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What Your Mama Never Told You About Sewing...

How To Pre-Wash Fabric!

Most modern sewists know the importance of washing fabric before cutting a pattern and constructing a garment. A pre-wash will rid fabric of mill sizing chemicals and any excess dye, and perhaps most importantly it will reduce the chances of the finished garment shrinking.

What is the best way to pre-wash fabric? Does it matter what soap is used? How hot the water is? You bet it does! I have found that the following methods give me consistent results every time:

For Denim, Linen, Hemp and their blends, I wash the raw yardage as ruthlessly as I can, even if I will be more gentle with the finished garment. Hot water, plus a soap like Synthrapol will both soften the fiber and keep any excess dye suspended so that it goes down the drain rather than settle back into the fabric.

Additionally, I splash about 8 ounces of plain vinegar into the wash water along with the soap. I like the way the acidity softens the fabric and seems to help stave off future wrinkles.

It's a good idea to always test a scrap before preparing the entire length of fabric for the complete pre-wash...because while these methods have always worked very well for me, your mileage may vary!


What do you think? Please add a comment by clicking here-->


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Pam, Another great lesson, thank you!

Do you wash linen blended with silk the same ruthless ways? Vinegar and such?

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is Synthranol? Where can I buy some?

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great info as always Pam! I've used vinegar when washing towels but never for anything else - does it really help with lessening future wrinkles?! Wow, I'm moving a bottle of vinegar into my laundry room today! Thanks.

6:15 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Andalee, Yes, I've been known to be a "ruthless washer" with silk and silk bends, LOL! But...I always test a sample scrap of the fabric first to see what, if any, color/texture changes might occur.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Ann, I've added a link to a good source for synthrapol within the text of the article.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Yes, I have found that adding vinegar to the fabric pre-wash "soap potion", does actually reduce wrinkling..especially with Linen. It doesn't necessarily *prevent* all wrinkles, it just seems to make the fabric more resilient.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool article! Thanks! I always learn from you. The blog looks great, congrats!

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of us can learn from your insights. I think I may have mentioned that a few times to you. I'll be adding a little vinegar to my wash and toast it to you. By the way, didn't aristotle synthropolonasis have that little Greek cafe in canarsie? Those olives were the best.


3:59 PM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...


Yes it was Ari who had had the best olives in Brooklyn! mmmm ROFGiggling....

7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your post on pmb-chatter about fitting pants and pattern drafting for pants and then found this site. Great information, I'll be back!

8:04 AM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

I'm just now getting back into sewing after years of not doing any. Your info is a real reminder and brain booster. I've blogmarked you & will return. Thanks!!

8:27 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

You're welcome! Enjoy getting back into the swing of sewing!


4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always learning something new from you! Do You have another article coming soon? (sewzine)

7:08 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

I have another article set to be published in a few weeks...check the schedule on the sewzine.com site...i'm not sure of the exact date.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw that somebody else asked for links to your articles? Me too!

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pam, I always knew my MUCH OLDER sister had talent, knowlege and a way with words - but thanks for also making me laugh at those little witty comments you throw in here & there - I have the privledge of actually being able to hear your voice in my head( no I dont need meds ! ) when I read your words & it makes them sing, Your Loving MUCH YOUNGER sister (ps -this is a really cool site ! )

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Pammy! *BEG*
I was just over at Dharma Trading company, and they were saying that you MUST pre-wash fabrics in detergent like Synthrapol. Believe it or not, the new dyes are set for water and vinegar, but will only "unlock" when they hit soap. The old run it under water test doesn't cut it any more.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Hiya Kim...I haven't seen that article at Dharma yet...but...it's gotten to the point that I always pre-treat every single washable fabric I sew with either synthrapol or other detergent...that way I don't have any surprises...and...I know that interfacings will fuse properly since any mill-sizing has been washed off.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I wash the raw yardage as ruthlessly as I can, even if I will be more gentle with the finished garment. Hot water, plus a soap like Synthrapol"

Hi Pam! I'm enjoying your blog sew much! Thought you might like to know that the link for Synthrapol is not a good link. I looked for a way to e-mail you in private to let you know, but could not find that info. Keep up the great work here, and most of all, keep on sewing!

3:56 AM  
Blogger Pam Erny said...

Hi Jessie...thanks for alerting me to the dead link...I've fixed it!

7:40 AM  

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