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Softening fabric

kapnoel | Posted in General Discussion on

Dear all,


I could not resist a floral IKEA fabric with gorgeous design and made a simple raincoat out of it. It turned out beautiful, but since the fabric was actually meant to be used in home dec, it is a little stiff. I thought washing the coat and using softener on it to make it softer, but before doing that I thought I should ask you what would you do to soften a garment.


Many thanks in advance!


Best regards




  1. KharminJ | | #1

    Good Morning, Elissavet!

    I use intended-for-home-dec fabric more often than garment fabric to make clothes, too. It certainly opens up your range of choices exponentially, doesn't it?I usually wash the fabric *before* I cut it, though, because the hand and dimensions may change drastically. Since your coat is already done, I would take a substantial piece of leftover fabric, square it off so you can get good measurements, note the dimensions (and, if it's at all ravelly, finish 3 sides - the 4th is free to roam so you can see what it actually does), and toss it in the wash on the settings you would use for the garment. I've never seen Ikea's fabrics, but guessing it's cotton, so go cool and gentle, and easy on the dryer, unless there are other instructions for the product. If you're happy with the test results, go for it! If it shrinks, crinkles or otherwise distorts, a *hand-wash* in the bathtub may be the way to go. That would still shed most of any "finish", and probably soften it somewhat.Happy experimenting! And Bright Spring Blessings in your new raincoat ~Kharmin

    1. kapnoel | | #2

      Thanks, dear Khamin! I have prewashed the fabric, of course, so I do not think it will go in additionally. I tossed it in the washer (it is washable at 60 degrees, but I put it in 40 with some softener). I will then dry it in the drywasher gently, but longly, I read that it makes it softer.

      Ikea fabrics are something special. I used the Gunilla floral (second from bottom) http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/10154191 and Cecilia for the lining http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/00153984

      I use them often to make bags but that is actually my first Ikea coat. Let's see the result I get after washing and drying!

      Best regards



      1. sewelegant | | #5

        You have an interesting dilemma.  I think the manufacturers of the decorator fabrics put some kind of finish on the fabric so it will keep its "body" since most of the things made from it need that body... like drapes.

        Look at the things they tell you NOT to do, like do not put in dryer, do not dry clean, etc.  I'll bet those are the things that will take that finish away.  I would test the sample fabric again, even though you have washed it, You might even want to take a piece to the dry cleaner to see how it turns out if washing and drying do not do the trick.

        Edited 3/27/2009 7:35 pm by sewelegant

    2. Cityoflostsouls | | #14

      I'm going to try your advice to Ellisavet!  Why I bought it I don't know (sale I suppose) but I have a pretty print but it's shinier than  oilcloth and stiff.  I suppose it's cotton  Any idea what its intended use was?  Sometimes I'm not too  smart and buying this was one of those times.  Costume material?

      1. KharminJ | | #15

        Oh, I'm sure it was a "moment of inspiration"! Unfortunately - the idea behind the inspiration often slips away, and we're left with the parts and no recollection of what we intended to use them for!! (Ask me why I'm so sure of this ~ I believe it's the root cause of "over-stash" ;})Shiny, stiffish cotton print sounds like chintz - often used for curtains (not drapes) and upholstery. The stiffness and a lot of the shine will probably wash away. You could use it for bags, wallets, or aprons, or a shower curtain ~ wash it and see what happens - maybe a skirt or vest? If it still doesn't inspire you, put it in a garage sale (or the Goodwill box)- someone else will love it! Bright Blessings! Kharmin

        1. Cityoflostsouls | | #18

          I've got 3 yards of that fabric.  My house has nice windows and was built to not take curtains but the light in the morning comes in over my right shoulder so maybe I'll make a drawback curtain for it.  I live in a field so am very happy to be able to see out and not have to do up curtains, etc.  I could put a valance on the other window.  Thanks for your suggestions-I hadn't thought of chintz.  When I bought it my daughter was shaking her head-but I liked it!

  2. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #3

    Ikea has some beautiful fabrics. They do have a fairly tight weave that makes them nice for home dec. I have been using "dryer balls" in my dryer. These are the knobby plastic balls that fluff up towels and are supposed to reduce drying time, and eliminate the need for fabric softeners. I am finding that my new jeans are coming out of the dryer very soft, even after the first wash. Perhaps these might be worth a try. Cathy

    1. kapnoel | | #4

      Thanks dear Cathy. I washed the body of the coat yesterday twice at 30 degrees (I did not sew yet the lining to it, so there was no interfacing on the washed parts) using also softener. Then I dried it in the dryer (without the balls), it turned out quite fine, it is still not a very soft fabric, but it is much better than before. I will try your trick if I find the balls to buy. Otherwise I might just wash it two more times.


      Thanks again!


      Best regards



      1. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #8

        If you don't have access to the dryer balls Cathy talks about...you could try using 3 or 4 tennis balls which you can get at any sporting goods store. That is usually recommended for fluffing up down sleeping bags or comforters in the dryer.

        1. kapnoel | | #9

          Thank you all for your useful advice. After 4 washes and dryer circles, some conditioner, my raincoat is now exactly as it should be!

          Best regards


          1. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #10

            I wish you'd take a picture for us. It sounds lovely.

          2. Palady | | #11

            >> ... my raincoat is now exactly as it should be! <<

            It is most gracious of you to post the results of suggestion posted to you.  Often an issue inquiry is presented w/o a follow up.  The lack leaves those members who offered solutions to but wonder.  Sometimes anyway.


          3. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #13

            Wonderful! Sometimes patience, and many washings is just what a garment needs. Cathy

    2. MarshaK | | #19

      Where does one find the 'dryer balls'? I recall seeing them mentioned a while back, in an ad or some place, but that's as far as I got. Thanks. Marsha.

      1. Palady | | #20

        While you await a reply from ThreadKoe may I offer you a thought.  Just yesterday, Tues - on my out & about at a Wegman's supermarket, I saw these offered in a disply rack standing in the laundry detergent aisle.

        These were shaped differently, and priced more, than some I bought years ago in a ??? store.

        it's possible other supermarkets might have them.


        1. MarshaK | | #24

          Thanks for the info, I was thinking these dryer balls were one of the 'only available through this offer, as seen on TV' products. I did check the laundry aisles in the stores here, no luck, all they had were the balls that liquid fabric softener goes in. Marsha.

          1. Palady | | #26

            >>. . . laundry aisles in the stores here, no luck, all they had were the balls that liquid fabric softener . . . <<

            Guess it's one of those items for the powers-to-be to make the decision as to stocking.  If you keep your eye out, you may happen upon them when you least exepct to do so.


      2. Josefly | | #21

        I saw a couple of different types of dryer balls at Target the other day, in the laundry/garment care area of the store.

        1. MarshaK | | #25

          We don't have Target stores here in Alberta, but we may soon be making a trip south, so I'll check the first one I come to. Thanks for the info. Marsha.

          1. starzoe | | #30

            Here in B.C. I have seen the dryer balls in a dollar store. They look a little different from the ones on TV though.

          2. MarshaK | | #32

            Thanks for the info, I'll have to take a look through the dollar store next time I get a chance. Those stores sure have a wide variety of things, don't they? Marsha.

      3. Pattiann42 | | #27
      4. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #35

        I see that others have replies for you before I could answer. I got mine in a dollar store, but I have also seen them in hardware stores, like Home Hardware, and in Giant Tiger and Bargain Bin. The heavier ones last longer and work better than the dollar store ones, so you only need the one set, so if you get the dollar store ones, buy 4. Cathy

        1. MarshaK | | #40

          Thanks for the list of stores you found the dryer balls in, and the advice on the dollar store ones not being up to the challenge as well as the others. I've just returned from a quick trip down to Montana where I found a couple of sets of the balls at Ace Hardware. Several other stores had them, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Walgrens Pharmacy, if anyone else is looking for them. Marsha.

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #42

            Glad you found the list helpful, and you got your hands on some. I like my set of dollar store ones, even if I needed a few more as they are not as heavy. I know I have to keep the dryer door closed, as my cats think they are great toys, tee hee hee. Cathy

        2. MarshaK | | #41

          Thanks to everyone who had suggestions on where I might find the dryer balls. I now have a couple of sets, and am now on my way to the washer and dryer to try them out. Marsha.

  3. Josefly | | #6

    I've read several times that laundering with dishwashing liquid softens linen fabric nicely. I don't know if it would work with home-dec fabrics, or why it works well with linen, but it's easy enough to try, anyway.

    1. sewslow67 | | #7

      Thanks for the tip, Josefly; I normally wash my linen before cutting and sewing because I prefer for it not to wrinkle so much ...but I haven't tried dish detergent yet.  I've got a couple of pieces to work on in the next couple of months, so I'll give that a try.

      I also underline most of my linen garments, (bottom garments, and bodices of dresses {but not always the sleeves} which helps a lot with decreasing the wrinkles; but I suspect most everyone else does that too, so it's nothing new.

      Edited 4/3/2009 12:21 pm by sewslow67

      1. Josefly | | #12

        Just be sure, if you try the dishwashing liquid, it's not dishwash-er detergent. Yikes, I hate to think of the results of that.

        1. sewslow67 | | #16

          I actually thought that I might try that on a piece of denim, just to see what would happen.  It might give it a really interesting striation/surface design.

          1. Josefly | | #17

            You know, I've wondered too, what it would look like to use dishwasher detergent to discharge fabric, instead of using liquid or paste bleach. Seems like it would be easier to control, than spraying diluted bleach onto the fabric, since the dishwasher detergent is thick. But I'm not sure you could see what was happening, or how the color is being affected, without rinsing it off. I have a shirt that I spattered something on - probably bleach - and one of these days I'm going to get around to experimenting with it to see if I can salvage it somehow. Problem with discharging a rtw garment is that there's no extra fabric to experiment with.

            Edited 4/3/2009 4:55 pm ET by Josefly

          2. soie | | #23

            If your shirt is solid colored, perhaps you might consider 'painting' a design on it with bleach and a thin brush, so that the splatter incorporated in the design becomes a happy accident instead of something that you must remove the color from entirely to salvage.  It could be a trailing vine with graphic style flower outlines, just going across the area of the blouse that was originally spattered...could be fun!  Or some simple geometric design maybe.  I've seen this done with various fabrics, and sometimes the bleach brings out another color in the shirt rather than 'white' as you might think.  It's sort of an art-to-wear idea.  You could take it a step further and add some embroidery...etc.  Of course I don't know what sort of blouse this is, but it sounds like something you like well enough to consider spending some time to restore it. 


          3. Josefly | | #28

            Yes, some kind of design produced with bleach is what I was thinking of, too. That's why I was thinking the thick dishwasher detergent which contains bleach would be easier to control. My shirt is actually a dark navy blue rayon, and it was a favorite until I splattered it with bleach somehow - and where the bleach landed, to my surprise, it is red. I've heard that black, when discharged, is equally unpredictable.

          4. soie | | #31

            Sounds interesting, I'd enjoy seeing it when you're done! 

  4. Ceeayche | | #22

    Sounds like you have a gem!  Please post pictures of the finished garment.  It sounds happy!

    1. kapnoel | | #29

      I would be happy to post pictures, but DH took our digital camera to a trip and he will be back on Sunday. So, dear friends, I cannot post any pictures before Sunday.

      In the meantime I softened some more Ikea fabric following your tips and I made a kimono jacket for my 8 year old daughter, that turned out quite Picasso-like and I am especially proud of it. I will show them to you all but please be patient until Sunday!

      Best regards


      1. kapnoel | | #33

        Dear friends,

        Following your request, here are the pictures of my raincoat and my daughter's kimono jacket as well as a bag made of the same Ikea fabric as the raincoat. The fabric for my daughter's jacket is from Ikea as well.

        I hope you like them!

        Best regards



        1. kapnoel | | #34

          Dear friends,

          Sorry for the huge pictures, I hope these are better!

          Best regards


          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #36

            What WONDERFUL Jackets and Coats! Love the prints! Well worth the extra effort put into softening the fabric. Bravo. Nice work. Great bag. Cathy

          2. Ceeayche | | #37

            These are very happy garments!  Very nicely done.

          3. Sancin | | #38

            Wow - great fabrics and patterns used!

          4. kapnoel | | #39

            Thank you dear friends for your kind words.



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