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Should I pre-wash my fabrics?

Should I pre-wash my fabrics?

This question pops up quite often in almost all sewing groups.
The answers are normally divided - some say yes while some swear to have never prewashed a thread of purchased fabric.
Some say only knit fabrics need to be washed, while others say only solid colour fabrics should.

For some keen sewists, pre-washing feels like an unnecessary and inconvenient step. Once that pretty parcel of fabrics turn up, you just can't wait to get them cut and made into beautiful handmade pieces!
On the other side of the coin, it can also be the step that saves a perfect garment from being ruined after the first wash.

Photo by Jennifer Holland of fabric stack

So should you pre-wash your Clover & Co Fabric purchases?
In short, yes. But let's take a look at the why.

There are three main reasons to pre-wash fabrics.

  1. Pre-shrink fabrics (especially for woven fabrics)
  2. Prevent colours from bleeding
  3. Wash off any chemical/dye residue from the printing process

You can find recommended care instructions for our fabric bases in our Care Instructions section.

Pre-shrinking
Natural fibres, such as cotton or bamboo, shrink when washed. The percentage of shrinkage varies, however it can be 10% or more in some cases.
If you sew a garment with unwashed fabric, you might find the final garment shrinks after the first wash, which might change the fit of your garment drastically.
In most cases, you can get away with washing the fabric in the way that you plan to wash the final product you'll be making.
So if you plan on washing your French Terry jumper on 30 degrees in the machine, we would recommend pre-washing your French Terry fabric in the same manner.
If you're making a bag using Canvas that is very unlikely to ever make it into the wash, you might get away with not pre-washing your fabric.

If you're not sure on the composition of your fabric, you can find out more in our About Our Fabric section.

Prevent colours from bleeding
Have you ever had a red item of clothing fall into the wash with your whites? 
If not, picture Barbie's wardrobe - because that's what you end up with, a whole lot of pink clothes.
The same concept goes for your fabric, particularly any solid colour fabric.
Fabric from the factory does not get washed at the end of the printing process, so often there can be excess dye or ink present.
In addition to this, fabric types hold colour differently depending on their composition.
We recommend washing like-colours together but you may want to throw in a colour catcher if you're an "all-in" kind of launderer like me.

Wash off chemical residue
Most digitally printed fabrics are pre-treated with chemicals to help the printed design bond to the fabric. It can also be post-treated to help fix the dye to the fabric.
Printed fabric is often rinsed through the process, but it normally happens early in the process which means manufacturing residues may still be present in the fabric when it arrives to us from our supplier.
Without pre-washing, this could cause a reaction on the skin of anyone who wears your finished garment.

Photo by Jennifer Holland of Clover & Co. owner Yondette cutting a pattern on solid olive linen

At Clover, we test our fabrics before releasing them for purchase - and we test them hard! However, we do base our care instructions on the recommendations of our manufacturers.
The main reason for this is warranty. 
If there is an issue with any of our fabrics, we like to be able to track where the troubles may have stemmed from.
We trust our manufacturers' experience in the textile industry and trust that your handmade garments will last longer if you care for them as suggested.

Want to know more about Clover & Co Fabrics? Be sure to visit our FAQ.

If you ever have any questions about how to care for your fabrics, we are only too happy to share our knowledge with you.

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