Sewing tips

Pre-wash fabrics

This week at Sewn By Tanya, new fabrics are being washed and pressed in preparation for sewing.  Why pre-wash?

That’s a good question Some items (like the Sewn By Tanya Slouch Bag) use a combination of different fabrics. Home decor fabrics,  cotton canvas, quilting weight cotton, light weight cotton, cotton polyester blends, and brocade all shrink at different rates the first time they are washed.

No one wants a bag with different sized exterior and interior, so it’s my practice to pre-wash and press all new fabrics prior to cutting and sewing. Here are the steps I use:

1) Stop the unravel!

Frayed/unraveled fat quarters
Frayed fat-quarters

If you’ve ever throw fabric with raw edges (or torn clothing) into the wash, you’ll have noticed that those raw edges can unravel by the time the fabric (or garments) comes out of the dryer.

A tip that I learned to stop this from happening (sorry don’t recall who from) is to zig-zag over the raw edges with your’ sewing machine. Align the center of your presser foot along the edge of the fabric so that 1 side of the zig-zag stitch goes off of the edge of the fabric. It wraps around of the other side and stops the raw edge from fraying. Here’s a closeup of what that looks like.

Fabric showing zigzag stitch over edge
Zig-zag edges prior to washing and pressing


2) Stop running

I soak dark and bright colours in a solution of vinegar: 25o mL vinegar to 4000 mL water (1 cup of vinegar to  1 gallon of water). for about 30 minutes. This stops the colours from running in the wash. Make sure  the fabric is completely covered and avoid soaking dissimilar colour together in case the colours run in the vinegar solution (trust me.. this can happen).

3) Wash and Dry

Wash like with like. Separate whites from colours from darks then wash similar fabric types together.   I use a small amount of laundry detergent in the wash remove any residual sizing and/or grease from the factory. I fill the fabric softener dispenser with vinegar to reduce static. Follow the fabric care instructions for water temperature and drying temperature. Usually I take the fabric out of the dryer before it’s completely dry to avoid it getting wrinkled.

4) Press

While we iron clothes back and forth, we want to press new fabrics up and down. Use an up and down motion to prevent distorting the weave of the fabric (I learned this the hard way). I use the hottest temperatures that the fabric can safely tolerate and avoid spraying with water as it can also distort the weave.

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