How to Pre-Shrink Fabric


Purchased fabric requires preshrinking to ensure it's on grain and the right size for your project. Shrinking that occurs after you finish projects, especially if it's a clothing item, makes the item too small for its intended purpose. The grain of the fabric, which is the direction the threads run, is often off center on newly purchased fabric because of the way it's wrapped on the bolt or stored. Preshrinking tightens up the threads and restores the proper grain to some fabrics.

Things You'll Need

  • Sewing machine or serger
  • Washing machine and dryer
  • Iron
  • Find the washing instructions for the fabric, usually located on the selvage edge of the fabric. The selvage edge is the white edge of the fabric that contains printing indicating the pattern name of the fabric, the manufacturer, the fabric materials. If washing instructions aren't available, defer to normal washing procedures for the material used in the fabric, such as cotton or a cotton blend.

  • Sew around the edges of the fabric with your sewing machine. Make a zig zag stitch approximately ¼ to ½ inch in from the edge. Alternatively, serge around the edges of the fabric with a serger. Sewing the edges prevents the fabric from fraying during the preshrinking process.

  • Machine wash and dry the fabric. Woven fabrics typically require a single wash and dry cycle. Knit fabrics may require two to three wash and dry cycles to preshrink completely.

  • Iron the fabric to smooth out any wrinkles after the preshrinking process. Fold the preshrunk and ironed fabric until you are ready to use it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Store preshrunk fabric wrapped around a sheet of cardboard or an old wrapping paper tube to prevent wrinkles and fold lines.
  • Take dry clean only fabrics, such as wool or silks, to a dry cleaner for preshrinking. Attempting to preshrink at home may ruin the fabric.

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