Learn to Sew Lesson #5: Prepare Your fabric
Test your fabrics for colorfastness
If you’re using several fabrics of different colors and plan to launder your finished item, test each fabric
for colorfastness (and any trims and linings too). You wouldn’t want to work so hard on a project, wash
it for the first time, only to find that one fabric has bled all over another.
To test for colorfastness, submerge each fabric individually in the same water temperature and
detergent you plan to wash your finished item in. If the water turns color or if any dye comes off when
you press the wet fabric between layers of a white towel, then your fabric isn’t colorfast.
In which case, you have the following options:
- Make a different fabric selection.
- Try rinsing the fabric in diluted vinegar. This may set the dye.
- Wash your finished item in cold water. This may keep the fabric from bleeding.
- Have your finished item dry cleaned.
Preshrink your fabric
Many fabrics shrink when exposed to heat and moisture. Therefore, it’s important to preshrink your
fabric before construction. It would be so disheartening to work so hard on an item only to have it
shrink after laundering and be unwearble.
Tips for preshrinking fabric:
- Launder or clean your fabric according to its care instructions.
- Even if your fabric is dry-clean only, it may still need to be preshrunk.
- Preshrink linings, interfacings, and notions too.
For detailed instructions on preshrinking washable and dry-clean only fabrics, see How to Preshrink
Iron your Fabric
Using an iron temperature appropriate for your fabric (as a general rule, delicates on cooler settings,
cottons and wools on hotter settings), iron your fabric to remove wrinkles before laying it onto your
Also press out the center crease your fabric may have from being folded on the bolt.
Never cut pattern pieces from wrinkled fabric. This could leave you with distorted fabric pieces that
don’t match up quite right and a finished garment that doesn’t fit properly.
Also iron any linings, non-fusible interfacings, and flat trims (like ribbon) that you’ve pre-washed.
Mark the right side
If the right side of your fabric is hard to discern, mark it with a small piece of low-tack tape, a fabric
marking pen or chalk, or a pin. The right side of your fabric is usually the side with the clearer, more
defined pattern or texture. Or it can be whichever side you want showing on the outside of your
finished item. If there is no clear right side, just pick one side and mark it.