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how to avoid fabric care anxiety?

Hopelovepeace | Posted in Talk With Us on

I have anxiety that I won’t remember which fabric is cotton and which fabric is linen.  Or worse, which is a ‘linen look-alike’ and which is real linen.  When using flax yarn in knitting, among the pluses are always…you can wash linen!  I purchased some ‘dry-clean only’ light-weight linen, and while I’m awake, I know exactly which one it is.  In my nigthmares, I have forgotten, and so have washed it in my machine to prep it.  My question is, how do the pros remember which fabric is which, and what the care instructions are when you don’t purchase the whole bolt?  There are no ‘ball-bands’ in sewing!  Do you clip off a piece and paste it into a journal with the care instructions?  What?  Help! 


  1. woodruff | | #1

    fabric care anxiety

    I used to keep samples glued to 3 X 5 cards, along with a description.  Yuck.  Now, like sewchris, I pretty machine wash and dry everything I buy (except for a very few woolens. Most silks get tossed into the machine).  That way I know that anything in my stash is pre-treated, whatever it is.

    Now, as to what the fabric actually is, I use either a fine-point black or white permanent marker to literally write a short description plus yardage on the end of the cut.

    If that's not feasible (sometimes the weave prevents hand-printing), I use one of those removable stick-on labels from stationery supplies.

  2. Ceeayche | | #2

    How to avoid Fabric Care Anxiety

    Here's my system. 

    If I've purchased the fabric, I fold it for storage and clip a slip of paper to the end selvage that includes the content and the amount of yardage. 

    If I received it from another source and really can't tell from handling the fabric, I do a quick burn test.  Basically this means I clip a small (like one inch square) piece of the fabric.  put it on a piece of heavy duty foil and light a match to it.  Basically if it smells like burning leaves and goes to ash-- I interpret that as a natural fiber (cotton, linen, wool etc).  If it melts and smells like anything other than leaves, it interpret that to be synthetic (rayon, nylon, etc.). 

    If I can't tell from that, I treat it as dry cleanable and move on-- yes I may have a garment I'm dry cleaning unecessarily, but it eliminates the anxiety and I can enjoy the garment freely.  It's worth the cost of dry cleaning for this peace of mind.

    One thing I've also learned (I inherited a huge stash from my mother), is to also let fabric that's been stored over time "relax" before I start.  I take it out and drape it over the garment rack in my sewing room (have even used the curtain rod).  It just allows the fabric to breath and I also can see if there are any surprises (slubs, holes, etc)  before I start to cut.  I also send it through the dryer on the air setting (no heat)  to remove the dust.

    I wish you hours of anxiety free sewing!

  3. marymary | | #3

    I have several spools of ribbon, each a different color, that I use as fabric care labels.  I have written on the spool what the care for that color represents.  Example: pink means wash and machine dry, blue means wash and dry gentle, etc.  I serge a piece of the appropriate ribbon to the edge of the fabric when I get it home.  When I make the garment, I sew the ribbon to an inside seam so that I know how to care for it later.   This doesn't help with identifying the fabric, just the care.

    1. User avater
      JunkQueen | | #4

      Great Idea

      Mary, this may quite possibly be the most efficient method of handling fabric care I've ever seen.  I love this idea.  I suggest you send it to Threads for the monthly Tips column.   you'd be a shoo in for winning a prize if I were one of the judges of such things.

      1. marymary | | #5

        Thanks, JunkQueen for your nice comments.  I don't know where I got the idea, but I suspect that it originally came from Threads.  I have every issue, so that is very possible.  I has been a very good way to keep track of the care of finished garments.  I recently lost weight and found an old blouse that is probably 20 years old that I always loved and refused to get rid of.  It had the ribbon in the seam and I instantly knew how to care for it.

        1. sewluving | | #6


          That is such a wonderful idea.  I love it.  Thanks.

          Heather in Calgary

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