How to Prepare Fabric Before Sewing

Before you start sewing any new project it is important to wash and iron your fabric first. This can make all the difference between a good or great finished garment!

Watch the video tutorial or keep reading for a few quick tips on how to prepare fabric for sewing.

Washing the Fabric

There are a few important reasons why it is important to wash (and dry!) your fabric before you start sewing:

  • Fabric can be dirty with hidden dust and dirt particles
  • Fabric is often treated with chemicals in order to display better which can affect how it drapes
  • Fabric can shrink after the first wash (especially in the tumble dryer)
  • Colour drainage is common in the first wash

In short, you don’t want to spend hours sewing a new garment only to have it shrink or spoil during the first wash! That is why we prepare fabric first.

When you are purchasing your fabric, it is a wise idea to take a photo of the care instructions. They are stated on the side of the fabric bolt. If you buy loose fabric from a market stall then ask the vendor for guidance.

Wash fabric using the exact same method that you would wash and dry the finished garment. You will need to make a decision on whether to machine-wash, dry clean, tumble dry and/or air dry.

Ironing the Fabric

Once your fabric is clean and dry, check that it is sitting flat and on grain before ironing. You can do this by laying the fabric flat and pulling it diagonally across the bias grain – first in one direction and then in the opposite diagonal direction. Perform this pulling technique along the entire fabric ream. Smooth it flat with your hands.

prepare fabric

Iron the fabric using the recommended temperature per the fabric care instructions. I recommend ironing with a lot of steam because it helps to further ensure there will be no additional fabric shrinkage. This is especially if you air-dried your fabric rather than tumble dried.

Another critical reason for ironing is to ensure accuracy in sewing. Fashion patterns are painstakingly measured to fit a certain body size or achieve a particular look. You won’t cut out your pattern pieces accurately if the fabric is rumpled! This could lead to a poor fit or mismatching pattern pieces later on.

Iron your fabric by matching both selvages. The selvage is the long edge of the fabric that is either frayed or marked by dotted indents.

prepare fabric

It is more important that your selvage edges match, rather than the cut edges. Iron the fabric flat.

How I Prepare Fabric in my Tutorial

I live in hot and humid Singapore. I like to sew casual clothing that I can wear and wash easily. In other words, the type of garments I can throw in the wash and let dry in the sun.

In my video tutorial, I shared how on a recent shopping expedition to the People’s Park Complex in China Town I purchased three new fabrics. One was a gold and magenta georgette, another was a textured cotton-poly blend, and the third was a green vintage print in 100% cotton.

prepare fabric

I washed the fabrics separately to avoid colour drain. I used my front loader washing machine and half a scoop of detergent. I then dried them on an indoor clothesline placed in the sun.

prepare fabric

Finally, I pulled the fabrics along the bias using the technique described above, then ironed them on high heat with plenty of steam.

Stay tuned for what I did with my fabrics next!

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