Recently I received this email from Lauri and thought it may be a question that many people would like answered so I decided to share my response with you all.
‘Hi Rosie, I bought some fabric and “fat quarters” and I wonder if you can tell me how I should prepare the fabric for sewing? Should I machine wash and dry it first? Handwash and line dry? I thought I’d get started on readying the fabric while I wait for the DVDs to arrive.’
I never wash my fabric before sewing with it unless it’s marked and I cannot cut around the mark or I am making clothes for a fabric doll and I’m worried about the fabric color running (in this case I use salted water). If you must wash it just do it by hand as the fabric should not be a large amount and then line dry. If you have a large amount, then zigzag the raw edges to prevent fraying and pop it in the washing machine but on a gentle cycle. If you have a serger you can always run a three thread serge around the raw edges before washing in the machine.
The only other reason for washing it first is if the grain does not look straight i.e. the threads that make up the fabric look like they are going on an angle rather than vertical and horizontal but this is usually only with very cheap fabric. In this case wash it by hand and pull to shape while still wet.
The most important thing to do in preparation is to make sure that there are no major creases in it because when you are cutting your pattern you need the fabric to be flat otherwise the pattern piece may be a little distorted. If the fabric is very crushed, I spray it with water and then iron as I find this works better than just using the steam function on my iron.
Remember, you are sewing doll clothes and the pieces are only small so if the grain is off a little, it won’t have a great effect on the finished product. We also don’t tend to wash doll clothes very often so you really don’t have to worry about shrinkage (the fabrics today rarely shrink) and they always look much crisper when the fabric has not been washed.
The traditionalist will always say to wash the fabric first but my Mom has sewn all her life and I don’t think I have ever seen her wash her fabric before sewing and her clothes have always looked great and lasted years (and this is for normal human clothes). So I have never really seen the need to wash the fabric first, just make sure it has no creases.
By Rosie Saw