Why Prewash Your Fabric?
If you’re asking yourself, why should I bother to prewash fabric… here are some important reasons:
Shrinkage Prewash fabric to avoid misshapen/shrunk items after sewing
Many fabrics, especially natural fibres like cotton, linen, and viscose, shrink when washed. By prewashing, we’re allowing our fabric to go through its little transformation before we craft it into something beautiful. This ensures that our finished garment won’t end up too snug or misshapen after its first wash. And it won’t necessarily shrink evenly, so don’t think that oversized hoody will just nicely shrink down into the perfect proportioned size 🙂
Hygiene Prewash fabric to get rid of factory gunk
I bet if the first point hasn’t already converted you into always prewashing your fabric, this one will! Fabric picks up all sorts of dirt, dust, and other contaminants during the manufacturing and shipping process. If you prewash the fabric before sewing with it can remove these contaminants and ensure that your finished product is clean and safe to wear against your skin. Which also brings us onto the next point…
Sizing – And probably not what you think it means…
(This kind of goes along with the hygiene point, and is a weird term that isn’t very matched to it’s description, but stick with me here) I didn’t even know about this one until I started researching. You know how sometimes when you’ve washed and dried your fabric it comes out more fluid, drapey, or soft? This is apparently down to a process the manufacturer does called fabric sizing. They apply a protective thin film of adhesive and binder and this helps them with the weaving, colouring and general processing of the fabric. Once you’ve stuck it in your washing machine, it cleanses this all away.
Colorfastness Prewash fabric that might bleed colour
We’ve all heard those horror stories of beautiful garments ruined by colours bleeding in the wash. Prewashing can help prevent bleeding onto other garments or, if you’re colour blocking, from ruining the other sections of your project with colour transfer. If you are using a coloured or patterned fabric, it is important to wash it beforehand to ensure the colours do not bleed during subsequent washes. Oh, and make sure you’re prewashing the fabrics that could bleed in separate loads! Similar shades are usually okay prewashed together but be extra careful with reds and dark colours!
General wellbeing and maintaining a love with your sewing
This one matters in your sewing journey for the benefit of a healthy and happy mind. You probably sew because you chose to, and because you enjoy it. (I hope so, anyway!) If you’re anything like me, when you receive a fabric delivery you’re so excited to see the beautiful new fabric. Who wouldn’t want to provide the best beginning for their lovely new fabric’s journey? So, try to embrace the importance of prewashing, as it’s not just about the fabric benefits I mentioned above, but also about the love and care we put into our entire creative process. When you look after your sewing projects from beginning to end, you’re not just appreciating the final garments, but also building a mindful and enjoyable approach to sewing. Prewashing can become a ritual that helps us value our creations and the work we put into them. By taking the time to prewash, you’re making sure your garments (and your sewing journey) continue to make you proud and happy for years to come.
I wrote a whole post dedicated to some of the many (I’ve listed 12) ways sewing can improve your mental health and general wellbeing. Click here to read it!
Now that we understand the importance of prewashing, let’s look at some care tips for three popular fabrics: jersey, viscose, and linen. And remember, always check the washing guidelines on the fabric shop’s website, if available, to ensure the best care for your precious fabric. And while the tips below are the general advice I’d give for prewashing those fabrics, make sure you wash the final garment the same way. For example, if you’re going to go tumble dry your garment once made (fabric allowing), then you should tumble dry it during the prewash.
This soft and stretchy fabric is a favourite among sewists for its comfort. When prewashing jersey, use a 30° cycle. To prevent your fabric from stretching or pilling, avoid using high heat or harsh chemicals. Air drying is usually recommended, but if you prefer to tumble dry, use the lowest heat setting.
Viscose (and rayon) is known for its luxurious drape and smooth texture. To prewash viscose, use a gentle cycle with cool water and mild detergent. Because viscose can be prone to wrinkling, avoid twisting or wringing it out. Gently squeeze out excess water and either air dry or tumble dry on low heat. Ironing while slightly damp can help to smooth out any wrinkles.
Linen is a lovely, breathable fabric that becomes softer with each wash. To prewash linen, use a gentle cycle with cool to warm water and mild detergent. Linen can wrinkle easily, so avoid overloading your washing machine. You can air dry or tumble dry on low heat, but remove promptly to minimize creasing. A quick press with a warm iron will have your linen looking crisp and ready for sewing.
The wrap up…
Prewashing your fabric is such an important step in any sewing project. While it may add a little extra time to your sewing process, it can save you a lot of frustration and disappointment in the long run. By prewashing your fabric, you can prevent shrinkage, bleeding of colours, remove sizing or stabilizer, and ensure that your finished product is clean and safe to use.
So next time you start a sewing project, take the time to prewash your fabric (please!)
Your future self will thank you!