Testing Fabric For ShrinkageSewing
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.
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.
When I pick up the swatch, I have an outline of the swatch before washing. I save the outline for later.
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).