Different fabrics require different care to maximise their lifespan and appearance. If you’re ever unsure, I always recommend using the most delicate options.
Why Should we pre-wash?
I recommend pre-washing all your fabrics before cutting and sewing.
While some synthetic blends (like polyester or nylon) are not subject to shrinkage, its always a good idea to freshen them up to remove any dust or chemicals used during production and import. Its also important for removing excess dyes to prevent colour run.
Natural fibres (like cotton, linen and hemp), protein fibres (wool and silk) and semi-synthetics (bamboo, rayon and modal) will shrink so these need pre washing to stop the warping of a finished garment.
Default Methods for all fabric types.
Pre- wash doesn’t need to be a tedious machine cycle taking lots of time and energy. Simply dunking your fabric in some warm water and detergent and hand agitating it, is enough to remove dust, chemicals and observe any colour runs.
If I have multiple fabrics to wash, I save water by filling my basin and starting with my lighter colours. I dunk my whites, then light cool colours (blues and greens) then if no colour has run I continue with the warm colours leaving deep reds and black til last.
I really love using Bosisto’s Eucalyptus allergen liquid (or wool wash) because its a very natural mix and gives a lovely fresh scent. This helps me recognise my pre-washed items as well, because, as a fabric collector I have lots of projects underway at all times! I can always sniff test my fabric to save doubling up on a pre-wash!
Next I rinse all fabrics in the same order. Changing water 2-3 times. I always machine spin my fabrics (together if no colour run is observed) on the highest RPM possible. I find removing as much water before drying, is more beneficial than avoiding any creases in the process. While synthetics will come out almost dry- natural, protein and semi synthetic fibres hold a lot of water and can stretch out under their own weight. I dry on warm or hang over a few lines or dry flat to stop any unnecessary stretching or warping. This care is not necessary for polyester, cotton lycra, or wovens. They will hang quite well… Definitely do this for wool and stretch rayons.
Of course you can use a washing machine to pre-wash. Separate fabrics into similar blends and like colours then opt for shortest cycle. Max 40C. (I add on the high spin as an additional cycle if using a delicate or quick wash)
If fabric care is very important to you, always invest in the best washing machine you can afford. I have recently converted to a front loader for less wear and tear and opted for a Miele because of its amazing German engineering and 20yr warranty. It offers many different cycles for different needs and also a very short wash with an option to cancel the cycle mid wash if necessary (unlike some of the earlier style front loaders).
Typically, quality of fabric comes with a price tag so an exceptional machine will increase the lifespan of your high quality items as well as more affordable options. As a hand-maker I value longevity very highly and try to move away from a throw away society options.
Washing Finished garments.
Skip ahead from fabric preparation to washing your handmade items.
Turn items inside out. Again, for best results, separate different colours. I do whites, pastels, reds including pink and purples and green and blues go together. Your family might have different needs so you can eyeball it. Don’t mix rough fabrics with your delicates. Outdoor work clothes go in alone as do towels. Close all velcro and zips and use a wash bag if you need to save time by less separation.
I use a short cycle as often as possible. If your clothes are not greasy or stained there’s no need to overly treat them. Removing some daily dust or body odour is often all that’s necessary.
Always dissolve detergent before adding clothes. Don’t use bleach, optical whiteners or colour catchers unless absolutely necessary. These don’t work on synthetics anyway and will greatly reduce the life of your natural materials.
If your item is stained, its always best to treat it individually rather than just chucking it in the wash and crossing your fingers. Washing a stained item will often set the stain, making it sometimes impossible to remove as an after thought.
ALWAYS treat a stain with cold water first if you don’t know what it is. 99% of the time, cold water will not set the stain and 80% of the time it will be the solution..
Soak in cold water and rub the stain lightly with some detergent or laundry soap. This works for grime, wine and blood.
Boiling water for fruit stains, poured directly through the fabric. (orange, tomato, strawberry)
Greasy stains can be treated with eucalyptus oil with rubbing and wash on hottest water safe for fabric.
White natural fibres can be bleached for a small period of time but synthetics will not whiten. Stubborn stains can be spot treated with optical whiteners, again will be more effective on natural fibres.
Other stains my require more specified treatment which I may go into at a later date.
I hope this helps to get the most out of your handmade items!