Testing Fabric For Shrinkage

Is That Fabric Washable?

Dry cleaning is expensive and bad for the environment, so I avoid it as much as possible. To avoid dry cleaning my clothes, I try to sew with only washable fabrics (except for wool). It turns out that many of the fabrics that I would like to sew might or might not be washable. This means that if I washed the fabric, something bad might happen to it, such as shrinking or changing the finish.

Since it would be a shame to put in all of the work (not to mention expense) necessary to make a fabulous custom-made garment and then ruin it in the wash, I test wash all of my washable and possibly washable fabrics. Here is my preferred method. I am using a fabric that I purchased from Emma One Sock. You can see it on my Pinterest board here or purchase it from Linda here. This fabric is a drapey 100% viscose-rayon crepe, so it might shrink a bunch. If it does shrink, I will need to dry clean the finished garment, which will be a blouse for work.

Step 1: I cut out a swatch of the fabric. I prefer fairly large swatches, such as at least 4 or 5 inches square. If there is enough fabric, I will test an even larger swatch. The larger the swatch, the more accurate I will be when determining how much the fabric shrinks.

Tracing Around Fabric Swatch With Pencil

Tracing Around Fabric Swatch With Pencil

I then place the swatch on a sheet of paper and trace around it with a pen or pencil. When I am finished tracing the fabric, it looks something like this (below). Notice the little pencil tic lines around the edges of the swatch.

Cut Out Fabric Swatch

Cut Out Fabric Swatch

When I pick up the swatch, I have an outline of the swatch before washing. I save the outline for later.

Pre-Washing Swatch Outline

Pre-Washing Swatch Outline

Step 2: I wash the swatch using the method I plan on using to clean the finished garment. I would like to wash this garment on cold and then line dry. So, that’s what I will do tonight. To keep from losing it in a load of laundry, I put the swatch into a mesh bag, such as you might use for washing delicates.

Check back later this week for Step 3, when I compare the washed and dried swatch to the pre-washing swatch outline (for shrinkage) and the unwashed fabric (for changes in hand, texture).

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  1. Pingback: Testing Fabric For Shrinkage Part 2 - Sew Eleanor

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