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Prewashing 25 yards of satin

Knitnut | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

For those who remember, I’m making bridesmaids dresses.  I’ve got the fitting issues resolved, now the fabric has arrived.

I’ve only ever sewen 1 garment at a time and knew how to handle that prewashing.  I don’t think throwing the whole 25 yards in the machine is a good idea.  I’m concerned about shrinkage, but the bolt says 100% polyester machine wash and dry.

My next thought was to cut into lengths of yardage called for each top and each skirt; ie. 1 1/2 top and 4 for skirt.   Wash those pieces.  In the past, I’ve basted the sides closed, and washed doubled.  I’ve also washed my fabric flat out open; no basting, yet sometimes it frays too much.

Before I start this expensive monumental task, I’d welcome any guidance.  Realistically the girls will NEVER wear these gowns again, so I was tempted to not wash – and just tell them them to dry clean it if they wanted to ever wear it again – obviously you can see I’m not well tuned in to single use projects like this.

Thanks for your help.  Jackie



  1. starzoe | | #1

    I would opt for not washing the yardage, even at a commercial laundry it would be a chore. Chances are, with 100% poly, even if they did wash the dress, it would not shrink.

    1. User avater
      Knitnut | | #2

      I LIKE that reply Starzoe!  It seems too good to be true!  Thanks.

  2. jjgg | | #3

    I'll second Starzoe. No need to wash the stuff

    Edited 12/16/2007 2:39 am ET by jjgg

  3. maggiecoops | | #4

    If you're concerned about shrinkage, cut a piece 6 inches square, wash that, press it, and measure. If it's shrunk, tell the girls, dry clean the dress. If it hasn't you don't need to worry anyway. I made my DiL wedding dress from 100% poly satinbacked crepe,the train got filthy during the reception. She was wearing the dress again at a second wedding ceremony 12 days later, but didnt know what to do so I washed it gently spun it and hung it to dry. You would never know it had been washed and there was no shrinkage. I have to say I held my breath through the whole operation.

    My daughters wedding dress which was stored in acid free paper and a dress storage box, got attacked by damp. She was heartbroken, then decided as there was so much black mould on the dress she couldn't make it any worse. She threw it in the wash machine on a hot wash and high spin speed. Her dress is now hung protected by a cotton dress bag, unmarked, unshrunk and minus a few beads which she has and intends replacing. If the dress had been pure silk she would never have got away with washing it, because it was 100% synthetic satin, it worked. So stop worrying flower and just concentrate on thinking how you are going to design your own outfit.

    1. User avater
      Knitnut | | #6

      Great story on the wedding dress!  I love it.  Thanks for sharing your experience with the dresses.  I'm leaning very much toward not pre-washing.

      I had not considred the gunk on the needle build up.  That I'll need to watch for.

      I don't think I have enough material to make one dress and treat it differently than the others, and then make one that matches - so perhaps I'll try the 6 inch swatch and see what it looks like.

      Thank you all for your ideas and comments.

      In ready-made; is the material prewashed or cleaned - does  anyone know?  OR is that why it's a whole new garment once you get it home and clean it??



      1. MaryinColorado | | #12

        I would not prewash, as said above, the sheen may change and your fabric may become limp.  Change the needles often and I keep a box of tiny individually wrapped alcohol wipes to clean off needle gunk as needed.  (medical supply type wipes).  I would steam some of the fabric ahead of time to check those results and for shrinking and color run as a garment steamer is often used at weddings for last minute touch ups.  You go girl!  Mary

        1. User avater
          Knitnut | | #15

          Good advice Mary!  I never thought of checking my steamer.  I use one at home and it would be great to take with me to the dressing area to get the last minute wrinkles out - but I never thought about the pre-test.  There is a huge difference between my iron steaming and the steamer!  Great tip -thank you.


          1. MaryinColorado | | #16

            You're welcome!  They put gauze over the brush on my steamer at my son's wedding, guess they were afraid it was too rough as they "pressed" the fabric with the steamer, putting it right against the dresses, not just in front of it.  (How did we manage "back in the day" before all these modern conveniences?  ha ha

            Best wishes on the gowns!  Merry Christmas!  Mary

  4. sewelegant | | #5

    You  may want to consider this ... manufacturers sometimes put a lot of sizing into their product (yardage) to make it look good on the rack and if you wash it, it would go limp!  The down side of not prewashing is the needle could get gummed up by the sizing and you would have skipped stitches.

    I would make one dress without washing the fabric first and see how it turns out.  If you have problems, what I mentioned could be at fault and you might have to have the "stuff" cleaned before proceeding.  Then, I would wash a small sample before washing the whole thing.  If that turned out well, then I would probably do what you have described in the prewashing process.  I have sent whole pieces of yardage to the cleaners with good results.   Good Luck.

    1. User avater
      Knitnut | | #7

      I may have posted a reply that included reference to your ideas and comments and just wanted to thank you for sharing your ideas.  I'm going to test a swatch and see what happens, but I'm leaning toward not washing this bolt at all.

      One question that hasn't been answered is when you wash your yardage, does anyone (besides me) baste their selvage edges or do you guys all wash your material flat and just let it ravel at will?


      1. maggiecoops | | #8

        I serge the cut edge only, selvedges I leave alone, I only cut slevedges off of curtain fabrics as they use complete fabric widths and I trim the selvedge and stitch the seam at the one time with the serger. For long lengths of cotton or cotton mix fabric I make concertina folds and place the folded fabric inside a net laundry bag, that stops the fabric tying itself in knots.

        As most of the fabrics I use are better end synthetics or silk and wool mixes, I don't pre wash them, only pure cottons or cotton rich mixes. Silk I never wash, that's dry clean only, I don't fancy the idea of spending $40 to $100 a metre to then run the risk of ruining it by washing it. Pure wool suiting I always treat as dry clean only, some faux suedes particularly the knit ones I treat as washable but don't pre wash, I'll just cut a small square and wash that. 90% of the time the fabrics don't shrink, I also have to think of the interlining and lining fabrics. Jacket canvas isnt washable, so even if the jacket is made of a washable fabric if I use cotton canvas or dommet, another non washable interling fabric, I class the garment as dry clean. The synthetics I love as once you have pressed them, wash and tumble dry perfectly so they only need the lightest of pressing, in some cases no pressing at all.

        I'm a naturally idle person, so to me a 6 inch test square is much more attractive than standing at my ironing board pressing a dress length of fabric.

      2. sewelegant | | #9

        I always zig zag the cut edges, but usually don't baste the selvedges together unless I have more than 4 yards.  It does get a bit tangled sometimes, then I wish I had!  I never let it ravel at will anymore... that seemed to ruin too much fabric.

  5. moira | | #10

    Jackie, I go with the others who say 'Don't wash'! I mean, what a lot of work for dresses you say they will never wear again, and at the risk of the fabric losing any of its 'body' in the process. Let them look fabulous for the occasion they're being made for and don't worry about the afterward bit.

    1. User avater
      Knitnut | | #11

      Moira - your comments add to my security of not washing first!  Thanks for posting.  I'll be starting that project next week (afer Christmas).  I'll post my results, but don't hold your breath - I'm sure it won't be until February.



  6. Teaf5 | | #13

    I agree with the others--there's no need to prewash 100% polyester, but you can do a sample swatch first to make sure.  The polyester "silkies" are nearly indestructible fabrics and can be machine washed and dried, but a lot of the embellishments are delicate and dry-clean only, so the bride may want to have a professional clean and package her gown after the wedding if she's going to keep it.

    Although I prefer natural fiber fabrics for most of my clothing, 100% polyester is a dream for special occasion outfits, particularly because it doesn't have to be washed but it can be if something soils it before the big event. 

    If you decide to pre-wash the fabric, cut it into more manageable lengths (enough for 1-2 gowns, say) before washing it.  You can also use a bathtub for wetting and soaking, the washer for the spin-only, and then a warm dryer with a towel for tumbling and getting wrinkles out.  Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!

    1. User avater
      Knitnut | | #14

      Thanks for your posting.  I'm almost ready to make that leap to pressing then cutting - no pre wash!

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