Friday, May 9, 2014

A Published Author

Last year I was contacted by Threads Magazine about contributing to their Q&A Section.  I have to say, I was thrilled to be asked!  I decided to go for it, and the result is that my answer was published in Issue No. 170!

The question posed was this:

 [Q] Help! Do I still need to pre-shrink silk organza and Ambiance rayon (to be used for underlining and lining) before cutting into it? The garment I will be making will be dry clean only. Will a good steaming at home be enough to prevent potential shrinking? It seems fabrics today may not need a lot of pre-shrinking, but I am not too sure about it.

And here is my (long) answer:

Fabulous question!  And I am sure this is one for which everyone has their own opinion!  The most important thing to remember is that every part of your garment is going to be subjected to the same standard of care once you are finished.  Therefore, each part of the garment, from fabric to lining, should be pre-treated in the same manner (although your polyester zipper or those plastic buttons probably can skip the pre-treat because they are not going to shrink). 
It is also important to note that you never can tell just how a fabric will react to any kind of cleaning, whether in water or with chemicals.  Dry cleaning can, in fact, shrink a fabric.  Many cleaners will accept yardage to pre-treat, and if you go that route, make sure to bring along any contrasting fabric, lining, and underlining you plan to use for the project.
For washable fabrics, try washing the yardage in hot water and rinsing it in cold.  This will shock natural fibers and cause them to shrink more than a gentle bath in luke-warm water and soap.
I am a huge fan of being harder on my fabric yardage than my finished projects.  If any flaws are there, best to find them before anything is cut out!  For example, I will throw yardage in the washer even though I plan on gently hand washing the finished garment. 
Bemberg rayon is labeled as washable.  And yes, it will shrink (but probably not at the dry cleaner).  One thing to be aware of is that the metallic print on the selvage may actually melt in the dryer and make strange stains on the rayon if the temperature gets too hot.  Make sure to keep the metallic print out from under your iron as well!
Silk organza is absolutely washable, but will also shrink.  It may lose a bit of crispness, often because the sizing and other chemicals used during the manufacturing process will wash off.  Many of us consider silk to be a special occasion fabric and therefore think we need to baby the fiber.  Silk organza is STURDY!  There is a reason people use it as an underlining and to stay necklines and openings!
I always like to err on the side of caution.  It is heartbreaking to spend hours and hours on a project, only to have everything go wonky after a single cleaning.
If it was me, I would go ahead and wash the fabric – a fabric that is pre-shrunk in water is extremely unlikely to shrink after a trip to the dry cleaner; although who knows what those chemicals can actually do?!  However, a good steam should do the trick.  A better question to ask is, how well do you trust your dry cleaner with your handmade masterpiece!? 
To sum up, I really do not think there is a definitive answer to this one.  If you are nervous about it, I would go ahead and dunk the fabrics – a bit of soap and water is not going to hurt your silk organza or your bemberg rayon.  Better safe than sorry, right?!

What is your favorite method for pre-treating your fabrics?  Do you dry clean, hand wash, or machine wash your hand made clothing?


  1. How thoroughly awesome!!! Many happy and exciting congrats on being published. Your answer is great!

    ♥ Jessica

  2. Congratulations on the publication, always a great milestone for a serious sewist! I also pretreat my fabrics "harder" than they will be once constructed. Better safe than sorry.

  3. congrats on publication! I always pre-treat (didn't used to . . .) usually by machine washing and drying. I read somewhere that shrinking actually takes place in the dryer more than the washer. I have taken some lengths of silk to the drycleaner. And as a quilter, I always prewash the quilting cottons in warm-hot water and dry them on high heat.

  4. Congratulations - when's your book coming? :-)
    I pre-treat always, and immediately after buying the fabric. Favouring the "being harder" route, too, as that makes me feel safer and more certain that my sewing will not be ruined by the cleaning afterwards. Learned the hard way, can you tell? I try to stick to fabrics that I can wash myself, too (control freak, I suppose).
    Thanks for the posts!

  5. Congratulations! I'm with Anonymous! When is your book coming? Or maybe a Craftsy class!

  6. I have enough sad experience to agreed that it's better to be sorry now if something goes amiss in cleaning rather than after many hours of love's labours lost. By pre-abusing it, I always know the stash is ready to go and will not self-destruct later. Most of my handmades get a line dry, so if anything shrinks after that, it's well earned heartache (talkin' about YOU, twill from Spoonflower!)

    I think this may have more to do with not buying new clothes that ask for dry cleaning only than not. I just don't trust those unidentified fibers. Nope, I don't.

  7. I read your answer in Threads when that issue arrived in my mailbox (always a good day when Threads comes!), liked it then, and still like your answer. If I know I will be dry-cleaning my garment, I usually do not pre-shrink the silk organza or lining I am using. However, if I am sewing in cotton or linen, I ALWAYS preshrink underlinings and linings, usually in the washing machine, gentle cycle, but warm to hot water. Then I throw everything in the dryer, too.
    Hope you get to answer another Threads question soon!

  8. Well done -- beautifully written! I'm a pre-washer in most cases, in the washing machine (I sew mostly cottons). If it's denim, I might pre-wash more than once. I have never dry cleaned fabric -- I don't trust the process and I think, in most cases, it's been oversold.

  9. Overheard Stupor #1:

    (Audible gasp) "I'm having a...subscription conniption."

    "You and me both, sister."

    "The Threaditors are giving her street cred."

    "Smells more like an audition for an article."

    "Her delayed touting of this triumph is indicative that we are on the cusp of, 'The summer of Laura Mae'!"

    "Not if her carefully cataloged life was creatively choreographed and given to a copious amount of community theaters."

    "You mean, rush, 'Laura Mae -The Musical" into production?"

    (Lights a cigarette) "Precisely." (Exhales with a smirk)

    "Then we need to polish the intro and the bridge for, "The ballad of Laura Mae", choreograph both, "Designs on you!" and "My machines are people (and my people are machines)", write the duet, "My daughter, myself", and rework the reprise of, "My unfinished edges".

    "I can subscribe to THAT!" (nostril exhale)