Should I Pre-Wash My Fabric Before Sewing?

should i pre-wash fabric

Students often ask me if it really is necessary to pre-wash their fabric before cutting into it for a new project.

Most of the time the answer is yes! But, if you can’t or you forget and your fabric is natural fibre, you will have to hand wash your finished garment in cool water to avoid it shrinking.

Here are some things to remember about shrinkage in fabrics:

  • natural fibres can shrink up to 10%, allow for this when buying fabric as the fabric requirements in pattern instructions don’t allow for shrinkage
  • shrinkage tends to occur most along the length – especially on knits
  • knits tend to shrink more than wovens as there’s more movement in the structure of the fabric
  • ideally dry your fabrics flat – wovens can be hung on a line, but never knits as they will stretch, knits must be dried flat and not draped over anything that will poke into the fabric and distort it ie. chair back, banister.

When pre-washing your fabric, put it on a cycle appropriate to the fabric (check the washing instructions in the shop when you’re buying the fabric) and one that you’d like to be able to use on the finished garment.

Happy washing and sewing!


11 responses to “Should I Pre-Wash My Fabric Before Sewing?

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  3. Well, better to be safe than sorry! Instructions are located on the end of fabric bolt. I’ve sewn both ways ( pre wash/no pre wash) can’t really tell a difference. But, to be on the safe side, I pre wash.


    • If only washing instructions were always on the end of the bolt!! I’m with you, I always like to pre-wash to avoid any nasty surprises and if there are no washing instructions common sense prevails! Natural fibres (except wool and silk) at 40° synthetics on 30° and wool, silk and delicate textures on z gentle hand wash cycle 👍


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  7. I have been sewing for decades and I have never ever pre-washed any type of fabric and have never run into difficulties because of this. If you choose quality fabric and wash according to the manufacturers instructions I can’t see why there would be a problem.


    • Well they must be some amazing natural fibre fabrics you’ve sewn with Anne, lucky you! Personally I’ve never worked with a cotton denim that hasn’t shrunk and the colour run or a natural fibre knitted fabric that hasn’t shrunk by at least 6%. I always buy good quality fabrics and every fabric retailer I buy from recommends pre-washing, especially natural fibres as they know that they’re going to shrink.


      • I have been sewing for 50 years and during that time I have used a massive range of fabrics, both natural and synthetic, cheap and costly. I’ll admit I don’t use a lot of knits but there has been plenty of wool and cotton and linen. Here in the UK I have never seen fabric for sale where the advice is that you should wash before use. I have never been advised by a salesperson that I should pre wash fabric.
        I wonder if the fabrics used to make ready to wear garments are pre-washed before they are made up?


      • …however, based on your advice, I’m going to contact the supplier of some Italian selvedge denim I have recently purchased, to ask about pre washing!


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