begin working on your next project.  It flattens the fabric back out and gives it a crisp look again.  Such an important step.

(I admit, I don’t do this every time.  It just depends on what I’m making.  But it sure makes a big difference if you’re putting pattern pieces together.  Or measuring in any way.)

And then iron throughout your project.  Iron seams flat, iron flaps shut, iron curves flat, etc.
Ironing increases the loveliness of your project, guaranteed.

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So just be sure to check out the washing instructions (located on the bolt of fabric) before buying your fabric.  And then pre-wash that fabric.
Now for a “tell-the-truth” moment.
I don’t always pre-wash before a project.  Even my cottons.  If I am in a hurry or just antsy to get started…….I just make the item a tad bigger and expect it to shrink a bit in the washer/dryer.  For example:  If I am making a gathered skirt for my little girl in 100% cotton, I don’t worry about adding extra fabric to the width because I am gathering it in and it won’t make a difference, but I add an extra 1/2 inch (or even an inch) to the length, just to be sure it doesn’t shrink up too short….decreasing the life of the skirt in her wardrobe.
That’s the truth.  But is more risky.
But my real, non-discouraging, advice?
Always pre-wash.
And if you do it right when you bring your lovely stack of fabrics home……they’ll be all ready to sew with once you begin your project a few days/weeks/months later.  A good habit to get into.
Any other basic sewing questions you have?
I have a list of things I’ll be sharing throughout the next several months……..but if you are itching to ask something, leave a comment.  And I’ll try to answer it in one of the upcoming sewing tips posts.
But no promises of when I’ll get it answered……remember I have this little baby plumping up inside of this tummy of mine. She’s almost done cooking.

Ashley Johnston

Administrator at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with the craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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