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Conversational Threads

pre-shrinking silk and linen blend

Annemari | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

Hi for everyone

I have a problem that I could not solve searching through archive from the beginning of times… So I hope for your kind advice here.

I have a piece of beautiful fabric, witch is blend of linen and silk, 50% and 50%. It is woven like a brocade (misspelled?). One side of the fabric shows off more silk, another shows off more linen.

Unfortunately I do not know how to pre-shrink it or which treatment does it need before cutting out and sewing? Should I  soak it and dry in tumble dryer on the low heat setting or what do you suggest? I’d like to wear it, but I dare not fetch out my shears, not yet.

I apologize for my poor language, but English is not my primary language, I hope you understand me.


  1. User avater
    Thimblefingers | | #1

    Wow!  it sounds like beautiful fabric!  As I have not worked with this specific type of fabric, my intuition and experience tell me that the two different fibres are going to react differently to the wash/dry treatment and you are likely to end up with fabric that looks quite different from the original.  If you have enough fabric, you could cut a piece off and wash and dry to see the effect and judge whether you like it.  Otherwise, I would take it to the drycleaner and have them clean it, then always dry clean the garment.   

  2. tmorris1 | | #2

    I agree with thimble - good advice there. Be sure that if you are going to wash a swatch that you keep careful measurements of the original swatch in order to track how much it shrinks. Measure all sides before it goes in the washer, before it goes in the dryer, and after it is finished. The same goes for the dry cleaners. If the fabric rolls or curls, then the two threads are shrinking at different rates, and the edges of anything you make with it will always roll.

  3. MaryinColorado | | #3

    Your English is fine and your spelling better than many of us!  Wish I coud help, but I agree with the others that the fabrics will likely not wash well even though they are natural fabrics.  You might lose some of the sheen on the silk too.  Mary

  4. dotty | | #4

    I had some lovely silk/cotton that I wish I had not washed. It never looked the same again. It didn't shrink, it now looks dull and a bit fuzzy. It's still sitting hopefully in my closet saying, "why isn't she wearing me?" That was one of those sewing lessons I wish I hadn't had.

    1. mygaley | | #5

      Dear Dotty, Have you tried asking your cleaner to put a lot of sizing or even starch in it? Also, if that doesn't work, I'd try some spray starch--remembering when we ironed everything, those methods perked up a lot of natural fabrics. If a garment seems to be ruined, we can be bold about our "cures". God bless you Mygaley

      1. User avater
        Annemari | | #6

        Thank you all!

        I thought that to cut a piece to test at first is a very good idea, but it was pre-cut piece and the yardage is a bit short for me already, I could not cut something off preliminarily or I risked to miss this piece later.

        As much as I hesitated to do this, finally I decided that I cannot wear a garment that is unwashable (there is no dry cleaning service in my area, I have to drive 70 miles to nearest one, I am not eager to do it). So it would be a disaster in one way or another - and I put my fabric into washing mashine. I used lukewarm water, mild detergent and a gentle washing program, and sat next to the machine to watch what happened next. Nothing disastrous, I had to say. So, I took my fabric and - don't beat me - threw it into tumbler dryer, setting it on 'delicates' again. I took it out when it was warm and slightly damp, folded it up evenly and threw over the door to hang. It is flawless now, with no creases or visible signs of being washed.

        So - I took the risk and I won! But you helped me to decide. Thanks, ladies!

        There was a site what helped me to decide, too.

        1. Ralphetta | | #7

          You mentioned no dry cleaners available.  Have you or any others tried Dryelle?  You dry clean in the dryer.  I'm curious about how well it works.

          1. User avater
            Annemari | | #9

            Dear Ralphetta

            I'm outside of United States, even more, I'm outside of American continent, so we have a bit different trademarks here, but I got your point. I have a dryer with dampness sensor, so when I tried it with dry  items, it was turned off by itself after 10 minutes. It is useful mostly because when the items are drying faster, it turnes off when the load is dry, not when the time runs out. But - and it is sad - I can make it work with try clothes in it only in 10-minute cycles (then it understands there is nothing to dry and switches off). I noticed these dry-cleaning wipes or serviettes some months ago, but I did not buy them then, and now they are gone from the shelves...

            You were really very supportive. Thank you all :)


          2. tmorris1 | | #11

            I found that they have a bit of a strong smell, but am sensitive.

          3. tzipi | | #12

            Since we're on this topic- should I have a new piece of silk fabric I just bought dry cleaned before I cut it out?

          4. tmorris1 | | #13

            It is highly advised always to pre-treat fabrics before you cut them. If you are making something that is wash and wear, then wash and dry the fabric at home, if you are going to dry clean the garment, then take the fabric to the dry cleaners. If you skip this step, then you run the risk of your garment not fitting, or draping the same after it has been washed (or dry cleaned).

          5. solosmocker | | #14

            I have machine washed, on gentle, all the silks I have sewn with for the last 10 or so years. I have yet to have a problem, fingers crossed! This allows me to wash the garment after construction. In my former life I was lucky to need professional looking clothing and often used silks for blouses and suits. Once I bought a silk upholstery on closeout, washed it, and made a wonderful jacket with it. The washing will definitely take out the crispness, which was much needed in that upholstery fabric! So if you prefer the crispness that your silk came with, plan on dry cleaning. When the silk is in the rinse water, I will add about a cup of white vinegar and soak for a couple of minutes to set the color, and then continue with the rinse cycle or hand rinse. If the fabric is white or ecru, don't bother with the vinegar. You might also do a test of a measured square of your fabric to see how it will react to the washing before committing. Measure before and after washing and notice the hand.
            Just my slant on the topic.

          6. tmorris1 | | #15

            Hey solo, just a little note, if you add about 1/4 cup of epsom salts with the vinegar and water, your color set will be stronger. You can even set deep reds with this method. I agree with you though, that machine washing silks is just fine, but I do still test wash a swatch first.

          7. solosmocker | | #16

            Thanks! Epsom salts are quite amazing. I met a gardener once who told me to put a heaping tbsp on each of my bell pepper plants. I did and my harvest was amazing. Epsom salts are a big part of my gardening now. I will have to make it a part of my sewing routine as well. Thanks so much.

          8. tmorris1 | | #17

            If I remember correctly, it was a Martha Stewart tip on preserving the colors on RTW clothes. I find that a 1/2 hour soak in the washing machine before adding the soap really sets the color well, and prevents fading. Good old epsom salts, and I used to think their only use was soaking sore feet !!! Lol

          9. meg | | #18

            There was an article in Threads magazine within the last 2 years by a woman who treated all her fabrics with bold abandon.  There were some pretty amazing outcomes - some expected, some surprising.  I'm not very good with the search function; perhaps there's someone here who can point you to that article.

      2. dotty | | #8

        Starching it never occured to me. Is there any reason I shouldn't just do it myself with spray starch?

  5. Teaf5 | | #10

    I'm glad that your washing experiment turned out well! Last year, I washed a cotton/linen decorator blend for pillow covers, and the linen came out all bristly and scratchy afterward. Despite that, I used them for last summer season but will have to replace them this summer because they are so uncomfortable, even for sofa pillows. Fortunately, the fabric was a heavily discounted mill end, but unfortunately, they took a lot of time, as I decided to make bias piping for all three of them. I'll be ripping them apart to save the zippers and to use the scratchy pieces as patterns for my new ones, but I won't cut the new ones out until I am positive the fabric is perfectly soft after washing!

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