Sewing & Pattern making Terms

Pre Washing

In the world of sewing, there’s a crucial step that often goes overlooked but holds tremendous importance for seamstresses and pattern makers: pre washing. This simple yet essential process involves washing and drying fabrics before beginning a sewing project. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the concept of pre-washing, its benefits, and how to incorporate it into your sewing routine for optimal results.

The Significance of Pre-Washing: Preserving the Integrity of Your Project

  1. What is Pre-Washing?
  • Pre-washing refers to the act of washing fabric before using it in a sewing project.
  • It involves using water and detergent (or vinegar) to remove any chemicals, dirt, or impurities from the fabric.
  1. Fabric Shrinkage:
  • Many fabrics, especially natural fibers like cotton, linen and rayon, have a tendency to shrink when washed for the first time.
  • Pre-washing allows the fabric to shrink before cutting and sewing, ensuring that the final garment maintains its intended size and fit.
  1. Colorfastness:
  • Some fabrics may bleed or fade when exposed to water, which can affect the appearance and color matching of your finished garment.

Benefits of Pre-Washing

  1. Size and Fit:
  • It helps prevent unexpected changes in size after the first wash, ensuring a better fit and reducing the risk of garment distortion.
  1. Fabric Softness and Drape:
  • Pre-washing softens the fabric and improves its drape, allowing you to work with fabric that closely resembles its post-wash characteristics.
  • It eliminates stiffness, making the fabric more pliable and easier to handle during cutting, pinning, and sewing.

Pre-Washing Techniques

  1. Fabric Selection:
  • Determine if your fabric requires pre-washing by referring to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Synthetic fabrics may have different requirements.
  • Silk fabrics do not shrink at all. This is the reason why you probably don’t need to wash it. I would recommend to press them well before using in your sewing project.
  • Fabrics with textures tend to shrink (for example Crepe or Cloqué)
  1. Washing and Drying:
  • Sort fabrics by color and fiber content to prevent color bleeding or damage.
  • Use a gentle cycle and a mild detergent when washing fabric. Avoid harsh chemicals or bleach. You can also wash it by hand if you are unsure.
  • Dry fabrics in a gentle cycle or line dry as recommended. Avoid using high heat, which can cause excessive shrinkage.

Exceptions to Pre-Washing

  1. Delicate or Dry-Clean Only Fabrics:
  • Some delicate or dry-clean-only fabrics may not be suitable for pre-washing.
  • In such cases, consider alternative methods like spot cleaning or steam treatment to prepare the fabric for sewing.
  1. Specialized Effects:
  • Fabrics with intentional texture, finish, or special effects may require different handling.
  • Consult the fabric manufacturer’s instructions or seek professional advice to determine the appropriate treatment.


Pre-washing may seem like an additional step in your sewing process, but its benefits far outweigh the effort involved. By pre-washing your fabrics, you ensure accurate sizing, color stability, and improved fabric characteristics in your final garments. Embrace pre-washing as an essential part of your sewing routine, and let it set the foundation for successful and long-lasting creations.

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Melissa Villegas
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