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Preparing fabric

Stillsewing | Posted in General Sewing Info on

First, I would like to start with many thanks for all the inspiration both from the magasine Threads, but more so to the fantastic people using this website whose enthusiasm and assistance have spurred me on no end this year. After some years wandering in the desert I have managed to complete three outfits so far this year which I am happy to wear in public.

Now that I have started sewing again in earnest I’d love to hear from others how they prepare fabric for sewing? Do you wash in detergent etc, or just wash and dry it, and if it’s dry clean only, do nothing. I’m inclined to be a bit hasty to have to wait to do the preparation work, I just like to start cutting out.


  1. User avater
    matzahari | | #1

    i always do to the fabric what I will want to do when it is a finished item. Nothing goes into my fabric stash until it has been treated, then it's official and can be used without worry.

    Most everything i make can be machine or handwashed since i hate the smell and concept of dry cleaning.

    the only fabric i don't treat first is if I am recovering a chair (not a slip cover).

    1. Stillsewing | | #2

      Thanks very much for this, I supppose I should do this when I purchase however can you believe I have a beaufiful piece of pleated cotton which is dry clean only! and WHITE! in my stash

      1. Josefly | | #3

        I always wash and machine dry my washable fabrics, linings, interfacings, etc., if the garment will be washed and dried. I know it's hard to wait before cutting something out when you really want to get going on a project, but I have two or three times suffered the consequences of not pre-treating fabrics, and then all my work cutting and sewing was for nought. I have mixed feelings about dry-cleaning, since I wonder about the effects of steam-pressing on a finished garment. But I noticed that Nancy Zieman, in her video on sewing knits, says that dry-clean-only fabrics don't need to be pre-treated. Even so, if I have a fabric I think may shrink on dry-cleaning, I steam it first to pre-shrink. Some lining fabrics are notorious for shrinking when exposed to heat; I once took some fabric to a dressmaker for a mother-of-the-bride dress, and when she ironed the lining fabric it shrank (shrunk?) drastically. Fortunately there was plenty of fabric, but I tremble when I think that I myself might've cut it and sewn it without ironing first, since it was on a roller, and hadn't been folded, and didn't appear to need ironing.I don't think I would pre-dry-clean your pleated cotton, if it were mine, because the pleats would have to be pressed back in, and there's usually a per-pleat charge - I'm sometimes too much of a penny-pincher, though. So I think I'd take my chances and sew it as-is. Good luck. What are you planning to make with that fabric?

        Edited 7/28/2007 5:08 pm ET by Josefly

        1. Stillsewing | | #4

          Thanks for your reply. I think that instead of getting out the scissors I shall get a few items in my stash ready for for cutting out. I had quite forgotten that I had this piece of white cotton, bought when a couturier was closing down, and I am thinking at the moment that I might make a wrapover dress with a gathered or a line skirt. The fabric is sort of double with the pleats on top of it, if you can understand my meaning? In any case given that it will be questionable whether it will be washable or not I will make it up in the simplest design possible.I came across this fabric because I have found a charity that will use fabric and I decided to check out what I could do without in my collection. I put a box full aside, my husband looked at it and said not much there surely you can add a bit more to it? So maybe I will

          1. Josefly | | #5

            Oh, I think I understand your description of the fabric - the pleats are woven in? Sounds interesting. Let us know how it works out.

  2. Minnie63 | | #6

    I do pre wash most of the time. I do have a hint, I surge the top and bottom of the piece. You know how it's folded in half? Well, that's how I sew the ends and it makes it easier to fold and use.

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